Five farmer movements fighting corporate power
This weekend marks April 17. A day to celebrate small scale farmer movements across the world. These movements are all fighting for a model of farming that puts power in their hands, and resisting the fervent expansion of corporations who are increasingly snatching control over larger and larger swathes of land, seeds and soil.
In the wake of an unregulated expansion in agribusiness plantations (by the likes of Del Monte and Dole), thousands of farmers who are under added strain from the climatic effects of El Nino are protesting by blocking roads in Kidapawan in the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. A three-day stand-off was broken a couple of weeks ago when forces of the Philippine National Police fired at the farmers leaving 3 dead, hundreds injured and almost a hundred in detention. Their immediate demands are for increased food aid and subsidy from the government to support them in their time of need. But they also want comprehensive land reform and end to land grabs, and the breakdown of landlordism and usury that have burdened Filipino farmers for centuries.
Photo: Pinoy Weekly
Argentina Argentina hosts one of the most prominent battles in the struggle against the corporate takeover of seeds. The giant seed company Monsanto, has been planning to build the world’s biggest GM maize seed treatment plant in the country’s bread basket region of Cordoba. But for three years protesters have held an occupation blocking the main entrance to the construction site. In January this year thousands of people took to the streets in Buenos Aries when this occupation received an eviction notice. The country has seen multiple struggles against Monsanto products as people are also fighting the hundreds of millions of litres of glyphosate sprayed across the countryside by large scale GM soya plantations.
Photo: Paola Castillo, via Tierra Negra
Honduras The murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres is the most recent atrocity in the struggle against corporate interests in Honduras. Indigenous peoples across the county, led by the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, a coalition founded by Berta, has been fighting the expansion of illegal logging, large-scale plantations and the increased military presence on indigenous land. More recently they have been involved in a year-long protest against a proposed hydroelectric dam on Gualcarque River. If built this dam would continue to displace the persecuted Lenca people compromising their access to water, food and medicine. One month before Berta was shot over 100 protesters were detained by security while demonstrating against the dam.
Nigeria Farmers in South East Nigeria have been engaged in a battle with one of the world’s largest Palm Oil companies, Wilmar International. PZ Wilmar has acquired 30,000 hectares of land for palm oil production in a New Alliance project in Nigeria. According to local people, thousands of livelihoods have been affected and thousands more fear eviction from their land. Villagers have been protesting because of the failed promises of Wilmar. The local Chief, Steven Omari says the company promised “Community assistance program, accessible roads, build primary and secondary schools, health center, potable water, electricity and employment”. But instead, they have lost their land and had their environment ruined around them.
Photo: Friends of the Earth Nigeria
India With hundreds of millions of people forced to make a living on land that they don’t own, landlessness is one of India’s biggest political problems. Over the last few years, millions of landless peoples have demonstrated for land reform in the Ekta Parishad movement. In the latest battle, more than 5000 landless people representing thousands of community organisations from all over India gathered on the 14th March to demand the government implement land reform. In 2012 the government had promised to implement the National Homestead Land Rights Bill as millions of demonstrators’ amassed outside Delhi. But it failed to present it to parliament before the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party took control. If passed it would distribute available land to eligible homeless and landless poor, particularly the Dalits and tribal peoples. In the build up to 2020, the Ekta Parishad movement plans a series of global mobilisations in alliance with landless movements in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Senegal, Germany, England, Spain as well as in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Photo: Paul Schwartzentruber
A global movement for food sovereignty
All these movements are linked up by the international food sovereignty movement. In the UK the Land Workers Alliance will be joining them in a solidarity protest in London. You can join them too by raising awareness of this day and the struggle for a food system that is for people and the environment rather than corporate profit.