February 2, 2017

Respected Chair 

Friends and Comrades,

This is my prime pleasure to be among you at this laudable convergence of respected peasants leaders of the South Asian countries. I, on behalf of LDC Watch, would like to express our firm solidarity to your genuine fight against corporate globalisation which has caused serious damage to the future of agriculture in the region.

Right to food is one of the fundamental human rights of every human being. That is why food security and food sovereignty is must to ensure availability, accessibility and proper utilization of food everywhere. Food security exists when all people including children, persons with disability and women have access to adequate, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and healthy life.

However, the crises of the peasantry and agriculture in South Asia today are of a very different in nature than before.  The fragmentation of land, lack of access to markets, absence of effective agrarian reforms, extra-economic oppression, social and economic servitude, stranglehold of landlords and moneylenders, repressive and oppressive social circumstances and the absence of accountable political representation are some of the major factors which have caused deepening agricultural crisis in South Asia. Increasing environmental degradation, low agricultural productivity, high post-harvest losses, energy poverty and limited non-agricultural opportunities have caused further crisis in agriculture sector of this region. Usurpation of land by private parties or government agencies for infrastructural, industrial, ‘Special Economic Zone’ or even residential purposes creates a ‘new crop’ of landless peasants. Similarly, with the deepening integration of agriculture, energy and financial markets in a resource-constrained world; the vulnerability has increased more so with the fast changes in global climate. 

As in South Asia, Agriculture plays a central role in most of the LDCs economies, lives, and livelihoods. It also plays a crucial role in almost all LDCs, both in promoting food security and as the major economic activity for a bigger population which has direct linkages to the eradication of poverty and hunger. Neoliberal policies have forced these countries to eliminate subsidies for their agricultural sector and remove protection of the local market, leaving small holder farmers vulnerable. 

About twenty five years ago most LDCs dismantled marketing boards, extension services and credit support and opened up agricultural markets to subsidized exports from developed countries. But this ruined agricultural sectors and most LDCs turned into net food importers from net food exporters within a decade. This has caused a serious threat in food sovereignty, income level of small farmers and rural-urban gap in the LDCs. Crisis in agriculture whether it is in South Asia or in LDCs of other regions is alike. It is problematic that the global seed, agrochemical and biotechnology market is dominated by few companies controlling over a majority of global agro-chemical and a big chunk of biotechnology supply. LDCs import over 90% of the agrochemicals used in agriculture. 

In order to promote and protect the broader interest of small farmers and people in general, we call for food sovereignty and right to food security. We also stand up against the corporatisation of the agriculture throughout the world. We also oppose the paradigm of globalized industrial agriculture and advocates for the right of a country to determine its production and consumption of food and the exemption of agriculture from global trade regimes such as the WTO. This rights-based approach offers the opportunity to the vulnerable group of the population – the hungry and malnourished, the landless, marginalised, smallholders, fisher folk and urban poor – to protect them from falling further into the poverty and food insecurity trap. 

Peasant’s movement is regarded as the world’s largest social movement. Peasants are not only the persons engaged in agriculture, cattle-raising and agro-based cottage industry, they are the “people of the land” in a real sense. Therefore, unless we can liberate peasantry from the yoke of global and local exploitation and oppression, the dream for creating a just world is a distant dream. Therefore, this is high time to review and assess the movement, organisation and politics of peasants to end the deepening crisis in agriculture sector. 

Organisation of this type of regional convergence to share and discuss the national issues will add more strength to the regional campaigns and movements for progressive agrarian reform and pro-people social transformation. We support all your genuine demands for 

progressive and comprehensive agrarian reform as the foundation of agricultural development including to halt land grabbing by elite interests and for multinational corporations’ needs, to support to small farmers for fair prices of their produce, interest free credit, subsidies, insurance against natural disasters, guaranteed market and self-reliant agricultural and ecological farming and to adopt the policy of food sovereignty. LDC Watch also urges all the governments of South Asian countries to adopt and implement policies, laws and measures to monitor, audit and control large agri-business corporations and protect the interest of peasants in their respective countries.

I am fully confident that the ongoing South Asian Peasants Convergence being held in Kathmandu, Nepal will contribute to leap forward for strengthening the South Asian Peasants’ movement by empowering its members and stakeholders.

Last but not least, LDC Watch once again would like to extend its firm solidarity to the South Asian Peasants Convergence and express our best wishes for its grand success.

Together we fight, together we win!

Thank you!