Saturday, June 21, 2008

Farmers rights

I was in south Lebanon today with my aunt and her French husband, who comes from a small village called Le Conquet in Bretagne. A few members of his family are still farmers, but he told me that the 7 remaining farms of the village were being bought off one by one by large agribusinesses for the purpose of establishing industrial food production facilities. True they are not being formally "evicted", but when governments make life difficult for farmers (and these are not small scale), then there is only one alternative left.

Below a Via Campesina press release


The hidden face of the global food crisis: Massive farmers rights violations

(Jakarta, 21 June 2008) About 1000 small farmers of the International
movement Via Campesina, men and women from 25 different countries and 12
Indonesian provinces gathered today in Jakarta to claim the right to farm
their land, the right to eat and to feed their families and communities.
They opened a five-day International Conference on Peasant Rights aiming
at attracting world attention to the fate of small producers. Peasants
represent almost half of the world population and are the backbone of the
food system. However, their rights are systematically violated.

Small farmers are expelled from their land to make room for large
plantations, infrastructures and industrial, residential or commercial
projects. For example in Indonesia, on the 29th of Januray 2008, 35
security guards of the National Plantation PTPN IV Adolina backed by 70
police officers from Deli Serdan district destroyed 30 hectares of land
planted with corn and casava belonging to small farmers. Seven farmers
were arrested trying to defend their crops (they are now released). The
company has cleared the land in order to grow palm oil. The UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Housing calculates that an average of 71,6% of
rural households in Africa, Latin America and Western and Eastern Asia
(excluding China) are landless or near landess(1). In addition, women
farmers suffer from double marginalisation: as farmers and as women. As
farmers they do most of the agricultural work but as women their access to
land, ressources, incomes and decision-making is restricted.

Trade policies are forcing further liberalisation of food markets. As a
consequence, imported goods are flooding domestic markets. In Mexico, free
trade policies have led to massive low cost corn imports from the US.
Local farmers, unable to compete, have lost their livelihood. The recent
rise in corn prices on the world market has drastically increased the
number of hungry people in Mexico. Meanwhile, small farms are disappearing
all over the world. In Turkey, one farming family leaves the land every 50
seconds. Two years ago farmers unable to repay their bank loans started to
commit suicide, this situation has dramatically increased since.

Farmers organisations struggling to defend their rights - access to land,
water and seeds, specially those demanding a greater participation in
agricultural policies are subject to criminalisation and very violent
repression. In Brazil, it is estimated that 4,340 families have been
expelled from their land by private companies in 2007, 28 people were
assassinated and 259 people received death threats in land conflicts(2).
In november 2007, Valmir Mota d'Oliveira (Keno), a peasant leader from Via
Campesina Brazil was assassinated during a land occupation by the security
guards employed by the transnational company Syngenta(3).

In Indonesia during 2007, over 196,179 hectares of agricultural land were
expropriated, more than 166 peasants were arrested and exposed to
violence, 12 people were injured and 8 people killed in agrarian conflicts

The peasants and their allies meeting at the International Conference in
Jakarta will present the situation in their countries and join forces to
have their rights recognised and implemented.

Via Campesina is asking the UN to set up an international legal framework
recognising Peasant Rights. Via Campesina requires that each governement
and the international institutions take their responsibilities and
implement small producers’ rights, by supporting sustainable family
farming, agrarian reform and promoting local food markets.

The current food and environment crisis are the outcome of extensive
farming, food chain control by transnational companies and food market
liberalisation. This is destroying the environment, replacing family farms
by large agricultural estates. Food is now in the hands of investors and
speculators. Such policies have left millions of farmers without a proper
income and the world population in a global food crisis.

Now governments have to solve the crisis they created when thinking that
free trade would suffice to organise markets and feed the world. The time
has come to redirect agricultural policies towards small scale food
production, sustainable agriculture and local markets.
Food is not only an issue for farmers, it is a concern for all human beings.

(1) E/CN.4/2003/5/Add.1
(2) Conflictos no Campo Brasil, CPT, 2007
(3) More information on
(4) Serikat Petani Indonesia - Report on Peasant's Rights Violations – 2007

Speakers at the Press conference

 Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina and
General Secretary of SPI (Indonesian Peasant's Union) – From Indonesia
 Paul Nicholson, Member of the international coordinating
Committee of La Via Campesina – From the Basque Country
 Juana Mercedes, General Coordiator of CONAMUCA (National
confederation of rural women) – From the Dominican Republic

More information on and

Cecep Risandar (+ 62 – 0 - 8129452478)
Isabelle Delforge (+ 62 – 0 – 81513224565)

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