Landless Farmers Day marked: ‘Lockdown and quarantines should not increase people’s sufferings’

Our Correspondent
March 31, 2020

SUKKUR: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity, a local NGO, joined hands with the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), and Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific (PANAP) to mark the Landless Farmers Day.

PKMT celebrated the Landless Farmers Day with utmost concern as landless farmers were among the most vulnerable to be affected with the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more, the farmers are forced to work in an informal sector on daily wages in a vulnerable condition bearing the heat of health crisis, especially of COVID-19. The experts said COVID-19 has paralysed almost all economic activities and pushed the world to further food insecurity and poverty.

They said many countries had implemented lockdowns and set up quarantine centres for coronavirus suspects to minimise the impact of COVID-19, adding that the agriculture and food supply chain had been facing great disruption causing escalation in food prices.They suggested the lockdown and quarantines should not be carried out to increase people’s sufferings like food scarcity and provision of other basic essentials. They said it should be ensured that there was no further displacement of rural people from their lands on the pretext of COVID-19 or lockdown, demanded to provide sufficient resources to the people living in the rural areas.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/637279-landless-farmers-day-marked-lockdown-and-quarantines-should-not-increase-people-s-sufferings

Govt urged to protect rights of small farmers

March 30, 2020

They asked the government to provide immediate economic relief to the marginalised sectors including the landless rural people.

To mark the “Day of the Landless” on Sunday, two organisations Roots for Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), asked the government to ensure that no further displacements of the rural people from their lands and livelihood were carried out in the pretext of Covid-19 lockdowns.

The organisatons state that they commemorate the Day of the Landless with utmost concern as the landless rural people are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisations say landless rural people vulnerable to impacts of Covid-19 pandemic

In a media release, they state that with many countries implementing sweeping lockdowns and quarantines often with vague operational guidelines, to contain the spread of Covid-19, the agriculture and food supply chain faces great disruption with an escalating price-hike already sending food prices to very high levels.

They say that landless peasants along with small farmers are forced to work in a variety of oppressive conditions on lands under feudal ownership.

“Women growers particularly work under double tier of exploitation at the hands of landlord as well as patriarchy. Along with this, capitalist agriculture through its mega corporations has captured agricultural production and markets resulting in a huge increase in the percentages of the landless,” they say.

They claim that the landless workers are forced to work in the informal sector on daily wages in a variety of situations. “Together with the rest of ordinary toiling people, they bear the brunt of the raging public health crisis of Covid-19 that has paralysed almost all economic activities and pushed them to further food insecurity and poverty,” they maintain.

They say that livelihoods in jeopardy the small producers and poor consumers are suffering the major brunt of the lockdown. They add that in addition, with total ban on inter and intra-provincial travel, agriculture workers and other daily wagers have no means of finding work.

They fear that the Covid-19 may be used as cover up to further harass and dislocate farming communities as part of evictions under land grabbing for corporate interests.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020

https://www.dawn.com/news/1544871/govt-urged-to-protect-rights-of-small-farmers

Assert and Defend the Rights of Small and Landless farmers amid the COVID-19 pandemic!

Press Release:

Day of the Landless 2020, March 29, 2020

Roots for Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) join hand with Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) to mark the Day of the Landless March 29, 2020.

Today, we commemorate the Day of the Landless with utmost concern as the landless rural people are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The landless peasants along with who are also the small farmers with precarious land ownership or control are forced to work in a variety of oppressive conditions on lands under feudal ownership. Women agricultural are particularly work under the double tier of exploitation at the hands of the landlord as well as patriarchy. Along with this, capitalist agriculture through its mega-corporations has captured agricultural production and markets resulting in a huge increase in the percentages of the landless. More and more, the landless are forced to work in the informal sector on daily wages in a variety of situations. Together with the rest of ordinary toiling people, they bear the brunt of the raging public health crisis of COVID-19 that has paralyzed almost all economic activities and pushed them to further food insecurity and poverty.

With many countries implementing sweeping lockdowns and quarantines often with vague operational guidelines, to contain the spread of COVID-19, the agriculture and food supply chain faces great disruption with an escalating price-hike already sending food prices to very high levels. Livelihoods in jeopardy the small producers and poor consumers are suffering the major brunt of the lockdown. In addition, with a total ban on inter and intra provincial travel, agriculture workers and other daily wage earners have no means of finding work. It is feared that the COVID-19 may be used as a cover-up to further harass, and dislocate farming communities as part of evictions under land grabbing for corporate interests.

Furthermore, public health systems, eroded by decades of neoliberal assault such as privatization, commercialization and budget cuts, are already weak in general and are susceptible to collapse when pandemics strike. In Pakistan, the health care budget has never exceeded 3% of the total budget allocations. Hence, the situation has magnified a hundredfold for rural communities especially the landless.

We support and reiterate the immediate demands of the landless and all toiling peoples amid the pandemic –

  1. Ensure that the lockdowns and quarantines are not carried out at the expense of the food security of the people and that the right to produce and earn a living for small farmers, fishers and other direct food producers is duly respected in a manner that does not endanger their health;
  2. Provide immediate and substantial economic relief (including food grains, cash, and other forms of aid that are essential and appropriate) and social protection that are readily accessible to the marginalized sectors, including the landless rural people, as well as other forms of government assistance such as production and marketing support for the small food producers;
  3. Ensure that no further displacements of the rural people from their lands and livelihood are carried out in the pretext of COVID-19 lockdowns;
  4. Allot sufficient public resources to the health sector and make reliable public healthcare services, including free testing for COVID-19 infection and treatment, available without delay or difficulty for everyone, including the rural communities;
  5. As a learning, the health budget should be based on building a robust public healthcare system that is capable of functioning with equity and efficiency in face of all health crises.

Amidst the spreading darkness and misery due to a pandemic caused by more than anything else an ecologically and socially destructive mode of capitalist production, the movement of landless rural people and their supporters, together with all oppressed and exploited toiling peoples, shall remain among the bearers of light and hope.

Press Release; Urdu

Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Awareness Program

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative organized an awareness session program based on the Agroecology farming and sustainable agriculture on village level at different districts of Sindh, Punjab and KP. In Sindh district Tando Mohammad Khan, Shikarpur and Ghotki, in Punjab district Multan and in KP district Haripur and Lower Dir the session were organized.

The session begins with the introduction of the team and the farmers. The team asks different questions from the farmers like who cultivate the land and which sort of cultivation is going on nowadays?

 

The participants replied that nowadays, we are using artificial means of production, which had chemicals in it, and we use chemical fertilizer in cultivation. Different topics of production and consumption were discussed with the help of pictures.

Unhealthy Production: The participants were told about the unhealthy food production that how modern machinery and chemicals are introduced to increase the production for example, breeding of cows by using artificial means, increasing of milk and meat of animals, increasing chemical spray, fertilizer, use of hybrid seeds and genetically modified seeds. The participants agree that they use the chemicals and machinery which results increase in diseases and unemployment.

Unhealthy Consumption: The participants were told about the unhealthy food like big companies use artificial methods in the preparation of food and are enforced on us for example, Potato chips, burgers, pizzas and unbalanced diet. The participants said that the junk food made by the companies has no energy, the threat of diseases increases and the food is also expensive. Capitalism increases class system. The rich influence on poor just because of this system. The working class is deprived of basic needs of life like food and health; we should not use these things.

Healthy Production: The participants were shown opposite mechanical and artificial method of production. The natural and traditional ways of farming, which includes milking, traditional way of cultivating pure and healthy food. According to our history, we use traditional seeds and eat pure food and live in a clean environment for centuries. The capitalists now capture the markets enforced farmers and labors into poverty.

Healthy Consumption: The participants said that the food from companies are unhealthy, the bread, Saag (local spinach), Lassi, butter, pure ghee are healthy foods. We should promote our own things, which we get through natural means.

Poverty and hunger! Why ? The adopting of chemical methods and an increase in production, the participants said that hunger, poverty and unemployment is increasing day by day. Continue reading

Women’s Resistances for Rights

Press Release

March 8, 2020

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with International Alliance for Women (IWA), Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) organized a women’s assembly in village Raees Baksh Lashari, district Tando Muhammad Khan, Sindh to celebrate the International Women’s Day. Women farmers and agriculture workers from various districts had participated in this Assembly.

Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed of Roots for Equity and Chairperson IWA highlighted the continuously negative spin in attaining basic rights in women lives, the escalation in the oppression and exploitation at the national and international levels: all due to the increasing grip of capitalism through neoliberal policies. Profit-seeking capitalist forces have introduced modern technology in food and agriculture sector which pave the way in increasing landlessness, gender discrimination, violence, hunger and poverty in Pakistan and other third world countries.

In Pakistan, women particularly women agricultural workers faces different kind of exploitation under feudalism and capitalism. Agricultural women workers not only face economic and gender discrimination but also face mental and physical violence, illiteracy among others. In the past years sugarcane production has wiped out cotton production, which had still provided an income for women, though it had dire impacts on the environment and women’s health as well as all living things. The need for skilled trained women may be the reason that the generally feudal-minded Sindh Government has passed the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Bill. There is no doubt that if women ware incorporated in the planned special economic zones, they will face further exploitation and feudalism in a highly feudal society.

While detailing imperialist policies in the Dairy sector PKMT member Pathani and an activist Ms. Ayman Baber highlighted the impacts on women. After corporate capture of seeds, the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement being implemented through the Pure Food Laws which will lead to control of the corporate sector on livestock, fodder and the output of the diary sector in which a large number of women are engaged, especially in Punjab and Sindh. Corporate capture of these sectors will gain huge profits not only in the lucrative local markets but also through exports. These policies will result in market hegemony erosion of livelihood of millions of peasant and farmers across the country. The impact on women and children will be multi fold, as they will not only loose a rich source of food and nutrition but also the income from milk and livestock. The recent National Nutrition Survey has already well documented the extreme levels of hunger and malnutrition that women and children in the country face: the Pure Food Laws will only result in further aggravating the situation. It was also stated that food fortification policies that are ostensibly an answer to the malnutrition are only a profit-seeking industry for the mega-corporations of North America and Europe. Continue reading

Political Educational Program (Pre PEP)

In the first week of February, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek  (PKMT) organized the political educational (Pre-PEP) programs in Mansehra (KPK), Rajanpur and Multan (Punjab) and Khairpur (Sindh).

In the educational programs, firstly the class distribution and its origin were discussed. The root cause of the issue and the circumstances which are behind it were also analyzed. The discussion further extended with the realization of the ruling systems of colonization and feudalism and the politics of land.      

Secondly, the oppressive system which effects on the lives of small and landless farmers which are feudalism and capitalism and the role of religious organization and private companies in increasing the difficulties faced by them.

Thirdly, the problems and rights of the most vulnerable class among the community, “women” who faces patriarchal system conferred to find solutions for the injustice they face in daily life.

The most powerful system “capitalism” and the tools of capitalists which are hindering the farmers were also examined. It was realized that how inorganic seed, politics of land, machines, poisonous medicine, market, loan from banks, different laws and material from outside the country is imposed on the farmers.

     

Lastly, the farmers discussed about the companies that now their work went in the hands of companies.

The second part of the pre pep discussed that which is the main oppressive countries (United States – China) and the effects of CPEC.

Preparation of Green Compost at the lands of women Farmers in Punjab and Sindh

Under the base of PKMT Jazba farmers cooperative there are four Agro ecological farms which tend by women. A woman’s presence led farms are entirely new experience and will be a model for rural women empowerment. Farmers are having meetings and preparing green compost for their crops.

 

Preparation of green compost in Multan, Punjab

A woman gathering dead leaves of trees for making compost

Sindh Jazba cooperative farmers having meeting in Shikarpur, Sindh after a visit to farmers while making green compost

Interviews from the farmers of PKMT Farmers Cooperative Jazba

Under PKMT Farmers’ Cooperative Jazba there are 12 agroecological farms in three provinces, Sindh, KPK and Punjab. Each farm is on one acre of land. Six farms are in Sindh, four farms are in KPK and two are in Punjab. Out of these twelve farms, women farmers manage four.

During our visits to the Jazba farms we carried out interviews with different farmers. The farmers provided details on preparation of land and the varieties of traditional seeds they have sown.  They also described green compost preparation that they are carrying out on their land so that will be applied on their land. The farmers were also preparing the natural pesticide, which they will use if needed.

  1. BakhtiarZeb, farmer from Lower Dir said that he has been part of PKMT since 2011. He said that our ancestors did not use chemical pesticides such as DAP and urea but we have used it and face the harmful effect on the crops. Our father had also advised us and stopped us from using chemical inputs as it carries disease. Now as we realize it, we have also gone back to sustainable agriculture.

To prepare natural fertilizer (green compost) we have put rotten vegetables as well as peel from vegetables collected from our home use and animal manure. It will be ready in two months, but will look open the pit again after 10 to 15 days. Bakhtiar said that “I believe in natural traditional farming and have practiced it from a long time.”

He has willingly contributed one acre of his land toward the Jazba cooperative. In his one acre of land he has sown two kinds of traditional seeds, namely, Haripur white wheat (which was obtained from a farmer in Haripur about 9-10 years ago) and Ratti (which is a red colored seed indigenous to Dera Ismail Khan, Punjab). He added that he is also making natural spray for pesticides from urine of cow as an experiment.

  1. The Farmer from district Shikarpur, Ali Gul Solongi, said that he is member of PKMT. He had sowed three varieties of wheat seed in his one acre of land. He had used 25 kg of a traditional seed from Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, 25 kg of seed from Rajanpur, Punjab and 15 kg of Galaxy seed form Sindh. The last is not a traditional seed but has been used over and over again for the past four years. It is being sown for the fifth time with in PKMT farms. He has added the third variety as he feels that 25 kg of seed may be less for the acreage on which it is being used.

According to him, he has turned to sustainable way of cultivation so that he can grow healthy seed. He feels that production may be low, but it will be healthy. Secondly, expenses will be reduced and yield pure seed. Ali Gul added that we will be able to eat this grain, save it as well distribute it to other farmers. His message was “Desi beech ugao . . . companeo ko bhagao” (sow traditional seeds and drive out companies).

Upscaling and Strengthening Agro ecology:

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) has established a Farmers Cooperative and named it Jazba. Jazba has enlisted various farmers to further agro ecology-based farms in seven districts spread over three provinces of Pakistan with the collaboration between various actors, that include mass-based farmers’ organizations, non-government organizations, academia and consumer groups.

Jazba aims to upscale and strengthen agro ecology and to build technical and social alliance between various actors such as farmers movements, trade unions, women’s groups, scientists and consumers to advocate for agro ecology and food sovereignty and to bring out the strength of agroecology as a science, as a movement and as a practice, especially in face of corporate hegemony, which is detrimental to farmers self-sufficiency, health and environment.

No doubt the collaboration is more of a political response to the threats being faced by society at large, but most importantly the marginalized especially landless and small farmers, women farmers and general public.The collaboration is also helping in linking farmers with consumer markets as well.

A foundation stone of Jazba is to promote safe, nutritious and healthy food for all. The extensive use of chemicals in corporate farming based on use of hybrid and genetically modified seeds, toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers has severely impacted the health of all living things as well has been a cause for massive destruction of biodiversity.

Of the 12 agro ecological farms, six are in Sindh,two in Punjab and four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Every farm consists of one acre of land. Four of the 12 agro ecology farm, four are managed by women. Presence of women-led farms is an entirely new experience and will be a model for rural women’s empowerment.

Each farmer has only used natural fertilizers from animal dung and green compost. Six farmers have already initiated making compost on the land; the other five are preparing land but has been postponed due to rains in December 2019 and January 2020. Formal initiation of the 12 farms was initiated with wheat sowing season.An initial training for preparing biological pesticides was given early in the project.

PKMT and its partners will launch a campaign to create greater awareness of agro ecological practices, its economic and social benefits and to motivate other farmers and groups to engage in agroecology.

“Corporate Agriculture: Decent Livelihood, Pure Nutritious Food and Environmental Justice Impossible!” (PKMT) 12th Annual Assembly

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) held its 12th Annual Conference 28, December, 2019 in Jampur, Rajanpur. The theme of the conference was “Corporate Agriculture: Decent Livelihood, Pure Nutritious Food and Environmental Justice Impossible!”

The Annual conference started with the registration of the members from various districts of the country.

The 12th PKMT General Assembly was kicked off with welcome remarks from the Punjab provincial coordinator Maqsood Ahmed, Rajanpur district coordinator Abdul Ghafaar. A one minute silence was observed in memory of Ghulam Yaseen, PKMT member who had passed away earlier this year.

The program began with a theatre  performance from the PKMT group “PUKKUK”.

Key Notes were delivered by Azra Talat Sayeed, followed by two different sessions focusing on the debacle of corporate agriculture, its impacts on farmers’ livelihood, climate crisis and decreasing access to safe nutritious food. Guest speaker was a trade unionist Mr Junaid Awan, Railway Workers Union.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial coordinator Mr Fayaz Ahmed provided a detailed run down on PKMT’s activities for 2019.

An award giving ceremony was conducted for farmers practicing Sustainable Agriculture. The two farmers who received the PKMT PaidarZarat Award were Mr Bakhtayar Zeb, Lower Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Mr Ali Gohar, Gohar, Sindh. Both were chosen for receiving the award based on a criteria set by the PKMT National Seed Committee.

A session by the name of “Bol K Lab Azad Hain Tere” provided space for issues raised by famers across the country.

A vote of thanks was delivered by the Sindh provincial coordinator followed by the PKMT tarana sung by the members.