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Statement for World Food Day 2016
Unga Revolution

Instead of heeding the just calls for food, land, and food sovereignty being raised by the farmers and peoples of the world, the powers that be are responding with intensified repression.

15 October 2016

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty unites with the farmers, agricultural workers, small-scale food producers, indigenous peoples and the peoples of the world in commemorating World Food Day this year. To call attention to the utter lack of food and hunger being experienced by the majority of the world’s population, we have called it World Hunger Day. This year, we carry the theme “Fight Food Injustice and Repression!” as a contribution to commemorating World Hunger Day and to highlight growing food injustice and intensifying repression against food justice activists worldwide.

Growing food injustice

On the one hand, global hunger continues to worsen. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ “State of Food Insecurity in the World” report for 2015 reports that there were 795 million people, or one in every nine, who suffered chronic hunger in the said year. Despite claims of progress based on comparisons with previous decades, the report cannot hide the fact that global hunger continues to be widespread.

The report itself states that progress in hunger reduction was uneven, with economic development in India and China causing a significant change in the numbers. It also points to the lack of structural changes and therefore sustainable development in the world’s economies when it cites “social protection” as having contributed significantly to hunger reduction and specifying this further with “cash transfers and social assistance programmes.” It also admits to having a “narrow” definition of hunger, “covering only chronically inadequate dietary energy intake lasting for over one year.”

On the other hand, monopoly-capitalists in the world’s agriculture and food systems are undertaking mergers and buyouts in order to strengthen their monopoly position. The mergers of Bayer and Monsanto, Dow and DuPont, and of ChemChina and Syngenta, will surely mean higher prices of commercial seeds and pesticides and more intensified efforts to make farmers and all small-scale food producers ever more dependent on the poison that they sell. It is aimed at increasing monopoly-capitalist control over the world’s agriculture and food systems and further attacking the exercise of food sovereignty by communities and countries.

In this light, we reiterate our support for the International Monsanto Tribunal currently being held at The Hague in The Netherlands. We view it as a culmination of continuous grassroots protests and opposition to Monsanto and monopoly-capitalist control over agriculture and food systems and we certainly hope that it will catalyze stronger protests and opposition. A tribunal against Monsanto, the face of monopoly-capitalism in agriculture and food systems, is a good start to intensify protests and opposition to all monopoly capitalists who are enemies of food sovereignty.

Underlying the worsening hunger in the world and the mergers of monopoly capitalists is the protracted economic depression being faced by the world economy. Unemployment, landlessness and poverty continue to rise while there is a trend among monopoly-capitalists in general to engage in mergers and buyouts. The bailouts undertaken by big capitalist governments in the aftermath of the eruption of the crisis have worsened deficits, caused the implementation of austerity measures, and have led to the intractable crisis of public debt. Now, even the economies that relatively fared well at the start of the crisis are facing tougher times.

Intensifying repression

Instead of heeding the just calls for food, land, and food sovereignty being raised by the farmers and peoples of the world, the powers that be are responding with intensified repression. In 2015, the Pesticides Action Network – Asia-Pacific claimed that almost six farmers, indigenous people and/or land activists were being killed every month in relation to land struggles and conflicts, and many cases remain unreported. The year 2016 is also witness to intensifying repression of farmers, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers, and other small-scale food producers, especially those who are struggling for food justice and sovereignty.

In Ethiopia, hundreds, some claiming 700, indigenous peoples were killed in a protest for land and human rights on October 2, 2016 when the police used guns, rubber bullets, teargas and batons and caused a stampede in what has been called “Irreecha Massacre.” More than 500 people have been killed in protests since November 2015 while indigenous peoples’ leaders and food justice activists Pastor Omot Agwa, Ashinie Astin, and Jamal Oumar Hojele remain in prison on the basis of fake terrorism charges filed by the Ethiopian government to silence its critics. The Ethiopian government is being backed by the US and Western powers as shown by their huge aid to the country.

In the Philippines police opened-fire on protesting farmers demanding rice in the aftermath of El Niño in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato on April 1, 2016, killing three farmers and wounding many. Just recently, 4 farmers were killed in Nueva Ecija province, one in Isabela, and another one in Palawan – all on September 2016 and because of land disputes. A farmer was killed in Compostela Valley on October 11, 2016, bringing the number of farmers and indigenous peoples who have been killed since July to 17.

In Colombia, even after the peace pact between the government and the FARC was announced, 13 social activists have been killed, including indigenous activists, environmental activists, farmer activists, and community leaders.

In Palestine, under Israel’s colonization, occupation and closure, vast farmlands continue to be confiscated for colony construction in the West Bank and for the establishment of “security” zones in the Gaza Strip. Access to water, for drinking and irrigation, is denied Palestinians.

In Honduras last March 3, indigenous rights and food sovereignty activist Berta Caceres was murdered, after receiving many death threats in the course of campaigning against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. The dam project would cut off the ethnic Lenca people from water, food and medicine. Repression of activists in Honduras has worsened since the 2009 US-backed coup against Pres. Manuel Zelaya.

In Brazil, after a US-backed coup installed Michel Temer as the country’s president, a wave of repression has been unleashed against intensifying protests in which many agricultural workers and the landless participate.

In India, the militarization of communities opposing the ongoing construction of the Mapithel Dam in Manipur and plans to construct other dams is intensifying and causing human rights violations. Cops are allowed to arrest without warrants and to shoot based on mere suspicion. 

In Cameroon, Nasako Besingi, a prominent environmental activist and human rights defender, is facing trumped-up charges and judicial harassment for fighting agribusiness company Herakles Farms’ plan to set up an oil palm plantation. 

Strengthen our struggles!

We condemn the growing food injustice in the world today. We point to the need to change the structural causes of widespread hunger and intensifying monopoly control over the world’s agriculture and food systems. We condemn the intensifying repression being heaped on the farmers, agricultural workers, small-scale food producers, and indigenous peoples of the world. We remember and pay tribute to the martyrs of the cause of food justice and food sovereignty. We vow to continue the struggle for justice for their deaths and to give them the best tribute – that of continuing the struggle until victory is achieved.

We are calling on all farmers, agricultural workers, small-scale food producers, indigenous peoples and all peoples of the world fighting for food justice and sovereignty: Let us strengthen our struggles! Let us advance our struggles and expand our organizations. Let us educate and consolidate our organizations. Let us intensify efforts to mobilize our ranks and the thousands and millions whose interests we are struggling for. Let us strive to unite the broadest ranks in advancing our struggles and maximizing these for our long-term strength.

Our struggle for food sovereignty is relevant now more than ever! Let us strengthen our struggles! Fight food injustice and repression! Struggle for food sovereignty!