Thursday, December 24, 2015

#ENDWTO: WTO kills farmers and destroys communities in Thailand and India

Posted Originally: http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php/actions-and-events-mainmenu-26/10-years-of-wto-is-enough-mainmenu-35/1945-wto-kills-farmers-and-destroys-communities-in-thailand-and-india

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-18-India.jpg(Nairobi, December 17, 2015) Chamarasa Mali Patil of Karnataka Rajya Ryata Sangh (KRRS) and K. Sellamuthu, president of Thamizhaqa Vivasayigal Sangam, peasant delegates from India shared how under WTO peasants have suffered. Indian peasant communities have been destroyed as a result of cheap imports of oilseeds and rice.
Rakesh Tikait from Bhartiya Kissan Union (India) said that WTO and the opening up of agricultural markets to imports have affected India’s food sovereignty. The country was able to feed itself before food imports surged due to tariff reduction. As a result of the increased agricultural imports which lower local prices many India peasant farmers committed suicides as they could settle mounting debts. Over 300,000 farmers have committed suicides since the inception of WTO.
When India opened up its agricultural markets, Monsanto and other agro-corporates entered too and hoodwinked many peasants to buy toxic agro-chemicals and GMOs. Peasants bought GM seeds such as the Bt cotton which failed to yield promised output. As some peasants had used loans to buy these seeds and agro-chemicals they failed to pay the lenders. This resulted in many peasant suicides.
They plan to block all major roads in New Delhi with tractors to force government to listen to their demands. “We are planning a big demonstration in New Delhi soon if the India government compromises in Nairobi”, says Sellamuthu, president of Thamizhaqa Vivasayigal Sangam.
“Unity among the different farmer unions is very important in this struggle. The government only listens to us when we are united. In future we are going to organise bigger mobilisations targeting foreign embassies in our country against the WTO in solidarity with our fellow peasants” says Chamarasa Mali Patil of Karnataka Rajya Ryata Sangh (KRRS)
In Thailand Barachmee Chaiyarat of Assembly of the Poor (AOP) shared how the rice imports affected small farmers in Thailand, which produces surplus rice. Many small farmers are finding it difficult to continue farming. Since military coup in 2014 AOP members are heavily affected by military suppressions. Farmer suicides are on the rise.  Rice prices halved. Other agricultural produce has also been affected too. The military government is making their life difficult. There is no freedom of assembly. In order to please the international governments, the illegitimate military will accept any deals of WTO at expense of the Thai people. 

#ENDWTO: Developing Countries return Empty Handed from WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial

#ENDWTO: Developing Countries return Empty Handed from WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial

By Afsar Jafri (Focus on the Global South) 
The tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded today, a day after its scheduled duration. Those of us who were in Nairobi, however are still contemplating how it is possible to have a successful outcome despite the fundamental differences among members on crucial issues. How come the MC10 which was at one point on the verge of collapse sailed through? Why a country like India with a 1.2 billion population was silenced and forced to accept a BAD deal compromising its policy space and above all its sovereignty?
After a 24 hour-long non-stop marathon meeting on 19th December, the draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD), also called the Nairobi Package, was finalised and endorsed by Members despite clear disappointment expressed by India and other developing and least developed countries (LDCs), and their ‘explicit disagreement’ on the issue of reaffirmation of Doha Development Round (DDR), one of the key issues in Nairobi. The split of opinion on the DDR is clearly reflected in the NMD text. Paragraph 30 says, “We recognize that many Members reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and the declarations and decisions adopted at Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis. Other Members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations. Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We acknowledge the strong legal structure of this Organization”.
The NMD contains six decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to LDCs. The agricultural decisions cover commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.
Given the vast differences among WTO members on different aspects of the agricultural negotiation during the MC10 negotiations, some of us from the civil society groups and representatives of La Via Campesina from different parts of the world were hopeful that the Ministerial would remain inconclusive and there would be a repeat of Seattle or Cancun. Given the 20 years history of WTO, we were concerned that the final outcome will be pro-US at the cost of third world interests. Our apprehensions were proved correct when the NMD was finally adopted on 19th December. The United States (US) got what it wanted at this first ever Ministerial Conference in Africa, giving nothing to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Africans and other developing countries. After five days of hectic discussion at the MC10, more than 150 member countries of the WTO from the South had nothing to take away from here. They return empty handed from Nairobi while the US and big corporations will celebrate because they got what they wanted from the MC10. There is no permanent solution on food stockholding and no decision on special safeguard mechanisms (SSM) for developing countries. They got an extension of deadline for elimination of Exporting Subsidies, longer repayment term for export financing support (export credit). There was no-affirmation of Doha Development Round (DDR) and most importantly, language in the NMD to open discussion on the new issues (Singapore issues). Once again, the Ministerial declaration, offers a full cake to developed countries and not even a slice to developing countries. It once again vindicates our position that the WTO cannot deliver for the poor and only serves the interests of the rich.
When the Nairobi Ministerial began, no other issue except agriculture was on the agenda. GATS, NAMA and TRIPS were kept aside at Nairobi so that it concertedly delivers positive outcomes on agriculture to benefit the developing countries. But as NMD indicates there are absolutely no positive outcomes for Africa and countries of the South in the WTO.
Before Nairobi Ministerial Declaration however, only one agreement was signed, a plurilateral agreement on Information Technology Agreement 2 (ITA-2) among 53 countries--compared to 82 countries that signed ITA I. They agreed to remove tariffs on 201 information and communications technology (ICT) products by 2024 (tariffs on major products among the 201 items will be removed within three years covering 89 percent of the 201 items by trade value). The covered goods represent about 96 percent of global trade in the enumerated ICT products. India is not party to the ITA-2 since it had suffered a devastating impact of ITA-1 on its domestic electronic hardware sector. The ITA-2 will have a devastating impact on the emerging IT hardware industry in Asia, Africa and Lain America, which is offering all kinds of incentives to investors in order to promote manufacturing of IT and electronics products in their countries. 
Some developing countries are also exulting that there is an agreement in the NMD on elimination of export subsidies in agriculture, but the fact of the matter is that under the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of 2005, developed countries were supposed to eliminate all their export subsidies by December 2013. And in Nairobi they succeeded in extending this commitment to 2020, a seven-year extension. But this exemption will not apply to “processed products and dairy products for the Members who have notified export subsidies for such products or categories of products in their latest notification on export subsidies to the Committee on Agriculture”. It is the processed products and dairy products from the US and EU that are increasingly penetrating into the markets of developing countries and devastating local food industries. Hae-Yeon Chung of the Korean Peasants League said “poor farmers have nowhere to sell their farm produce while their industries continue to close shop, sending their workers home because processed foodstuffs are flooding supermarket shelves across the world. Our products cannot compete with the processed foodstuffs from Europe and America since they have been priced so low”. Peasants from Korean Peasants League (KPL) and La Via Campesina (LVC) from different parts of the world marched on the streets of Nairobi every day protesting against the WTO. Their key slogans were “Agriculture is not your trade, it is our life. Our life is not for trade. #ENDWTO. Remove WTO out of Agriculture.”
Losses for Developing countries and Agriculture at the MC10
No decision on a Permanent Solution to the Food Stockholding programme: The General Council Decision of 27th November 2014 reaffirmed that WTO members will make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes by 31 December 2015. But the NMD Decision on Public Stockholding (WT/MIN(15)/W/46) offers only pious intent to find a solution, thus ignoring the issue of right to food for poor consumers and price support to the subsistence farmers which is the backbone of food security programme in countries like India. At MC10, the issue of a permanent solution was the most neglected issue and no serious efforts were made to secure this at any cost despite the fact that not only India, but several African countries like Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Egypt and Kenya, all have public food stockholding programmes in maize.
No final decision on Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM): This was a key demand under special and differential treatment (S&DT) from the G33 in order to protect their food producers from import surges. But this has again been ignored in Nairobi. Though the Decision on SSM (WT/MIN(15)/W/45) in the NMD says the developing country members will “have the right to have recourse” to a special safeguard mechanism “as envisaged under paragraph 7 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration” that means it will be based on import quantity and price triggers.
But paragraph 2 of the Decision on SSM indicates that the decision on SSM is not final. It says “pursue negotiations on an SSM for developing country Members in dedicated sessions of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session ("CoA SS")”.
The developed countries are blocking this basic safeguard for developing countries even though they themselves have access to similar mechanisms such as special agriculture safeguard measures (SSG), which allows them to increase tariffs on imported products in order to protect their domestic food producers and stablize prices in their own countries. They also have access to several other mechanisms, which act as effective safeguards against imports, such as Tariff Peaks, Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) and Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs). But the US, EU, Canada and Australia are not ready to allow access to SSM to developing countries, despite several reported cases of import surges in the past. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Kenya had experienced import surges of maize, sugar, and dairy. Similar surges were experienced in rice, tomato paste, and poultry in Ghana; poultry, rice, and vegetable oils in Cameroon; rice and dairy products in Tanzania; poultry and vegetables oils in Mozambique; and rice, poultry, and sugar in Côte d’Ivoire. Haiti is a classic example where US imports of rice led to complete devastation of rice cultivation in Haiti prompting Former US President Bill Clinton to apologize to Haitians in 2011, when he became the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else”.
Between 1980 and 2003, FAO found that there were between 7,132 to 12,167 import surges of 23 ‘food groups’ in 102 developing countries. This shows that more countries are moving from being net food exporting countries to becoming food deficit or net food importing countries.  The increase in import bills without any apparent respite has led to deepening current account deficits in these countries. The cost of the food imports basket for the LDCs in 2007 was roughly 90 percent more than what it was in 2000. This is in contrast to a 22 percent increase in the cost of food imports in developed countries during the same period. The world’s food import bill stood at $745 billion in 2007, up by 21 percent from 2006, and out of which developing countries footed $233 billion.
No Relief to Cotton four (C4) countries on Cotton: The NMD Decision on cotton (WT/MIN(15)/W/48) provides some relief to the C4 countries but much below their expectation based on their proposal submitted before Nairobi Ministerial on 12 October 2015. The cotton sector is the second largest formal employer in Benin, Burkinsa Faso, Chad, and Mali and almost one million farm unions provide employment to seven to eight million actively farming adults and livelihoods to some 10 to 13 million people. But these countries face major challenge in marketing their produce because of restricted access and the heavy subsidies by the US to their cotton growers.
The NMD Decision on cotton does not provide binding commitments but only best endeavour outcomes, e.g. on Market access, the Decision calls for cotton from LDCs to be given duty-free and quota-free access to the markets of developed countries - and to those of developing countries declaring that they are able to do so - from 1 January 2016. The domestic support part of the cotton decision acknowledges members' reforms in their domestic cotton policies and stresses that more efforts remain to be made. On export competition for cotton, the decision mandates that developed countries prohibit cotton export subsidies immediately and developing countries do so at a later date.
Agricultural Subsidies (Domestic Support): It is quite surprising that post Doha, this is the first Ministerial where there was no discussion about cutting down massive trade-distorting farm subsidies offered by developed countries which affect the market internationally.
Despite the completely biased deal in favour of developed countries, none from African countries, the LDCs and other developing countries came out openly against the dictates of the US to turn the whole deal in their favour. There was some discomfort among few developing countries members on the draft Ministerial Declaration, because it did not commit reaffirmation of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). They were also upset that the NMD did mention the possibility of new issues being introduced.
The MC 10 will be remembered as the graveyard of the Development agenda under the Doha Round. And it will also be remembered as the conference where members agreed to bring on board new issues that they themselves buried in Cancun in 2003. The Nairobi Ministerial Conference outcomes warrant that developing countries should join hands to leave the WTO and bury the WTO forever. #

Friday, December 18, 2015

#ENDWTO Unofficial Draft of Agriculture Text at MC10 Big Disappointment

#ENDWTO: Unofficial Draft of Agriculture Text at MC10 Big Disappointment

South Asia Delegation demands end to WTO in Nairobi


By Afsar Jafri, Focus on the Global South, Nairobi, 17th December 2015:

The MC10 facilitator for Agriculture, together with the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session, issued a draft text on Agriculture early this morning on Thursday calling it a good faith attempt to identify compromise outcomes across three issues that have been quite contentious in the past few months, and as in the Seattle and Bali Ministerial Conferences, are potential deal breakers. These issues are: Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and Export Competition.
 As expected, the latest draft issued by the facilitator does not represent the developing countries’ demands and concerns in these areas, and instead represents developed countries’ interest only. This is a big disappointment and we expect that developing countries will soon confront this unofficial attempt by the facilitator to float this draft, a day before the conclusion of Mc10 on 18th December.

 On Food stockholding for food security purposes, the draft text does not provide a permanent solution as demanded by India and the G33 countries since the last Ministerial Conference in Bali in December 2013. The text reaffirms that the Peace Clause agreed in Bali will continue till 2017 (the 11th Ministerial). It is true that then Indian government made a blunder by accepting the Peace Clause, which is a temporary reprieve that would save developing countries with public stockholding programmes being taken to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Board (DSB) for breaching the 10 percent subsidy limits for their food security operations, until a permanent solution is found. But in exchange India facilitated the agreement on Trade Facilitation. When the current government came to power in May 2014,  it signed a deal with the US, which was formalised by the General Council (GC) decision in November 2014, clarifying that the “peace clause” mechanism will “remain in place in perpetuity until a permanent solution regarding this issue has been agreed and adopted. But the GC decision also included a commitment to find a permanent solution by 31 December 2015 on a best endeavour basis. We hope that India will not have to repent its hasty decision regarding the Trade Facilitation Agreement if they fail to get a solution to the food stockholding issue in Nairobi.

 The second key issue in the unofficial text on agriculture is the issue of Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM), which is a key component of the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) under the Doha Development Round. Here again the text completely ignores the concerns of the G33 countries to protect their farmers by raising tariffs to deal with the excessive imports of highly subsidized food items from developed countries. Given this concern, the text only provides that “work on a Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing Members shall be pursued taking account of proposals by Members and in the broader context of agricultural market access”. It does not indicate the timeline by when the SSM would be finalised, nor does it mention the structure-- whether the SSM will be based on price triggers or volume trigger. Instead of addressing the SSM on an urgent basis, the draft text puts a condition that it will be available only when the developing countries provide more market access by reducing their agriculture tariffs.

This condition is characteristic to the inherent nature of this neoliberal trading body, which, in its 20 years of existence, has denied any favourable provisions to developing countries, and uses every opportunity to seek market access for developed countries.

 It is unfortunate that the SSM is the only safeguard provided to developing countries to deal with import surges compared to several such safeguards available to developed countries in the form of Tariff Peaks, Special Agricultural Safeguards (SSG), Tariff Rate Quota’s (TRQ’s), Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB), and Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS). In addition, developed countries provide huge market supports to their agriculture sectors, which also effectively act as safeguards from imports. 

 On the other hand, the draft text provides relief to developed countries on exports subsidies. It extends the elimination of export subsidies by developed countries upto the year 2020, taking it much beyond what was agreed to in the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005 under which, all forms of export subsidies had to be eliminated by 2013. The text also demands a commitment from developing countries to eliminate their export subsidies by 2023.

 However it is matter of great relief that the facilitators’ text is an unofficial text. We hope that India and the G33 countries will forcefully oppose this draft, and it will NOT be adopted as an official text for further negotiations on these issues. 



Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hindu: Farmers threaten to hold country-wide protests

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/farmers-threaten-to-hold-countrywide-protests/article7950433.ece

Farmers on Friday threatened to launch a country-wide agitation against the BJP-led government at the Centre in protest against the alleged apathetic attitude towards their demands, including implementation of Swaminathan Commission report, debt waiver etc.

Under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by its national spokesman Rakesh Tikait, farmers from various States, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu assembled here and took a decision to hold protest rallies against the government while holding it responsible for “pitiable” condition of the growers.

“We have decided to hold protests and demonstration against the Central government for not giving any attention towards their deplorable condition. Through these protests, we will pressurise the Centre to accept their genuine demands,” Mr, Tikait said here on Friday.

BKU’s national coordinator Yudhvir Singh said it was quite unfortunate that country’s Prime Minister was not ready to listen to their problems.

“We tried several times to meet our PM to apprise him about our demands. We even held a protest rally in Delhi, but PM did not listen to us,” Mr. Singh alleged.

He alleged that farmers were disappointed with present government.

As per the plan, farmers have decided to block all the entry points to Delhi on March 17.

On February 18, protest will be held in Chandigarh.

Besides, protest rallies will be held in Allahabad on January 18, in Madhya Pradesh on March 1, followed by Uttarakhand on March 2 and Karnataka on March 3.

BKU (Punjab) official Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said that farmers were not getting adequate rates for their crops and their financial position has turned from bad to worse.

“Farmers have become debt ridden and they are not able to come out of this crisis situation unless government lends support,” he said.

Swaminathan panel report
Giving details about demands, Mr. Lakhowal said that report of Swaminathan Commission should be implemented at the earliest which promises 50 per cent profit over and above the cost.
All debts of farmers should be waived and a farmers’ income commission should be set up to determine minimum income of growers. A separate farm budget be prepared and children of farmers should be given reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, he said.
On this occasion, farmers also asked the Centre not to give approval to any decision like abolition of agricultural subsidies, etc. at 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya from December 15-18, which could harm the interests of country’s agricultural sector.


Mr. Tikait said a group of farmers will also visit Nairobi to keep a watch on the decisions to be taken at the WTO conference. - PTI

Friday, December 4, 2015

Hundreds of the world’s small-scale farmers join together at COP21

Published on Monday, 30 November 2015 22:59

La Via Campesina, Confédération Paysanne, European Coordination Via Campesina press release

chapeauensc.png(Bagnolet, 26th November 2015) For a number of years, La Via Campesina has been an active presence at each Conference of the Parties (COP) organised as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC - CCNUCC). With no other option than migration when their lands are devastated by climate disasters, peasant farmers are among the first to fall victim to adverse climate conditions. But this element, whilst the most visible, is all but a tiny part of a much greater problem. In reality, all farmers, regardless of the part of the world they call home, are victims of adverse climatic conditions which impact upon their everyday practices. They are also affected by the so-called solutions offered by multinationals and governments during these well-known Conventions of the Parties.
From 4th December, the men and women of la Via Campesina, present from 30 countries1, and members of the Confédération Paysanne will be present in Paris to show that the form of agriculture that is the basis of their everyday life represents a valid means of counteracting adverse climate conditions.
You can download here  - Our programme
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Contacts :
Elina Bouchet, media contact (French) : 00 33 6 95 29 80 78
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 1 Zimbabwe, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Congo, Canada, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Haïti, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Palestine, Indonesia, South Korea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Germany, France, Turkey, Romania, Spain, Denmark, Austria, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Sweden.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Peasant Agroecology cools the planet! Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) and the road to resistance at COP 21



Last month, a group of more than forty international activists from more than ten countries and four continents joined local farmers at Amritha Bhoomi. Amritha Bhoomi is the La Via Campesina Agroecology School for South Asia, located in Chamrajanagar, Karnataka, India and is an outcome of peasant struggle carried out by LVC member Karnataka State Farmers Association (KRRS). The international farmer-activists spent 5 days learning the Zero Budget Natural Farming method directly from its propagator Shri Subash Palekar. ZBNF method has achieved popularity in the farming community across India, including Karnataka. Below please find some of their reflections.



We the participants of the ZBNF training at Amritha Bhoomi strengthened our commitment to Food Sovereignty and Peasant’s Agroecology, and within this political-technical framework, we appreciate the merits of the ZBNF method taught at Amritha Bhoomi Agroecology School of La Via Campesina – South Asia.

The ZBNF method of farming, promoted by Shri Palekar and thousands of farmers practicing this method, reminds us of indigenous methods in our countries, passed on from generations to generations. We are reminded, as Masanobu Fukuoka thought, that Nature is our teacher and humanity must learn to ask her questions. We believe farmers are especially skilled in interpreting Nature’s responses, which vary based on agro-climatic regions. Thus, farmers are key in the production of time-tested knowledge that protects and strengthens biodiversity, and therefore life itself. We must ensure that this peasant knowledge spreads through our networks, movements, schools and communities.

The ZBNF method of farming gave us solid, scientific and tested grounds to answer the allegation of the mainstream industrial agriculture. We are returning home enriched!

We especially appreciate Shri Palekar’s commitment to changing farmers’ mindsets. He spends quality time not only on technique, but also on philosophy. From experience we know that changing farmers’ mindsets is difficult. His workshop increased our confidence in mobilizing farmers, and also inspired us about the positive role a charismatic, accessible, and down-to-earth teacher can play in the propagation of peasant agroecological methods.

We also appreciate Shri Palekar’s commitment to rural autonomy and local economies. His commitment to demarketization of the mind, combined with his pedagogical methods described above, will have lasting effects on rural communities. We must reduce farmers' dependency on the market, especially those who are in very precarious and vulnerable positions, and we return to our homes with renewed confidence in doing so.

We plan to carry the ZBNF method to our countries – testing, adapting, growing and feeding back as required. Though direct replication will be a challenge, it is our task now to localize the ZBNF method and translate it to our contexts, and spread whatever learning we produce among our movements. For example, in Sri Lanka, LVC member MONLAR along with other local organizations have already shared success of ZBNF in their country: translation of books into their language; independent research and scientific validation of ZBNF principles; spreading of ZBNF among male and female farmers, including landless laborers from tea plantations. In order to carry forward this plan, we commit to holding ZBNF workshops in Bangladesh, North India, and to further publications and translations of ZBNF books.

We see the potential of ZBNF to truly help farmers facing agrarian crisis, such as farmers in Bangladesh who prefer to ‘dump’ their unsold produce than transport it home, as they cannot afford the return journey. ZBNF is also especially critical in India where an epidemic of farmer suicides derived from market dependency and cash crop dependency affects all of us, especially Karnataka. Such crises face rural communities on the international level as well, and in our struggle constructive methods such as agroecology are indispensable.

To spread agroecology we must develop the organizational structures of our movements. For example, leadership structures for natural farmers’ wings, and commitment by all members of the political leadership to carry out agroecological methods in their fields!  We want also to support through our organizations the strengthening of a solidarity economy: through local markets, solidarity networks of producers and consumers, etc.

Agroecology will be carried forward as “emerging agriculture” in the face of industrial agriculture by none other than rural youth. Their protagonism in our struggles must be supported and respected in order to develop their economic, social, and cultural resilience.

We continue to link our peasant resistance and knowledge with the resistance to the destructive forces of industrial agriculture. For example, we resist the growing push for more GMOs in many of our countries (and in India in particular with the current struggle against commercialization of GM Mustard). We also continue our activism on other pressing issues such as energy and climate disruption. On climate disruption we are preparing our mobilization for the coming COP 21 Paris conference: as La Via Campesina says - Peasant Agroecology cools the planet! We must carry this message and face against the forces of green capitalism that attempt our co-option.

Finally, we leave our well wishes with Amritha Bhoomi agroecology school of La Via Campesina – South Asia, a place where the strength to combat the agrarian crises can be developed, potentialized, and internationalized!


Signed,
Participants ZBNF Training at Amritha Bhoomi
October 28-November 5, 2015

Additional photos here.
Amritha Bhoomi website: http://www.amritabhoomi.org/
Subash Palekar's website: http://www.palekarzerobudgetspiritualfarming.org/
Skype: LVCSOUTHASIA
email: secretariatlvcsouthasia@gmail.com

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Farmers leaders from 12 countries gather in Bangalore for a seminar on Peasant Struggle In India

On the 28th of October, the International Seminar on Peasant Struggle in India was held at Samvada in Bangalore, India, organized by La Via Campesina South Asia. This seminar kicked off a ten-day Zero Budget Natural Farming seminar and training, which would continue from October 30th- November 5th at Amritha Bhoomi (LVC Agroecology school). It brought together activists from across the globe. Bharatiya Kisan Union (India), MONLAR (Sri Lanka), ANPFA (Nepal), Bangladesh Krishok Federation (Bangladesh), Black Sea Uprising (Turkey), SPI (Indonesia), Assembly of the Poor (Thailand), ZIMSOFF (Zimbabwe), MVIWATA (Tanzania), MST (Brazil), and Boricuá (Puerto Rico) were all represented.


"Monsoon Game"

The program kicked off with an interactive learning exercise that introduced participants to the lives of farmers in India today. Participants were grouped into “families” of three or four people, who were then given a slip of paper with their family details. One family’s members were powerful landlords with many acres and a lot of money in savings, another family consisted of landless laborers with very little income, and another family’s members were shopkeepers who owned no land but had monthly income from their business. Depending on the assigned family’s source of income and landholdings, the groups had to work together to plan what crops to grow, decide whether to take loans, whether to put in a bore well, and when to marry their daughters, all based on a sheet of paper that gave details about rainfall, crop productivity, loan interest, etcetera by which the families could do their calculations. The participants did this for three annual cycles, and each year the program leaders would announce a new set of pitfalls and boons that would alter the stakes – for instance, one year a family lost their house due to road widening, and a landholding family received a boon when a lake was built near their property. During the exercise, the room was abuzz with careful concentration, joy at a boon, and frustration at hardship. The goal was to illuminate the multifold challenges that farmer and other rural actors face, and the unequal distribution of power along caste, class, religion, and gender lines. By the end, some families had increased their money two-fold, while others had died of hunger, or were hundreds of thousands of rupees in debt.

The question asked by participants was, how real is this exercise? Anita, the event’s host and founder of Samvada, answered this question by sharing facts about agriculture in India that were reflected in the exercise: for example, 78% of farmers in India today own less than 5 acres of land. She also shared the most recent statistic that more than 250 farmers have committed suicide this year in this state alone. This is where Samvada enters the picture – they offer courses for young people from farming communities on how to make agriculture profitable and also economically sustainable. The ultimate goal is to make farmers proud of their profession, and to encourage an agricultural system that benefits farmers and the environment.

Agrarian Crisis: Dr. A.R. Vasavi
The challenges faced by farmers were further illuminated in Dr. A. R. Vasavi’s lecture on agrarian distress in India. Dr. Vasavi, an eminent social anthropologist, explained that since 1997 there has been a rise in farmer suicides in several districts in India. While news media have focused on two extremes to explain this rise in suicides, international trade agreements and psychological weakness on the part of the farmers, she argues that we need to understand the complexities of rural experiences on-the-ground to truly understand this devastating trend. Her talk provided very detailed and informative insight into farmers’ lives, including a discussion of the role of commercial agriculture in flattening regional variations in agricultural practice, the observation that while local knowledge systems are on the decline, caste inequalities remain strong in rural communities, and the contradictory trends of “accumulation by dispossession” and “welfare governmentality.” All of these trends lead to farmers becoming trapped in a “web of risks” that take many forms, such as low access to institutional credit and the high prevalence of debt (and the social humiliation related to the inability to repay loans), and production risks related to failed rains and climate change. These trends have led more and more farmers to leave agriculture and have also resulted in the “disorientation” of youth caught between farming and desires for lives outside agriculture. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, Dr. Vasavi emphasized the positive potential of rural communities as participants in the democratic process, since villages have higher voting rates than cities. She also stressed that farmers are productive “innovators” as well as a “repository of local and sustainable knowledge systems,” and should be respected as such. Dr. Vasavi’s lecture communicated both the problems and potentials of rural communities in India today.

History of Peasant Struggle: Dr Muzzafar Assadi
Dr. Muzzafar Assadi, an eminent scholar on social movements and Professor at Mysore University, then shared with the group the history of farmer’s movements in India. He began by explaining why social movements in India use the term “farmer” rather than “peasant,” sharing a long history of public policy and state intervention in India that led most cultivators to focus on surplus production for the market rather than subsistence. In illustrating this point, he gave an introduction to the history of agricultural policy in India, which focused on increased production for food self-sufficiency, coming to a head in the Green Revolution of the 1960s. This led up to farmer’s movements that began in the 1980s and picked up pace in the 1990s, which are often called “New Farmers’ Movements.” He explained why: these movements were not the first farmer’s movements in India, as India has a long history of farmer agitation, such as the 1970s farmer action in political rallies. However, while the movements that began in the 1980s and gathered steam in the 1990s were not “radical movements” in terms of their ideologies, strategies, and politics, they were “new” for several reasons: 1) they believed in class harmony rather than conflict, 2) they never invoked caste categories, and 3) they were never localized movements, in that they were immediately active in crossing regional boundaries to make inter-state and also international allegiances. The primary point around which many of these movements were organized was resistance to globalization, which took different “post-Gandhian” forms such as laughing in front of the centers of government power and storming of a KFC restaurant in Bangalore. They offered an alternative to globalization of the “khadi curtain,” which focused on indigenous growth. Despite the power of these movements in the 1990s, however, Dr. Assadi said that these movements have dwindled significantly, and today are no longer strong in the way they once were, largely due to splits between movements. However, he suggested that we should thank these movements for giving us the space to debate globalization and imagine alternatives.

The seminar proved to be a fruitful platform by which to learn about and discuss the challenges and potentials of agriculture in India today. The participants departed with energy and enthusiasm for tackling the multifold problems and opportunities of global peasant struggle.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Call for Participation in International Agroecology Training at Amritha Bhoomi (India) October 28-Nov 5

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Call for participation:
International Farmers’ Agroecology Training
Amritha Bhoomi International Center for Sustainable Development (Karnataka, India)[1]

Dear friends in struggle,

Amritha Bhoomi is the Via Campesina Agroecology School in the South Asian region, located in Chamrajanagar, Karnataka, India. October 28-November 5 will be our first international farmers’ agroecology training. We cordially invite members of LVC movements who are agroecological farmers or trainers at agroecological schools to join us in sharing experiences and articulating the political formation of agroecology. Karnataka State Farmers Association co-founder Professor Nanjundaswamy created Amritha Bhoomi as a model of constructive work towards food and seed sovereignty. To carry out his vision, Amritha Bhoomi is developing a seed bank, local medicinal plants reserve, agroecological model plots and different methods of agroecological farming.

The program
·      October 28th – Seminar on farmers movements in India and history of farmers’ struggle for international participants (Bangalore)
·      October 29th – Field Visit to Agroecological Farm using Zero-Budget Natural Farming for international participants (Mysore)
·      October 30th – November 3rd – Intro to Zero Budget Natural Farming w/ Subash Palekar
·      November 4th and 5th – Parallel meetings of the LVC International Agroecology Collective and the Karnataka ZBNF Trainers Collective

About Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)
ZBNF is a method developed and formalized by farmer-scientist Subash Palekar of Maharashtra, India. It addresses the social, economic and environmental crises brought by Green Revolution technology, straying from mainstream organic farming by requiring no external inputs beyond what is found on the farm already and from one native cow. The mainstay of ZBNF is “Jeeva Amrutha,” a microbial culture to increase the soil fertility. Palekar has trained tens of thousands of farmers in India, resulting in a movement in many states. Through the LVC network the method has also spread to Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Purpose of this training
This training is the first large-scale ZBNF training to be held at Amritha Bhoomi Agroecology School. Several hundred farmers from across Karnataka are likely to attend, both new and long-time natural farmers. We are also extending the invitation to farmers from South Asia and inviting those from outside the region as well.  In addition to the standard 5-day training, in this meeting we will strategically launch collective processes on agroecology at the local level and at the international level.

Information for international guests about Amritha Bhoomi
Amritha Bhoomi is located 5 hours from Bangalore, Karnataka in the outskirts of a small, rural village. Situated at the foothills of a mountain range and tiger reserve, the total territory is about 150 acres, including model farm plots, a training school, basic infrastructure for room and board, and a conference hall. Shared, basic accommodation and board will be provided free of cost along with food of the local diet. Electricity is limited and no shops surround the center, so participants will have to come flexible and well-prepared.

The five-day training by Palekar will be provided in Hindi medium with interpretation into English and Kannada. Based on interest we can provide other languages as well, though we should be informed well in advance and may require contribution from the guests toward the cost of interpretation. In order to organize translation and interpretation, please express interest by filling THIS FORM no later than August 30th, 2015. Funding for travel will be provided to farmers from South Asia and farmers from other regions are invited to fundraise their own tickets. Keep in mind the mid-term conference of LVC in the 2nd week of November and the possibility to combine travel.

HOW TO EXPRESS INTEREST: Please fill this form by August 30th, 2015: http://goo.gl/forms/YhRLNyGtIy