Via Campesina Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund

NEWS BULLETIN No. 4, February 11, 2005
Via Campesina – the global alliance of peasant, family farmer, farm worker, indigenous, landless peoples and women’s organizations, and other rural movements – calls for solidarity with the millions of people affected by the tsunami disaster and is launching a global fundraising campaign to channel assistance to affected communities of fisherfolk and peasants, for our own relief and reconstruction efforts, through our grassroots member organizations ( and our sister organizations of fisherfolk. The Via Campesina Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund is collecting funds for direct emergency support to our own communities to provide basic needs of food, clean drinking water, shelter and health care to our fisherfolk and peasant communities affected by the tsunamis, as well as to help initiate the long term work of reconstructing our communities and rebuilding our livelihoods. DETAILS ON FUNDS COLLECTED AND HOW THEY ARE DISTRIBUTED CAN BE FOUND BELOW.
To make a secure, on-line donation using your credit card:click here

Campaign contact: Nico Verhagen, Via Campesina,


SPECIAL REPORT 1: The Democratization of Aid
SPECIAL REPORT 2: Who will feed Aceh?
Via Campesina to Host Regional Tsunami Conference
-PART I: Reports from Via Campesina member and friend organizations
1. Indonesia: Report from Nias Island, North Sumatra 2. Sri Lanka: Visit by the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) 3. Sri Lanka: Political "Unity," Big NGOs and World Bank in Push for Tourism Development 4. India: Update on National Forum of Fisherfolk (NFF) 5. Thailand: Tourism Aid at Expense of Fishermen
-PART II: About this Campaign
1. How We Distribute Funds 2. What We Have Raised So Far


SPECIAL REPORT 1: The Democratization of Aid
by Peter Rosset and María Elena Martínez (Red Pepper magazine)
When governments and mainstream aid organizations roll into action in the wake of events like the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, it’s hard not to have mixed feelings. While recognizing the obvious need for a massive relief operation, you can’t but feel anxious about the Pentagon sending troops to, and building new bases in, the disaster areas, all in the name of ’humanitarian aid’. You also wonder about the ’overhead’ expenses of the aid industry, already criticized for dumping GM food in Indonesia, and about aid shipments being received at military airports and used as the ’carrot’ in counter-insurgency campaigns that carry very big sticks.

Perhaps a more positive approach to helping the fisher-folk and peasants who make up the vast majority of the tsunami victims is being pursued by the Via Campesina Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund. This global campaign is unusual because it is being carried out by grass-roots community groups based in the regions affected by the disaster. Read the full article at:
SPECIAL REPORT 2: Who will feed Aceh? (Special to Via Campesina)

by Indra Lubis and Isabelle Delforge
Local organizations fear that the massive arrival of free food in Aceh will completely destroy the agricultural capacity that has survived the disaster. The prices of agricultural products risk collapse, which will make it even more difficult for the local economy to recover.

According to Henry Saragih, of the Indonesian Peasant federation (FSPI), "Everybody recognizes the need for emergency food aid. The situation is a catastrophe and the displaced population does not have any other means to feed itself. What we are demanding is that the food aid programmes only buy food on the local markets, in Aceh as much as possible, or in neighboring provinces if required."

According to official statistics, Indonesia produced a surplus of 6,800,000 tons of rice in 2003. In 2004, the government imposed a ban on rice imports, as the country was able to fulfill its own needs…

Via Campesina to Host Regional Tsunami Conference

The "Regional Conference on Re-construction and Development of Fisherfolk and Peasant Livelihoods" will be held in Medan, Indonesia on February 17-21, 2005. The conference will be hosted by the International Operative Secretariat of the Via Campesina, which is based at the Indonesian Peasant Federation (FSPI). The conference will bring together peoples’ organizations from the affected countries. The goals of the conference are for civil society to developed a shared picture of the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on peasants and fisherfolk in the effected areas, to shares experiences from the grassroots on the re-construction of their communities, especially the agriculture and fisheries sectors, to analyze the role of the UN, developed countries, and international NGOs in the disaster relief, and to create a common understanding and action plan for the re-construction and developing the agriculture and fisheries in the affected areas.
[Contact: Irma Yanny, FSPI/Via Campesina, ]

PART I: Reports from Via Campesina member and friend organizations

1. Indonesia: Report from Nias Island, North Sumatra
Volunteers from the North Sumatra Peasant Union (SPSU), a member of FSPI which is part of Via Campesina, and the other member of KSKBA coalition went to Nias island in North Sumatra Province. Some 200 peoples in Nias died because of the tsunami, but because this is a "small" number of victims, Nias is not a priority for other emergency and relief efforts. The survivors now live in the schools, houses of their relatives that were not hit by the tsunami, or in local government offices. They lost their houses, boats, fishnets and their livelihoods. 80% of the population are traditional fisherfolk, and the rest are peasants and small merchants. Most of the locations are not easily reached because of damage to roads and bridges. The official food aid from the government has not been distributed efficiently because of the transportation problems, and aid like instant noodles, biscuits, canned fish, rice, etc., are just piled up in local government offices. The survivors urgently need medicine, doctors, food and vegetables, and help to build their houses and recover their livelihoods. The people are still traumatized and diseases are starting to spread. Our mission brought food and non-food aid. But people need more food and non-food aid like clothes, blankets, rice and fresh food.
[Contact: Indra Lubis, FSPI,]

2. Sri Lanka: Visit by the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP)
Rev. Fr. Thomas Kochery, permanent member of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) Coordination Committee, visited all affected coastal regions of Sri Lanka together with WFFP member organizations in Sri Lanka such as National Fisheries Solidarity (NAFSO), the United Fishermen and Fish workers Union, the Womens Development Federation, and the National Union of Fishers. NAFSO.

Our heart goes with to our dear ones who lost their lives. Our condolences and deepest sympathies and prayers. May their surviving ones see a better future…. People are very happy with the work of the WFFP members Sri Lanka. Many affected people were waiting to meet us. Many stories were narrated, very touching ones. NAFSO has been a saviour to these people. NAFSO and the three other WFFP Members are repairing boats, and giving out nets. The fishermen have now started to go fishing. This is great news. They need our continuos help and support from all over the world.

The government is receiving plenty of money, but there is no activity anywhere. Everything is left like a battle field, destruction, destruction everywhere. It is left like that. The government has a big plan for rebuilding Sri Lanka. But people will be removed from the coast, and the coast will be handed over to tourism. We want to make it very clear that the Sri Lanka government was in total bankruptcy before tsunami. After the tsunami the government is now very rich, at the expense of tsunami victims and disaster. The World Bank and IMF are trying to make use of this tragedy for building up private enterprises, express highways, and tourism. Yes we agree that the victims have to be shifted to safer places beyond 200-300m away from the high tide line. But the empty beaches are meant for the fishing communities to keep their fishing implements, repairing sheds, fish drying etc. Please do not bring tourism hotels instead of us. We will not allow this to happen anywhere in Asia where the tsunami disaster took place.
Contact: Sarath Fernando, MONLAR,, and Herman Herman Kumara, NAFSO,

3. Sri Lanka: Political "Unity," Big NGOs and World Bank in Push for Tourism Development
From the Movement for National Land and Agrarian Reform (MONLAR), Via Campesina, Sri Lanka
From the beginning the Government and the "new rebuilders of the nation" have repeatedly stated that the building of tourism and tourist hotels in the "protective" border of 300 meters would be encouraged. It is clear that the whole plan is one of driving away about 800,000 small scale fish workers and their families from their livelihoods and settlements near the beaches in order to make way for rich tourist businesses and big fishing industry.
The tsunamis is providing the opportunity to the World Bank, IMF and other powers to intervene in bringing about this trend. A few big NGOs that have had a history of working in close collaboration with these multilaterals and other powers, have been campaigning for the "unity of the big political parties" as necessary for the continuation of the peace process, without raising issues of economic policies and economic justice for the poor.
[Contact: Sarath Fernando, MONLAR, ]

4. India: Update on National Forum of Fisherfolk (NFF)
I am giving you an update of NFF activities with the tsunami victims in India. The fishermen had a bumper catch of fish worth 400,000 Indian Rupees yesterday, so they are gaining confidence. Many more waiting to go fishing, and life is coming back slowly….. We have distributed 10 kg of rice to each of 10,000 affected families in Ernakulam and Alleppey Districts in Kerala. We have also distributed dry rations to 200 families in Marthandam and Oovary Tamil Nadu. NFF leaders met with 2,000 people in Karunagapally, the worst tsunami hit area in Kerala, where they worked out a plan for rehabilitation. We have put up 7 repairing sheds for boats in Tamil Nadu. In Koottapuli we are collaborating with the Muhil Health Center, and we have brought medical visits to 6 camps. We are also getting ready with a cultural group to carry out a campaign among the victims.

The NFF and WFFP have taken the stand that every organization that has received relief funds, whether they are a government agency or NGOs, should publish an accounting of those funds, to have credibility in the world.
[Contact: Thomas Kocherry World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP),]

5. Thailand: Tourism Aid at Expense of Fishermen
January 18, 2005, Excerpted from The Guardian (UK)
The Thai government has been accused of repairing tourist resorts and helping hoteliers at the expense of fishermen in devastated communities out of sight of potential holidaymakers… Ministers arrived at tourist hotspots such as Patong Beach within days of the tsunami. But officials from Bangkok did not set up help in the fishing village of Ban Nam Kem, 75 miles north of Phuket, until 16 days after the tsunami that left the settlement without electricity. By then, tourism officials were claiming that 90% of Thai resorts were open and functioning as they had been before the tsunami… [but] in Ban Nam Kem, most of the 3,450 survivors are still housed in a refugee camp.

"I get a little bit upset with the government," said Chaloh Khumpeam, 37, a fisherman. "It is easy for the government to see how much has been lost in a tourist resort. Normal local people are not too important to the government – unlike tourists."

Another fisherman, Wason Phonprasit, 26, said he had been living on donations since the tsunami. At sea in his traditional long-tailed boat when the tsunami struck, he escaped injury but lost all his equipment.

Wearing borrowed clothes, he said he understood why he had not yet received any government aid. "I don’t feel angry. I think tourists should be dealt with first," he said. "We hope the government will come and help soon. It’s 50-50 whether they help…"
"Local people are not too important to the government, unlike tourists."

[Contact: Pontip Samranjit, Assembly of the Poor,,]

PART II. From the News

1. Aid That Doesn’t Deliver
By Emira Woods, Foreign Policy in Focus
The U.S. has pledged $350 million to Ttsunami relief. It’s a safe bet that at least $248 million of that money will be spent in the U.S. itself. The U.S. government places conditions on its foreign aid that require most relief and development assistance materials and services to be purchased from U.S. companies and agencies. The last time the government revealed any data, back in 1996, 72 cents out of every U.S. foreign aid dollar was spent on U.S. goods and services. Read the full article at:

PART III. About this Campaign

1. How We Distribute Funds
As Via Campesina ( we have a number of member organizations in the region that are active in relief work and will be part of the reconstruction process. These include, for example, the Indonesian National Peasant Federation (FSPI), MONLAR in Sri Lanka, the Assembly of the Poor in Thailand, and others. We are also working closely with two fisherfolk organizations that are members of the World Forum of Fisherfolk People (WFFP), with whom we have been collaborating for several years in different spaces at the international level. These are NAFSO in Sri Lanka and NFF in India. At the moment, as we are in an emergency situation we are distributing the funds that come in equally among 4 countries. At the moment the first transfers have been made, in India to the NFF, in Thailand to the Assembly of the Poor (one of their members is the Federation of Southern Fisherfolk), in Sri Lanka to NAFSO, and in Indonesia to FSPI. This may change over time as we move from emergency relief to reconstruction, and if we add more countries (i.e. Malaysia, Burma, etc.) and organizations.

2. What We Have Raised So Far
The fundraising campaign began on 12/30, and as of 2/8 we had about USD $55,000 in 580 credit card donations coming from the United States (281), France (111), Norway, Thailand, Belgium (8), Chile, Brazil, Mexico (12), Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada (23), Germany, Sweden, Great Britain (16), Spain (7), El Salvador, Italy, South Korea, Denmark, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Japan, Greece and Argentina. The smallest credit card gift was USD $3, and the largest was $2,500, while the average donation was USD $103. In addition we have received a number of checks in the mail and wire transfers in totalling almost USD $42,000 more. We URGENTLY need to boost these amounts, so please give generously and circulate this information widely.
To make a secure, on-line donation using your credit card: click here

For instructions on other ways to give (checks, money orders, wire transfers): click here
For more information, refer to: Campaign contact: Nico Verhagen, Via Campesina,