Let’s embark upon a system of agriculture that safeguards smallholding food producers
October 16, 2020, Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform
Today is the 2020 World Food Day. World Food Day does not seem anything to be celebrated at a time when we are wholly dependent on the market for food. Every country is experiencing deteriorating conditions related to its agriculture. Amidst this worsening situation, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the World Food Programme for its contribution to curb hunger. However, data from across the world suggest that hunger has become more complex and widespread. World Food Programme is winning awards at a time when existing mechanisms have failed.
Governments and International Organisations refuse to accept that widespread hunger and poverty is an outcome of the dominant economic development model. Therefore, solutions are presented only to preserve the system as it is.
Industrial agriculture launched in the 1960s has disregarded small-scale food producers who are producing 70% of food productions in the world. With COVID-19, pressure against the small producers is intensified and consolidated agri-business companies. Governments trust agri-business and have placed them in charge of overall food production.
Sri Lanka is facing a dangerous situation. Our whole economy is dependent on imported inputs. Besides, food production and distribution are still lagging behind. Import restrictions on raw material and food items have not accompanied a discussion on alternative agricultural policy. Government admits that export-oriented commercial agriculture is the solution. They are advancing policies to expropriate the rights of smallholder food producers and fishers.
Policies that contradict the National Policy Framework Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour are being implemented, and the MCC Agreement is likely to be signed and executed soon. Free Trade Agreements with India, China and other regional powers will be effected, and supermarket networks will be strengthened. Forests and residual forest laws and the land laws are being amended to commercialize land and to cultivate commercial and export-oriented crops. Fertilizer subsidy will be used to promote narrow political motives. When the government accepts and adopts technology like drones to inform cultivation practices that do not correspond to the country’s needs, farmers are rendered wage laborers in their farmlands. A few businessmen claim the right to an enormous amount of wealth. Permanent reliance on loans and policy guidance provided by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Asia Development Bank will deny farmers of their livelihoods and natural resources. Agreements and Conventions of the World Trade Organization to satisfy the needs of the Multi-National Companies proposed to its member countries will have to be accepted.
This is our reality today. To tackle it, we need an agricultural revolution. The first step to that is accepting that the existing strategy has been unsuccessful. Accepting policy bankruptcy will open new directions. We would like to underscore several initiatives towards an alternative program.
- Introduce an accelerated plan to drive all farmlands towards crop heterogeneity.
- Produce all agri-inputs locally.
- Strengthen the capacities of co-operatives to price, distribute, and sell agri-products.
- Empower farmers in decision making, regulating, and managing agriculture-related activities
- Encourage farmers to undertake value addition and upgrade their products.
- Ensure that MCC, Free Trade Agreements, and legal reforms will not dispossess the smallholder producers of their livelihoods and rights.
- Establish a multi-party body to find solutions to the current brought about by commercial agriculture instead of small farmlands.
- Immediate implementation of Zero Budget Farming to accelerate ecological agriculture and address fresh milk needs.
- Establish and implement a national agriculture policy to carry out the wide-ranging transformation.
Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform strongly underlines the pioneering role that a farmers’ movement should play to generate such a comprehensive revolution. MONLAR invites all parties for proactive mass action.