MILKING US DRY: PAKISTAN’S DAIRY SECTOR IN CRISIS (#PEASANTSRISEUP) 

For more than a decade, corporates have been advancing their control over Pakistan’s livestock and dairy sector which as of 2016 data, contributes to approximately 56% of the country’s agriculture sector GDP.
Trade agencies like the AUSAID and USAID have pledged their guidance and support for various dairy development programs, breed improvement programs and livestock management programs. While multinational companies like Nestle and Engro hold the monopoly in packaged milk products and have been campaigning against fresh milk, its biggest competitor is based in the informal retail market. While 93% of the consumers still buy fresh/raw milk, the Punjab Food Authority will strictly be implementing the Milk Pasteurization Law by 2022. Under this law, the sale of raw milk will be a criminal offence. But this concern to provide consumers with pure unadulterated or tested milk seems to be geared towards benefiting dairy corporations at the expense of the informal milk sector largely in the hands of small and landless farmers (as producers) and a very wide network of milk vendors spread across the country both in rural and urban areas.
These multinationals have also been employing the rhetoric of Creating Shared Value (CSV) by training farmers, carrying out capacity building at the household and community level and claims to empower rural women, while also introducing expensive, high-tech equipment in the sector and attracting sizeable foreign and local investments. By doing so, these corporations are effectively ousting small producers out of the highly competitive market.

This episode is co-presented by PAN Asia Pacific – PANAP, Roots For Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

End corporate control in food and agriculture! Fight for genuine land reform and rural development to truly transform the world’s food systems!

Day of the Landless 2021, Joint Statement

Today, Day of the Landless, we – farmers and peasants, poor farmhands, agricultural workers, contract farmers, Dalits, rural women and youth, and land reform advocates across Asia – vow to further our resolve in fighting against landlessness. Landlessness breeds social injustice, hunger, and impoverishment. Landlessness is a bane to farmers and all the people of the world.

Now more than ever, we are ready to link arms to assert our right to land and genuine land reform in our respective countries and across the region. We are determined to espouse and achieve rural development to transform the world’s food systems dominated by corporate monopolies. We will work hard for a better world wherein the majority of the population is unbound from hunger and exploitation.

We are uniting under the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) to call an end to corporate control in agriculture and food systems. It is unacceptable that farmers and food producers who feed nations do not have access to land and are food insecure as a result of land and resource grabs and of global monopolies in agricultural production and trade.

The COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020 further exposed the profit-oriented nature of global food systems as it drove millions of people into chronic hunger. By the end of 2019, at least 8.9 percent of the world’s population, or 690 million went hungry. By the start of 2020, hundreds of millions of people continue to suffer acute food insecurity as they face conflict, climate change, and economic crises of epic proportions.

As of October 2020, a staggering seven million people have died of hunger. Pandemic-related hunger also led to the deaths of 10,000 more children each month over the first year of the health crisis. Forecasts even warned about multiple famines in the coming months as the lowest-income households are most likely to face increased hunger. Strict lockdown policies and quarantines have affected all stages of food supply, resulting in a steep rise in food prices and widespread food insecurity.

Hunger and poverty of Asian peasants and sectors in agriculture are among the direct results of centuries-old landlessness. Large-scale land deals and acquisitions —  land grabs led by corporations have dispossessed and displaced farmers from the land they till. Millions of hectares of land planted with staples, grains, and other food crops, as well as indigenous lands, and public lands were land grabbed and converted into plantations, extractive mining projects, and farms devoted to export cash crops. Governments have become willing accomplices in these land grabs through public-private partnerships that take away land, water, and other natural resources from the people.

Profits keep pouring into the pockets of the few as the majority of peasants and their families endure worsening landlessness and land grabs amid a pandemic.

Farmers who assert land rights are faced with attacks either from local landlords, big corporations, and even government agencies. Peasant killings and other forms of brutalities against farmers happen on a daily basis.

In the past years, we have also witnessed the strengthening domination of corporations over the agriculture and food sector. We have seen mega-mergers and multi-billion deals between companies that have control over the seed market, agrochemicals, fertilizers, farm equipment and machineries, and the entire chain of food production. Conglomerates today have a tighter control of the world’s food production and distribution. They have made a profitable empire while trampling upon the lives and livelihoods of farming families and the rural people.

Deepening poverty ravages the world’s countryside as appropriate, indigenous, and collective knowledge and practices on agriculture are suppressed by agrochemical transnationals. Employing the most compassionate words and imageries, these monopolies violently impose their economic models over the peoples of the world for the singular purpose of maximizing profits. The toiling people of rural areas are increasingly cut off from their own countrymen as imported seeds, inputs, machines, and agricultural products deluge their local markets. At the same time, through coercion or force, peasants are increasingly “integrated” into the “global value chain” as cheap sources of raw materials and docile labor, and as captive dependent markets. As the people’s food sovereignty is continually undermined, there can be no genuine rural development.

Yet, even during the pandemic, we have seen the rising up of people’s movements to assert democratic and socio-economic rights. Mass protests and people’s strikes have swelled across countries. In Asia, the largest mobilizations we have seen in recent months are of India’s farmers, taking to the streets in hundreds of millions, to oppose and protest neoliberal agricultural laws that will make them more vulnerable to a few powerful corporations.

We are alarmed that ongoing efforts to address the rising global hunger and poverty through the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit will only end up in legitimizing and further advancing tighter imperialist control over food and agriculture. The overall direction that the preparations and discussions by those leading the UN Summit are leading towards the greater use of harmful and contentious technology like genetic engineering and digital agriculture. Solely motivated by maximum profits, these technologies are designed to consolidate and expand the presence and powers of big agribusiness in determining how the world should produce food.

In contrast, there are no meaningful discussions or even space to address the structural issues underlying hunger and poverty such as the landlessness and lack of effective control over the means of production by farmers and other rural sectors that directly produce the world’s food. Instead, the push in the UN Summit is to further expand monopoly capital and profits through greater liberalization, privatization, and deregulation that will drive hundreds of millions of farmers and rural people into more landlessness, bankruptcy, and impoverishment.

Thus, we call on the courageous peasant movements in Asia to organize and mobilize for our own people’s summit together with other marginalized and oppressed sectors that suffer the gravest hunger and poverty because of imperialist control and domination over the world’s food and agriculture. We must create our own spaces and assert our own voice in how a radical transformation of food and agricultural systems can and should take place.

We will actively support and lead the Global People’s Summit for Just, Equitable, Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems that would bring to the fore the peasant’s aspirations and struggles for land and genuine agrarian reform. For the people’s summit to truly make an impact, it must be built on an ever-growing and strengthening peasant and people’s movements on the ground fighting for systemic change that will pave the way for development that is truly for the people and truly sustainable.

Farmers and peasants can settle for nothing less than genuine land reform and rural development towards the true transformation of the world’s food systems. We recognize that the key to this transformation are solid people’s organizations and a global mass movement, the only real spring of change amid a decaying world order. #

PEASANTS DEMAND JUST AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF LAND!

Press Release ;29 March – Day of the Landless

March 29, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity joined hands with the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) to mark March 29, 2021 as the Day of the Landless. In this regard, a webinar was held to highlight the urgent need for genuine agrarian reform and rural development that restores farmers’ rights over land and other critical productive resources through implementing genuine land reforms as well as by putting an end to the stronghold of monopolistic agrochemical transnational corporations over global food production and distribution systems.

Kasim Tirmizey spoke on the peasant struggles in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkwa in the colonial period. He emphasized that British colonialism deliberately created landlessness in the Indian sub-continent through social, historical and political processes. The British used land ownership as a reward system, awarding land to those tribes and castes who were loyal and supportive of the British imperialist agenda in the subcontinent. He elaborated on the various peasant movements and struggles, including the Punjab Kisan Saba that had resisted colonial control over land, and the vicious wrath of the British punishing those who resisted not only colonial land ownership but new forms of social contract created between the landlords and tenants. No doubt, extending private property ownership and formalizing land tenure resulted in overwhelming power and prestige to their pawns, the British are responsible for creating the exploitative tenant-landlord relationships that are characteristic of present day feudalism in the subcontinent. Kasim ended by emphasizing the critical need for strong peasant movements to overcome the exploitative forces of today. That is the lesson that is to be learnt from the past peasant movements of our ancestors from this soil! Continue reading

زمین سے محروم کسانوں کا نعرہ: زمین کا منصفانہ اور مساویانہ ہو بٹوارہ

  بے زمینوں کا عالمی دن

 پریس ریلیز

March 29, 2021

پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک (پی کے ایم ٹی) اور روٹس فار ایکوٹی نے ایشین پیزنٹ کولیشن (اے پی سی) کے اشتراک سے 29 مارچ، 2021 کو بے زمینوں کا دن منایا۔ اس حوالے سے ایک وبینار کا اہتمام کیا گیا جس میں کسانوں کا زمین اور دیگر اہم پیداواری وسائل پر حق کو منوانے کے لیے زرعی کیمیائی بین الاقوامی کمپنیوں کی اجارہ داری کے خاتمہ کے ذریعہ خوارک کے عالمی پیداوار اور تقسیم کے نظام میں فوری زرعی اصلاحات اور دیہی ترقی کی شدید اہمیت کو باور کرایا گیا۔

قاسم ترمذی نے نوآبادیاتی دور میں پنجاب اور خیبرپختونخوا میں کسانوں کی جدوجہد پر بات کی۔ انہوں نے اس بات پر زور دیا کہ برطانوی سامراج نے برصغیر میں جان بوجھ کر سماجی، تاریخی اور سیاسی عمل کے ذریعہ بے زمینی پیدا کی۔ برطانوی سامراج نے زمینی ملکیت کو انعام کے نظام کے طور پر استعمال کیا۔ ان قبیلوں اور ذاتوں کو زمین دی گئیں جو برصغیر میں انگریز کے سامراجی ایجنڈے کے لیے مددگار ثابت ہوئے۔ انہوں نے کسانوں کی مختلف تحریکوں اور جدوجہد کے بارے میں تفصیل سے بتایا، جن میں پنجاب کسان سبھا بھی شامل ہے، جس نے زمین پر نوآبادیاتی قبضہ کے خلاف مزاہمت کی اور انگریزوں کے خوفناک ظلم کا شکار ہوئے۔ اس ظلم کا شکار نہ صرف وہ ہوئے جو نوآبادیاتی قبضہ کے خلاف مزاہمت کررہے تھے بلکہ وہ بھی جو جاگیرداروں اور کسانوں کے بیچ نئے سماجی رشتے کے خلاف جدوجہد میں مصروف تھے۔ اس میں کوئی شک نہیں کہ نجی ملکیت میں توسیع اور کسانوں اور جاگیردار کے مابین رشتہ کو باضابطہ بنانے کے نتیجہ میں انگریز سامراج کے حواریوں کو زبردست طاقت اور عزت ملی۔ برطانوی سامراج نے کسان اور جاگیردار کے مابین مزارعہ/ ہاری اور جاگیردار کا استحصالی رشتہ پیدا کیا جو برصغیر میں موجودہ جاگیرداری اس کی ایک شکل ہے۔ آخر میں انہوں نے زور دیا کہ آج کی استحصالی قوتوں پر قابو پانے کے لیے کسانوں کی پر زور تحریک وقت کی اہم ترین ضرورت ہے۔ ماضی کی کسان تحریکیں ہمارے باپ دادا کے دور سے ملا ہوا ایک سبق ہے۔ Continue reading

Intellectual property rights over plants and seeds opposed

Our Correspondent; February 12, 2021

Leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity on Wednesday criticised the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s recent decision to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and said that the act would take away farmers’ centuries-old traditional rights of saving and selling seeds.

Roots for Equity’s chairperson Dr Azra Sayeed and PKMT leaders Raja Mujeeb and Asif Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said that as a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only would the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty, but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed prices.

They said that it is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. They claimed that the implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015, is dictated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The registration process is due to start on February 15. The agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds, they said.

“Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission,” said Sayeed.

“The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.”

She said that is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws, and the WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production. “Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector,” she said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/788820-intellectual-property-rights-over-plants-and-seeds-opposed

Farmers condemn launch of Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry

Faiza Ilyas

KARACHI: Describing a recent federal government decision to launch Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry from Feb 15 as ‘illegal’ and ‘unethical’, representatives of Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday demanded that all laws granting control over agriculture to “imperialist states and corporations” be nullified.

The briefing was organised in collaboration with Roots for Equity, a non-profit organisation working for rights of vulnerable communities, especially landless farmers.

Sharing farmers’ concerns over a recent public notice of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research inviting applications for protection of new plant varieties of cotton and maize, Raja Mujeeb of PKMT-Sindh said that it’s an illegal step given the fact that a petition challenging the Seed Amendment Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 had been pending in court since 2017.

“We filed writ petitions against these two acts before a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) arguing that these laws could not be passed by the parliament in the light of devolution under 18th Constitutional Amendment and that these laws have ignored and trampled on farmers’ rights recognised by Pakistan, which is a party to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”

“The Plant Breeders’ Act basically takes away centuries’ old traditional rights of farmers of saving, exchanging and selling seeds. As a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights (IPRs) over seeds, not only the country would become dependent on corporations for food security and sovereignty, but the royalties paid to corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed/crop prices.”

Farmers, who were already reeling from the increased cost of production and reduced crop prices, would have to shoulder the added burden of procuring the specific agricultural inputs mandated by the seed companies, said Asif Khan of PKMT-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

‘WTO dictates’

The speakers criticised the food ministry for starting registration of seed varieties for cotton and maize despite a major decline in cotton production due to use of international genetically modified (GM) seeds.

They also highlighted the devastating impact of GM crops on health and the environment which had led many European countries to impose a ban on them.

They claimed that the implementation of the Seed Amendment Act and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act was dictated by the World Trade Organisation under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The agreement, it was explained, made it mandatory for the government to provide IPRs on new varieties of plants and seeds. “Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new plant varieties or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission. The WTO, particularly, TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production,” said Azra Sayeed of Roots.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

https://www.dawn.com/news/1606606

PKMT organises conference on impact of pandemic

SUKKUR: The 13th Annual Conference on “Impact on Peasants and Labourers during the Pandemic” was organised by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) through video link.

While talking about the national and global impact of Covid-19, Dr Azra Talat Syed, Roots for Equity, said the global capitalist system was responsible for the pandemic. She said they were struggling to fight one pandemic, whereas scientists worldwide are already predicting the outbreak of multiple similar pandemics in the future due to the widespread deforestation caused by capitalist greed. She said the viruses found in animals, residing deep in the forests, have now been spreading among the humans due to capitalist investors relentlessly cutting the forests.

Dr Azra said the pandemic has been used by the monopolist capitalist enterprises to strengthen their exploitative tools to increase their super profits, whereas the workers have been left to grapple with growing hunger, unemployment, disease and multiple other consequences of the pandemic.

She further resolved that at the same time, rich capitalist countries have been successful in using their financial and technological wealth to develop and globally disseminate vaccines for Covid-19, generating immense profits for themselves in the process.

The members from PKMT Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spoke about the difficulties of small and landless farmers, who have been facing decreasing crop yields and crop destruction due to climate change. They were forced to acquire agricultural inputs at higher prices due to restrictions on mobility and transportation during the pandemic. On the other hand, due to limited and expensive modes of transportation, the farmers were forced to sell their products at extremely low prices. The farmers with production and distribution of perishable food items, like vegetables and milk, were the most affected.

Similarly, women agricultural workers earning daily wages lacked means of transport to go to fields and also fell prey to extortion. The contribution of working women is invaluable in fields, factories, home-based workers and in private and government offices. It is imperative to organise for the rights of women workers in order to ensure the implementation of labour laws and also develop women workers’ consciousness against the capitalist and patriarchal power structures.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/765513-pkmt-organises-conference-on-impact-of-pandemic

کورونا میں سامراجی ہتھکنڈے اور کسان مزدوروں پر اثرات

26-12-2020:پریس ریلیز

پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک (پی کے ایم ٹی) نے 26 دسمبر، 2020 کو کورونا وباء کو مدنظر رکھتے ہوئے تیرہواں سالانہ اجلاس آن لائن منعقد کیا جس میں ملک بھر کے مختلف اضلاع سے پی کے ایم ٹی کے چھوٹے اور بے زمین کسان مزدوروں اور دیگر شعبہ جات سے تعلق رکھنے والے ارکان نے شرکت کی۔

ڈاکٹر عذرا طلعت سعید، روٹس فار ایکوٹی نے عالمی اور ملکی سطح پر کورونا کے اثرات پر بات کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ عالمی سرمایہ دارانہ نظام ہی کورونا وباء کا ذمہ دار ہے۔ ابھی ہم ایک وباء سے نہیں لڑپارہے اور دنیا بھر کے سائنسدانوں کی پیشنگوئی ہے کہ اب اس طرح کی کئی وبائیں آئیں گی کیونکہ سرمایہ دارانہ ہوس نے جنگلوں کو ختم کیا ہے اور یہ وبائیں زیادہ تر وہیں پائی جاتی ہیں۔ جنگلات کی کٹائی کے نتیجے میں اب یہ وبائیں انسانی آبادیوں میں جانوروں کے زریعے پھیل رہی ہیں۔

اس بحران نے اب دیگر بحرانوں کو جنم دیا ہے جس میں اقتصادی بحران مزدور کسان کے لیے وباء سے زیادہ سنگین صورتحال پیدا کررہا ہے۔ یہ وہ ہتھکنڈہ ہے جو اجارہ داری کی بنیاد پر سرمایہ داری کو بھاری بھرکم منافع کمانے کے لیے مواقع فراہم کر رہا ہے جبکہ مزدوروں کو اس وباء، بیروزگاری اور بھوک کے اندھے کنویں میں دھکیل دیا گیا ہے۔ اب ہماری سرمایہ داروں کی غلام ریاستیں اس وباء کو روکنے اور عوامی ضروریات پوری کرنے کے لیے درکار مالی، مادی اور انسانی وسائل استعمال کرنے کے لیے اپنا اختیاراستعمال کرنے سے بھی قاصر ہیں۔ عالمی سطح پر امیر سرمایہ دار ممالک اپنی دولت اور ٹیکنالوجی استعمال کرتے ہوئے کورونا کے خلاف ویکسین تیار اور ترسیل کرکے بے تحاشہ منافع کمانے میں کامیاب نظر آرہے ہیں۔ سرمایہ دارانہ نظام دعویٰ کرتا ہے کہ اس نظام میں سب کو یکساں رسائی حاصل ہوتی ہے لیکن کورونا ویکسین سے اس نظام کا یہ مکروہ فریب بھی کھل کر سامنے آگیا ہے کیونکہ یہ نظام طبقات پر مبنی ہے۔ جو زیادہ سے زیادہ دولت رکھتا ہے سہولیات بھی سب سے پہلے اسے ہی میسر آتی ہیں۔ Continue reading

The Pandemic and Imperialist Impositions: Impact on Peasants and Labour

Press Release: December 26, 2020

The Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), In light of the coronavirus pandemic, held its 13th Annual Conference online on 26th December 2020. PKMT members from numerous districts of Pakistan were in attendance as well as others also joined.

Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed from Roots for Equity, while talking about the national and global impact of Covid-19, said that the global capitalist system is responsible for the pandemic. We are struggling to fight one pandemic whereas scientists worldwide are already predicting the outbreak of multiple similar pandemics in the future due to the widespread deforestation caused by capitalist greed. These viruses that are found in animals residing deep within the forests are now spreading to humans due to capitalist investors relentless exploitation of forests.

This crisis has given birth to other crises out of which the economic crisis has resulted in even direr circumstances than the pandemic itself. The pandemic has been used by the monopolist capitalist enterprises to strengthen their exploitative tools and increase their superprofits, whereas workers have been left to grapple with growing hunger, unemployment, disease and multiple other consequences of the pandemic. Our puppet states are unsuccessful in their attempts to contain the spread of the pandemic and to fulfill their duty of providing social and economic welfare to the people. At the same time, rich capitalist countries have been successful in using their financial and technological wealth to develop and globally disseminate vaccines for Covid-19, generating immense profits for themselves in the process. Capitalist systems boast of equitable access to resources for all; however, the case of the coronavirus vaccine has exposed the system for what it actually is; a class-based system in which the wealthy are the ones with the easiest access to the highest amount of resources.

Members from PKMT Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Raja Mujeeb, Muhammad Zaman and Asif Khan spoke about the difficulties of small and landless farmers who while facing decreasing crop yields and crop destruction due to climate change were forced to acquire agricultural inputs at higher prices due to restrictions on mobility and transportation during the pandemic. On the other hand, due to limited and expensive modes of transportation, farmers were forced to sell their produce at extremely low prices. In many cases, produce was also wasted. Farmers affiliated with the production and distribution of perishable food items like vegetables and milk were the most affected. Similarly, women agricultural workers earning daily wages lacked means of transport to go to the fields and also fell prey to extortion by security forces. Continue reading

“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)