Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Young farmer connects others to the land as she learns about rice production

This is the third video in a series of three that give an insight into the real life experiences of a young woman farmer living in Japan.

Ayumi Kinezuka has a great passion to involve others in the farming experience. In this third video, Ayumi talks about how she is learning to produce rice, and in doing so, invites other people to join her in her journey, from the planting to the harvesting. This story is more than just about producing rice, it is an impressive story about success through sharing and connecting.

Source:  Food Sovereignty Japan

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Why I became a farmer!

This is the second video in a series of three that gives insights into the real life experiences of a young woman farmer in Japan.

In this second video, Ayumi Kinezuka shares with us the reasons behind her decision to return to her father's organic tea farm and become a farmer. From her studies in psychology and sociology to her decision to take what she has learnt and ... go back to the farm - Ayumi's story is truly inspirational.

Source:  Food Sovereignty Japan

Monday, 28 November 2011

Young tea farmer talks about her family's organic farm

This is the first video of a series of three that give an insight into the real life experiences of a young woman farmer in Japan.

Ayumi Kinezuka is an amazing young woman, who has been farming on her father's tea farm for the past 8 years. In this first video, Ayumi talks about the importance of her family's connection to customers, the difficulties her father had 35 years ago in transitioning the farm from chemicals to organics, and the advantages of being organic and of connecting with other farmers to market their products.

Source:   Food Sovereignty Japan 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Final Declaration: Stop Land-Grabbing Now!

Nyeleni, November 19, 2011

We, women and men peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and their allies, who gathered together in Nyeleni from 17-19 November 2011, are determined to defend food sovereignty, the commons and the rights of small scale food providers to natural resources. We supported the Kolongo Appeal from peasant organizations in Mali, who have taken the lead in organising local resistance to the take-over of peasants' lands in Africa. We came to Nyeleni in response to the Dakar Appeal, which calls for a global alliance against land-grabbing. 

In the past three days, peasants, pastoralists and indigenous peoples have come together from across the world for the first time to share with each other their experiences and struggles against land-grabbing. In Mali, the Government has committed to give away 800 thousand hectares of land to business investors. These are lands of communities that have belonged to them for generations, even centuries, while the Malian State has only existed since the 1960-s. This situation is mirrored in many other countries where customary rights are not recognised. Taking away the lands of communities is a violation of both their customary and historical rights.

Secure access to and control over land and natural resources are inextricably linked to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several regional and international human rights conventions, such as the rights to an adequate standard of living, housing, food, health, culture, property and participation. We note with grave concern that states are not meeting their obligations in this regard and putting the interests of business interests above the rights of peoples.

Land-grabbing is a global phenomenon led by local, national and transnational elites and investors, and governments with the aim of controlling the world's most precious resources. The global financial, food and climate crises have triggered a rush among investors and wealthy governments to acquire and capture land and natural resources, since these are the only “safe havens” left that guarantee secure financial returns. Pension and other investment funds have become powerful actors in land-grabbing, while wars continue to be waged to seize control over natural wealth. The World Bank and regional development banks are facilitating land grabs by promoting corporate-friendly policies and laws, facilitating capital and guarantees for corporate investors, and fostering an extractive, destructive economic development model. The World Bank, IFAD, FAO and UNCTAD have proposed seven principles that legitimise farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors. Led by some of the world's largest transnational corporations, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) aims to transform smallhold agriculture into industrial agriculture and integrate smallhold farmers to global value chains, greatly increasing their vulnerability to land-loss.

Land-grabbing goes beyond traditional North-South imperialist structures; transnational corporations can be based in the United States, Europe, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, among others. It is also a crisis in both rural and urban areas. Land is being grabbed in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe for industrial agriculture, mining, infrastructure projects, dams, tourism, conservation parks, industry, urban expansion and military purposes. Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are being expelled from their territories by armed forces, increasing their vulnerability and in some cases even leading to slavery. Market based, false solutions to climate change are creating more ways to alienate local communities from their lands and natural resources.

Despite the fact that women produce most of the world's food, and are responsible for family and community well being, existing patriarchal structures continue to dispossess women from the lands that they cultivate and their rights to resources. Since most peasant women do not have secure, legally recognised land rights, they are particularly vulnerable to evictions.

The fight against land-grabbing is a fight against capitalism, neoliberalism and a destructive economic model. Through testimonies from our sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso, Columbia, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda, we learned how land-grabbing threatens small scale, family based farming, nature, the environment and food sovereignty. Land grabbing displaces and dislocates communities, destroys local economies and the social-cultural fabric, and jeopardizes the identities of communities, be they farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, workers, dalits or indigenous peoples. Those who stand up for their rights are beaten, jailed and killed. There is no way to mitigate the impacts of this economic model and the power structures that promote it. Our lands are not for sale or lease.

But we are not defeated. Through organisation, mobilisation and community cohesiveness, we have been able to stop land-grabbing in many places. Furthermore, our societies are recognising that small-scale, family based agriculture and food production is the most socially, economically and environmentally sustainable model of using resources.

Recalling the Dakar Appeal, we reiterate our commitment to resist land-grabbing by all means possible, to support all those who fight land-grabs, and to put pressure on national governments and international institutions to fulfill their obligations to defend and uphold the rights of peoples. Specifically, we commit to:
  • Organise rural and urban communities against land-grabs in every form. 
  • Strengthen the capacities of our communities and movements to reclaim and defend our rights, lands and resources. 
  • Win and secure the rights of women in our communities to land and natural resources. 
  • Create public awareness about how land grabbing is creating crises for all society. 
  • Build alliances across different sectors, constituencies, regions, and mobilise our societies to stop land-grabbing 
  • Strengthen our movements to achieve and promote food sovereignty and genuine agrarian reform 
  • In order to meet the above commitments, we will develop the following actions: 
  • Report back to our communities the deliberations and commitments of this Conference. 
  • Institutionalise April 17 as the day of global mobilisation against land-grabbing; also identify additional appropriate dates that can be used for such mobilisations to defend land and the commons. 
  • Develop our political arguments to expose and discredit the economic model that spurs land-grabbing, and the various actors and initiatives that promote and legitimise it. 
  • Build our own databases about land-grabbing by documenting cases, and gathering the needed information and evidence about processes, actors, impacts, etc. 
  • Ensure that communities have the information they need about laws, rights, companies, contracts, etc., so that they can resist more effectively the business investors and governments who try to take their lands and natural resources. 
  • Set up early warning systems to alert communities to risks and threats. 
  • Establish a Peoples' Observatory on land-grabbing to facilitate and centralise data gathering, communications, planning actions, advocacy, research and analysis, etc. 
  • Strengthen our communities through political and technical training, and restore our pride in being food producers and providers. 
  • Secure land and resource rights for women by conscientising our communities and movements, targeted re-distribution of land for women, and other actions make laws and policies responsive to the particular needs of women. 
  • Build strong organisational networks and alliances at various levels--local, regional and international--building on the Dakar Appeal and with small-scale food producers/providers at the centre of these alliances. 
  • Build alliances with members of pension schemes in order to prevent pension fund managers from investing in projects that result in land grabbing. 
  • Make our leaders abide by the rules set by our communities and compel them to be accountable to us, and our communities and organisations. 
  • Develop our own systems of legal aid and liaise with legal and human rights experts. 
  • Condemn all forms of violence and criminalisation of our struggles and our mobilizations in defense of our rights. 
  • Work for the immediate release of all those jailed as a result of their struggles for their lands and territories, and urgently develop campaigns of solidarity with all those facing conflicts. 
  • Build strategic alliances with press and media, so that they report accurately our messages and realities; counter the prejudices spread by the mainstream media about the land struggles in Zimbabwe. 
  • Develop and use local media to organise members of our and other communities, and share with them information about land-grabbing. 
  • Take our messages and demands to parliaments, governments and international institutions. 
  • Identify and target local, national and international spaces for actions, mobilizations and building broad-based societal resistance to land-grabbing. 
  • Plan actions that target corporations, (including financial corporations), the World Bank and other multilateral development banks that benefit from, drive and promote land and natural resource grabs. 
  • Expand and strengthen our actions to achieve and promote food sovereignty and agrarian reform. 
  • Support peoples' enclosures of their resources through land occupations, occupations of the offices of corporate investors, protests and other actions to reclaim their commons. 
  • Demand that our governments fulfill their human rights obligations, immediately stop land and natural resource transfers to business investors, cancel contracts already made, and protect rural and urban communities from ongoing and future land-grabs. 
We call all organizations committed to these principles and actions to join our Global Alliance against Land-Grabbing, which we solemnly launch today here in Nyeleni.

Globalise the struggle! Globalise hope!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

GM Crops: Vietnam's food sovereignty under threat

Vietnamese experts are increasingly concerned about genetically-modified (GM) plants that have undergone trials and are about to be cultivated widely.

Le Huy Ham, director of the Agricultural Genetics Institute, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is considering approving mass cultivation of seven GM maize varieties.

“If it [the approval] is done early, Vietnam will plant GM maize on local farms in 2012,” he said.

This is in line with a government plan announced last year to cover between 30 percent and half of the country’s agriculture land with the controversial gene-altered crops by 2020.

Since then, many local scientists have said the “modern varieties” could be a good choice to ensure food security as Vietnam is among the countries that would be hardest hit by climate change, which is expected to inundate large areas of farmland.

But increasing numbers of people, including experts, are worried about the implications of GM crops as the time for mass cultivation of GM maize draws near.

Nguyen Thi Binh, former Vice President of Vietnam, said she has participated in several international seminars where scientists have expressed concerns over the harmful consequences and risks that GM plants pose to environment, human health and the economy.

“The pollen of GM plants can affect surrounding farms and reduce the effect of certain pesticides and force pests to improve their resistance,” she told Thanh Nien.

“On economic side, we would have to buy seeds from producers, US firms specifically, for every crop. GM corn doesn’t geminate and we have to totally rely on seed producers.”

Vo Tong Xuan, a well known Vietnamese agriculturist, said GM maize may benefit the animal feed industry with mass cultivation, but conceded the nation would have to rely on foreign producers to supply seeds and their own herbicides for every crop.

Known for his contributions to Vietnam’s emergence as a major rice exporter from being a net importer food as late as in the 1980s, Xuan said he strongly opposed cultivation of GM rice in Vietnam.

“It will not be more profitable,” he said, adding that Vietnam needs new rice varieties that can grow in dry and poor lands, and this can’t be found among GM rice varieties.

At a seminar on biotechnology held last month in Hanoi, many experts were worried by the prospects of mass cultivation of GM maize.

An international agriculturist who wanted to remain anonymous said Vietnam should never adopt GM plants because of harmful consequences to food sovereignty and sustainability.

“The local varieties of rice and other crops that have been proven to adapt to varying levels of conditions in Vietnam for many years will be replaced by these so called ‘modern varieties’ which are not sustainable.

“In the long run, the companies will be in control of the food security and sovereignty of Vietnamese production because Vietnam will be heavily dependent on these seeds,” he told Thanh Nien Weekly.

He said the corporations will exert their patent rights for these varieties, which would undermine the nation’s food sovereignty and food security.

“Vietnam’s food security status enjoys a good level of equity but once the companies gain control of this vital aspect of the society, which is staple food, Vietnam runs the risk of inequity and manipulation by corporate greed and narrow interests,” he said.

Source:  thanhniennews via Vietnam Travel News

Movements Unite in Mali, Confronting Powerful Interests : “We are decolonizing Africa here”

The National Confederation of Peasant Organization’s (CNOP) agroecological training center stands at the crossroads of the West African countryside. Surrounded with rich Malian farmland and dotted with white thatched-roof huts, the Niger River snakes into the horizon on one side, and a dusty road connects the property to the sleepy town of Sélingué. Today, well into the first International Peasant’s Conference, the center was buzzing with activity as peasants from across Africa and around the world worked together to envision communities where land is more than a commodity.

"This is the kind of awareness-raising that has the potential to change policy,” said Ibrahima Coulibaly, CNOP’s president and a Via Campesina leader. “As local and national movements, we need to fight together against the global structures that threaten our communities,” he added.

Over the course of the day, peasants outlined the enormity of their struggle against those international structures—ranging from misguided pension funds to the innermost workings of financial institutions like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. Following the financial crisis, pension and other investment funds have increasingly put their money toward natural resources and food—commodifying historical rights to land and water.

“It’s the international institutions that deny us access to the common good, and threaten our ability to plant diverse crops that feed world,” offered Rafael Alegria, a Honduran Via Campesina leader. “And the only way that we can work against them and avoid becoming refugees on our lands is as a united movement.”

Via Campesina has already seen victories of the sort. In the mid 90s, representatives of their base organizations demonstrated at World Food Summit. Later, they were allowed inside once-closed doors where they observed decision-making processes, while still mounting pressure from the outside. After years of counter summits, Via Campesina has been given a voice that allows them to be a part of framing the debate and defining a global agenda.

“We hope that by the powerful participation of social movements, we will bring the food sovereignty agenda to the UN,” said Sofia Monsalve, a human rights expert with Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN). Via Campesina—credited with coining the term “food sovereignty”—has been determined to rethink the global notion of food security from its very origin. 

But peasant movements concur that in the absence of control over their lands, real food sovereignty is impossible.

The cash-strapped Malian government, for example, has already allocated at least 750,000 hectares to multinational corporations for large-scale agricultural projects—much of which is reserved for export. And more than 40% of those deals involve crops like Jatropha for agrofuels, feeding foreign machines instead of local people. Investors are offered attractive fiscal incentives and in some cases, first access to water from the Niger River. Entire communities are displaced while water resources and food supplies become increasingly vulnerable.

Delegates from dozens of countries shared similar statistics, and personal stories, from their own countries—where their indigenous lands have become magnets for foreign investors. By first shedding light on these David vs. Goliath struggles, their forum provides a space to come up with unified solutions to put an end to the new form of colonization that is land grabbing.

“We are decolonizing Africa here,” said Elizabeth Mpofu, a peasant woman from Zimbabwe. “Our job is to come up with democratic declarations at the grassroots level. It’s up to us to make sure that they reach our governments, and that they can be shared with all stakeholders—including at the international level.” She recognized the enormity of that task, but at the same time felt empowered by her counterparts from five continents.

At CNOP’s open-air training center in Nyéléni, Ibrahim Coulibaly stood in the coarse sand, bright green Via Campesina flags hanging behind him. “Let’s start,” he said, opening yet another session, “We have a lot of hard work to do.” But for a brief moment, he paused, looking out over the diverse crowd of peasant leaders. Then he raised his voice and smiled. “There is so much energy here,” he beamed, “What an atmosphere.”

Via Campesina News

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Asian farmers visit and learn from Karnataka’s farmers about natural farming

Fifty farmers of La Via Campesina movements from Asia visited some of Karnataka's most outstanding natural farms from Nov 2 to 6 2011. This event was organized by LVC and KRRS as part of their efforts to carry out farmer to farmer exchanges of knowledge of agro-ecology practices to "feed the world and cool the planet" as well as for farmers movements to share their best knowledge experiences with each other in solidarity. 

The international delegation included twenty farmers and social movement activists from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea and Mexico. There were also many south Indian farmers present in the delegation. 

During the four days journey, the group explored coconut, arecanut and banana farms, as well as vegetable plots, a sericulture field, a paddy seed bank and a jaggery production site. Some farmers were practicing natural farming for more than 15 years, while others had just started. Also a variety of natural farming methods were explored - from Fukuoaka's method to Palekar's zero budget natural farming. All farms were situated around the Mysore area, in South Karnataka. They were all successful examples showing that natural farming can and ought to be actively promoted as one of the many sustainable and accessible alternatives to conventional and organic farming. Furthermore, farmers organizations should play a strong role in creating platforms for exchanging practices and knowledge which is one of the best ways of spreading sustainable farming practices.

Natural farming is not a new concept, but a philosophy and practice that can be associated to the earliest stages of agriculture. Indigenous and forest people still treasure the wisdom of the unity of man with nature, but we have lost it in the course of civilization. Industrial organic farming is one attempt to free ourselves from chemicals, but, it is still labour intensive and promotes the addition of foreign organic fertilizers and compost to enhance soil fertility. The main idea of natural farming is that farming should be left to nature itself; it should be simple and low-cost.

The origin of ‘modern’ natural farming is generally associated with the Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka who started his experiments in 1938. Since then, different methods of natural farming have been developed in India. In Karnataka, Subhash Palekar’s Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is the most popular method, with hundreds of followers claiming success. The central idea of ZBNF is to end dependence on purchased inputs and monetary investments thereby also ending debt and the cycle of suicides from indebtedness.

Palekar was invited by LVC to Sri Lanka in 2010 for LVC's Asia level agroecology meeting of farmer trainers. Here, Palekar introduced ZBNF to many Asian farmer trainers involved with agro-ecology practices. Farmers groups in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are now adding elements of ZBNF in ways that are appropriate to their local conditions and finding that it can be adapted and altered to suit their needs.

To close this exchange program, a one-day international seminar on agroecology was held in Mysore on November 6th. In her opening speech, Chukki Nanjundaswamy of KRRS, situated natural farming as a mean of struggle and resistance: “Natural farming is not just about technologies, but it’s also about resisting capitalism”. In the first panel, Peter Rosset of LVC stressed the importance of supporting sustainable and peasant based agricultural practices used all over the world, even though it may have a variety of different names such as agroecology, organic farming, natural farming, biodynamic farming and permaculture. The important thing to remember he said is that these all have similar principles which we in LVC choose to call agroecology. Other panelists included Subhash Palekar, Kailashmurthy, Afsar Jafri and Swami Anand. 200 people, including farmers, students, scientists and the media attended the seminar.

Source: La Via Campesina South Asia

World Fishers Day - 21 November

Fishermen living along the 1050 kilometre long Pakistan coastline between Sindh and Balochistan celebrated the World Fisheries Day falling on November 21.

On this occasion, fishermen mostly did not go to the sea for a catch and joined the community activists to express solidarity with the world fisher people. They decorated their fishing vessels and jetties with colourful flags, facilitated the community children and visitors to have a short boat trip along the beachside.

For this year, the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) had decided to keep the theme ‘Food sovereignty for the fishing community.’

It is the socio-cultural event that the fishermen around the world celebrate enthusiastically. The fishing communities worldwide celebrate this day through rallies, workshops, public meetings, cultural programmes, dramas, exhibition, music show, and demonstrations to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries.

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), being the major community representative organisation, had designed different colourful events on the occasion, including performing theatre, specifically focusing on the issues the community people are facing.

The PFF celebrated the event in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Gwadar. The major event was organised at Motani jetty, Ibrahim Hyderi of Karachi where hundreds of coastal community people participated. The community artisans exhibited their items, including the ornaments and small toy boats to fascinate the visitors.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said that they were struggling to have control of the local communities on seafood and water supplies resources. He said that the instead of polluting the environment and water resources, the government of different countries should ensure producing food, energy and clean water.

He added that the fishing community have a justification to get their livelihood, using unsustainable methodology to catch a larger amount of fish, which definitely will cause loss for the future generations.

Shah quoting a recent United Nations study reported that more than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been over fished or are fully harvested and more than one-third are in a state of decline.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fighting TPP with 'reverence' for farming and 'expulsion' of consumer culture

Under a cloudy sky, Akira Sudo is seen amidst his rice paddies in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 3. (Mainichi)
Under a cloudy sky, Akira Sudo is seen amidst his rice paddies in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 3. (Mainichi)
A great article by Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer - Mainichi Daily News

I can't seem to make sense of the ongoing debate on Japan's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone (TPP). I think it's the pro-TPP attitude of "let's open Japan up to the world" that rubs me the wrong way. I never noticed us being under a policy of "sakoku" -- or isolation -- like the one that had been implemented by the Tokugawa shogunate for some 200 years until U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with his black ships in 1853. It has been unnatural the way the TPP issue has been framed for the public and the way the debates have been carried out, all in an effort to convince the public of the righteousness of TPP participation.

That the Japanese government feels that it has to go along with the U.S. pursuit of open markets because it is indebted to the U.S. for national security reasons is understandable. However, neither the Noda administration nor the media have any fundamental ideas on how to strike the right balance between liberalization and regulation, and on the direction in which the country should be taken. At the root is a sense that we are merely drifting about.

Farmer and poet Kanji Hoshi, 76, who has been engaged in organic farming for 38 years in the Yamagata Prefecture town of Takahata, is adamantly opposed to Japan's TPP participation. While it is standard for the media to showcase arguments for and against TPP, here, I'll only talk about Hoshi because there's no sense of drifting in his argument.

Hoshi started farming in 1954, at the age of 19. Not long afterward came the 1961 enactment of the Agricultural Basic Law, whose objective was to increase productivity and income. Agriculture grew more and more mechanized, and along with the heavy use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and herbicides, led to greater harvests. At the same time, however, food safety began to crumble and the problem of environmental pollution grew serious.

In 1973, the Organic Agriculture Association was established in Takahata, with Hoshi at its helm. In "Fukugo osen" (Complex contamination), a true-to-life novel that was serialized in a newspaper between 1974 and 1975 and caused a great sensation, author Sawako Ariyoshi included an anecdote about biting into one of Hoshi's chemical-free apples.

It goes without saying that organic, chemical-free farming is hard. Hoshi was ridiculed for "trying to go back to the Edo period," but he continued to explore new methods and repeatedly made mistakes. It was through his activism against the spraying of pesticides from helicopters that he found like-minded comrades. Eventually, in an act of revenge, Hoshi harvested sparking, tortoiseshell-like brown rice, for which he was awarded the gold medal in a nationwide contest.

Through long-term efforts, loaches, fireflies, river snails and meadowhawk dragonflies returned to the land. Organic agriculture was now well established in Takahata. Hoshi is part of a network comprising over 100 consumer groups and rice sellers, and has had opportunities to exchange ideas with university instructors and students pursuing environment, life and agriculture.

Hoshi is the author of an essay called "Sonno joi no shiso: han TPP no chiiki ron" (The philosophy of revere agriculture, expel the barbarians: anti-TPP localism), published in May 2011 in the book, "Takahata-gaku" (Takahataology). In it, he writes: "I would like the philosophy of revering agriculture and expelling the barbarians to be the stronghold against the black ships of TPP," Hoshi writes. "We need to give primary importance to agriculture for its production of food for life, and to justly appreciate its function of protecting the environment. If we destroy our beautiful homeland, we will not be able to face our descendents. 'Expel the barbarians' refers to the elimination of our disposable consumer civilization. We need to possess a set of values necessary to live simply and spiritually rich in a mature society, and let us attempt self realization."
Holding placards reading, "Protect Japanese land and food," farmers from tsunami-hit Miyagi Prefecture shout slogans against the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone (TPP) on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
In this essay, Hoshi categorically states that TPP participation will devastate Japanese agriculture. Our dinner tables will be filled with imported products whose manufacturers and processors we don't know, sacrificing food safety, and rural landscapes will be destroyed, Hoshi says, and warns that local communities themselves will collapse.
Pro-TPP advocates say that domestic agriculture must be revived in a way that it will be able to withstand market liberalization. And by "revival," what they mean is boost "profitable agriculture" aimed for since the Agricultural Basic Law was implemented to a "more profitable agriculture." They argue that agriculture must also contribute to economic growth. Hoshi, however, sees the value in agriculture that protects something that is different from economic growth.
Both domestically and internationally, financial, economic and social shockwaves are expected to become increasingly intense and contradictions are bound to balloon. We may well reach a time when no amount of money can buy us food. Does the light of the 21st century side with economic growth and money-making? Or does it side with Hoshi's hands-on practice and knowledge? This is the question that needs to be asked. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Occupy the food system: Building a vision of transformation

Eric Holt-Giménez and Annie Shattuck have written the following article in conjunction with the release of their new book:  Food Movements Unite!  

A dynamic global food movement is rising up around the world. Food justice activists are taking back their food systems through urban gardening, organic farming, community-supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, and locally owned processing and retail operations. Food sovereignty advocates organize for land reform, the end of destructive global-trade agreements and support for family farmers, women, and peasants. Protests against—and viable alternatives to—the expansion of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), agrofuels, land grabs, and the oligopolistic control of our food are growing everywhere every day, denouncing and replacing the dysfunctional corporate food regime with visions of hope, equity, and sustainability.

The social and political convergence of the “practitioners” and “advocates” in these food movements is well underway, as evidenced by the growing trend in food policy councils; the coalitions for food sovereignty spreading across the US, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe; and the practical and political solutions to the food crisis that appear increasingly in academic literature and the popular media.

The global food movement springs from strong commitments to food justice, food democracy, and food sovereignty on the part of thousands of farmers’ unions, consumer groups, nonprofits, and faithbased and community organizations across the urban-rural and North-South divides of our planet.

This remarkable “movement of movements” is widespread, highly diverse, refreshingly creative and— much like the “Occupy Wall Street” protests—busy forging a broad-based vision for transformation.

Many publications point to the hopeful initiatives in growing, processing, distributing, and
consuming. And many analyses are now identifying the structural barriers to a fair and sustainable political processes. Supporting farmers’ political leadership is echoed by Groundswell, a new rural development collective working in Haiti, Ecuador, Burkina Faso,
and Ghana. Groundswell calls for a shift from project and donor-driven strategies to farmer and movement driven approaches.

Farmers, Sustainability and Food Sovereignty

Family and peasant farmers—who produce over half of the world’s food—have embraced food
sovereignty as a political platform to roll back the corporate assault of our food and farming systems. Leaders like Paul Nicholson and João Pedro Stédile of Via Campesina call for alliances of transformative action and new structural policies for our food systems. George Naylor of
the National Family Farm Coalition links today’s calls for food sovereignty to the historic U.S. farm struggles asserting that, “Without clarity on parity, all you get is charity.”

Read the full article here

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Farmers mobilise to find solutions against land grabbing

More than 250 participants, mainly representatives of farmers’ organisations, from thirty different countries gathered in Nyéléni Village, a centre for agro-ecology training built in a rural area near Sélingué, in Mali, to participate into the first International farmers’ conference to stop land grabbing. The Nyéléni village is a symbolic place, where the first international conference on Food Sovereignty was held in 2007. For three days, from the 17 to the 20 of November, participants are exchanging their experiences and creating alliances to stop the global land grab.

Land grabbing is happening everywhere, making the daily struggle of rural communities worldwide for survival even more difficult. Rights of family farmers, as well as pastoralists, artisanal fishers and indigenous communities, are violated constantly and their territories are being increasingly militarised. Small scale food production is replaced by large monoculture plantations for export and local farmers are left without land, without jobs, without food. This is why peasant organisations decided to mobilise together against this problem and create a space for exchanging experiences and finding common solutions.

At the opening ceremony Ibrahima Coulibaly, president of the CNOP (National Confederation of Peasant Organisations) of Mali, said: “The land belongs to local communities and it has been like that for generations. Now, governments are pushing farmers off their lands. This is not acceptable. It is a denial of historic rights, rights that exist since hundreds of years, while many states exist only since the 1960s. This shows how politicians are not connected to the people. The situation is very serious, and that is why we are here. We have the possibility in these three days to sit together, find a common understanding and find the solutions.”

Since the global food and financial crises broke out in 2008, governments and private firms have been increas­ingly acquiring large areas of fertile land in foreign countries all around the world. More then 60 countries have been targeted by hundreds of private corporations and dozens of governments. This international “land rush” affects as least 30 million hectares in Africa alone.

During the initial debates, participants shared their experiences and presented a multifaceted image of land-grabbing. On the one hand, they agreed that land grabbing is not a completely new phenomenon, as most countries have suffered it through colonisation and in some places colonial legal systems persist until now. On the other hand, they noted that land grabbing can have different shapes and forms as well. There is state-led land grabbing and there are land grabs by transnational corporations. There are land grabs to produce food for export, to produce agrofuels, land grabs for mining or other large infrastructural projects, periurban land grabs and so on. But even at the local level, leaders and community chiefs grab land. There are also mechanisms within families and communities that result in land grabbing, such as men denying women access to land, the widespread discrimination against young and women farmers, and land grabs by local elites.

In Africa, 80% of the population are small-scale family farmers and even though their means of production may be rudimentary, as many of them do not own even a plough, they are still able to feed the majority of the people. As land grabs push small farmers and pastoralists off their lands, they directly undermine food sovereignty.

“When we lose the land we lose our culture, communities and knowledge. The land for us is everything,” said a farmer from Senegal. Other farmers shared testimonies of local struggles and expropriation of communities across Africa and worldwide. “Farmers are being criminalised. Many of us are thrown into jail, only because we are trying to save our land and our way of life,” added a farmer from Indonesia. “More than fifty compañeros and compañeras have died in the last year while defending their land. Today, our territories are completely militarised,” said a farmer from Honduras, talking about the struggle of local communities in Bajo Aguán.

Here in Mali, around 800,000 hectares of land have been leased or are under negotiation for lease. One farmer from Kolongo, in the Ségou region, where two investors have grabbed peoples’ land, Malibya and Tomota, explained his experience: “We have been living in our villages for hundreds of years, yet nobody came and told us about these projects. Then one day, this machine came and started to dig. They gave us a paper which we could not read. So we had to show it to somebody who could tell us what it said. The paper said that we had to leave our land and our farms. Then they started to build a canal. They dug up a cemetery, they robbed us of our harvest and ruined our land. We organised a forum in Kolongo one year ago and we are still struggling for our rights, but we are really suffering.”

A woman farmer from the Office du Niger, where many different foreign investors have been grabbing lands, stood up and said: “We are really glad to be here today. In our villages, we are in real difficulty. The projects took away our lands, so we cannot produce food anymore. Due to the struggle, some of us are in jail and I myself had a miscarriage after I was beaten. We even had to send our children away, as there is no food. Now, we have no happiness but we are fighting for our future and for the coming generations. We came to this conference as we hope to struggle together.”

Every day, farmer and pastoralist communities are being expelled from their land. At the same time everywhere, resistance and new solutions are being developed to stop this massive land grabbing. In Senegal, since the recent conflict in Fanaye, which led to several deaths, farmers organisations, social movements, NGOs and human rights groups have set up a monitoring and alert committe to warn all civil society actors, journalists and decision makers whenever new land grabbing cases arise on the ground.

Participants agreed that this struggle to stop land grabbing is also a struggle to stop the ongoing commodification of seeds, water and knowledge and to support small-scale family farmers. Paul Nicholson, one of the leaders of La Via Campesina said: “Some people say that land grabbing is modernizing agriculture, and that it is the only solution to alleviating hunger. This is not true, what we need is food sovereignty. We must fight for our agroecological model, and we need policies that support family farmers everywhere. It is urgent to implement an agrarian reform all over the world.”

Via Campesina

Saturday, 19 November 2011

La Via Campesina and Australian FS Alliance - Statement against TPPA

Statement:  Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement - Food Sovereignty Networks
La Via Campesina and the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance jointly make this statement at the conclusion of the APEC meeting in Hawaii regarding the further negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

This statement is to express our alarm about the implementation and pursuit of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) across the Asia-Pacific Region, in particular the TPPA. In the wake of the collapse of the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organisation, national governments are seeking to promote the free trade agenda through FTAs. There is a growing web of FTAs between countries and/or regions, across the world. Australia is currently party to 6 FTAs with ASEAN, New Zealand, Chile, United States, Singapore and Thailand, as well as in the process of negotiating a further 9 FTAs; the TPPA, PACER-Plus; China, Japan, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The region and the world are still experiencing food, energy, financial and environmental crises. Many of these crises have been exacerbated by the removal of policy space for Government to respond as a result of signing free trade agreements.

These agreements directly threaten national food sovereignty and security. Currently, Japan's farmers produce 40% of the country’s food needs, but, according to the Japanese minister of agriculture, this food self-sufficiency rate (calorie base) will drop to 13% if Japan signs the TPPA. The much greater import dependency of Japan will have a major impact on food sovereignty and security amongst other rice-producing nations. According to research conducted by Japan's Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, the vastly increased level of rice imports by Japan following the signing of the TPPA will swell the ranks of the hungry across Asia by a further 270 million people, bringing the total number to 1.2 billion. This is a recipe for social chaos and political instability.

It is widely acknowledged that Bilateral and Regional Free Trade Agreements do not adequately address barriers to agricultural trade, with carve outs a regular feature. The Australia-US FTA made no impact on the very large US Farm subsidies, and gained very little additional market access for Australian farmers. The market access that was obtained is phased in over more than a decade, if at all. Sugar, for example, remains excluded from the agreement, in order to protect US sugar producers. Meanwhile , US farmers gained significant market access to Australia with tariffs removed on 99% of agricultural trade immediately.

These outcomes reflect the reality that Australia’s ability to obtain greater agricultural market access through the negotiation of bilateral and regional FTAs has been greatly reduced, since Australia has unilaterally reduced and removed quotas and tariffs, to the clear disadvantage of Australian producers.

The Australia-US FTA has directly led to farmers leaving the land. In the pork industry, for example, 70% of farmers have left the land following the entry into force of this FTA on 1 January, 2005. It has also exposed Australian farmers to disease not previously present in Australia, such as BSE and Hog Wasting Disease.

Just as Australia does not face a level playing field when competing against the US and their corporations, developing countries face that same unlevel playing field when compared to Australia. For example what developing country can follow Australia’s lead and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into marketing, research and development for their farmers?

The neo-liberal free trade agenda in agriculture is premised on the ideological concepts of “comparative advantage” and “specialisation”. This agenda leads to consolidation of agriculture under large, predominately US based, corporations, and to monoculture farming. A salutary example is Mexico, which went from being food secure prior to signing the North America Free Trade Agreement in 1993, to being food insecure and exposed to rapidly rising world food prices by 1996. Subsequently Mexico experienced riots linked to sharp increases of the price of corn during the food price crisis in 2008.

The social, environmental and ecological costs of increasing international agricultural trade through free trade agreements have not been addressed in the neo-liberal framework of free trade. These costs are not simply the increased use of heavy fossil fuels for transportation and the associated increase in pollution, but also include the increased use of chemical inputs, the social and environmental risks associated with genetically modified material, and the reduction in biodiversity caused by mono-cropping. Social dislocation, rapidly increased urbanization, and the resulting loss of community, are just three of the many social impacts which are not factored into the neo-liberal agenda on free trade.

The TPPA, if signed, will further liberalise goods, industry, services and investment in the greater Pacific Rim. The TPPA is mainly an initiative by the United States, as well respected economist Joseph Stiglitz states, "The bottom line is that there is no US commitment to free trade. It is really a commitment to getting other countries to give access to American producers to their markets, and the US reciprocates when it is convenient."

The TPPA threatens peoples’ access to essential public services like healthcare, education, electricity and water. On the other side, access to food, jobs and productive natural resources for the people in the region will also be diminished because of exploitation by corporations. The US openly states that the TPPA is all about the US and ‘American jobs’.

Further liberalisation under the TPPA will violate the sovereignty of nations, communities and peoples. In particular, the provisions regarding the investor-state dispute settlement procedure severely curtails the right of national governments to regulate corporate activities in the interests of the general well-being of peoples on health, social and environmental grounds.

Previous FTAs have threatened peoples’ food sovereignty, especially as regards the right of local producers to receive a fair, locally determined price for their products; and in terms of these producers’ having secure access to their local markets. FTAs will continue to undermine our national sovereignty (especially of developing and poor nations), as these agreements are primarily intended to further entrench the existing dominant position of transnational corporations (TNCs).

At a time when the IMF and World Bank are calling for some (albeit inadequate) re-regulation of the international financial system, the US, through the mechanism of the TPPA, is pushing for further deregulation of finance. We need to re-regulate the international financial sector, and make it democratically accountable to peoples and national parliaments.

Workers’ rights are also in danger. FTAs and the TPPA will create flexible labor markets, and this will diminish existing levels of workers’ protections. Very low wages, temporary and casualised employment, outsourcing practices, and the lack of insurance and other protections are very real risks that many workers in our region will be exposed to, as a result of further trade liberalisation.

Meanwhile, there are many local, national and regional trade alternatives. We do not oppose trade, but we want trade that is based in justice and fair rules: trade that ensures no exploitation amongst peoples and nations. Such trade must respect human rights, uphold food sovereignty and ensures peoples’ access to essential public services.

To support food security and sovereignty we call for:
Genuine agrarian reform for food sovereignty
Implementation of the agro ecological revolution as the solution to climate change and peak oil
Restructuring of the entire food system to prioritise the needs of people and ecosystems
Full and equal participation of women in the new food system and in society as a whole
An end to transnational control of our genetic resources
Seed sovereignty, where locally developed seeds can adapt and mitigate climate change
An end to the use of genetically modified material and the patenting of life
The right to know - the what, where and why of our food.

La Via Campesina

Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Born in 1993, La Via Campesina now gathers about 150 organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

International Operational Secretariat:

Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV no 5 Jakarta Selatan 12790, Indonesia

Tel/fax: +62-21-7991890/+62-21-7993426


Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance

The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance advocates for a fair, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians. We seek to reorient the food system in Australia and internationally so that the vitally important role played by the hundreds of thousands of actors in the non-corporate, non-agro-export sectors of the food system are recognised, valued and supported. This includes small and medium-sized farmers, market gardeners, small food business people who specialise in supporting Australian agriculture, the growing number of community-based social enterprises supplying the type of food their members want at an affordable price, the families and individuals who vote with their dollars to support our nation’s farmers and regional food economies and that fast-growing number of Australians who support food grown, processed and distributed sustainably and justly.




Tel: 0061 0414 497 819

Friday, 18 November 2011

Indonesian Farmers say: ASEAN must uphold food sovereignty

The issues of food security and sovereignty have for many years been a rallying call of many grassroots organizations, peasant groups in particular.

It is their call to governments to adopt and implement agricultural and food policies that promote community-based sustainable production as opposed to industry-led, high-input and export oriented production.

In the 19th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, from November 17-19, 2011, ASEAN member countries are expected to come up with proposals or recommendations to enhance or protect their food sovereignty and security.

Indonesian Farmers Association (SPI) Chairman Henry Saragih said here on Monday that ASEAN countries should at their summit encourage each other to achieve food security and sovereignty.

"ASEAN must encourage all of its member countries to uphold their food sovereignty and security," Henry Saragih said. According to him, ASEAN had to develop a viable regional food security and food sovereignty program that encourages reliable sufficient food reserves to ensure food security and protect their peoples` health and wellbeing from the impact of a food crisis.

Henry said that every ASEAN country should have a mechanism to ensure food sovereignty and the availability of a variety of farm equipment to produce sufficient food for its own citizens. Besides, he added, countries in Southeast Asia should strengthen their economic or trade defenses against attacks by international market speculators.

According to Henry, ASEAN still lacked an effective mechanism to fight or neutralize speculators who often manipulate the food market and thereby trigger food price hikes in its markets.

"ASEAN is still not able to withstand international food speculators," said Henry, a recipient of an Institute for Global Justice award in 2006.

He said that as ASEAN chairman in 2011, Indonesia was expected to be able to build food sovereignty in Southeast Asia and encourage the creation of provisions for each ASEAN country to produce adequate food for all of its citizens.

Referring to the food sovereignty issue, a senior economist with the Institute for Economic and Financial Development, Bustanul Arifin, said the low level of national food sovereignty in Indonesia was not the fault of scientists but weaknesses in the implementation of policies to ensure the effective production of food in the field.

"If Indonesia is still considered as not sovereign in the food sector, is not the fault of the scientists who have contributed a lot to this country," Bustanul said.

He pointed out that Indonesia was still importing rice, wheat, and soybean because of increasing need of national food that could not be meet with the domestic production.

But again the Indonesian Farmers Association chairman said the country should end its dependence on food imported from other ASEAN countries if it wanted to fully achieve food security and sovereignty.

Food Sovereignty is the people`s and communities` fundamental right to determine their food and agricultural policies that affect their lives and livelihood.

It is the right to access and control their means of production to ensure that their food sovereignty is protected. It is the right to safe, culturally appropriate foods and sustainable food production.

"Indonesia has so far been dependent on rice imports from Thailand, but this dependence is proving dangerous because around 1 million hectares of agricultural lands in Thailand are now inundated," Henry Saragih said.

Therefore, he said, Indonesia should put an end to its reliance on the international market to meet its food needs. Henry warned that compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, many parts of Indonesia still lacked food insecurity because they still relied of food supplies from Java island.

According to Henry, Indonesia should abandon its tendency to let different parts of the country specialize in the production of certain food commodities such as designating Sumatra as a producer of palm oil, Gorontalo as a producer of corn, South Sulawesi as a producer of rice.

Source:  Antara News

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Can organic farming feed the world?

Alan Broughton has just returned from South Korea, where he attended the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Conference.  Approximately 800 people from 76 countries took part and 737 papers were presented. Here is an extract from his full report:

Several speakers took up the question - Can organic farming feed the world?

Sarojeni Rengan from Pesticide Action Network of Asia-Pacific told the conference that there was no other way because pesticides are so dangerous. An estimated 350,000 people per year are killed by pesticides, mostly in Third World countries, as a result of illiteracy, malnutrition, lack of information, lack of options, lack of training and lack of labels in local languages. Pesticides also produce chronic effects on people, causing cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, developmental and behavioural problems, immune system impacts, endocrine disruption and neurological impacts. Some chemicals cause more effect at lower dosages than higher dosages – this is especially the case of the endocrine disruptors, which mimic hormones in the body. More than 127 pesticides are endocrine disruptors. Chemical companies put great effort into preventing chemical control, and regulatory bodies rely mainly on the information that they supply. Only 6 corporations – Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, Dupont, BASF and Monsanto - control 75% of the world pesticide market. These are also seed companies and promote genetic modification. They determine government policy, said Sarojeni.

Vladimir Martichenkov from Russia outlined other problems of chemical agriculture and its emphasis on yields not quality. He said the IQ of children was falling because of poor food. Since chemical farming commenced in China there has been a 100 fold increase in cancer. Male infertility is 30% in the US, 10% in Norway, yet there has been no decline in Africa where chemical farming is just starting. Two billion hectares of land has been destroyed in the world by agriculture; 50 million hectares per year is lost. The cost of food continually rises while the return to farmers continually falls. He advocated Vertically Integrated Farming that combines production with processing and marketing, integrates cropping and livestock raising, and recycles all wastes.

Hans Rudolf Herren spoke about the IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Technology and Development, a United Nations agency) report called Agriculture at the Crossroads, which said that the world has to go organic to survive. The Green Revolution did not address hunger and poverty, rural livelihoods, nutrition, human health, social equity, sustainable development or the environment. It produced starch but not vitamins. The world produces more food that is needed – in Western countries 30% of food purchases are wasted by consumers and too much goes into meat production. Herren said that farmers must be respected for their work, animals have to be returned to farms out of factories and biodiversity increased. Research should be funded by governments, not private companies. The IAASTD report is available from

There was some discussion about the Bill Gates project Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Some people thought there were worthwhile aspects that could be supported, but Gertrude Kenyangi Kabusimbi of Uganda denounced it as another avenue for the penetration of agro-industrial corporations into Africa. Monsanto, Syngenta and YARA (a fertiliser company) are partners in AGRA. She said AGRA was motivated by profit, to sell fertilisers, pesticides and GM seeds, which will worsen food security for small holders as the Green Revolution in Asia did in the 1970s and 1980s. The answer was organic farming, not chemical farming, she said.

John Reganold from Washington State University talked about the large number of studies that have compared organic and non-organic agriculture. While organic farms in developed countries have lower yields on average in normal seasons than non-organic, yields are higher in droughts; in developing countries organic farms have significantly higher production. Other benefits are better nutrition, an absence of pesticide residues, higher incomes, higher carbon sequestration, less soil degradation, more biodiversity, less pollution and better energy efficiency. He concluded that organic farming can feed the world.

Moses Muwanga of Uganda believed that organic farming was the most appropriate farming system to solve the problems of small farmers in Africa. While much of African agriculture uses no chemicals, great improvements can be made by improved design and recycling. Uganda has 200,000 certified organic farmers, yet the organic movement in that country is only 10 years old.

Vic Tagupa has been involved in an organic conversion program in Mindanao Island in the Philippines, using non-hybrid rice and a system of polyculture. He reported that household income had increased by 25% and farmers had greater food security. The program started in 1993 and now covers 10,000 hectares. Similar stories were presented by other speakers in various parts of the world, all of which increased small farmers’ incomes and contributed to a better environment: organic cotton in Burkina Faso, coffee with bananas and pineapples in the Philippines, food crop agroforestry and organic potatoes in Peru, eco-agroforestry in Nicaragua, grains and soybeans and vegetables in the organic village of Ogawa in Japan.

Francis Blake from the UK Soil Association spoke on the topic of peak phosphorus, which will occur in about 2030, as a major incentive for the uptake of organic farming. Long before 2030 phosphorus as a fertiliser may be unaffordable; the price is very volatile, increasing by 400% in 2008, then dropping again to previous levels. China has the greatest reserves of rock phosphate, 35% of the world’s total, followed by the USA with 17% and Western Sahara (now a colony of Morocco) with 15%. Phosphate processing produces large amounts of fluoride which is disposed of in water supplies. The alternatives to mined phosphate are: preventing nutrient loss from farms, recycling waste, supporting mycorrhiza for phosphorus release, reducing lot-fed meat consumption and using sewage as fertiliser. He said modern sewage treatment technology has greatly reduced heavy metal contamination of sewage and organic standards should be changed to allow its use.

Gary Zimmer, who did a speaking tour of Australia straight after the conference, was also critical of organic standards, saying that certification has nothing to do with food quality and that you can get certified by doing nothing. In his opinion the standards should contain two questions: What are you doing to get your soils healthy and mineralised? and What are you doing to get your livestock healthy?

Political issues

Gunnar Rundgren, a former IFOAM leader, expressed the opinion that organic farming must exit from the competitive market economy, as the world environment cannot cope with continued economic growth. Organic farming should be part of the change to a regenerative economy; if not then organic farming is part of “green washing”, the pretence that environmental sustainability can be achieved in a growth economy. “Organic standards will not change the system and save the planet”, he said. Third World countries have difficulty feeding themselves because they cannot compete with industrialised agriculture which is based on cheap oil and trade policies that disadvantage them. We need to challenge the market economy, he said.

Andrea Ferrante of Italy was strongly in support of Gunnar’s opinions. He said organic farmers need to remain outside the commodity food distribution system and to make use of new distribution models for organic food. Options included direct selling, organised group selling in bio-districts, Community Supported Agriculture, cooperatives, and public procurement (for example for school canteens, hospitals, prisons). One million school meals a day in Italy are organic. Organic farmers should get away from supermarkets, he concluded.

Pat Mooney of Canada also attacked corporate control. He talked about the concept of the Green Economy which is now being promoted by some corporations, including chemical and oil companies, in answer to critics. He said people must take control of the Green Economy and not let it be directed by corporations; it must be governed by food sovereignty principles. He warned of the danger of Terminator gene technology being reactivated – there is currently an international moratorium on its use that Brazil is the leader in trying to overturn. The Terminator gene prevents seeds from germinating, so that farmers cannot save seeds. Once it is released into the environment it has the potential to spread to non-target plants, which would be devastating. Pat Mooney says we have successfully fought it in the past and will need to do so again.

Wen Tiejun of China spoke about the worldwide problem of industrialisation causing impoverishment of the countryside, as the capital required for industrial expansion is extracted from farmers, and labour is transferred to the cities. The faster the industrialisation, as is occurring in China now, the faster the rural impoverishment. At the same time chemical increase in agriculture has greatly increased. Now there is a move in China with some government support to develop programs to empower farmers to organise themselves and take control over their livelihoods, reducing poverty and reducing chemical use, ecologising agriculture.

Alan Broughton is a farmer and researcher who works at the Australian Landscape Trust's 2000 acre property, Strathfieldsaye in East Gippsland, Australia.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Impunity for Venezuela's big landowners

Venezuela's Land Law was enacted to reduce dependence on food imports, however, wealthy landowners believe they will lose profits if it is implemented - so they are threatening and killing those who attempt to implement the law [EPA]

For close to a decade, Venezuela has been the focus and the target of mainstream news coverage, as the scene of a heated political struggle over control of the country's destiny.

But the parade of pundits eager to criticise the country's elected president and simplify the country's political conflict as a rule ignore the deep socio-economic inequality that propelled President Chavez to power.

The Bolivarian revolution has made significant strides in improving the conditions for the country's popular classes and promoting an alternative regional bloc, while at the same time pioneering a unique form of participatory democracy.

Still, the Bolivarian revolution is struggling both from its own contradictions and against a long history of deeply entrenched social inequality, intensified by capitalist globalisation.

This is nowhere more clear than in the rural countryside of Venezuela, where vast tracts of land remain in the hands of a tiny grouping of extremely wealthy families.

Tierras Libres, a documentary released this year, tells a story that has been virtually blacked out by the international press - the murders of hundreds of Venezuelan peasants by hired gunmen and right wing paramilitaries. The peasants have been murdered for attempting to implement the Chavez government's land reform policy. The crimes strongly implicate wealthy landowners who vehemently oppose land reform.

In one scene from the documentary, we see a middle-aged woman, Doneila, whose husband, Hermes Escalona, was murdered in 2003 by gunmen as he was beginning to work some fallow land on a huge plantation.

Speaking directly to President Chavez on his weekly Alo Presidente television programme, she looks hopeful as Chavez promises to "heat up" efforts to bring her husband's killers to justice.

No justice for the poor

In fact, as the documentary shows, Chavez ordered his personal lawyer to come to her aid. However, the film next provides an update on Doneila's story years after her appearance with Chavez on national TV.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Agro-ecology and Food Sovereignty Day 5 December


5th December 2011, Durban, South Africa

We call on all farmers’ movements and organizations, rural workers, landless people and all the food sovereignty movement to join us for an international day of mass action on the 5th of December 2011, during the COP 17 civil society mobilization in Durban, South Africa.

Humanity is confronted with a food, economic and ecological crisis that is rooted in the neoliberal capitalist system of production, distribution and consumption. These multiple crises highlight the limits of neoliberal capitalist production. Today transnational corporations and governments are presenting false solutions to climate change, hijacking the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP17) also referred to as the Conference of Polluters, to be held in Durban South Africa.

These corporate elites, western governments and the neo liberal capitalist system that is responsible for generating the crisis are presenting us with false solutions. The countries of the South and Africa in particular will be hard hit by climate change. Scientists indicate that the African continent is expected to be drier and would become warmer more quickly than other regions of the planet, despite the fact that Africa has contributed the least to global warming. This will hugely impact on agriculture, which is an important livelihood source across Africa. There will be yield losses of the major staple foods of the continent like maize, sorghum, millet, cassava etc. due to temperature rises.

Industrial agriculture and production is responsible for global warming, hunger, land dispossession, massive displacements of farmers, rural workers and indigenous communities across the continent.

In South Africa the host country after 17 years of democracy, millions of farm workers and dwellers have been evicted from commercial farms, only 5% of agricultural land has been transferred to black people, millions in rural and urban areas suffer from food and nutritional insecurity. Today this country is the most unequal society in the world. Particularly women in South Africa have felt the impact of these unequal relations and exclusion more severely.

The solutions put forward by these corporations and governments are already leading towards a re-colonization of Africa and the countries of the global south with massive land grabs and the imposition of a new green revolution.

Instead of finding real solutions to climate and ecological crisis faced by humanity, the Durban COP17 meeting is a platform for corporations through their governments to accelerate the complete commodification of nature. These criminal schemes presented as solutions include amongst other things the promotion of Genetically Modified Seeds, Agro-fuels, carbon trading, climate smart agriculture, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

Why an Agro-ecology and Food Sovereignty Day?

As farmers, farm workers, landless women and men we should mobilize through direct action against these false solutions to expose its criminal intent and catastrophic consequences for the continent and the global south. At the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Right of Mother Earth (April 2010) held in Bolivia resulted in the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba real solutions to climate change were offered which was totally ignored by governments. Food Sovereignty and agro-ecology are the real solutions of farmers and workers to climate change.

We call on all farmers, workers and the landless and all social movements to join us in Durban and everywhere in the world on the 5th of December 2011 to demand a change of the entire capitalist system. The fight against climate change is a fight against neoliberal capitalism, landlessness, dispossession, hunger, poverty and inequality. The crisis of the planet requires that we take direct action. During the agro-ecology and food sovereignty day we will have public protest marches to the conference of the polluters, actions against multinational corporations like Monsanto undermining our seed sovereignty, which will cuminate in a massive Assembly of the Oppressed to discuss ways of ending this unjust system. This will be a day of continued actions where farmers and workers from the entire African continent with social movements from the whole world will demand: 
  • Genuine agrarian reform for food sovereignty 
  • Agro ecological revolution as the solution to climate change 
  • Restructuring of the entire food system 
  • Full and equal participation of women in the new food system and in the society as a whole 
  • Building of a food system based on human needs 
  • End to multinational control of our genetic resources 
  • Seed sovereignty where seed can adapt and mitigate climate change 
We call on all the movements of farmers and workers to mobilize and have local direct action in every locality in the world on the Agro-ecological and Food Sovereignty Day.

Reclaim Climate Justice! 
Our Planet is not for sale! 
No to the Conference of Polluters! 
Defend Mother Earth! 
Africa is not for sale! 
No to the re-colonization of Africa! 

This call is convened and supported by:

ROPPA (Network of Farmers and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa)

If you want to join us in Durban for December 5th, organize an activity in your community/locality/country and share it with us on that day, sign and support the call, or any other inquiry about that specific action, please write to:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Farmers protest against seed patents

While UPOV celebrates its 50 years, farmers protest against an institution in the service of the seed industry

Between noon and 2 p.m. on October 20, more than one hundred sustainable family farmers, members of various associations and committed citizens met across from the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), to protest on the occasion of the fiftieth birthday of the institution. Their watchword was “For the immediate recognition of the right of farmers to resow and freely exchange their seeds, and to protect them from biopiracy and contamination from patented genes. No to the stranglehold of seed multinationals, the New Plant Variety Certificate of 1991 and any form of patent on plants, parts of plants, their genes, or production methods.”

A tree was planted in front of the institution to symbolize the fact that farmers now have observer status there. They showed their determination through the symbolic performance of the “hoe kata”. Then packets of “illegal” seeds were distributed and their contents were sowed in the vicinity to illustrate the nature of the farmers’ struggle. Those who accept such seeds are currently considered receivers of stolen goods. Pierre Vanek and Philippe Sauvin (of the solidaritéS party) and Anne Mahrer (of the Vert party), candidates for the Swiss federal elections, are among those who accepted the packets.

“With regard to seeds, the situation has long been intolerable for sustainable family farmers, and may yet get worse. In fact the issue raised here affects everyone, as the question of access and of the free reproduction and exchange of seeds by farmers is the only way to prevent multinationals from appropriating and privatizing the entire food chain, and therefore life itself, through the bias of seeds and UPOV,” says Pierre-André Tombez, of the agricultural union Suisse Uniterre.

The right of farmers to resow and exchange their farm seeds is essential to the adaptation of crops to climate change, and to the local adaptation which alone enables a reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It guarantees the safety of the seed stock and therefore food security.

“Men and women farmers have always kept part of their harvest to resow and exchange among themselves. Whether UPOV wants it or not, they will carry on doing so. What is at stake is the future of agriculture, of sustainable family farming and of coming generations. The right to save, sow and exchange seeds is the foundation for Food Sovereignty,” adds Josie Riffaud, of ECVC’s coordinating committee.

Press release – European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) and Uniterre - Geneva 
Uniterre: Valentina Hemmeler +41796721407
ECVC: Guy Kastler +33603945721