Corporate entities, IFIs and neoliberal policies are directly responsible for the hunger, malnourishment and economic destitution

Press Release | PKMT 14th Annual Conference 2021 | October 15-16, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek held its 14th Annual Conference from October 15 -16 at Renewal Centre, Lahore and simultaneously, held panel discussions and demonstrations to mark International Rural Women’s Day and World Hunger Day. During the events, speakers held corporate entities, IFIs and neoliberal policies accountable for creating food systems that are directly responsible for the hunger, malnourishment and economic destitution of more than a billion.

Azra Sayeed, Roots for Equity exposed corporate hijack of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, highlighting the role of the World Economic Forum, and foundations especially, the Gates Foundation and philanthropies who have provided corporate-driven policies depriving farmers of land, livelihood and food by funding technology intense systems in third world countries; the entire UNFSS was termed as nothing but a hallmark of false solutions to hunger e.g. pre-mixed therapeutic food that accrues billions of dollars in profit for corporations. Wali Haider, PKMT General Secretary highlighted the neoliberal policies in food and agriculture introduced in Pakistan amidst the pandemic reflecting much of the neocolonial policies emitting from the UNFSS. These policies are a fresh wave of attacks on small and landless farmers in Pakistan, embedded in the Pakistan Agricultural Transformation Plan, Kisan Card scheme, CPEC’s agricultural policies and livestock development programs. Policy features of digitalization of the agricultural economy, value chain strengthening and cluster-based food production panders to the corporate lobby, facilitates corporate land grab for export-oriented production, benefits landlords and industrialists and captures natural resources e.g. water, agricultural land, forests and rare minerals for company use. Essentially, it is a blueprint of UNFSS’s vision for food systems transformation and completely overrides small farmers’ rights to land and livelihood.

According to Raja Mujeeb, Steering Committee member, PKMT, the Global People’s Summit, a Global-South counter to the UNFSS main objective was to mobilize landless farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and rural women across the world to develop a People’s Action Plan and draw up a Declaration for a people-led radical transformation of the current food regimes towards just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems. The GPS is a testimony of the people’s collective resistance against the global corporate food empire and a call for genuine food systems transformation.

As part of the panel on movements and struggles, Asif Khan, PKMT Steering Committee member, presented an overview and analysis of peoples’ struggles and movements across the world, saying that revolutionary politics and direct action is the only way to grant farmers complete rights overall productive resources and complete autonomy and decision making in food and agriculture.

A number of other activities highlighted Rural Women’s Day with a tribute to rural women for the formal and informal, paid and unpaid work in food and agriculture. PKMT also celebrated 10 years of its struggle for seed sovereignty by holding a seed mela with indigenous seeds from all over Pakistan.

In addition, a protest was held as part of the Global Day of Action against IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings. The protest actions called for an immediate TRIPS waiver, debt cancellation and an end to resource plunder and greenwashing practices in the name of development.

Demands:

  • Implementation of agroecological approaches to agriculture based on food sovereignty principles that center peasants’ right to land and collective rights over all critical productive resources, in order to create just, equitable, healthy and sustainable food systems that ensure safe and nutritious food for all;
  • Recognition of the role that women and rural communities play in conserving plant and animal genetic resources through agricultural practices rooted in traditional knowledge;
  • Boycott all neoliberal corporate-led platforms, policies and action plans such as UNFSS and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements such as the RCEP, CPTPP and others that allow the monopolization of global trade by TNCs;
  • Provide climate justice now by demanding greater accountability and higher compensation for solutions from countries with a higher level of development who have destroyed Earth’s life systems due to extractive and polluting capitalist production model.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

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

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

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.

Power To The Peasants: Reclaiming Lands, Reclaiming The Future

26/03/2019
Part one of a two-part features series on the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) in commemoration of the Day of the Landless on 29 March.

“Further consolidate the Asian peasants” was the theme of APC’s 5th General Assembly held in Surat Thani province, Thailand in October 2018. (Photo: PANAP)

Perhaps there is no greater irony in the 21st century than the fact of landlessness that millions of peasants grapple with in the face of a global land rush — the large-scale acquisition, lease, or concession of lands in corporations’ bid to seek resources most profitable in the global markets.

The resulting dispossession of farmer communities seems but an afterthought when, in reality, it is an affront to the industry and dignity of the very people who feed the rest of the world with food that they themselves often cannot afford to eat. Few countries illustrate the magnitude of the problem better than those in Asia, where rural unrest is set against the backdrop of poverty and political instability. It is in this context that the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) was formed.

Now in its 15th year, the APC continues to unite landless peasants, farmers, farm workers, food producers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, herders and pastoralists in Asia. More than 15 million members commit to consolidating gains on the ground to defy all forms of peasant oppression.

It is the role of peasant movements like the APC to step in where governments fall short, where ruptures for social change can come forth. No shortcut can be taken to help the peasantry climb out of the ditch decades of subjugation has plunged it into, but the APC’s aims are nowhere near impossible: to assert the right to land in the pursuit of genuine agrarian reform, to sever the ties between states and transnational monopolies, and to upset the dominion of imperialist powers.

Farm labor and feudal lordship

In many Asian countries, to say “land is life” is to speak not just of a matra but of a fundamental reality. Loss of land might as well be a death sentence to farmer families, indeed, as it entails loss of livelihood, security, and food. The estimated 15 million members people living in rural areas in Asia are bound to land, and it is upon their backs that the region imparted 49.8% of global agricultural value in 2013, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

But while Asia boasts of vast tracts of agricultural lands, much of which, however, are worked by farmers and farm workers who own but smallholdings, if at all. Among the foremost campaigns of the APC has been to intensify the struggle against land and resource grabbing and all forms of exploitation that remain rooted in the monopoly of a small fraction of local landowners.

Centuries of colonial experience of Asian nations like the Philippines and India have entrenched such feudal arrangements in agricultural production. The APC, since its inception, has helped peasant organizations decry tenurial relationships that perpetuate bonded labor as payoff for land rents, debts, and threats of displacement that landless farmers find themselves worrying.

At its first general assembly in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November 2004, all member organizations recognized the tragedy in how more and more Asian people got mired deeper in landlessness, poverty, and hunger while doing all the work under unconscionably exploitative conditions at the behest of compradors and big landlords.

Almost 15 years later, current APC chairperson Poguri Chennaiah of the peasant group Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) in India would echo this sentiment at the APC’s fifth general assembly in Surat Thani province, Thailand in October 2018. While he recognized the victories on the ground — particularly the land occupation activities by a growing number of farmers of late — it still cannot be denied, Chennaiah said, that the majority of those suffering from malnutrition in the world come from Asia, the bread basket for all but its own peasantry.

With the scale of landlessness and land grabbing accelerating at an alarming rate over the past decade, the APC has tried to outmatch this injustice in its vow to intensify the fight for genuine agrarian reform founded on the principle of “land to the tiller.”

Yet expropriation of land is a problem that tenants face not only against usurious and abusive landholders but also against governments that offer little to no avenues for redress. Semi-feudal structures are no longer just shored up by a local elite but also by prevailing systems of law and governance that aggravate land insecurity. The state is as much to blame for its complicity, from inutile intervention in land conflicts to outright harassment or criminalization of peasant leaders.

Tens of thousands of debt-laden Indian farmers descended on New Delhi to demand from the administration a one-time loan waiver in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, November 30, 2018. Poguri Chennaiah, chairperson of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), cited recent massive mobilizations in India as proof of the peasant movement’s resounding calls for the government to take action. (Photo: AP)

Authorities and autocrats

The APC has never wavered in calling out governments that sponsor all but the welfare of the peasant sector. It has also unabashedly professed its progressive stance, as in its first general program of action in 2004 which states its campaign to “resist the maneuver, betrayal, and divisive character of local regimes against the farmers.”

This objective is far from lip service. The coalition, for one, has supported mass demonstrations of peasants against policies typically hoisted under the banner of ‘development.’ “But is it the development for the people who have been depending on natural resources?” said Chennaiah. “Or is it for the small percentage of the people who are plundering what meager resources have been vested in the communities?”

Development projects are so called only from the vantage point of a private sector that receives concessions from government offices paralyzed by patronage, corruption, and profit seeking.

In Bangladesh, for example, the government has allowed much of the arable land it once vowed to distribute to landless peasants to be turned into residential and infrastructure developments or export processing zones. In Cambodia, while public lands attractive for tourism get privatized, the authorities tasked to resolve land disputes perform overlapping administrative functions and get embroiled in red tape. Indonesian mining laws, meanwhile, grant the state blanket power to encroach on indigenous peoples’ land to pave the way for operations of mining concessionaires.

Local farmers also rarely rely on the courts. The recent decision of the top court in India to reject the ancient ownership claims of over a million forest dwellers has not only triggered a series of protests but also evinced the anti-people bent of most legal instrumentalities.

Chennaiah remains hopeful, however, that public pressure would halt the eviction order, just as it did when tens of thousands of environmental defenders and subsistence farmers protested and forced the World Bank to withdraw its funding for the Sardar Sarovar dam in 1993, which would have displaced more than 140,000 villagers.

“The people’s resistance has been strong enough,” said Chennaiah, “to remind [the government] that its role is not to work as a broker for the corporate world but that it has responsibilities to the people of its country.”

Legal frameworks that facilitate land grabs and worsen peasant troubles could even take on more malevolent, blatant forms. From January 2017 to March 2019, PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) has monitored through online news and reports from its partners a total of 101 cases of arrests, detention, and legal persecution worldwide, not to mention the 159 politically motivated killings related to land conflicts and struggles.

The deadliest country for farmers and land rights activists, the Philippines proves an interesting case study for the increasingly authoritarian tendencies in Asia, which the APC has identified as an emergent concern. Besides extrajudicial killings in the countryside, members of progressive groups and peasant activists are tagged as insurgents and suffer at the hands of alleged paramilitaries or state forces. Leaders like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are resorting to more than just incendiary rhetoric to muzzle with impunity the clamor against state-backed seizure of lands.

It would be short-sighted, however, to divorce the rise of authoritarian rule from the failure of the string of policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation that have set the stage for it to begin with. The APC recognizes that the plunder of Asian resources are indeed symptomatic of the expansionist takeover of international markets and of more dominant Western economies.

Collaterals and collusions

While land and resource grabbing is inherent in capitalism, it has become one of the linchpins of neoliberalism — the global order for the past four decades that has privileged big businesses over basic social services, tax cuts for the rich over decent wages for the working class, and, in agriculture, profit-oriented models over sustainable farming and equitable land distribution.

The impetus for global land grabs originates chiefly from the appetite of the United States and Europe for fuel, food, and warehouses in which to foist off their detritus and surplus. From this supply chain, the Global South stints on scraps in the form of foreign direct investments. In recent years, the rise of China as a new global power is also fueling greater conflict over land and resources, particularly under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that so far spans 65 countries worldwide.

“Corporate plunder has been intensified along with globalization,” said Chennaiah. “We at the APC believe that no isolated country-level struggle can defeat these forces globally.”

The coalition continues to denounce the hand of multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in wrecking local economies to the detriment of vulnerable groups like the peasants. In October 2018, former APC Chairperson Rafael Mariano talked at the coalition’s general assembly about the double burden of financial instruments like speculative funds and bonds that these institutions bank on to drive prices up.

Moreover, the public-private partnerships (PPPs) Asian governments foster with multinational lenders rest on an uneven ground. Funds for some conditional cash transfer (CCT) schemes, for example, partly come from loans from the WB and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“The CCT in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and other parts of the world is actually a doleout program that merely exacerbates each country’s debt,” said Rahmat Ajiguna, chairperson of Indonesian peasant group Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) in an APC statement on World Food Day in 2015. Currently the Internal Vice Chairperson of the APC, Ajiguna described the onerous policy conditions tied to these loans as ultimately damaging to food sovereignty of the borrowing, underdeveloped countries.

Recently, loans have been pouring in not only from the West but also from Asia’s richest nation China, which is now gaining muscle to rival the economic heft and military might of the US. It has cashed in on the collapse of trade barriers. Its BRI has been afoot and ensnared countries like Sri Lanka in debt bondage. Its neighbors Laos and Myanmar have had farmer families displaced to make way for Chinese-funded rails and dams.

As China continues its ascent and starts to harbor its own imperial desires, a great majority of Asian countries remains in the throes of rural backwardness. Such stagnation is telling of economies hitched to corporate and colonial/neocolonial structures of control. This comes at the expense of those at the bottom, whose resistance nonetheless remains alive.

This resolve and energy of the poor and landless to persevere in reclaiming their rights fuel the APC’s campaign for a more united front of peasants in the region. For too long, they have been paying the price for agrarian programs gone amiss and promises of relief still unrealized. When measured against the costs, their decision to rise up promises a better shot at a life with dignity.

Power to the Peasants: Reclaiming lands, reclaiming the future