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South Asian Peasants’ Convergence held in Kathmandu

 

The South Asian Peasants Convergence on Food Sovereignty and Peasants Rights was organized on 2-3 February 2017 by All Nepal Peasants' Federation (ANPFa) in Kathmandu, Nepal. The event was attended by over 120 delegates including peasant leaders, academics, activists and media personnel from South Asian countries and Brazil. The convergence was a two-day event.

In the inaugural session on the first day, Biplab Halim of South Asia Peasant Coalition (SAPC) welcomed the delegates. He emphasised the common identity of the South Asian peasant in times of growing problems in the region. K.P. Oli, former Prime Minister of Nepal, inaugurated the Convergence. He congratulated the organisers on hosting the event and hoped that the delegates would deliberate on increasing the employment and assured income of peasants and farmers and emphasise the role of small-scale enterprises as an engine of rural transformation. He anticipated concrete action plans that could feed into agrarian policies of South Asian countries.

In his Keynote address, Kailash Nath Pyakuryal, former Vice Chancellor of Agricultural and Forestry University, Nepal, discussed agrarian crisis in South Asia. He singled out neo-liberal model of economic development as a cause of major concerns confronting peasants and small scale producers today. He also highlighted the consequences of these policies seen in farmers' suicides in India, youth migration in Nepal, land and resource grabbing in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and climate change related issues in Bangladesh.

In solidarity messages, Gauri Pradhan, Chairperson of Least Developed Country (LDC) Watch, stressed the importance of developing a future course of action. Marco Fernandes, representing the landless movement of Brazil, gave the illustration of Latin America, where peasant mobilization was central in reclaiming land rights from elite occupation of land. Following this, peasant leaders from various countries presented the country scenarios. Hasan Tariq Chowdhury, Chief of foreign department of Bangladesh Communist Party, brought out the negative fall outs of US trade imperialism.Jayalath Bandra, National Peasants Federation of Sri Lanka, discussed the monopoly practices of multinational corporations in distributing inputs of agriculture. Suneet Chopra, All India Kisan Sabha, spoke of resistance movements of farmers in India in the context of dual forces of repressive class relations in semi-feudal societies and narrow base of capitalism.  JafarSangi of Pakistan described the feudal landscape that destroyed livelihoods of small farmers. Keshav Lal Sreshtha, ANFPa, emphasised on professionalising agriculture as a way forward for peasant resurgence. 

In his concluding remarks on the first day, Bamdev Gautham discussed the movement that constitutionalised food sovereignty in Nepal. He said that nationalisation of farm resources and cooperative movement were paving the way forward in peasant struggles in Nepal.

In the second session of the first day, organisational and country updates were given by various speakers. They highlighted organisational challenges of resistance movements, related problems of malnutrition and hunger and rise of right-wing fundamentalism as working against solidarity movements. 

In the first session on the second day chaired by Radha Gyawali, problems of WTO and land occupation were discussed. Afsra Jafri and Marco Fernandes were the speakers. The nature of trade deliberations, presence of US policy prerogatives and voice of resistance movements like land movement of Brazil were deliberated.

The last session of the second day was on strategies and action plan. The session was chaired by Bamdev Gautam. Strategies and action plan were unanimously passed.  Issue of food sovereignty, peasants' rights along with keeping WTO and FTAs out of agriculture were the main issues that came out of the floor. The Convergence decided to fight united against the neo-liberal model of economic growth, both at the country and regional level. There was also a participatory discussion on draft declaration after which Kathmandu declaration was approved.