People's Caravan 2000 -
One year after massive protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its brand of globalisation-the People's Caravan 2000 ended three weeks of activities in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, with simultaneous events in Japan, Korea and Indonesia.
The People's Caravan, while highlighting these issues, was also about hope. It was about celebrating local initiatives towards more sustainable healthy agriculture that is in the hands of the people, that is for the people, that can really feed our people and free them from dependence on hazardous pesticides and other dangerous agricultural inputs and technologies.
Over 10 000 people-local farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk, students, scientists, environmentalists, teachers, the media, government officials, policy makers, and anti-pesticide and anti-genetic engineering advocates-participated in lively discussion at public meetings, press conferences and educational 'teach-in's at bus stops, in rice fields, in villages and towns. Food festivals, seed exchanges, songs and street theatre celebrated our local initiatives towards more sustainable, healthy agriculture.
(source: Summary of Events, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), January 2001)
The people challenge globalisation
The People's Caravan brought the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) together with partner groups in facilitating grassroots action across Asia-giving thousands of people a voice to express their resistance to globalisation and its devastating effects.
The caravan was organised by PAN AP; Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) and Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF), India; UBINIG (Policy Research Centre for Development Alternatives) and Nayakrishi Andolon (New Agriculture Movement), Bangladesh; and Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas (KMP - Peasant Movement of the Philippines); in collaboration with SHISUK, Bangladesh; CIKS and PREPARE, India; Gita Pertiwi, Indonesia; NESSFE Japan; CACPK, Korea; and Food First, USA.
By coming together, through intercultural exchange, the People's Caravan was about understanding and awareness (Who are those driving and benefiting by promoting the industrial agricultural system? What are their strategies?), resistance and movement building (How can we resist them and take actions to strengthen this resistance in our own lives and within our own communities?) solidarity (How do we translate these actions into creating solidarity with people in other communities, regions and countries and unite towards a common vision that will strengthen our local struggles).
It was also about hope, about celebrating our local/ traditional food diversity and knowledge and most importantly, it was about reclaiming the right to land, decent livelihoods and safe food for all!
For KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano the caravan brought farmers together from many different countries in the region, to discuss and compare the effects and challenges of globalisation on their lives.
Individuals shared their experiences on the transition of traditional farming practices to export oriented crop production and what this has meant for them, for their families and their communities-increasing landlessness; hazardous pesticide use; and the potential onslaught of unsafe, unproven experimental genetic engineering technologies.
"Farmers view these developments with great concern because this threatens food safety, security, health, and livelihoods," said PAN AP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam.
Rengam said the input on the impacts of globalisation on small farmers in the North from Anuradha Mittal, Co-director of Food First USA, on tour with the caravan in Indian and Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, on tour with the caravan in Bangladesh, provided important lessons for Southern farmers.
Mittal said small farmers in the US were also suffering terribly from the process of globalisation. She stressed that small family farms are increasingly disappearing due to rising production costs, collapsing farm commodity prices and buyouts by large corporations. Although US farmers receive subsidy support this has not helped the small farmer. As an indication of the severity of the situation she said the US census no longer includes a category for farmers.
In Solo, Indonesia, the seminar-"Strengthening Farmers and Systems of Sustainable Agriculture in the Free Market Era in Indonesia"-informed participants of the agricultural policy of the Indonesian government within the context of globalisation and trade liberalisation.
The issue of globalisation also took centre stage in Korea-demonstrations were held in 171 towns and cities and the leaders of 21 national farmer organisations went on a hunger strike in protest of the unjust, unfair and distorted trading system pushed by the WTO in concert with governments, corporations and multilateral organisations.
The reality of the Landless
Speaking in Bangladesh on land conversion and the erosion of food sovereignty in India TNWF and SRED pesticide activist Santi Gangadharan said, "As we travel this country we are very happy to find the fields so full of paddy. In our country most of the farmers have been forced to grow cash crops instead of food crops due to the process of globalisation and liberalisation and because the government wants more export earnings. Now there is no paddy. The fields have been converted into flower gardens for export. Due to globalisation many people in the villages have been forced to leave. They have left their traditional homes, entered urban areas and many of them are without even food."
For the poor farmers of Asia landlessness is on the rise. Local landlords and foreign transnational corporations (TNCs) increasingly grab lands to promote export crop production.
So severe is the crisis in the Philippines that the number one mandate for KMP is the struggle for genuine agrarian reform that provides land to landless small farmers and peasants with sufficient support for sustainable rural livelihoods, economies and futures independent of TNCs.
Mariano is critical of the Filipino government's commitment to the WTO in promoting the World Bank's imposition of market-assisted land reform, or private sector land reform. This involves joint venture schemes that allow landlords and foreign capitalists to appropriate land.
"In effect, the schemes reduce the farmers to being farm-workers receiving measly wages not even on a regular basis to augment their daily need for food and sustenance," Mariano said.
"While countries like India are told to adopt the technological fix of 'Green Revolution' or genetic engineering to increase food production to feed the hungry, the world's largest surplus producer, the U.S., has 36 million Americans who do not have enough to eat. The reason for hunger is not shortage of production but shortage of purchasing power.
While Dan Glickman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under president Clinton, boasted about U.S. farmers growing food for the world, he failed to mention that the U.S. census no longer recognizes the category of farming as a profession. The numbers of small family farms have dwindled. The result is there are less than 1.5 million farmers left in the U.S. While the U.S. farm population has been reduced below five per cent of its 1920 aggregate, the government agency charged with the protection of our farmers, the USDA has tripled in size. Since 1995, California has been losing farms at the rate of 10 per cent per year.
Small family farmers, according to the USDA, are no longer an 'endangered species', they are extinct. Corporate America has taken over our food system and created a situation where farmers are starved and forced to commit suicide and make it look like accidents so their families can get life insurance money to survive on.
This globalisation of industrial agriculture has wreaked havoc on our rural communities whether its farmers in India-who are forced to consume pesticides to end their indebtedness or sell their body parts to survive-or it's a poor farmer in the U.S. We have to challenge this economic globalisation with globalisation from below-with true peoples' power based on cross border organising and internationalism."
TNWF and SRED
UBINIG and the Nayakrishi