Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In Solidarity with Narmada Struggle

Protest in support of Narmada Bachao Andolan
August 6th, Sunday, 5:30 P.M., Mysore Bank Circle, Bengaluru
For complete and just rehabilitation!

                         NOTE: Since this protest, the situation in the valley has worsened with police violence on peaceful protesters and the arrest of Medha Patkar and other women on indefinite fast. We strongly condemn this brutal response of the government. 

PC-Benny Kuruvilla
On 6th August, people representing movements and organizations from across karnataka and India took part in a demonstration at Mysore Bank Circle, Bengaluru, to voice support for the People of the Narmada valley, who are about to lose their homes, land, livelihoods, and lives. “Narmada ulisi!Manavarannu Ulisi!” (Save Narmada, Save Humanity) echoed in the air in the city’s busiest square, witness to thousands of people passing by.

Among those present in the gathering were a large number of youth from various student organizations from across the country, who had gathered for the All India Convention of Student Struggles- AICSS, which expressed complete solidarity with the Narmada struggle. There were representatives from many people’s organizations part of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements- including Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka Domestic Workers Union, students groups from Tumkur, etc. Joining the protest were voices from Dalit and Adivasi movements from Madhya Pradesh, Swaraj Abhiyan, and many concerned citizens.

It has been 32 years since the birth of Narmada Bachao Andolan, a non-violent struggle which has questioned the disourse of a violent development model that creates large scale displacement and ecological devastation. The adivasi people, farmers and fisherfolk, have taken part in countless demonstrations, petitions, satyagraha and fasts over the many years leading to key consequences of the struggle like the withdrawal of World Bank funding, and Court orders for just rehabilitation.
The situation took a grave turn when in 2014, the Modi Govt increased the height of the dam by 17m(from 121m to 138m), and over a month ago, closed the gates of the dam. This will force up to 40,000 families to abandon their homes and livelihoods without rehabilitation. Instead of following legal norms on rehabilitation, the MP Govt and the Narmada Control Authority are pushing out people into temporary tin sheds with no amenieties!

KT Gangadhar of KRRS extending Solidarity
A little less than two weeks ago, 12 people, including Medha Patkar, started an indefinite fast demanding just and lawful rehabilitation. However there has been no dialogue by the state government or the Centre, but only appeals to call off the fast without any assurances about rehabilitation.  

  Among those present at the demonstration on Sunday at Bengaluru, K.T. Gangadhar of KRRS called to mind the June 6th tragedy when 6 farmers were killed by the Madhya Pradesh police during a protest. He emphasised the need for a large and strong mobilisation, to force the government to pay heed to the voice of the population. He also spoke in support of Medha Patkar and the other fasting protestors, saying she is one of the most respected activists of this era. He put forward the complete support of KRRS and the rest of Karnataka for the movement.

In addition, Prof. Haragopal of the All india Forum for Right to Ecucation (AIFRTE) tackled the argument of the need for development, often used by the government to justify the Narmada project: “Development should lead towards equality and justice”, thus he expressed his support to the people of Narmada. Madhuri from an organization for Dalits and Adivasis of Narmada region, highlighted the situation of the people who are already being forced to leave and the disinterest of the authorities, “Neither the High court of Madya Pradesh, nor the government are able to answer to what will happen to the victims of Narmada”. Kavitha Kuruganti from the Alliance of Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said the CM of Madhya Pradesh must be ashamed for not responding to the ongoing hunger strike- instead of engaging in dialogue, the govt is making false statements and playing a game of numbers!  

Madhuri behan from Barwani (Madhya Pradesh)
The protestors  and the movements collectively (National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, All India convention of Student Struggles, and others) called out to both the government of Madya Pradesh and the government of India to stop the violence against the peaceful protestors, to immediately open a dialogue with those on fast and finally to open the gates of the dam, until a complete rehabilitation is undertaken for each and every family concerned by the project. “Beke beku, nyaya beku”("We want Justice")


*Famous slogan of resistance from Narmada Bachao Andolan - Whose is this forest and land? It's ours, it's ours. Who has the right to our village? It's ours, it's ours.

This a blogpost by Corentin(Karan), who is interning with KRRS. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Creative Natural Farmers Rake in Profit Through Vegetable Production and Cooperative

photo credits- Rajiv Rathod
June 2017, Nellamangla, Karnataka: Kumaraswamy and his wife Bhaghyambika from Nellamangla have together set up a profitable multilayer Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) vegetable farm. They market their produce through their 250 member organic farmers cooperative which supplies more than 50 organic shops in Bangalore. This combination of ZBNF and the cooperative Kumaraswamy says have solved the two key problems faced by farmers – high cost of production and lack of access to markets- and have made him a very happy farmer.

photo credits- Rajiv Rathod
They don’t waste a spot on their 2-acre farm growing up to 70 varieties of vegetables. 100 raised beds cover each acre of land. They use the centre of the bed to grow greens like spinach, dill, fenugreek with intercrops like chillies, tomato, or brinjal. The underground is used for root vegetables like beet or potato, and the airspace is used by climbers like bottle gourd. Trees like moringa or gliricidia are planted on the edges of the beds- every dimension is covered by their vegetables both above and below ground.

Originally from Mandya, they leased two acres in Nellamangla.  They have a total of 2.5 acres, the half-acre for growing grains and millets for household consumption, the rest for vegetable production. Kumaraswamy is a graduate in agricultural sciences, always fascinated by the science and study of plants. “I do so much research on my own farm, have been for the last ten years. It’s important to ask questions, ”Kumaraswamy says.

He first learned about ZBNF by attending Subhash Palekar’s training camps. Palekar is the innovator of the toolkit of ZBNF methods and its main “guru”. Kumaraswamy was inspired by the 5 layer orchard model of Palekar, and tried to apply similar principles to his vegetable plots. “I’ve attended many of Palekar’s camps- in Kudalsangama, in Suttur, in Hasan and in Mysore. I was a chemical farmer before meeting Palekar. My father was farming in the traditional way but the government really pushed us to practice high yielding farming, so I shifted to chemicals and hybrids. I made some serious losses.”

A newly planted bed
Earlier he practiced large-scale monoculture banana farming. He had 15000 banana trees at one point. Prices were good for a couple of years but they crashed one year and he wasn’t able to recover the high investments and suffered a major set back.  This ZBNF model is much safer he says- it is diverse which is why it provides regular income and it is good for health. There is very good demand for organically grown vegetables in Bangalore city.

He shows us his marvelous vegetable plots. There are 12 plants in each bed- a different combination of plants each time. For example one bed had bottle guard and bitter guards as a climbers on the egdes of the bed, marigold on the edges as a pest control, coriander with chilly as intercrop, beetroot underground, drum stick /moringa on the one edge, radish in between two beds.
Kumaraswamy demonstrating
a wheel hoe weeder
photo credits- Rajiv Rathod

Another bed had fenugreek, tomato as an intercrop, kol greens on the side, ridge guard as the creeper and potato as the root. On another bed he has amaranthus, red brinjal, long brinjal, beets.

Every week he gets a fresh batch of vegetables. All the plants, including the gliricidia and drumsticks/moringa on the edges of the farm provide a constant source of income. “500 Rs per week from the moringa leaves and pods,” he exclaims enthusiastically.

They hire two laborers  – a couple whose children were running about, playing in the farm. Bhagyambika also contributes her labour - sowing seeds when we visited. “One acre can be farmed by our family itself, we don’t really need much labor,” he says.

When we ask him about the economics of his farm, his face lights up. He breaks into detailed accounting to tell us about his high profits. His expenses are 12,000 Rupees for his workers and 3000 Rupees for seeds. He saves some seeds but still has to purchase. His total expenses per month are around 15,000 Rupees.

Bhagyambika and their hired farm labourer sowing
vegetable seeds. Photo credits- Rajiv Rathod
On the other hand, his income is as follows:-
Per bed income
  •          Income from bunches of greens: 50 bunches per bed at Rs 10 a bundle= 500 Rs per bed
  •       Intercrops like chilly and tomato: 2 kg per plant at 50 plants per bed so 100 kg per bed at 20 Rs minimum rate=2000 Rs minimum
  •      Root veggies: 200 plants, 25 kg total at about 20 per kilo= 500 Rs per bed
  •      Climbers: 12 plants,  about 25 kg total, gives him about 500 Rs per bed 
  • All women workers of the cooperative
    sort onions
  •      Other green veggies like drumstick/moringa: 500 rs per bed

Per bed he earns a minimum of 4000 Rs over 4 months
1 acre has 100 beds= 4 lakh rupees for 4 months
They plant 3 crop cycles per year on each bed= 12 lakhs a year for each acre, and 24 lakh for 2 acres.

They own just one cow- which they say supplies enough dung and urine for their farm operations and also gives milk.

Kumaraswamy with the coordinator of the cooperative 
Finally, we walk over to the storage space of their farmer’s cooperative - Shivganga organic farming society, a ten-year-old cooperative. Membership here has been key for him to access the organic market of Bangalore. Their group supplies about a 1000 bunches of greens per week to shops in Bangalore. They have their own truck for transportation and have removed the middle-man in their dealings with the retailers. The society has about 250 members, all organic producers. While some are certified, Kumaraswamy as a zero budget farmer is not certified and doesn’t want to take that route. They have quality control field officers hired by the society to keep a check on farmers practices. They meet once a month to take key decisions. Farmers have a buy in share. All the cooperatives office work is done by an all woman staff.

- by Ashlesha Khadse, Amrita Bhoomi

Monday, June 19, 2017

Regional Political Declaration was passed during LVC South Asia Regional Conference

La Via Campesina South Asia:
 Political Declaration
Sri Lanka: 14 June 2017

La Via Campesina South Asian regional conference was held in Nainamadama, SriLanka on 14th June 2017. Member organisations from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka and Pakistan participated in the conference. MONLAR, our member orgainsation in Sri Lanka hosted this meeting. The meeting mainly focused on important  internal matters of the region such as election of new representatives for the International Coordination Committee from the region. Two new potential members were welcomed and many issues concerning the region were debated and a regional declaration was passed during the meeting. 

The South Asia region of La Via Campesina has had a vast experience of peasant right movements and agitations and with the neo-liberal model of economy coming to picture , the issue of agriculture and Peasant rights have become all the more prominent and needs imminent and immediate attention. The situation is more volatile with the farmer’s suicide soaring on the one hand the adverse policies framed by the government , on the other hand. Under these   circumstances , we the members of the South Asia region of La Via Campesina, having gathered for the regional meet, commit ourselves solemnly on the following issues.

We the peasants organisations from South Asia, women, men and youths , reiterate our rights on land, water and territories; right against all forms of discrimination; rights on seeds and livestock (including dairy and fisheries);  rights to fair price and market; right to fight agribusinesses, trans-national organizations, free trade agreements and WTO; We pledge to save Mother earth from climate change through agroecology and peasant seeds and most importantly reiterate our commitment for achieving food sovereignty. We declare our solidarity to peasants all around the world as we direct our efforts to a fair and equal society. 

We believe that the present threats to the peasant communities are higher than ever. The governments and Trans National Corporations(TNCs) are assuming the role of imperialists. We demand rights to design policies suitable to our needs. Through this declaration, we ask the States to ratify the United Nations declaration on Peasants Rights which La Via Campesina has been fighting to achieve for the last decades. We demand that States fulfil our right to an adequate standard of living for ourselves and our family through the genuine agrarian reforms: including the right to food and adequate nutrition, hunger free.

We consider Food Sovereignty and Agroecology as fundamental to our vision to cooling down the planet. We consider them as the only way of changing the current model imposed by agribusinesses and transnational companies. We reject neoliberal, patriarchal, and capitalist models that run counter to nature’s harmony and its relationship to human beings. We reiterate that peasant and indigenous agriculture is the only way of feeding humanity in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and that safeguards biodiversity and identities. We demand the state support farmers and more towards agroecology through supportive public policies.

We acknowledge the rights of peasant women: equal rights and access to land, protection from all forms of violence, exploitation and discrimination, decision making, equal wages, health care, sexual and reproductive rights. We stress on the need of a collective struggle against patriarchy.

We reiterate our Right to Seed Sovereignty, absolute freedom from GMOs, HYVs, and other green revolution corporate owned farming techniques which are detrimental to our food systems. We emphasise  our ‘right to reject’ by a ‘right to choose and to be protected’. We want no interference with our traditional knowledge on seed preservation, and free exchange of seeds within farming community.

We lay emphasis on the Rights of workers, labourers, also Indigenous Peoples and pastoral communities including their right to self determination, right to autonomy or self government in their local matters, right to not to be forcibly evicted from their lands and territories.

 We commit to work in tandem with the new line of leadership and recognize the role of the youth. It is important that the youth is given opportunity to spearhead the struggle of peasants. We agree to fight for rights of peasant youth.

We express our deep concern regarding the crisis South Asian peasantry and agriculture is facing at this point in time: biggest one being the consolidation of the agrochemical sector.  Farmers debt and suicide are rising continuously in India, climate crisis, migration and GM issues in Bangladesh, migration and rural distress in Nepal, land grabbing and growing fundamentalism in Pakistan, land grabbing and climate change in Sri Lanka are just to name a few problems  which has serious impact on peasants all over South Asia. We continue our struggle against these challenges, resist and fight back all the injustice to defend our rights.

Finally, we welcome our new member organisations; Pakistan Kissan Rabta Committee from Pakistan and Bangladesh Agriculture and Farm Labour Federation from Bangladesh. We will continue our collective struggles against capitalism, neoliberalism and urban driven development model.
                                             “Globalize struggle, Globaliize hope”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Amrita Bhoomi alumnus regenerates waste dump with waste water to create flower farm- an inspiring story

Narendra at his farm

Narendra was a young graphic designer who comes from a small peasant family but had no farming skills and was forced to shift to an urban job in the city. Always fascinated by agriculture, he went to Amrita Bhoomi as a volunteer intern for a year and learned how to work the land. Today, he has restored his one acre farm on the outskirts of Bangalore which was used as a dumping yard by the Bangalore city municipality. Glass shards and syringes still dot the field. Because it was unfit for food cultivation, Narendra is now using waste water from buildings around his farm to grow flowers. His father who thought he was crazy initially, is now inspired by his son and takes care of his field. Narendra considers himself a lifetime volunteer and supporter of Amrita Bhoomi and is thrilled he could start a new life closer to the land. He has many plans for his farm- a root garden is coming up soon.  As a side income he is working as a head gardener at an apartment complex in suburban Bangalore where he has set up an organic garden to sell affordable organic veggies to the residents of the apartments. Narendra is an inspring example for rural youth who with their creativity, diligence, and some support (from peasant schools) can return to the land and live satisfying lives as new farmers. 

"For me being a graphic designer was boring. I sat at a desk all day long and worked for someone else. We could be fired any time, our life was uncertain, there was no real future. Now I work for myself and am constantly learning and growing. Going to Amrita Bhoomi and learning the practical skills of farming was one of my greatest life decisions."

Although most around Narendra's farm have sold off their lands - Bangalore city seems to swallow up farmland rapidly, Narendra is adament. "I will never sell our farm," he says. 

Narendra's father stands by their waste water tank. He is thrilled with the way Narendra revived their farm. He says it gives him enough to live on and enjoy his old age taking care of it. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Farmers’ organisations across India, condemn the police firing that killed at least five farmers in Madhya Pradesh

Statement of Condemnation issued by the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM)

(7, JUNE 2017)
On Tuesday, June 6, several agitating farmers in Mandsaur district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh - who were demanding loan waivers and better support price for their produce, have been shot at by the police.
According to latest available media reports, at least five of them have been killed in the firing.
The All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) strongly condemns this heinous attack on our sisters and brothers and demand urgent action against all officials who are responsible for this murderous act. We also demand that the State Government take moral responsibility and resign immediately.
This is an incident that is bringing back painful memories of the British era, when farmers and farm labourers were often shot at for claiming their rights. It is a pity that people who work the land and feed the population continues to be treated inhumanely and killed for voicing their disappointment with the State.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers and farm workers who were forced to commit suicide due to increasing debt over the last two decades and several more millions who are facing a precarious and unpredictable future across India, exacerbated by extreme climatic conditions, have for long been demanding that attention be paid to rural distress and steps be taken to support farming families and workers.
The demands of the protesting farmers – calling for loan waivers, better support price - have been the demands of all farmers’ organisations, including that of AICCFM, since a very long time and we reiterate our resolve to take to the streets if our demands are not met.
AICCFM is also calling upon our sisters and brother of La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement to condemn and protest this brutal killing and join us in our struggle for justice to peasants worldwide.