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FOOD SOVEREIGNTY NETWORK SOUTH ASIA - Press Release

Written By NAFSO on Friday, October 21, 2011 | 1:08:00 PM

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY NETWORK SOUTH ASIA
C/O IMSE 195 Jodhpur Park, Kolkata 700068, India
Tel: 00913324732740/24836491, Fax: 00913324725571,
e-mail: foodsovsouthasia@gmail.com

Date: 20.10.2011

We the civil society members of six South Asian countries, representing Food Sovereignty Network South Asia and its national networks in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and also from Ekta Parishad India, International Food Security Network (IFSN) Bangladesh, Pakistan Fishers Forum, Pakistan, Oxfam Asia; participating at the 37th session of the Committee on Food Security (CFS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, held from 17-22nd October 2011, met at FAO, Rome for a South Asia Dialogue in order to review South Asian food security status, in the context of ongoing discussions in CFS 37 and to identify key areas of challenges, need to be addressed through collective interventions at different levels.
We revisited the fact that South Asia remains the hotspot of hunger and this sub region is the home of the largest number of hungry and malnourished people in the world. South Asian countries share various common concerns related to food security. Agriculture is the principal source of livelihood in these countries but this sector is facing serious constraints in general and small scale food producers are facing extreme challenges in particular. Parts of these concerns are linked with the age-old structural discriminations, which continue to exist in these countries and these call for appropriate policy interventions. The other emerging constraints are owing to increased liberalization of economy of these countries which has reduced their capacity to support the small scale food producers and has made them extremely dependent on market mechanism. Through our interaction we pointed out following concerns which require immediate attentions of the government and international actors:

 Despite all efforts absolute number of poor people is increasing in South Asia and majority of them are dependent on agriculture. Landlessness is on rise and concentration of land in the hands of few individuals, institutions or corporate is increasing. This illustrates that states have not invested adequately in agriculture and have not implemented redistributive land reform which would have addressed highly skewed patterns of distribution of land in the region. The state’s commitments to implement Voluntary Guidelines on Right to Food and ICARRD Principles are yet to be realized. The states have failed to promote sustainable model of production (small holder production) on the contrary corporate farming is highlighted as the solution for the food crisis, which is already proved to be a failure.
 Nation states have further encouraged large scale investment of MNCs and other investors on productive land. This has intensified land grabbing, commercialization of natural resources, alienation of natural resources from poor, loss of common properties and forced eviction of vulnerable groups and rural-urban migration. Such investments have further resulted into degradation of natural resources due to unsustainable production practices.
 Small food producers in South Asia are steadily losing their sovereign right as on the one hand due to high input costs they are forced to become contract farmers of agriculture business companies and on the other hand due to price volatility their purchasing power has been further compromised. It has been observed with concern that high price of food crops do not benefit real tillers or the consumers. The trading communities and corporate companies are making profit at the cost of the people’s resources and assets.
 Climate change is an emerging concern for South Asia as the whole region is highly vulnerable to climate change threats. The region has already experienced extreme climate conditions like frequent flooding draughts and irregular precipitation patterns, which have seriously damaged the rain fed agricultural production. It has been observed with concern that the state strategies to deal with negative impact of climate change are focused on ‘climate business’ rather than focusing on ensuring right to food of the climate victims. Irresponsible use of resources by multi stake holders has intensified environmental pollution and climate crisis. Corporate agriculture is increasing pollution of water and sea, thereby affecting livelihoods of millions of peasants and fishers. Similarly forest dwellers, pastoralists and indigenous communities are affected when their traditional domains are expropriated either in the name of development or in the name of climate mitigation (e.g. plantation of agro-fuel).
 Women, children, Dalits, other religious minorities and indigenous people remain the most vulnerable groups in South Asia. Tradition, religion and other socio-cultural norms are still creating barriers for women and undermining their rights. Estimates suggest that indigenous communities are the majority among IDPs in South Asia and less than 10% of them received any rehabilitation/compensation.
 Another serious threat in South Asia is increased militarization in various countries and their role in controlling natural resources, thereby limiting the rights of the communities to access those resources enormously. Criminalisation of people’s movements and violations of rights of human rights defenders are on rise.

In this larger context we the representatives of South Asian Civil Society Organisations are concerned that the Voluntary Guidelines (VG) on tenure rights could not be adopted during CFS 37 due to incomplete negotiation process (particularly on investment related issues). We strongly feel VG would be an additional useful tool for small food producers to claim their right to land and livelihood. We think that the time has come for the state to take appropriate policy actions and ensure their proper implementations in line with national and international human rights principles, so that food security of the communities could be ensured and we could move forward towards achieving food sovereignty. Thus we urge our nation states and international actors to pay attention to the followings :
• Stop conversion of agricultural land for non food production and stop all forms of land grabbing immediately. Ensure redistributive reform of natural resources (land, forest, water) and support small food producers by implementing genuine and comprehensive reform measures led by the state so that the small food producers could enjoy their legitimate right to life, livelihood and the right to live with dignity.
• Ensure communities participation in governance and development planning, be it industry, agriculture or climate mitigation/adaptation strategies. There should be a bottom up mechanism in place and the state should fulfill its obligations under various national/international human rights to the fullest extent. Accountability of the state actors should be ensured through appropriate monitoring mechanisms, which would involve active participation of rights users and civil society. Transparency should be maintained at all levels of policy formation and implementation.
• Food aid should not control internal democratic political dynamics and sovereignty of South Asian countries and communities. Countries which are suffering from protracted crises in South Asia should be given appropriate support, with a priority to ensure Right to food of the people of those countries.
• Ensure elimination of all forms of discriminations against women and other vulnerable groups through appropriate policy measures and by their effective implementations.
• Acknowledge the contribution of small food producers in global food security and accept the fact that the food security of future generations could only be secured by promotion of small food producers and agro ecological model of production instead of eco degrading, profit oriented corporate agriculture.

We further urge the nation states and global actors to adopt VG on tenure rights and to reject all such investment plans in agriculture, which will weaken small food producers’ capacity to feed themselves. We urge SAARC to create a consultative space for civil society and social movements so that peoples’ aspirations could be adequately captured in regional policies. We are disillusioned with market based solutions and urge the nation states to implement genuine resource reforms in order to empower local communities. We urge for food sovereignty of South Asian countries.



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Circulated by: Dr. Ujjaini Halim from Rome, Italy on behalf of the participants (Local contact: 00393297832783, ujjainihalim@hotamil.com)
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