February 4, 2017, at 12:00 am

Kathmandu Declaration of the South Asia Peasants’ Convergence

February 2 and 3, 2017, Kathmandu, Nepal

We, the representatives of South Asian peasant organisations, agricultural labourer unions, plantation workers unions, young farmers, women, landless and Dalits, Adivasis, small and marginal farmers, pastoralist and herders and other small food producers gathered here in Kathmandu, call upon all progressive organisations and social movements to transform and fight for building a just society based on equitable distribution of resources and ensure access to and control of producers in productive resources along with land, finance and technology.

South Asia is home to around a billion peasants and agricultural workers. We gather here to celebrate their struggles and join hand in hand to fight united against all the challenges we face especially due to increasing right wing capitalist and large corporations’ attacks and erosion of our formerly acquired rights. We gather here strengthened by the spirit of our friends and leaders and all those whose courage and commitment to our democratic struggles inspire us. We would take this opportunity to extend cooperation and solidarity between people to people, in fact peasants to peasants across the South Asian region for resisting all attempts to turn this region into a battlefield or a looting ground by vested interest groups. We condemn all attempts by governments to interfere in the affairs of other countries. We would continue to struggle to make this region peaceful, prosperous and an example of cross-border solidarity.

We are facing a deeper and more severe financial, ethical, social, political and institutional crisis than ever, in terms of food, labour, energy, economy, climate and ecology created by neo-liberal capitalism. We are aware of the prevailing deep rooted hunger, poverty and malnutrition in the region and we also have a common understanding of its structural causes. We are alarmed by the grave issues of agricultural crisis, including land grabbing, climate change, corporate agriculture and mono-cropping, chemical farming and GMOs and loss of peasants’ rights that have been impoverishing the peasantry and the working class of our region. A large number of farmers, close to 5 lakhs (500,000) in the region, have resorted to suicides as the only way to escape poverty in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. We oppose the use of agricultural land in other non-agricultural activities. We condemn the forcible acquisition of agricultural lands in the name of energy and other infrastructure projects. Faced with such situation there is an urgent need to build a stronger resistance. We would fight for a region where peasants and farmers have decent livelihood, respect and prosperity from farming.

There is also an increasing control of imperialist forces, namely, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The impacts of WTO dictated policies of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation along with WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) with its provision of market access, reduction of farm export subsidies and domestic support to agriculture has proven detrimental to farmers. We continue to fight to keep WTO and FTAs out of agriculture. We deeply condemn business and intervention in the name of poverty reduction programmes by the World Bank, IMF and ADB including micro-credits which have devastated thousands of peasants and the rural poor and are responsible for farmers’ suicides.

At the same time, it is evident that we cannot simply fight to maintain the peasants in whatever condition they are in. Rather, the goal has to be modernisation, which will have to be democratic, culturally appropriate, take ecological concerns into account, and be based on policies that ensure that all sectors of concerned people are genuinely part of the actual policy making and implementation process. We want to collectively work to make farming a decent source of livelihood and income. The States must ensure that farming is attractive for the youth. We demand more agro-based industries and rural development. The States must make public expenditure in agriculture including the creation of infrastructure.

Access to resources including land, water, seed, etc., remains a key question for the agrarian transformation and well-being of peasantry. We demand comprehensive agrarian reforms including scientific land reforms. This means ensuring full access over land, recognising indigenous peoples’ legal rights to their territories, guaranteeing fishing communities’ access and control of fishing areas and ecosystems, and recognising pastoral migratory routes. We know that only such reform ensures a future for rural youth and reduce the rapid migration of youth from rural areas.

We reaffirm that food sovereignty is the fundamental right of all people and societies should control food and agricultural systems and policies, ensuring everyone adequate, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Not only the indigenous knowledge and sustainable practices in farming have been seriously destroyed by the conventional farming, but also it has given the control of seeds and many other resources into the hands of few companies and elites. Therefore, we defend agro-ecology to conserve biodiversity, cool the planet and protect our soils and seeds. Our agro-ecological model can not only feed all of humanity but is also a way to stop the advancement of climate crisis through local production in harmony with our forests and waterways, enhancing diversity and returning organic matter to natural cycles.

Our struggle is to build a society based on justice, equality, peace, development and prosperity. We demand respect for all women rights. We demand an end to the conflicts and wars over appropriation, proliferation of military bases and criminalisation of dissent and reaffirm our support to create and maintain unity in diversity. We present our vision which is inclusive, broad-based, practical, radical and hopeful as an invitation to join us in transforming our societies and protecting the earth.

We reaffirm ourselves to the alternative vision of political, social, economic and cultural systems to enable ecological, social and sustainable development of the region that eliminates all forms of discrimination based on class, gender, sexuality, disabilities, caste, ethnicity, religion, language and geography; which leads to a situation free from exploitation and oppression.

We demand:

  1. The effective implementation of food sovereignty as the fundamental right of people and ensure, their access to resources including seeds.
  2. The end of neo-liberalism designed by corporations and operated through markets that favour unjust profiteering over people’s sustainable development and deny peoples’ collective rights to commons;
  3. Recognition, promotion and implementation of people-centred cooperation at all levels to resolve issues and problems of South Asia. We demand that SAARC meetings should be held according to plan.
  4. Encouragement to locally produced organic foods initially with supply to schools and hospitals.
  5. Take WTO and FTAs out of agriculture. Ensure that agriculture is our way of life, our livelihood, our culture, our food, and our way of relating with the nature.
  6. Ensure comprehensive agrarian reform to guarantee dignified livelihood of peasants and maintain ecological balance.
  7. Ensure equal rights to and use of land for women. Ensure justice and equality for women, which require the transformation of social and economic arrangements, including access to land, credit, education, social benefits and power.
  8. Include the rights to compensation for all those who participate in food production and care of natural resources – fisher-folk, indigenous peoples, landless workers, pastoralists and forest dwellers.
  9. Supply subsidised and cheap inputs to individual farmers and guarantee crop insurance. Ensure Minimum Support Prices for small farmers. Increase the State budget allocation in agriculture.
  10. Apply ILO convention on agricultural workers across the region and recognise them as workers and frame national labour laws. Implement equal wages for equal work for men and women and the prohibition of child labour in hazardous occupation.
  11. Recognise Right to Employment and implement employment guarantee policies in all countries with decent wages.
  12. End all forms of social discrimination, abolish bondage and child labour.
  13. The respect for rights of landlocked countries. We demand that our government should respect the South Asian Free Trade AgreementIndo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship – 1950; Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) – 2015; Convention on Transit Trade of Land-locked States – 1965 and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – 1982.
  14. Effective implementation of land use policy in each country ensuring protection of fertile farming land. We also demand to stop Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in primary production of agriculture.