Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Food Sovereignty Report Launched

Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the Food System

This report prepared by War on Want contrasts the UK government’s preferred approach of ‘food security’, based on free markets supplemented by aid, with the positive alternative of food sovereignty, which returns control over the food system to farmers.

It shows how the government has driven a free trade agenda at the international level, while pressing countries to remove social protections that would reduce suffering.

Far from relieving hunger among the world’s poorest, the Department for International Development (DFID) funds development of new crop technologies that deepen farmers’ reliance on those companies’ seed and agrochemicals at ever greater prices, leading to hunger on an unprecedented scale.

Download the report here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Indian pastoralist calls on world governments to recognise farmer rights

Watch this video showing Lalji Desai Marag, chair of the Alliance of Nomadic and Pastoralist Peoples of India talking about recognising and respecting land rights and the identity of farmers, and read more below, about what is happening in Rome where this interview was filmed.

Peasant, indigenous, pastoralists and fisherfolk representatives held a demonstration outside the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, to send a clear message to the governments: land grabbing must be stopped in order to tackle the food crisis and the persistent increase in prices.
The demonstration and press conference took place on the second day of the FAO’s inter-governmental talks around the Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land Tenure and the use of other natural resources.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report that “Food prices today remain high, and are expected to remain volatile”. This also implies that farmers, consumers and the poorest nations are most vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty, according to the report on the state of food insecurity in the world.
In response to this situation, and as a result of the increasing expansion of land grabbing and big investment processes in agriculture, the social movements’ representatives who are taking part in the talks were clear: “land grabbing and the global food market must be stopped”.
They highlighted the importance of the Guidelines that will come out after a two-year consultation process with social movements – who act in the Committee on World Food Security as one voice- and of the beginning of a process that will set out new global rules, with special emphasis on the communities’ right to land tenure.
Lalji Desai Marag, chair of the Alliance of Nomadic and Pastoralist Peoples of India said in a press conference “we witness how many rich people acquire more and more land and they keep it unproductive. They only acquire it to speculate, because they know it is a great business”, this makes land prices soar.
“We need to stop this and in order to do that we need to secure land tenure rights for peasant families and pastoralists. In India these rights do not exist, 40% of the farmers do not own their lands.
Meanwhile, the Dakar Appeal against land grabs that came out of the World Social Forum earlier this year, was submitted on Tuesday afternoon and it has been ratified by hundreds of social networks and organizations, especially peasant groups around the world.
Source:  RadioMundo

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Farmers at the Committee on Food Security: "No to the corporate food system!"

A delegation of women and men farmers from around the world representing the international movement La Via Campesina will attend the 37th Session of the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) in Rome from October 17 to 22. Small-scale farmers will defend a food and agricultural system free from the corporate grip.
"We will not feed people by allowing big business to continue to grab land and resources from local communities," says Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of the 200 million-strong farmers organisation La Via Campesina.
While the economic crisis is pushing more people into hunger and poverty, transnational companies are acquiring vast expanses of agricultural land to establish industrial export-oriented plantations, while local food producers are expelled and deprived of their means of subsistence. Kalissa Regier, a young farmer from Canada says: "La Via Campesina urges the CFS to reject the World Bank principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) and demands strong Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in order to guarantee people's access to land and life resources".
The issue of investments in agriculture will also be at the core of negotiations in Rome. "The CFS has to guarantee that small-scale farmers remain the main investors in the agricultural sector and that they receive support to develop local food production," says Andrea Ferrante, an Italian farmer leader. The corporate sector is trying to control agriculture and food production by investing massively in commercial and industrial agriculture. To feed the world, priority should be given to local and sustainable food production and not to export commodity crops.
The CFS meeting will also address the issue of price volatility that has become endemic since the 2007-2008 food crisis. Price stability is vital to guarantee stable food production. It is urgent to develop local markets, to protect domestic markets against cheap imported products and to build public reserves. Food sovereignty should underlie all public policies to face the current economic and food crises.
Meetings with the press:
  • Wednesday 19 October, 1 pm-1.30 pmPress conference and symbolic action by la Via Campesina "Small farmers for a corporate free agriculture" -
    In the Food Sovereignty tent in front of the FAO building (Angelo Salita di San Gregorio)
  • Thursday 20 October (afternoon) : Action against landgrabbing (more information will follow)
Contacts for the media (To interview Via Campesina farmers in Rome)
Annelies Schorpion: mobile phone +393319209210 (or +32474847280), email:<>

Friday, 14 October 2011

Great New Music Vid from Playing for Change: La Tierra del Olvido

Check out this fantastic new music vid from Playing for Change!!!

La Tierra del Olvido features over 75 musicians across the country of Colombia. PFC says... "Throughout our journey we have learned that music is the greatest tool for healing broken countries, cultures and hearts. With this video we set out to unite and inspire the people of Colombia so they can move forward from years of conflict and create a positive future. Listen to the music, see the smiling faces, and remember that we are going to make it as a human race!!"

Indian farmers reject land acquisition for urbanization

Since farm land grabs by corporations has become a growing phenomenon, Indian farmers too are facing alienation from their lands and are now in a tussle with the Indian state to question this trend. The Indian government claims that urbanization and the disappearance of rural India is “inevitable” in its foreword to the new land bill governing land acquisitions by the government- usually done in the garb of public purposes but then handed over to private for profit players. 

The Indian farmers however have questioned the logic behind this ‘urbanization is inevitable’ mantra that is used to discredit rural India and have refused to disappear. Recently they met the Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh regarding the unjust land bill introduced by the government without any public debates or consultations with those that have been struggling against land grabs all across the nation. 

The minister finally agreed to appear in a national public debate provided the farmers themselves organized it. The South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements has thus agreed to organize this debate and invite various social movements from across the country to participate and publicly reject the current trends of blind urbanization at the cost of climate change, livelihood losses as well as food insecurity and rampant hunger. 

Below is the position of the south Indian farmers [also endorsed by the north Indian farmers at Jairam Ramesh’s office].

South Indian Farmers response to the draft LA &RR Bill  -  31st August, 2011.

The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement bill, 2011 (LA&RR bill) released by the ministry of rural development on July29th, 2011 in the public domain for discussion does not address genuine “public purpose” - such as rural development, agriculture, eco restoration, land for landless, rights of forest dwellers and tribals etc. Instead it is completely biased towards facilitating industrialization.  This bill is a result of a political compulsion - the compulsion to ensure that there is a coercive law to satisfy the forces [mainly industry] intending to grab land and resources. And that too at a time when those who want to acquire the land, whether government or the private sector has accumulated capital as never before, sufficient to bid and ‘buy’ land at the going rate in the market.

The farming community has no urgency to pass this bill; this is the urgency solely of the government and the industries to advance urbanization and private takeover of our resources. We do not accept the idea that our way of life has no place in the future of India. Industrialization and urbanization is not the right direction – there are already serious environmental, climatic, livelihood and food crises at stake. These crises will only worsen with the vision enshrined in this bill. We demand people’s sovereignty over resources. Why are we not giving land to the landless and completing the land reform process before acquiring land for the industries? We disagree with the fundamental principles laid down in this bill below and list out the reasons why as well as our main demand.

We reject the draft Land acquisition bill in the present form because:
1.  We oppose the fundamental spirit behind the bill. The definition of Public Purpose is absolutely unacceptable to us: The sole purpose of this draft bill is to accelerate industries and urbanization at the cost of all rural communities and our way of life. This bill does not cater to the needs for agriculture or eco-restoration or for land to the landless and small/marginal farmers. We oppose that the state should use its eminent domain in order to spread industries at the cost of rural livelihoods thus increasing the threat of food insecurity and the climate crisis. The role of farming community in ensuring the food sovereignty of India is absolutely more vital to the future of this country than unrestricted industrialization. We therefore reject this definition and demand that a genuine national consultation and deliberation with the farming and rural communities’ takes place at the local level to really define public purpose which should be determined along with farmers and the rural community before any development project. We are willing to give our lands for genuinely public purposes.
2.  Change of farm land use to industrial private purposes is unacceptable: Land is not a commodity to be purchased and sold. Land is about our identity, our roots and out community. Furthermore we oppose that farm land be turned into uses like hotels, residences for rich people. We also reject the distinction between irrigated and un irrigated lands.  This bill promotes acquisition of all lands except multi-cropped irrigated agricultural land, which is often owned by the rich farmers. All agricultural land should be kept for farming purposes only. There should be strong monitoring of land use even when purchased in the open market to ensure that the food sovereignty of India is not put in danger.  We condemn the commodification of land by the govt to facilitate industrialization – agriculture cannot wait and industrialization needs to wait!
3.  Minimum displacement is not the driving force behind this bill: In fact there is no mention of “no forced displacement” or “prior informed consent”. Furthermore 80% consent mentioned is only for PPP projects and not for government projects and there is no guarantee that the government will not use its eminent domain to acquire land for industry. No procedures have been laid out for obtaining the consent of 80% and who will decide that the consent has been obtained? Under the current draft bill the company itself can ascertain 80% consent and the chances are high that they can use forgery and other malpractices to prove consent. We demand a clear laid out procedure in the act itself and that 80% consent must apply to all acquisitions including only for government projects to minimize the trauma of displacement.
4.  No mechanism to protect land losers from unfair negotiations or malpractices of private players to buy land: There is a great power asymmetry between the land buyers and those whose lands are sought. The bill makes no effort to address this. There is no guarantee that private players will not use underhand methods, muscle power, forging etc to grab peoples lands. It does not prevent and protect the people from being forcibly dispossessed of their land through ‘sale’ of land to land mafias of all kinds.
5.  No guarantee that compensation, R & R will happen before the land is taken: The bill promises a ‘liberal’ and speedy compensation, relief and rehabilitation prior to the acquisition but at the same time permits delayed payment of compensation; The collector has enormous powers to decide when R & R is completed and also take over land before compensation is paid. The land losers are at the mercy of the collector who incidentally is also the person to be approached for making any complaints! Instead to strengthening the farmer’s position the bill is putting them at the mercy of the bureaucracy who have historically proved to be serving the interests of the industries and against the people.
6.  We reject the lip service to tribals, forest dwellers and gram sabhas in decision making: Forest dwellers have the primary right under Forest Rights Act to make decisions on forests and this bill does not address that for conducting any project, permission and consent needs to be first acquired from forest dwellers and tribals. How can forest dwellers rights over forest and natural resources be exchanged with an R and R package? Also the Gram Sabhas will receive a “token” consultation, under the current bill, they will not have any meaningful participation or the power to stop a project or give their prior informed consent; This bill also denies any decision making right on ‘relief and rehabilitation’ to the people, the gram/ward sabhas
7.  Inadequate rehabilitation package: Why is R and R only applied to 100 acres and above? Even if a single acre is acquired for any government project, then R and R should apply. Furthermore, the bill denies compensation and R & R to those affected by the acquisition of common property or public land and denies infrastructural amenities in the resettlement area where the number of resettled families is less than one hundred families. It exempts private companies from the provisions of rehabilitation and resettlement when the ‘land acquisition’ is for less than one hundred acres;
8.  Social impact assessment is a farce: Under the current bill the SIA seems like a window dressing. The main issues as to how the SIA will impact the final decision on the project are not answered. It seems like the SIA is only meant to improve the project rather than rejecting it if opposed by the people. Furthermore the SIA will only be reviewed by an independent expert body but will be conducted by the “appropriate government” when it should be both conducted and reviewed by independent bodies. There is no provision for participation of the affected people or Gram Sabhas in the SIA. It offers social impact assessment to be carried out, but does not insist that the decision to acquire land has to be based on its recommendations;
9.  Unfair disciplinary mechanisms: the bill provides for only disciplinary proceedings for offenses by the officials while providing for imprisonment and penalty to those people obstructing land acquisition.

·        We demand the introduction of a new Bill instead of the bill the “The Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement bill, 2011” published by the ministry of Rural development on 29th July,2011 to repeal the draconian “The Land Acquisition Act 1894”. The ministry should completely revamp the bill and should come out with a new bill taking in to the consideration of the farmer’s movements and people’s movements.
·        We demand the government of India to formulate a committee comprising the representatives of the farmer’s movements to finalise the new bill for the land requirement for the government and Rehabilitation & Resettlement.
·        We demand that a genuine guideline of public purpose is created after nationwide debates at the taluka level. Only when genuine public purpose is determined by the new guidelines and after prior informed consent of those whose lands are needed in each case land can be given to the state after a liberal offer of compensation along with a relief and rehabilitation far above the operative market prices.
·        Project affected persons and or gram sabhas should have the right to stop a project if they find violations, or if the social impact assessments so recommend.
·        We demand that the government makes a timeline to build a consensus among the farming and rural communities of India, we need debates at the taluka level. The new bill should be translated in all regional languages so that we may be able to have discussions and debate at the grassroots level.
·        We demand  the government of India to  release a White Paper on the extent of land acquired for industrial purposes and extent of land ‘really' utilised for the purpose specified in the past six decades
·        Finally, before the new law comes into place all acquisition processes under the draconian 1894 Land Acquisition Act should be suspended.

Endorsed by
Karnataka Rajya Ryota Sangh( KRRS) (Karanataka).
Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam( Tamil Nadu),
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi(Tamil Nadu),
Uzhavar Periyakkam(Tamil Nadu),
Katchi Sarpartra Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam(Tamil Nadu),
Kongunadu Vivasayigal Sangam( Tamil Nadu),
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association (KCFA)( Kerala)
Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha(Kerala),

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Farmers' Networks Urge Government Action Against Land Grabbing

Outside the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) building in Rome. / Credit:CroceviaCivil society organisations and global farmers' networks are gathered in Rome this week to ask governments to stop the "disastrous practice of land grabbing", ahead of next week's Committee on World Food Security.

From Oct. 11 to 14, the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is running intergovernmental negotiations on land governance.

After six years of negotiations involving governments, international organisations and civil society groups, this session is expected to adopt voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of land and other natural resources. These guidelines would protect and strengthen access to land, fisheries and forests for indigenous peoples and small- scale producers, especially women.

According to farmers' organisations, the guidelines currently under negotiation could become an instrument "to keep financial speculation out of peoples' lands, water and forests and to overcome a system of governance that facilitates the takeover of peoples' natural resources by corporate investors and other powerful actors".

Delegates from the global farmers' network la Via Campesina, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty and the Italian Committee for Food Sovereignty are taking part in the negotiations.

The issue seems most crucial now that the global food and financial crises have made maintaining livelihoods impossible for farmers, their communities and small-scale producers unless their land is preserved.

A rampant practice

A recent report by Oxfam identified 227 million hectares of land, an area the size of northwest Europe, as having been reportedly sold or licensed – largely in Africa and mostly to international investors – through thousands of secret deals since 2001.

Earlier this year the World Bank identified 56 million hectares of "grabbed" land, again predominantly in Africa.

The issue implicates Europe and the U.S equally.

According to a recent report on land grabbing, released earlier this month by Friends of the Earth, more than 60 percent of land consumed in Europe is imported, while U.S. demand for imported land increased by 100 million hectares between 1997 and 2004.

The report stated, "Europe uses the equivalent of 1.5 times its own area in land. Germany and the UK are among the top land import dependent countries, each importing more than 80 million hectares a year. Average land consumption in the EU is 1.3 hectares per capita, while countries such as China and India use less than 0.4 hectares per capita. The U.S. consumes more than three hectares per capita, four times as much as India."

In many cases, land is being used to grow crops for biofuel markets.

Widespread, long-lasting impacts

"We want to make sure that governments understand our position on the disastrous (impacts) of land grabbing on international investments in agriculture," Kalissa Regier, youth vice president of Canada's National Farmers Union (NFU) and member of La Via Campesina, told IPS.

"The situation is particularly disastrous for young farmers. Every time farmland is (taken) from the rural community, it can never be regained by families or the younger generation who once had a chance to be part of their land, part of their families' heritage."

Areas where farmers have secure land tenure and access to arable land have decreased incidence of food insecurity, she added. But once land is lost "through land grabbing, corporate investments in agriculture or government investments in farmland", it cannot be regained, she said.

Regier, an organic grain producer in Canada, said the impacts of this issue would last for hundreds of years and stressed that land grabbing is not limited to the global South, but that people around her were experiencing it as well.

Land grabbing is "manifesting itself differently depending on the social and economic structures" in different regions, she said. " In Africa, Asia and South America, you see the disastrous impacts of poverty, hunger and displacement of communities," while North America has seen many of its youth shift from rural areas into cities alongside huge amounts of foreign investment in farmland.

Concerns over implementing guidelines

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, recently urged the adoption of common guidelines on land governance.

He stressed that "governments should be wary of speculation and concentration of ownership when land rights are transferred to private investors to develop farmland". He added, "Harmful investments to the detriment of local populations – or land grabbing – can only be warded off if we first secure the underlying rights of farmers, herders and fisherfolk."

On Tuesday, farmers' delegates in Rome submitted the Dakar Appeal, a document prepared during the 2011 World Social Forum in Senegal, to the president of the U.N. Committee on Food Security (CFS).

The appeal, which calls on governments to put an end to land grabbing and urges the CFS to reject the World Bank principles for responsible agricultural investment, is endorsed by over 700 organisations worldwide.

Farmers are also extremely concerned about the implementation of guidelines.

"We are participating (in high-level discussions) here… but finally we want this paper to be reflected in the life of the woman who depends on fish from the lake, whose children go to sleep hungry because the fish in the lake have been taken by a big company from another country," Rehema Bavuma, a Ugandan delegate from the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers, told IPS.

Bavuma lives on the bank of Lake Victoria, Uganda.

"Traditionally, women and men near the lake have depended (exclusively) on fish. The men fished and the women cooked or smoked the fish, for eating or selling to their neighbours."

However, Bavuma said, this is not happening anymore. "They still live near the lake but they are not allowed to fish because the government has given rights to big companies to take fish from the lake and sell it, but local people cannot afford to buy it, as it is very expensive."

"These people have no food, no jobs, no water and no income. If our governments negotiate (guidelines) on behalf of their peoples, we want to see (those rules) adopted and implemented." She added that land grabbing affects water supplies and other resources as well.

Farmers' networks are expecting governments to take a strong position in the negotiations on land tenure by openly opposing land grabs and ensuring communities' rights and human rights are protected.

"We expect governments negotiating land tenure to approve strict guidelines that can rescue farmers from the hands of private speculators and safeguard small producers' and local communities' access to and control over natural resources, including land, water and forests," said Mamadou Ba, of the Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux, Senegal. 

Source:  IPS News

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

October: a month of international mobilisation!

Global days of action mark the month of October, when social movements around the world take to the streets to protest against a system based on the oppression of peoples, and particularly of women and the environment.

This journey of struggle against capitalism, was agreed upon at the Social Assembly Movements during the 2011 World Social Forum held in Dakar, Senegal (read the Assembly declaration below).

The choice of October 12th was a symbolic one. This is the date that marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas (in 1492) and one of the dates marking the beginning of the “Modern Age”, of the rise of capitalist “civilization”. In the Americas, it is the day of indigenous resistance, in defense of the rights of nature, on which the cry of the excluded – across the continent – has been celebrated since the 1990s.  Besides that, this day is right in the middle of a whole series of key action dates for social movements around the world (for women, trade unions, farmers, indigenous peoples, against debt, etc.), running from October 7th to 17th, including:

7th October: World Day for Decent Work
8th – 16th October: Week of Action against Debt and International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
12th October: Day of action against capitalism / Global day in defense of Mother Earth / Cry of the Excluded (Latin America)
15th October: International Day of Rural Women / Anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s murder, symbol of the African anticolonial struggle / International actions for real democracy now!
16th October: World Food Sovereignty Day
17th October: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

On this journey, the different movements are invited to link their existing actions, relating to their own situations and priorities in national level, to a common framework, in order to make this international anti-establishment struggle more concrete and visible.

Let's take advantage of these moments to organize and join in the actions, combining debate and action! We know that many organizations are already planning to take part in or organizing activities and demonstrations within the month of October.

Please send your calls to action, news and images to this email: so they can be made visible at the blog:

In solidarity and struggle !

CADTM Internacional
CADTM Network Africa
COMPA - Convergencia de movimientos de los pueblos de América
CUT – Central Única de Trabajadores / Brasil
GGJ – Grassroots Global Justice
HSA – Hemispheric Social Alliance
Jubilee South/Americas
Via Campesina
WMW - World March of Women