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

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Lower Dir Farm Land Preparation

Preparation of land for sowing seeds has been started on one acre land of the farmer named Bakhtiar Zaib from district Lower Deer,  Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa. The Farmer is spreading organic manure on the field to make it ready to implant seeds.                                     

   

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Muzaffargarh Farm Seeds Sowing

On November 10, 2020, PKMT Jazba cooperative sown 25 different varieties of wheat seeds in Muzaffargarh agroecology farm Muzaffargarh, Punjab. The farm is divided into two swaths of land, one is comprising of seven plots of 3.5 Marla in which 4 kilograms of seed sowed in each plot. The second swaths of land comprised 18 plots of 7 Marla each, in which 18 wheat varieties of 5 kilograms of seed have been sown. These wheat varieties belong to district Mansehra, Faislabad, Sahiwal, Haripur, D G Khan, and Rajanpur which are sowing since  2014.

     

“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) 

Inspiration to create a Farmer’s Market

Introduction:

This is a summary of an interview of Ms Maheen Zia conducted by Naveed Ahmed, Seed Sovereignty Program Coordinator from Roots for Equity. The context of the interview is on Maheen Zia’s work with Karachi Farmer’s Market based in Karachi, Pakistan.

Ms Zia is one of the key founders of the Karachi Farmer’s Market. She is working to highlight the work of farmers and give importance to their work. She is promoting the work of farmers while sitting in the city and has the passion and ability to work for farmers. We are grateful to her that she has given her time for this interview.

Question: What attracted you to create a farmers market?

Answer: The news keeps coming that our food has become contaminated, and pesticides, fertilizers and GMOs are being used for it. We are cut off from nature and at the same time, the way disease is growing, it is in front of us too. We are six people who decided to start the farmers’ market. In all of our (six founders) families someone has been sick. It has made us realize that what we were eating makes us sick, so what could be its alternative? Personally, my father had cancer. At that point we started looking for organic flour and milled flour (chaki ka atta) and started thinking about what we were eating. Now cancer has become very common – in every household, in our close friends’ families – someone has been through this disease.

We were searching for pure food items, someone tried to find desi eggs or milks – but we wanted to have a single market where we could buy what we needed for our households. We wanted to have a system that for those who were selling here we could check what they were saying was actually being practiced and it was correct. This is why we started the market; it was started in August 2015 – it will now be five years. It is a small market but in the past five years about 30% of the people regularly buy things from here. They know that products have been checked and are of quality.

Question: Artificial agriculture or chemical agriculture produces more. So why should farmers adopt agroecology?

Answer: If your income is good by giving poison to others, then this is not correct. First of all, it is wrong in principle to produce something of low quality just because you will get production and it will be sold. This is not being said for any particular farmer but making a point in general. For example, if you have land and you want to grow something that is harmful to health for others but grow pure food elsewhere for yourself, it is wrong. In this age, this is how the world has been set up, and it may be difficult to examine it in this manner. But the way you are growing now has a short time outlook. The way you are growing now, putting pesticides and fertilizers this will degrade your land in the next ten to twenty years – what will you do then? You will not even be able to exchange this land for another piece of land? This land will not be able to grow anymore. So for your present gain you are harming your future. The harm being inflicted on others by what you are growing is an other matter but you are destroying your future, as well.

Naveed: So in the beginning you pointed out the impacts on human health and now you are pointing out that farmers must practice agroecology as (chemical agriculture) impacts land and you will face other problems.

Maheen Zia: Land will be ruined; your health will be ruined. When you use pesticide, it will first affect your family, you will be impacted as well. I believe that there is acute poverty and hence people are helpless and their hands are tied, even when they understand, they don’t have an opportunity to do something else. There is a need to help them and understand their position (majbori).

Question: What benefit you get from farmer’s market?

Answer: It makes us happy! This is an opportunity for people, there are about 300-500 people that are buying from the Farmers’ Market. There is better food getting to their households; and through this small businesses have been set up and running – so a system has been initiated. But this is small, it’s just a handful of people– Karachi in itself is a very big city. A much bigger thing that has happened is the conversation that has been started – we need to eat organically grown food, or sustainable food, we need to consume pure food. Where can we get it? Why should we have pure food? Why is it so expensive? How can we increase its production so that prices can come down? So the discussion that has been started is very important and it has the potential to increase organic production.

Question: Will small and landless farmers benefit from agro ecology?

Answer: Absolutely. They will benefit as over time, their land’s soil quality will become better, production will be better. If we can connect them to the market whatever they grow will fetch a better price, there is also a market available. There is only benefit and no harm. Whoever goes toward chemical agriculture there is only harm; you may be getting money from it at the moment but there is no barkat in this money – this is what I believe.

Naveed: If you practice agroecology you can retrieve land fertility and get an environmentally friendly ecosystem. The way the environment has been impacted, there is disease and global warming, the natural environment has been lost, using poison all of this has died and we can now regain all this through promotion of agroecology.

Question: From where did you get the seed?

Answer: If someone is coming from outside (the country) – I research on heirloom seeds – ancient seeds. Some seed banks keep these seeds and the seeds are from different area, they may not of your area but if the seed adapts to your climate than I think its okay. These seed are generally not invasive but it is very important that where you are they are suited (to that environment), they should be pest resilient; they have more nutrition. So, I search for the seed, try it out and if it starts off, then use it the next year. This is the beauty of real seed; from one seed you can get a whole field because each seed will give you plentiful. This is what nature is; in nature if you work a little hard, respect it, it will give you plentiful benefits.  If you fight with nature than you will have to work hard every year, put poison every year, use chemical fertilizer and so in the end you have to work a lot and the result is still not favorable

Question: You mentioned that you get seeds from the ancient seed bank.

Answer: There is a company in the USA called Rare Seeds. They explain the origin of the seed like I have an Iraqi plant and a Chinese beans plant. These companies provide a complete chain of information, where did this seed come from, in which year, which person cultivated it, for how many years they cultivated it, who brought this seed to us, they value the seed, and this is what their work is.

Question: Can we say that the indigenous people of those areas own these seeds?

Answer: No, because the indigenous people are in a very bad condition and they have also lost their seed, there should be an attempt to find those seeds as well; for example there is a particular bean seed Cherokee Tears. When the Cherokee people were driven out of their lands about 150 – 200 years ago, they brought seeds with them. So it’s not necessary that the indigenous people are preserving their seeds. There are some farming communities and there are some people who think like us that the real asset is your seed, it needs to be saved, especially at a time when hybrids are on the rise and GMOs are being promoted. So this is a very important work that they are doing. People are also buying from them. Small farmers buy from them and plant seeds. And then they save the seeds.

Question: Have you ever tried to get seeds from areas of Pakistan or the suburbs of Karachi?

Answer: Once I was filming in Sindh – near Badin – there was a project where they were reviving Indigo which is an ancient seed of this area and it was a plant that died out in the British era. I took the seed from there but its plant did not grow, I thought I would bring the seed again when I go back to Badin. I try that if I get a real seed I grow it. When I went to Hunza two years ago, I also brought seeds from there, but it did not grow. But maybe its climate was different, only a small sprout came out; it still is good to try things out. We need to build a network within our climate zone so that we can save the real seeds among us. Make many seed banks so that if one seed bank fails there are still other seed banks. Like once I had a beautiful sunflower seed, it had a beautiful flower; I distributed this seed to friends so it could be continued. We have a network of people who try to spread seeds in this manner. I also take seeds from the pansar. For example there is a taramera seed– these are still pure seeds – it’s a local variety; there is also kolongi, there is gaozaban but it did not germinate. I have now brought this seed from abroad and have saved seeds from it and will try it again this year. It’s a very useful plant – you can make tea from its leaves and use it for colds or flu. So this is what I do but a systematic system needs to be set up. This is a science and there are different types of seeds, some are self-seeding and you don’t need to keep them away from other plants. But other variety mix with each other for instant maize, it has to be kept a mile away from other varieties so that they do not cross-pollinate. If we are working on seed preservation, it is important to follow the procedure.

Question: Pakistani farmers are facing financial loss – how can we address this issue??

Answer: I have met only few farmers who came to the market and do not have a very good understanding of Pakistani farmers; I have met a few farmers but have not studied the issue deeply as yet and need to understand it as well. I think our economic situation is dependent on a cash economy and it drives everything. Before we used to have a barter system as well it may not have been so difficult for farmers. There are now so many barriers for farmers. Maybe I need to ask you this question why farmers are facing so many losses?

Green Revolution began under General Ayub. The whole world has been suffering the consequences of the fifty years of Green Revolution, of chemical agriculture. One third of the land is damaged which was arable and we could grow on it; if there is decreasing production and farmers are suffering losses– a big reason has to be that their land and water has been spoiled.

Question: If farmers adopt agro-ecology they will suffer financial loss. How can we compensate for this financial loss?

Answer: We need to think on ways forward. There needs to be a diversity of income. For example may be also including handicrafts.  Also be involved in value added production so that they can have better value. All of us need basic education. It’s not a simple sum game. You will not get to know about everything from instructions on a packet. When we are growing things – it’s a natural process and we need to deepen our learning of nature, of soil. Why is soil so important, it’s not just dirt– it’s like our heart? All that we eat is based on this layer of soil. If we increase the quality of soil we will eat better. If we loose this soil then we will all face starvation. The quality of our soil is critical. We don’t understand the importance of water. These are Allah’s systems; they have been there for thousands of years. These systems were there before us and will be there after us. We are the ones who have destroyed these systems. We have used advanced technologies and believe that by using them we can make it better. But we need to go back to nature and study how systems are managed in nature.

 

Boosting Performing Art Skills of Theatre Artistes working on Social Change

The PUKAR theatre group performing at a local village after the training on Interactive Theatre for Influencing in 2019.

Imam Uddin Soomro is an active member of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), an alliance of small-scale and landless farmers including women farmers. Imam collects data on crops and conducts awareness sessions for farmers on sustainable agriculture, green revolution and globalization. As a member of a local theatre group named, PUKAR, since 2018, Imam also performs as an interactive theatre artiste in rural villages, organises learning events and writes articles on agriculture and farmers’ rights in local languages.

The PKMT was formed in 2008 as a result of a series of discussions among powerless farmers and social and political activists who felt that an organised platform to voice their demands was essential for small-scale farmers facing social and economic constraints.

“We perform plays that enable us to interact with different communities. The theatre plays address issues that are part of the PKMT struggle, including feudalism and the impact of corporate agriculture. As a theater performer, I was selected as a participant in a training tilted, Interactive Theater for Influencing, in July 2019. The training provided technical knowledge and capacity building opportunities on skills required to influence communities to bring about progress in the society. Our skills of script-writing, communications and character-building were further enhanced in the seven-day residential training.” said Imam.

All seven members of the PUKAR theater group participated in the training which gave them networking and experience- sharing opportunities with other like-minded participants. The session on ‘team building’ and ‘inhibition breaking’ helped participants self-assess themselves and understand their pivotal and influential position in society. Participants learnt about stage directions, allowing the audience to grasp every performers’ act and the message they are conveying through their role plays.

“We met with other theater groups from Peshawar, Sindh and Islamabad. All the groups had different interactive skills to perform as we all engage with different kinds of audiences. The members of other groups shared the issues they highlighted through their plays and how they passed on the resolutions,” shared Imam.

On the last day of the training, participants developed action plans to further implement the learning and skills learnt during the training.

“Initially, we would randomly select issues and base our plays on those issues. After the training, we altered our strategy. We now plan a meeting to identify the common issues that are prevalent in the communities through meetings with community members and develop a script for the play accordingly to work together to rectify the challenges people are facing. CWSA has extended support in reviewing the scripts which we plan to avail,” expressed Imam.

A group exercise that engaged the training participants in planning a theater play with other members of the group allowed collaborative learning and practical experience-sharing through coordination among the members. Imam narrated,

“When we acted with other theater performers, we learnt to show strong facial expressions as that also largely impacts the deliverance of the message and not just the dialogues. This joint exercise helped in modifying our acting and delivery gestures in order to have an even stronger impact in the communities we perform.”

Boosting Performing Art Skills of Theatre Artistes working on Social Change

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative proceeding towards Harvesting

Under the PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative, farmers from all over Pakistan have started agroecological farms. They have sown the traditional seeds and make organic compost. As time passes the farmers from Sindh and Punjab are now sampling the crops and started harvesting and thrashing.

The farmers from Shikarpur, Ghotki Tando M Khan (Sind) and Multan (Punjab) are busy working in the fields.

                       

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