#17April2020: BAFLF demands basic income guarantee for Farm workers and relief packages for small scale farmers

Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation and National Women Farmers and Workers Association have issued a joint statement, calling upon their national government to guarantee immediate income guarantee for millions of agricultural workers and casual workers engaged in informal work. The movements have also sought special economic relief measures that include complete cash payment for small scale and marginal farmers impacted by COVID-19.

The movements have put forth a 12 point demand, which they feel needs to be accepted and implemented immediately to ease out the difficulties faced by peasant families.

Scroll down to read the press statement.

BAFLF & NWFA demand basic income guarantee for agriculture workers and unconditional cash incentive for small scale farmers affected by COVID-19 outbreak.

Press Release: 17 April 2020, Dhaka

Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation General Secretary Abdul Mazid and National Women Farmers and Workers Association General Secretary Rima Akther in a joint statement, call upon Govt. to guarantee basic wage incentives payment to agricultural workers including workers engaged in informal work and the special bailout that include unconditional cash payment and relief for small scale and marginal farmers impacted by COVID-19.

The statement mentions the global pandemic coronavirus first hit on working people. The impact of this crisis on the people in agricultural communities is significant. Country-wide lockdowns, public transportation closure, and emergency movement control measures threaten the incomes and livelihoods of agriculture workers and farmers including informal sectors workers, their health and safety and those of their family members. Workers working on all sizes of farms, plantations and unorganized sectors are at risk of being deprived of the necessary public health and social protection. Women workers, in particular, are at high risk. As many as 20 million low-income working people’s income source has now completely stopped and they have become unemployed and their condition has come to a miserable stage due to the ongoing shutdown as most of them usually live their life by earning on a daily basis.

Along with the workers, small and medium farmers are facing huge financial losses after the shutdown had started on March 2020 with a view of flattering the curve of Coronavirus. Farmers are unable to reach the market due to collapsed distribution network. They could not supply perishable produce like vegetables, eggs and milk to market despite of having demand for such fresh products. So farmers are facing extreme financial hardships losing their capital. Many farmers will be unable to produce in the days ahead.

The global food crisis is likely to be affected by coronavirus. In this case, it is important to continue producing local food for the sake of country’s food security. Therefore, appropriate measures should also be taken to encourage and support local food production without putting the health and safety of agricultural workforce at risk. We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of bailout package of providing capital support to farmers to continue food production. However, considering the emergency sector, this incentive must be unconditional. It is urgently necessary and reasonable to provide this incentive without interest for agriculture sector and to extend its coverage. At the same time, in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 a comprehensive effective initiative must be taken to ensure country’s food sovereignty and people’s right to food, as well as ensuring food and housing security and avoiding unnecessary exposure of health and safety risk of agricultural workers and people in agriculture communities.

Since agricultural workers are essential for food security, BAFLF & NWFA call on government to implement the following measures to protect agricultural workers, farmers and their families.

  1. Ensure that three-month emergency wage assistance is provided to all workers including workers engaged in non-formal farming, financially impacted by COVID-19, for the reason such as loss of work, lose of the market, illness, or unpaid self-isolation.
  1. In recognition of the essential services that agricultural workers provide, wage for agricultural workers must immediately be increased along with risk allowance.
  1. Employer must provide transportation to and from the farm and ensure physical distancing to the transport. Vehicles must be regularly disinfected and adequate safety measures will be provided to the transport workers.
  1. In the upcoming paddy harvesting season, the government must arrange transportation for workers to and from farms and ensure physical distancing to the govt. provided transport and the vehicles must be disinfected regularly.
  1. Workers working on farms/fields must always have access to adequate drinking water, sanitation facilities, all necessary protective clothing and disinfectant.
  1. Include agriculture workers in social security and health insurance schemes like workers in other sectors.
  1. The rights of women workers must be ensured: special attention must be paid to their income and social protection, maternity protection, postnatal care, appropriate protective equipment and protection from sexual harassment.
  1. Small scale and medium farmers, people engaged in poultry and dairy farms should be included in the emergency cash incentive package.
  1. In collaboration with union/farmers’ organization and other local stakeholders prepare a list of sharecroppers, landless and marginal farmers working informal agriculture affected by COVID-19 outbreak and must take immediate measures to provide them compensation. To support local food production they are also included in the cash incentive package and provide unconditional cash support.
  1. With the help of union/farmers’ organization and other local stakeholders under the supervision of the District Commissioner, a list of the victims in the rural areas must be prepared and emergency relief should be provided to the effected people.
  1. Since small scale and marginal farmers are unable to sell the produce, they are facing financial loses and do not have available cash capital appropriate measures to be taken to give them immediate cash assistance for harvesting with zero interest.
  1. Immediately implement measure to waive agricultural loan payment to affected farmers.

Read the press statement in Bengali here