Stop liberalization of food, implement agrarian reform to achieve food sovereignty!

Workshop on Food Sovereignty during the AEPF 7

A tough debate happens during the food sovereignty workshop in Asian – European People forum (AEPF7) in Beijing, China, October 15, 2008. The debate between the speaker from the China association of agricultural sciences (CAAS) with speakers from La via Campesina and FIAN International persevere about civil society position towards the UN comprehensive framework of action (CFA) on food crisis.

About 70 participants from various mass organizations, research institutions and NGOs from Asia and Europe attended the workshop to formulate and discuss the causes, impact and strategy to overcome global food crisis. May Fangqua, the speaker and a researcher from the CAAS recommend for an adoption of the UN CFA that want for more food and agriculture liberalization. Meanwhile, Park Mi Nung, farmers from South Korea who represents La Via Campesina affirms that the food market liberalization efforts as proposed by the UN CFA is not an appropriate policy. Just same like privatization, deregulation and liberalization program made by the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the UN CFA on food crisis will only accelerate the development of the agricultural industry which has confiscate agricultural lands owned by small peasants and turning them into large-scale industrial agriculture. The industrialization of agriculture is only aimed to increase profits as much as possible through speculation. At the end, the consumers suffer from increased prices caused by the speculation. Park Minung adds that the liberalization of trade in meat that was agreed in South Korea-United States FTA has been threatening the existence of small farmers and breeders in the South Korean and also threatens the food security of Korea.

Another speaker, Ute Haussman from FIAN International also stated that The UN CFA on food crisis is just an effort to accommodate the interests of agribusiness in accumulating profit. The agribusiness often grabs the assets owned by small peasant or other small-scale food produce. Regarding to this issue, the speakers from CAAS adds that Chinese government until now only give the rights cultivate the land without give certainty of land ownership. Local government is given discretion to set the right to cultivate the land, and most of them given to the agribusiness company. That's why, in some of this year China is able to produce many agricultural products and dump it to developing countries. It can be point out that many of China's small peasants being expelled from agriculture sector since them have the difficulties to access the land.  

This workshop produced a series of recommendations in the enforcement efforts to uphold food sovereignty as the answer of food crisis. Fulfilling food from local production and food diversification is the key element that must be done by the countries threatened by food crisis, without undermining other countries food sovereignty. In addition, the government should also restrict the expansion of agribusiness companies and should encourage the protection of small peasants. The exchange of goods and services in regional / international level is set to be back, government must more emphasis the exchange the principles of solidarity. Other recommendations from this workshop are to ask for a moratorium on the plantation yielded to the interests of Agro fuel.  The government also must explicitly monitor and reduce speculation the food is done by traders, agribusiness companies or the speculator in capital and commodities market. Finally, the step that must be done by the mass organizations and NGOs is to improve the control of World Bank funds that will be used to inject investment in agriculture sector.

In the end of the event, other delegate from  La Via Campesina member—SPI (Indonesian Peasnts Union) –as the rapporteur of the workshop stressed the urgency of civil society role to urge the government in implementing  agrarian reform as the way to give peasants both men and women to access the means of production. Civil society should also seek the protection of human rights, including protection for peasant who struggles to enforce the rights of access to land.

Asian Forum European People 7 is a forum for civil society to share experiences, and take a strategy to conduct the struggle of an alternative development. This forum simultaneously made with the Asian European meeting (ASEM) which is attended by government delegations from countries in Asia and Europe. IN the AEPF 7, there are 30 parallels workshops that were held within 3 days. There are three main issues that the focus of the discussion: peace and security, economic rights, social justice and climate-human rights, democracy and participatory. The AEPF 7 was

attended by about 500 representatives from mass organizations and NGOs in Asia and Europe.

Susan Lusiana/SPI