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Government prepares to legitimize Dole Lanka’s illegitimate endeavors company allowed to retain forest land illegally encroached?

By Sajeewa Chamikara - La Via Campesina, January 19, 2018

Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (Monlar)

The current United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) administration seems to be continuing the support given to Dole Lanka Private Limited, which has illegally cleared protected forests, which acted as catchment areas and destroyed farm lands owned by small holders, given by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. The Department of Forest Conservation has obtained court orders to remove farm lands operated by Dole Lanka Private Limited, scattered in various lands owned by the department in the Sri Lankan dry zone. However the government has halted the implementation of these court orders and is attempting to hand over the land to the controversial company.

The first step of this legitimization of Dole was the cabinet paper (CP 16/1934/752/023) regularizing the land used for banana cultivation by Dole Lanka Private Limited in Kuda Oya and Demodara in Moneragala district’ on September 15, 2016 by Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade. President Maithripala Sirisena, as the minister of Mahaweli and Environment as well as the ministers of Lands and Finance has also noted their observations to the cabinet paper. The note to the cabinet by President Maithripala Sirisena clearly states that Dole Lanka Private Limited has not obtained the permission of the Department of Forest Conservation to establish these banana plantations. The note also states that the Dole Lanka Private Limited has admitted before court that it is using the lands in Kuda Oya and Demodara without permission or approval. However the cabinet memorandum has recommended to seek the advice of the Attorney General to come into an agreement with Dole Lanka Private Limited, so that the company can continue to use the lands. Thus the Attorney General is studying how Dole Lanka Private Limited can keep on using these lands.

However according to the laws of the land, it is not possible to transfer the ownership of land that belong to the Department of Forest Conservation to Dole Lanka Private Limited, or any other private entity. The Commissioner of Lands can release lands for any investment, only if approval is granted by relevant agencies after conducting the necessary feasibility studies. The government can release the land, on long term lease, to a private entity, according to the Section 199 (G) of the land Ordinance, only after that requirement has been completed. For this the approval of the Minister of lands is needed and the land can be released after recommendations by the President.

Although this is the standard procedure when it comes to releasing land for an investment, a number of factors prevent Dole Lanka Private Limited from accessing state owned land. Chief among them is the fact that Dole Lanka Private Limited has encroached the land that belongs to the Department of Forest Conservation and has used these lands for several years illegally and the fact that they have used the land without any feasibility studies prior to the commencement of the project. Moreover the Forest Conservation Department has taken legal action against Dole Lanka Private Limited, for illegally maintaining farm lands in Kuda Oya and Demodara at the Wellawaya Magistrates’ Court (case numbers MC 215 and 216.) Given this context the attempts by the Cabinet to handover these illegally encroached lands to Dole Lanka Private Limited is a bad example.

The agricultural policy must serve the people

By Geneviève Savigny - La Via Campesina, March 30, 2017

Where have the consistency between the objectives and tools that prevailed in 1957 gone, when we signed the Treaty of Rome A radical shift in policy is necessary in the European Union.

Agriculture, a source of food and of numerous useful products for human life, concerns the whole of society. There was surely a sort of consensus between the agricultural world, policy makers and society on the role played by farmers and the objectives of an agricultural policy, when the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, laid the foundations for the first Common Agricultural Policy. It was first necessary to guarantee food security for people, and thereby produce more, modernize farms but also equip the houses of peasant families where several generations often lived together with the comfort already found in cities. The initial objectives and tools were consistent; increase agricultural productivity, ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, stabilise markets, guarantee security of supply, and ensure reasonable prices for consumers. Cheap food would enable keeping low wages and foster Europe’s industrial development. 

Final Statement of the Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty”

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 20, 2017

The Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty” gathered on December 11-13, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the XI Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in this city.

The networks and trade unions, human rights, territorial, students, women, political, peasants, social and anti-extractives organizations amongst others from all over the world constituting the Peoples’ Summit reaffirm our rejection of free trade policies of the WTO. The WTO reflects the interests of a more concentrated transnational capital aiming to eliminate barriers to the free movement of goods, services and capital. It is an organization that only takes into account the needs of capital, helping the reproduction of capitalist relations of exploitation and looting. These policies affect rights conquered historically through the struggles of the peoples of the world.

Transnational corporations act under the umbrella of an Architecture of Impunity which includes the system of Debt, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the protection of investments and multilateral organizations such as the WTO, which produce a form of globalization based on their desire for and pursuit of profit. In this context, public Debt has become one the main tools of capitalist expansion of concentration, inequality and oppression. It subordinates the models of production and consumption to the need to pay ever-increasing interests. We commit ourselves to work towards unveiling the repercussions that debt entails in the multiple forms of resistance, denouncing its illegitimate character, demonstrating who really owes what to whom and building a horizon of transformation and hope, while standing as People Creditors of debts that are not only economic, but also social, historical, ecological, democratic and gender, amongst others. We need to continue building from the struggles of the peoples to advance in this process, which includes actions such as comprehensive and citizen audits of Debt, ethical courts and popular consultations, amongst other strategies.

Faced with corporate power impersonating the dispossession of territories by transnational corporations, we commit ourselves to globalize the struggles and to continue strengthening ties and articulations. We must continue fighting to achieve an international treaty that ensures the respect of human rights by transnational corporations. We must dispute legislative and judicial spaces, denouncing how laws are violated, twisted, misinterpreted and adapted in the interest of transnational corporations. We must maintain the autonomy of social movements in relation to governments, emphasising our solidarity with persecuted and repressed Peoples, communities and organizations all over the world.

The liberalization of trade and financial flows unevenly impacts the daily lives of women and deepens inequalities and poverty by expanding unemployment, informality and compulsively financializing our lives, thus deepening all forms of patriarchal violence. Women, lesbians, trans, transvestites, bisexuals, gays, non-binaries, Afro-Argentines, afro-descendants, migrants, displaced, refugees, indigenous, blacks, peasants, self-managed workers gathered in the forum and the great Feminist Assembly against free trade affirm our anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle.

European Union will be sending European farmers to the slaughter house: ECVC on EU-Mercosur FTA negotiations

By Antonio Onorati and Lynne Davis - La Via Campesina, November 29, 2017

Brussels, November 28, 2017 – The next round of negotiations on the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur* will take place from 4 to 10 December. These countries include major beef exporters such as Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, which represent the top 3 beef exporting countries to Europe.

The current rush of the EU and Mercosur, which have been negotiating this agreement for the last 17 years, is no coincidence: on the one hand, the EU is taking advantage of trade opportunities created by US protectionist policies and, on the other hand, Mercosur’s largest economies are now being led by zealous followers of the free market. As Macri in Argentina progresses with its social cuts and privatizations, the neoliberal and illegitimate government of Temer in Brazil, the result of a putsch, holds the temporary presidency of Mercosur and seeks international support in the forthcoming Brazilian elections.

Opposition rises to planned agricultural mega-mergers

By Friends of the Earth Europe, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions, European Coordination of Via Campesina - La Via Campesina, April 3, 2017

More than 200 organisations have called on the European Commission and Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to block the planned mergers of six giant agriculture corporations. 

The farmer, farmworker, beekeeper, religious, international development, and environmental groups claim that the three resulting companies will concentrate market power and “exacerbate the problems caused by industrial farming – with negative consequences for the public, farmers and farm workers, consumers, the environment, and food security” in an open letter

The European and national organisations – together representing millions of members – state that the proposed mergers of Dow Chemical with DuPont, Monsanto with Bayer AG, and Syngenta with ChemChina will lead to an unacceptable monopoly, with three companies controlling around 70% of the world’s agro-chemicals and more than 60% of commercial seeds

Ramona Duminicioiu, peasant seed producer of the farmer organization European Coordination Via Campesina said: “Approving these mergers works completely against the rights of peasants, with far reaching effects in our society. When the Commission says that small family farms are the back bone of European agriculture does it honestly believe that or is it just lip service? The already fragile rights of peasants regarding seeds, land and markets risks being obliterated by these mega-corporations and our Food Sovereignty abducted. The Commission should say no to these mergers!” 

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Europe’s food and farming system is broken and if giant firms, like Monsanto and Bayer, are allowed to merge they will have an even tighter toxic grip on our food. The mergers are a marriage made in hell and should be blocked by regulators. We need to build a fairer and greener food system out of corporate control.” 

Arnd Spahn from the European trade unions of agricultural workers EFFAT said: “Workers, as well as the environment and all society, are victims of the use of pesticides. We are fighting for health and safety on work places and we need partners for our ideas. Today the producers of pesticides are big, but after such a merger they will be too big for anybody to bring them on a path to worker and environmental protection. How shall we stop Glyphosate if we have such strong opponents?” 

Isabelle Brachet of CONCORD Europe said: “Ending hunger implies addressing power imbalances in our food systems. A small number of multinational corporations dominate internationally traded food systems and get most of the knowledge, benefits and access to decision makers. Corporate power in our food must be restrained – not further extended by mega-mergers. The main investors in agriculture in developing countries are farmers themselves and it is they who must be at the centre of agriculture development policies.”[3] 

The organisations have called on the European Commission to reject the mergers, prevent the damage caused by these corporations, and urgently take steps to support just and sustainable food systems less dependent on agri-business. 

Unite against the FFA for the future of agriculture!

By various - La Via Campesina, April 3, 2017

A call from civil society 

The 10th edition of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) was held in Brussels on the 28th of March. Its organisers, Syngenta (a multinational chemicals and agrifood firm) and ELO (an organisation that lobbies for large European landowners) presented their brand of agriculture, which they claim will meet food and environmental challenges. A coalition of farmers’ organisations (members of La Via Campesina), civil society organisations and citizens have denounced these false agribusiness solutions and are issuing this appeal to send a firm message to the organisers and attendees of this forum: this agriculture has no future! 

False solutions to the wrong problems 

With its winning tagline, “where agriculture and environment meet”, the forum brings together a prestigious panel of speakers (EU, OECD, UN, etc.) alongside nature conservation NGOs and intellectuals. But this façade of open debate conceals a costly exercise in political lobbying. At a time when the reform of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the regulation of certain pesticides are under discussion, agribusiness players need to act now to protect their interests. So they present themselves as champions in the fight against global hunger and as leaders in environmental conservation ; yet the solutions that they advocate are false solutions. Their answer to current and future food challenges is an unchanging litany : increase the productivity of farmland through technology and further reduce barriers to free trade. 

By asking the question, “how to feed 9 billion people by 2050”, the FFA organisers are perpetuating the myth that we do not produce enough today to feed the human race. But according to the FAO we already produce enough food for 12 billion people ! The causes of hunger and malnutrition are rather to be found in extreme poverty (especially in rural areas, where about 70% of hungry people live), food waste (30% of global production is wasted, according to the FAO) and the conversion of agricultural land to biofuel production and livestock rearing (feed and pasture). 

Lobbies and multinationals sell what they call “smart agriculture”, which uses robotics, chemicals, biotechnology and specialisation. Yet it does nothing to feed those who are starving ; instead it makes producers even more dependent on agribusiness multinationals. As well as their negative impact on health and the environment, these technologies are driving small farmers into debt and putting them out of business. 

And there’s more. The way that we class food as a simple commodity for trading on the free market is one of the main causes of rural impoverishment and loss of biodiversity. Both in the North and the South, competition between farmers favours large farms at the expense of small farmers, who bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of this model : falling incomes, unemployment, the disappearance of farms, massive debt, speculation on agricultural land and foodstuffs, etc. Over the last 30 years, Belgium has lost 63% of its farms – 43 every week. It is mostly small farms that are affected. 

Greenwashing dealers in death 

The agriculture of machines, chemicals and international shipping cannot continue to exist without fossil fuels. Yet Syngenta claims to champion environmental causes. At FFA 2016, cuddly bees were distributed amongst attendees to promote initiatives that were far from transparent. The company probably wanted to deflect their attention away from its aggressive lobbying to overturn the ban on neonicotinoids – singled out by the scientific community for their disastrous consequences for natural pollinators such as bees and bumblebees.

On its website, the company claims that opposing the use of GMOs, chemical fertilisers and pesticides means using more water and land. This is proof of its bad faith as it pretends to ignore solutions that have already been proven to be effective. 

Solutions do exist : agroecology and food sovereignty 

The agriculture that agribusiness offers us is nothing new. It merely follows the same path that has brought about the destruction of our soils, the deterioration of biodiversity, the pollution of our waters and the disappearance of our farms. Truly smart agriculture, the agriculture of the future, should be modelled on natural ecosystems. A publication of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food states that agroecology could double food production in 10 years, mitigating climate change, protecting water resources and creating new jobs in the rural sector. 

Rather than surrendering agricultural production to the free market and the dictates of agribusiness, it is the people themselves who should determine agricultural and food systems. Only this way will they be able to have a healthy diet, tailored to their needs, locally produced and sustainable. That is why we believe it is essential to commit to food sovereignty.
We do not want arms dealers calling the shots in times of peace ; nor do we want dealers in poison to decide what we eat. They are only interested in making money. Their brand of agriculture is sounding the death knell for small farmers, consumers, and the environment. It represents the past. 

We want to send a clear message to European and international policymakers. They must curtail the influence of agribusiness and private interests and commit to the agroecological transition. 

We call on as many organisations and movements as possible to sign this appeal   

Unite for our future ! 

The impacts of the actions of TNCs on peasant communities

By Federico Pacheco - La Via Campesina, October 25, 2016

At the ongoing negotiations in Geneva, of the Open Ended Inter Governmental Working Group (OEIWG) at United Nations, Federico Pacheco of the Union of Land Workers of Andalusia intervened to denounce the actions of transnationals pushing a model of industrial agriculture that pollutes the environment, monopolizes and privatizes the commons, and exploits workers and producers. Here is the full text of the speech. 

La Vía Campesina expresses support to the setup of a Binding Treaty. La Via Campesina, as an international organization of peasants and rural workers, has defended for more than two decades the survival of agriculture and rural livestock worldwide and small-scale fisheries, indigenous communities and sustainability in the use of natural and energy resources.

We have been suffering since the middle of last century of a progressive disappearance of small farms in favor of an agro-industrial system based on large-scale production and distribution, pollution of nature, energy waste and global warming, as well as labor exploitation of workers. The dismantling and destruction of the rural world brings about unemployment, poverty, hunger, and displacement and forced migration around the globe.

The role of Transnational Corporations has been and is decisive in this process. Since the green revolution, in which chemical fertilizers and pesticides began to poison the land, water and people, along with the production of enormous benefits for large international companies, and more than two hundred million hectares grabbed in the last years by pension funds and multinational corporations. We saw as well an unstoppable process of concentration, in which very few corporations control the global markets for seeds, pesticides and agrochemicals among others, as well as price setting. 

The Free Trade Agreements have come to further facilitate their actions to limit and cancel any public policy that harms their interests. The imposition of the opening of borders, tax havens and arbitration tribunals, creates a legal and political framework that guarantees their impunity and makes it impossible to seek reparations against environmental and social disasters that occur.

Even in this difficult situation we find that most of the world's population live in rural areas and peasant agriculture through local distribution, provides most of the food to the populations, creating jobs and protecting biodiversity. 

As La Via Campesina and many other organizations, we have been committed to the primacy of human rights of peoples and individuals, over the interests and profits of big business. In that sense, we are promoting  the framework of the United Nations the Declaration of Peasant Rights, to ensure defend and promote the rights to food sovereignty, access to natural and productive resources, local markets, income and services worthy to farmers and rural workers in general.

However, neither this Declaration nor the major international regulatory achievements related to human rights will have any effectiveness if the activities of the transnational companies are not regulated in a binding way and sovereignty and self-determination to the states and peoples is not regained, as well as the respect for the principles of multilateralism and supremacy of human rights. 

Peasants around the world are suffering under these companies that contaminate our seeds, dispossess us of land, deprive and poison our populations and criminalise and murder our leaders who oppose them. Yet, these transnational companies are operating with impunity.

And this is because these corporations, with more power than many states, effectively use all mechanisms to prevent enforcement of laws, including court judgments at national and international level. 

We have also seen how voluntary, social and environmental commitments made by these big companies are nothing more than a marketing ploy and an attempt at whitewashing their violations, sometimes even to avoid losses.

We urgently need an instrument, specific for transnational corporations, binding and enforceable, which allow states and the United Nations to control them, regulate them and make them respect human rights.  

As Via Campesina, we encourage states to retake the spirit of the United Nations Charter and defend the interests and rights of their populations, including those of the rural world, beyond the pressures and interests of large corporations.

Largest-ever European food sovereignty gathering kicks off in Romania

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 25, 2016

Cluj-Napoca, October 25th – the largest-ever European meeting on food sovereignty starts today, as over 500 people from over 40 countries gather to discuss how to reclaim our ever-more corporate-controlled food and farming system. [1]

The second European Nyéléni Forum for Food Sovereignty runs from October 26-30, and brings together farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, gardeners, food and agricultural workers, researchers, activists and many more.

For Jyoti Fernandes, peasant farmer from the UK and coordination committee member for the European Coordination Via Campesina, « the convergence here in Cluj of so many sectors and constituencies of society is essential in transforming and strengthening our food systems in Europe, based on agroecology. From the farm to the plate, the economic, environmental, social and public health stakes of food production must mobilize all levels of society – local, national and international. Here, in Nyéléni Europe, this is happening.»

 Stanka Becheva, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The food fight is on against agribusiness mega-mergers, which would rubber-stamp industrial farming. The diversity and size of the movement assembled here this week shows the strength of the food sovereignty movement, and how it is ready to push for better farming for people and planet.”

The forum features a “peasants’ market”, film screenings, and site visits to local peasants demonstrating sustainable local farming methods and environmental justice struggles including the highly controversial proposed gold mine at Roșia Montană.

Themes discussed at the forum include models of food production and consumption, food distribution, the right to natural resources and the commons, and how to improve work and social conditions in food and agricultural systems.

Spokespeople from a variety of professions and backgrounds are available for interview in person or on the phone in English, Romanian, French, German, Turkish, Spanish, Dutch etc.

List of spokespeople: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KIbHCiXgkwY5eKUYkX5sVweaFDsM3IxxZ_21abhxOBI/edit?usp=sharing

Via Campesina, Bali Declaration: World Bank and IMF represent the interests of agribusiness, they should GO!

By La Via Campesina - La Via Campesina, October 11, 2018

We, the peasant women and men of La Via Campesina – a global movement comprising 182 peasant organisations from 81 countries – who have assembled in Bali this week and representing peasant and indigenous peoples of Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas, are unanimously and emphatically denouncing the ongoing Annual Meeting of World Bank and IMF.

“WTO Kills Peasants! 21 Years is Enough!! WTO Out of Agriculture!!!” La Via Campesina to step up its resistance during the XI Ministerial Conference

By Francés: Claude Girod, et. al. - La Via Campesina, December 10, 2017

A large delegation of La Via Campesina comprising peasants, rural workers, indigenous peoples, women and youth from around the world will converge outside the venue of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from the 10th to13th December.

During the week of the conference, La Via Campesina (LVC) will mobilise, organise and join social movements and allies to expose the devastative effects that WTO has had on peasant agriculture and to reiterate our long-standing demand of 21 years, to oust the multilateral trade body from any discussions and decisions regarding agriculture.

La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement with more than 180 member organisations from 79 countries, has consistently demanded to take agriculture out of the WTO’s scope. Instead it has demanded a systemic change that brings about food sovereignty to the worlds peoples. Once again the rallying call from the global peasants’ movement is “For Food Sovereignty, WTO Out of Agriculture!”.

Since its beginnings in 1995 as derivative of General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATTs), the World Trade Organization has promoted the most brutal form of capitalism, better known as trade liberalization. At successive Ministerial Conferences, the WTO has set out to globalise the liberalisation of national markets, promising economic prosperity at the cost of sovereignty. In more or less the same terms, by its “liberalization, deregulation and privatization”, which is called Package of Neoliberalism, WTO has encouraged the multiplication of free trade agreements (FTAs) between countries and regional blocs, etc. In this context, with help from governments that have been co-opted, the world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs) continue to expand globally and are blatantly undermining democracy and all of the institutional instruments that are meant to defend the lives, the territories, and the food and agricultural ecosystems of the world’s peoples.

Through AoA (Agreement on Agriculture) regulated in the WTO, peasant communities become the most disadvantaged because they have minimal capital resources and little or no protection from national governments as WTO prohibits any protection that stand in the way of market liberalisation. Its role was replaced and eroded by corporations with large capital resources, slowly forming a monopoly scheme. As a result, peasants have to deal with dangerous implications such as land grabbing, criminalization, environmental pollution and the importation of agricultural products.

In the previous Ministerial Conference (MC) in Nairobi in 2015, WTO had made six decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to LDCs. The agricultural decisions cover commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, public stock-holding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

In the 11th Ministerial Conference the WTO wants to return to the subject of agriculture in relation to public stock-holding, to put an end to small-scale fishing, and to make progress with multilateral agreements such as the misnamed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Notwithstanding the misleading protectionist statements coming from the developed countries, the WTO will meet again to try to impose the interests of capital at the cost of Planet Earth, of the democratic aspirations of the world’s peoples, and of life itself.

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