All Nepal Peasants Federation (ANPFa) hosted the regional meeting of La Via Campesina South Asia in Kathmandu from 01 July to 04 July. The meeting was attended by the member organizations, observers and ally groups. Members from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India took part in the 3-day long meeting making a collective commitment to unify the struggles in the region to realize food sovereignty and to also strengthen the solidarity across the region. This important meeting also realized the need for gender equality and training of next-generation youth to carry forward the fight for food sovereignty.
In the context of Nepal, the movement for food sovereignty and agrarian reform is particularly relevant, Nepal is one of the handfuls of countries that have recognized food sovereignty as a people’s right in its constitution. A highly diverse country with rich cultural heritage, which is in its first decades of democracy, Nepal is a landlocked hilly country where the ravages of agribusiness have not penetrated very deeply. After fighting against the monarchy, Nepal’s people are in the process of constructing a democracy. However, many acute crises such as high levels of migration of young people, agricultural land fragmentation, political volatility, natural disasters, and a struggling economy are still big challenges to overcome for the people.
On, the opening day, all the attending members observed a minute of silence in the memory of farmers martyrs who gave up their lives fighting for farmers’ issues. The meeting was inaugurated by comrade Bamdev Gautam, the chair of All Nepal Peasants Association. He revisited the history of peasant struggles in Nepal and spoke about its achievements and challenges ahead for the peasants of Nepal. He remembered the role of La Via Campesina in the historical struggle for democracy in Nepal and emphasized the importance of internationalism among peasant organizations and activists. Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Shanta Manabi and Yudhvir Singh, the Ex-ICC members and Balaram Banskota, senior leader of ANPFa spoke about the historical struggle and birth of La Via Campesina. They gave a historical analysis of the South Asian region, remembering the days of the emergence of Via Campesina in the South Asian region.
On day one, the first half of the day was spent reflecting on the national and regional context, it was evident that the agrarian crisis has aggravated affecting millions of farmers and farm workers households in the subcontinent. All the speakers expressed concerns about rising fundamentalism, the rise of fascist governments in the region and made a collective commitment to denounce and carry forward the fight for a just and equitable society. The governments backed by neo-liberal and corporate regimes have become least interested in responding to the problems of peasants. It was noted that drought, market failure, farmer suicides, and land grabbing as the common problems faced by the peasants. The recent bomb attacks in Srilanka was condemned by all the members and reinstated their solidarity for the people of Srilanka.
The second half of the first day was spent reviewing the agitations and campaigns carried out by each of the individual members to advance the struggles for justice. The meeting discussed the issues ranging from the deepening crisis of agrarian distress and water shortage, that has led to severe problems for farmers and farmworkers in India, the struggle of tenant farmers against the brutal criminalization by the Military in Pakistan, the fight against the uprising communalism and fight to secure dignified wages for plantation workers under the Thousand Movement in Srilanka and to the fight in Bangladesh against the commercial release of Golden rice.
On the second day, Afsar Jafri, policy analyst and researcher with GRAIN, presided over his presentation where he discussed the Common struggles of farming in South Asia. He identified the common threats for peasant farming and gave an in-depth analysis of the repeated attempt by multinational corporations and governments to capture the land, seeds, natural resources, and local peasant markets through the creation and amendment of laws and through attempts to harmonize these laws across the South Asia region. These efforts of harmonization would allow big multinationals to enter the market. So far the peasant movements in the regions have been resisting these attempts but the global forces of capital are making big strides in the region. The big mergers in Agribusiness, FTAs, and RCEP that threatens to destruct the sovereignty of nations was also noted with much concern.
A considerable amount of time was also spent in reviewing the several international processes – such as the ongoing decade of family farming, the discussions going at the Civil Society Mechanism within the FAO, the resistances against introducing new GM technologies, climate-smart agriculture and more. The delegates following important collective processes such as Agroecology, seeds and biodiversity, Migration, Trade presented the proceedings and results of internal consultations and meetings. It was reiterated and agreed by all the members that the reports and actions from these International processes should be translated to work at the regional level and it must be disseminated to the grassroots. The members present met as four separate working groups to discuss strengthening the work of Internal Collectives. They came up with assessments and reflections of the work carried out on various themes under collectives, they also identified the relevant collective work that is important for the South Asia region. The members also proposed a new regional working collective on the alternative economy.
The women members of South Asia also held a side meeting where they discussed the updates from the International articulation and meetings. The women decided to assert their rightful representation and they decided to voice out for the gender parity starting from their member organizations and work towards ensuring gender balance at all the regional level meetings.
The youth members had a brief brainstorming session to discuss their issues. The decisions were taken to create equal representation at all levels of the movement and to ensure that younger people are trained politically to take forward the several inter-regional and inter-continental struggles forward, within and outside the movement.
On the third day, a training seminar was organized on the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). Professor Ravivarma Kumar, a senior advocate of Supreme court and Mr.Afsar Jafri presented on the UNDROP. They discussed the historical struggle of Via Campesina in achieving victory to realize this Declaration at the UN level.
Prof Ravivarma gave detailed legal insights into the Declaration. Member organizations realized the need to popularise this Declaration and use it in all the struggles. The member organizations also committed to translate the Declaration into local languages and to organize training on UNDROP.
On the last day, the participants went on a field visit to see the initiatives carried out by farmers of ANPFa. They visited agriculture cooperative setup by ANPFa and run by farmers of Chautara Sangachokgadhi village in Sindhupalchok. Also, they visited the collective organic vegetable farm run by the women’s group of ANPFa in Kathmandu.