“Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”

Press Release

October 16, 2020

Roots for Equity and the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) in collaboration with  People’s Coalition for Food Security (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and  Pacific (PANAP) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) is marking the World Food Day as World Hunger Day on October 16, 2020. A webinar and protest has been organized in this regard in which small and landless peasants including PKMT members participated from different districts.

This event is part of a campaign, launched on the occasion of World Hunger Day, and titled “Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”. It aims to promote a strategy for highlighting the toxic impacts of industrial chemical agriculture production systems and the acute need for food sovereignty and agro-ecology based food production systems. This year’s global campaign focuses on the plight of rural populations during the pandemic, and their demands for changes in the food and agricultural systems.

Tariq Mehmood, a member of PKMT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke on the situation of hunger, poverty and unemployment during the Covid19 pandemic, He said that the transnational mega agro-chemical corporations’ domination in the food and agriculture system around the world, their exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats is a catalyst for Corona pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations FAO (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World), the epidemic could lead another 83 to 132 million people suffering from hunger by 2020, and if the current situation continues by 2030, 841.4 million people in the world will be hungry.

According to a member of PKMT Mohammad Zaman from Sahiwal, it is reported in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the corona virus had a severe negative impact on the Pakistani economy and at least another 10 million people are feared to be pushed to living below the poverty line in Pakistan. The number could increase from 50 million presently to 60 million. In the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries where consumption of meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is six to 10 times lower than that of developed countries.

The worsening situation of hunger and poverty can be gauged from the statement of Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Poverty and Social Protection, that “almost half of the country’s population will be covered by the Ehsas Program.” The statement indicates that in Pakistan, where almost half of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, the current epidemic of rising hunger, poverty and unemployment has exacerbated the pervasive exploitation and brutality of this rotten food and agriculture system that is based extracting super-profits from the poorest segments of society.

Speaking on the global food and employment crisis, Wali Haider, of Roots for Equity said that rural populations around the world are already aware of these facts and now the food and employment crisis and growing hunger during the Corona virus pandemic has proved that the current system of food and agriculture, which is dominated by the big capitalist countries and their for profit companies, has failed.

This domination of the imperialist powers over the global food and agriculture system has linked the local rural economy, in third world countries like Pakistan, to the global agricultural market. This has resulted in the most important resources like our agricultural produce, our land and water have become a source of surplus profits for multinational corporations.

A clear example of this is the increasing production of sugarcane and other cash crops for the production and export of agro-fuels like ethanol, while the production of the most important food crops such as wheat is declining. This is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and the consequent increase in hunger.

There is an urgent need to change the system where farmers are forced to depend on seeds, chemicals and toxic inputs of companies. These chemicals also pollute the entire food and agricultural system and destruction of the ecosystems and biodiversity.

In contrast, a sustainable food production system, agro-ecology, provides farmers with a strategy that protects not only their rights but also of other small food producers. Farmers’ right to land under agro ecology guarantees the establishment of collective and individual seed banks and their exchange. It also protects and promotes safe and natural systems of food and agriculture production ensuring food security of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as safe nutritious food and environment for all.

Speaking on the women farmers’ rights Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity said that the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 56% of the total agricultural production and the majority of farmers involved in milk and meat production are small scale. It consists of cattle breeders, especially women, who make it possible to produce 60 billion liters of milk annually in the country, but these same rural populations are starving themselves as a result of the monopoly of capitalist companies in the food and agriculture sector.

In the name of achieving so called standardization of milk, meat and other foods, corporations are paving a clear path to monopolizing the dairy and meat sector. This will only lead to further exacerbation of hunger and malnutrition in the country. It is important to note that according to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, 53% of children and 44.3% of women in the country are suffering from anemia.

Raja Mujeeb, a member of PKMT Sindh, referring to the small and landless peasants are most affected by the Covid19 epidemic, said that food producers have been forced to depend on poor quality seeds where the companies have established a monopoly and at the same time land is in the hands of feudal lords and increasing encroachment of capitalist systems of production and marketing.

If the farmers have control over all the productive resources including land and seeds, then our farmers, laborers, fishermen and the rural population can get food even in the face of the current pandemic or any kind of emergency. That is why PKMT believes that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture based an end to feudalism through just and equitable land distribution among farmers and imperialist food policies is critical for a peaceful democratic sovereign state!

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

Press Release in Urdu (PDF) 

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

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.

Farmers protest eviction

Bureau Report November 20, 2019

PESHAWAR: A group of farmers belonging to various rural localities of the provincial capital have expressed serious concern over their forced eviction from the area for the construction of Peshawar Northern Bypass and demanded of the government to compensate them.

Addressing a protest demonstration outside Peshawar Press Club on Monday, farmers’ representatives Nabi Jan, Ismail Khan, Sikandar Khan and others said they were tilling the land for the last 80 years which was their only source of livelihood, saying the government was taking possession of the land for construction of Peshawar Northern Bypass without paying its price or providing alternate agriculture land to the people.

The demonstrators said the government was not only snatching their livelihood but also depriving them of their houses and was reluctant to compensate them.

The farmers said that they had approached the relevant provincial government officials but no one bothered to listen to their grievances. They said the land was shamilat (community land) which had been converted into cultivatable land by their elders about 80 years ago and their forced eviction was sheer injustice.

The farmers’ leaders demanded of the government to stop harassing the people, withdraw cases against them and provide alternative land for agriculture and housing and ensure payment of compensation.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1517811/farmers-protest-eviction

کسان مزدور تحریک کا کسانوں کو زمینوں سبے دخل کرنے کیخلاف مظاہرہ

نومبر 20، 2019
پشاور (لیڈی رپورٹر) پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک نے ہریانہ بالا پشاور میں کسانوں کو زمینوں سے زبردستی بے دخل کرنے کے خلاف پشاور پریس کلب کے سامنے احتجاجی مظاہرہ کیا اور اعلیٰ حکام سے مطالبہ کیا کہ سڑک کے تعمیر سے متاثر ہ کسانوں کو متبادل زمین اور گھروں کے تعمیر کیلئے رقوم براہ راست کسانوں کو دینے سمیت کھیتی باڑی کیلئے زرعی زمین دی جائے بصورت دیگر اپنا احتجاجی تحریک چلائنگے۔مظاہرین نے ہاتھوں میں پلے کارڈز اور بینرز اٹھا رکھے تھے جس پر حکومت مخالف نعرے درج تھے۔مطاہرے کی قیادت لعل جان،رحمان، سردار آصف اور دیگر ساتھیوں نے کی۔ اس موقع پر مظاہرین کا کہنا تھا کہ نادرز بائی پاس کی تعمیر سے ہریانہ بالا متعدد دیہات اس سے متاثر ہوئے ہے جنمیں گاوں گڑھی بجار،چولی بالا،چولی پایان، مترا، گڑھی ولی محمد،اور دیگر دیہات شامل ہے ۔

Farmers hold demo against eviction

Bureau Report; September 19, 2019

Farmers of Haryana area hold a demonstration on Sher Shah Suri Road, Peshawar, on Wednesday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Farmers belonging to different villages of Peshawar held a protest demonstration in front of the Peshawar Press Club against eviction from their land being acquired for construction of the Northern Bypass.

The demonstration was jointly arranged by Kissan Action Committee, Haryana Bala, and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek wherein farmers belonging to Garhi Bajaz, Choli Bala, Choli Payan, Mathra, Garhi Wali Mohammad and other affected localities participated.

The protesters told media persons that the farmers’ families possessed the land for the last 80 years which was their only source of livelihood. The farmers claimed that the government was taking possession of the land for construction of Northern Bypass without paying its price to the owners.

“The government is not only snatching our livelihood but also depriving us of our homes which we have built with our meager resources,” they said.

The Northern Bypass project has affected many villages, they said and claimed that the farmers in these areas had been threatened to leave the land or they would be forcefully evicted. They alleged that the compensation of agriculture land and houses had been given to an influential person.

“We have approached various government offices and officials to seek help, but to no avail,” they said and added that the land property was common (shamilat) which had been converted into cultivatable land by their forefathers.

They alleged that MNA Noor Alam Khan was supporting the influential landowner while rest of the farmers had been ignored. “False FIRs have been lodged against some farmers to pressurise them,” they said.

The Kissan Action Committee, Haryana Bala, and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek have demanded of the government to release all the arrested farmers and withdraw the FIRs.

They urged the government to provide alternative land for housing and payment of the construction cost in lieu of the houses being demolished for the project. The farmers were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against what they called their forced eviction.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1505965/farmers-hold-demo-against-eviction

No to Peasants’ Eviction from Haryana Bala, Peshawar

Press Release

September 18, 2019

Kissan Action Committee Haryana Bala, Peshawar held a protest demonstration in front of the Peshawar Press Club against their eviction from their land due to the construction of the Northern Bypass. The landless farmers have been working on this land for the last 80 years, having been the first to domesticate the land making it ready for cultivation. The farmers stated that they were not only losing their livelihood but their homes, which they had built based on their labor and meager earnings. The Northern Bypass project has affected many areas, which, include Garhi Bajaz, Choli Bala, Choli Payan, Mitra, Garhi Wali Mohammad, and farmers in these areas are being threatened that they should leave or will be forcefully evicted. The compensation of agriculture land and houses has been given to big landlords with political influence, which further exacerbated the peasants’ livelihood and miseries.

The peasants stated, “ we approached various government offices and officials to seek help in this regards but no help has been provided.” According to the sources, majority of these land are common lands (shamlat) which has been converted into cultivatable land by their forefathers, and some of the land is owned by landlord Sher Alam Khan. The government has provided compensation that has been appropriated by Sher Alam Khan, even though it has been meant for the peasants. Sher Alam Khan is being backed by a local MNA, Noor Alam Khan. This is the basic reason that voices of the peasant are not been heard. False FIRs have been lodged against some farmers and some have been arrested to pressurize and silence the peasants.

Land grabbing through mega projects such as dams, highways, motorways, special economic zones and others are now a common ‘development’ strategy in many of the third world countries, all at the cost of the most marginalized communities. The government and other policymaking entities ignore the immensely negative impact of such mega-projects on local people livelihood, environment and their way of living.

The Northern Bypass project is to accelerate free trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to sources this project will connect with Khyber Bypass Economic Corridor (KPEC) for which the World Bank has provided loans; the KPEC was approved in June, 2018.

Kissan Action Committee Haryana Bala and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) demands to the Government and related institutions are:

  • All arrested related to the case must be released immediately and withdraw all false FIRs;
  • Provide alternate space for housing and construction cost in lieu of the houses demolished or to be demolished;
  • Provide alternate land for agriculture purpose for those evicted or to be evicted;
  • Stop land grabbing through development projects and special economic zones;
  • Distribution of land on just and equitable basis;

Urdu Press Release

Released by: Kissan Action Committee Haryana Bala, Peshawar and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

Not for the little guy

Tariq Mehmood
Former coordinator
Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek KPK

“The federal budget offers us nothing,” says Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek’s former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa coordinator Tariq Mehmood. His biggest concerns are about seed development and lack of support for small and landless farmers.

Farmers’ reliance on imported seeds is increasing day-by-day as indigenous seed is not being improved, he points out.

“The government is doling out lands to multinational companies but is reluctant to distribute land among landless farmers”, he complained, saying that the federal budget focuses on subsidies on tube wells which are used by large landholders and not small farmers. “Budget offers nothing for inputs availability and their prices either”, he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/print/1488697

Panelists call for ending role of corporate sector in agriculture

Bureau Report March 30, 2019

PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on Friday demanded an end to the role of international corporate sector in agriculture, opposed the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector and called for just and equitable distribution of land among small and landless farmers in order to turn Pakistan into a real agricultural country.

The event organised at the Peshawar Press Club to commemorate the International Day of the Landless Farmers was arranged by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance.

PKMT national coordinator Altaf Hussain, Asian Peasant Coalition’s general secretary Raja Mueeb, PKMT’s coordinator Peshawar Shehzad Baig and KP coordinator Fayyaz Ahmed were the main speakers.

They said the day highlighted the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty.

They said farmers were being evicted from lands that had been tilled for generations by their ancestors. They demanded that development projects across the country, including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors, should be scrapped.

On the occasion, Altaf Hussain said from 2000 onwards, transnational corporations worldwide had grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through over 1,500 agreements.

Similarly, Raja Mueeb said more than 200 deals spanning almost 20 million hectares of land were further being negotiated. Most of the land deals were being carried out in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources, he pointed out.

It was pathetic that only eight per cent of these land deals were exclusively for food production, and 60 percent of these, were for export purposes, he said, adding around 70 per cent of these deals were reserved for agro-fuel production, which was only fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries.

Mr Mueeb said in the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road initiative had further accelerated land grab.

Fayyaz Ahmed pointed out that various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project had resulted in land grab across the country.

He pointed out that 1,000 acres of land had been leased in Haripur for a special economic zone, the Northern Bypass Peshawar; 6,500 acres of land was leased for growing high yield seeds to a foreign corporation in Punjab; and 140 acres of land were leased in Khairpur, Sindh for a special economic zone.

He said farmers and fishermen were losing their livelihoods due to these measures.

Shehzad Baig said small and landless farmers were facing exploitation because of unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture. He said the government was also planning to build a cement factory in Palai area of Malakand, a greenbelt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1472729

Distribution of agri lands among landless farmers urged

Bureau Report March 30, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) has asked the government to take notice of the distribution of the state land to companies, allotment of state land to investors on lease and ongoing development projects.

Speaking at a news conference at Peshawar Press Club, PKMT’s Asif Khan demanded equal distribution of agricultural lands among the landless farmers and working class. PKMT provincial coordinator Fayyaz Ahmad, Shahzad Baig and others were also present. He said the world day for the labourers and farmers was celebrated every year but the poor and landless labourers had been suffering since . Asif Khan said that the multinational companies had usurped 50 million acres of land throughout the world through 1591 agreements since the year 2000, which is a grave injustice to the poor farmers.