Peasant groups launch Asia-wide actions against global land grabbing
Published: 25 Jul 2009
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Sri Lanka launch (Photo: APC)

MEDIA RELEASE

July 25, 2009

Reference:

Danilo Ramos, APC Secretary-General

Email: apc_secretariat@yahoo.com; roda_g04@yahoo.com

Mobile number: +639-109103983

Sarath Fernando, MONLAR Co-Secretary

Phone: 0112-744160

Email: siddamal@setnet.lk ; monlar@setnet.lk

Peasant groups launch Asia-wide actions against global land grabbing

At the height of global financial crisis, state terrorism and widespread land grabbing of huge tracts of agricultural land in poor Asian countries, the 15 million strong Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) kicked-off a “Five--month Asia-wide Peasants’ Caravan for Land and Livelihood” that started on July 20 in Sri Lanka and will end in November 2009 in India.

According to the group, “the Asia-wide actions against global land grabbing will commence in 10 countries in Asia such Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and India with the theme “Stop Global Land Grabbing! Struggle for Genuine Agrarian Reform and Peoples’ Food Sovereignty.”

“Approximately 365 million people in Asia derive their livelihoods from land. Unfortunately, landlessness in Asia is intensifying at an alarming rate over the last ten years, owing to the greater degree of integration of Asian countries with the global market, and increasing demands for land by big corporate interests. Landlessness among Asian peasants is very high,  49.6% in Bangladesh, 22% in India, 10% in Nepal and almost 75% in Pakistan and the Philippines— and the trend of landlessness is growing,” according to Danilo Ramos, APC secretary general.

Ramos, who attended the regional launch in Sri Lanka said, “One of the objectives of the Asia-wide caravan is to send the Asian peasants’ strong message against global land grabbing and popularize peasant victories and success stories in its struggle for genuine land reform that will inspire other peasants worldwide. The regional launch in Kurunegala District in Sri Lanka on July 20 was co-organized by Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), National Farmers Assembly and Vikalpani (National Women’s Federation) and participated by at least 100 peasants.”

“This action led by APC is at the right time since the trend in global land grabbing is in its highest stage. We decided to launch this in Sri Lanka as a people’s campaign in response to the very serious crisis the people are facing due to very high costs of food which increases its price over 100 percent,” stated Sarath Fernando, co-secretary of MONLAR.

“The problem of land grabbing by foreign investors and governments, extends well elsewhere in Asia and Africa ever since high food prices in 2007 and 2008 raised the prospect of food insecurity for countries without much farmland, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have scoured Asia for land which in turn will result to more landlessness among the Asian peasants,” added Fernando.

“Landlessness is contributing to poverty and hunger and most Asians lived on less than $1 a day.  Majority of the farmers do not own the lands they till and are bound by feudal and semi-feudal relations of exploitation as tenants, farm workers, or lease-holders. Unfortunately the agrarian reform agenda has taken a back seat. In the name of the so-called ‘development and industrialization’ this has emerged as the single largest threat to the livelihoods of peasants in Asia,” added Ramos.

(Photo: APC)

Ramos stressed that’ “In the Philippines, a series of high-profile deals has clashed with long-running demands for agrarian reform, including land redistribution. Recently, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) successfully held a 52-day camped out in front of the House of Representatives and the Department of Agrarian Reform seeking for genuine land reform and for the passage of House Bill 3059 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

Unfortunately, the Philippine President has kept at peddling public lands for foreign leases. Last March, President Macapagal-Arroyo said China was interested in leasing 1.2 million hectares of land. This land area alone equals the alienable and disposable public land that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had declared, back in 1993, to have been surveyed and ready for redistribution under land reform. Last December, during her visit to Qatar, the President announced the government would explore the idea of leasing at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land to the emirate. This is on top of the 94,000 hectares of farmland in Mindoro being leased by Jeonnam Feedstock Ltd., a company owned by South Korea, for 25 years to grow 10,000 tons of corn a year for feed production. “

In a joint statement, the Philippine event today is organized by the biggest and militant rural groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), PAMALAKAYA (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines), AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women) and UMA (National Union of Agricultural Workers) to be held in a peasant community in Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Delo Monte in Bulacan. More than 300 peasants will join the event which coincides with the 24th founding anniversary of KMP.  In the afternoon, the group will join the “Southern Tagalog Rural Peoples’ Caravan against Charter Change and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo” led by BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance)-Southern Tagalog in Mendiola.

The Asia-wide caravan is co-sponsored by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) Commission 6 and is organized by APC members and its network in 10 countries in Asia. ##