Via Campesina Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund

 WEEKLY NEWS BULLETIN No. 3, January 19, 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 PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY
Campaign contact: Nico Verhagen, Via Campesina,

PART I: Reports from Via Campesina member and friend organizations

1. Indonesia: FSPI Relief Work in Aceh and North Sumatra 2. Indonesia: A Day in Aceh 3. Thailand: "From the Poor to the Poor" Caravan Brings Relief to the Tsunami Damaged Areas 4. Sri Lanka: Government Continues Clearing the Poor Out of Coastal Areas, Making Way for Tourist Development

PART II: About this Campaign

1. Solidarity from Japanese Farmers 2. How We Distribute Funds 3. What We Have Raised So Far

PART I: Reports from Via Campesina member and friend organizations

1. Indonesia: FSPI Relief Work in Aceh and North Sumatra
December 26, 2004, the day of the tsunami, has become a nightmare for most of Aceh and part of North Sumatra. On that day, an earthquake (9.0 richter) followed by the tsunami destroyed peoples lives, especially the people who live near to the sea. PERMATA (Aceh Peasant Association) is the local Aceh province member of FSPI, which in turn is a member of Via Campesina. Their entire office in Banda Aceh was lost in the tsunami. Gone. Key leaders of PERMATA survived by literally running 8 kilometers to escape the killer wave. PERMATA has 56 more local peasant organizations which are its members, in East Aceh District, Tamiang District, North Aceh District, Bireun, Pidie, Aceh Jaya, Aceh Besar, South Aceh and West Aceh.

Since December 28, FSPI has been carrying out relief work in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces. FSPI and other movements movement (labor and urban poor) and some NGOs formed the Coalition of Humanitarian Solidarity for the Natural Disaster in Aceh and North Sumatra (KSKBA), with its main office in Medan.

So far, FSPI, PERMATA and KSKBA have built 6 relief centers in all of the Aceh districts destroyed by the tsunami. The relief centers coordinate with our main center in Medan. We now have 350 volunteers from this coalition in Aceh.

We have distributed clothes, milk for babies, sugar, rice, cooking oil, salted fish, salt, fresh vegetables, fruit, and medicine. All of the logistical support and in-kind goods came from our peasant members in other provinces and/or in Aceh itself, and from local people in Indonesia.
[Contact: Indra Lubis, FSPI,]

2. Indonesia: A Day in Aceh
We arrive in the backyard of a disaster at Langsa, on the east coast of Aceh in Indonesia… Langsa has received 4051 refugees in a dozen nearby villages. Here there are no refugee camps, nor any international aid. It is the local communities who were saved, who are absorbing the shock and taking charge of the arrivals. In the days following the tsunami, the people of Langsa travelled the roads in every available vehicle searching the nearby areas of the vast devastated zone. Other refugees came by themselves, however they could… READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE by Isabelle Delforge

3. Thailand: "From the Poor to the Poor" Caravan Brings Relief to the Tsunami Damaged Areas
From January 19 to 22, the Assembly of the Poor, a member of Via Campesina, will lead the "From the Poor to the Poor" Caravan to the tsunami damaged areas. The Caravan will bring rice donated by peasants members of the Assembly of the Poor in each region, and members who are carpenters for repairing boats. The caravan will consist of members of the Northern Farmers’ Network, the Northeast Land and Forest Network, the Alternative Agriculture Network, the Slum Dwellers Network, the Network of People Displaced by Dams, the Labor Network, and Federation of Students. The caravan of trucks will go to the refugee camps and affected in 6 Southern provinces, in collaboration with the Federation of Fisherfolk.

In the December 26th tsunami, 30 small-scale fishing villages made up mostly of Muslims, some Buddhists, and a number of sea gypsies were completely devastated. The giant waves caused the total destruction of housing, fishing boats and fishing gear, as well as the peasant farming areas of these villages, with moderate damage to houses, and fishing boats and gear in 124 more communities.

In the response to the crisis, the social movements and NGOs from the North, Northeast and South, including Via Campesina members, formed ’The Collaborative Network for the Rehabilitation of the Andaman Community and Natural Resources’ . The organizations based in Southern Thailand have also mobilized themselves to form the Network for the Rehabilitation of Andaman Coastal Resources. The two networks have been working together.

Thanks in large part to the work of these coalitions, the crisis of small-scale fisherfolk has been stablized. Many communities have established recovery mechanisms, for instance setting up a village-based committee or using existing community organizations as village-based coordination units to facilitate immediate relief processes, figure out how to arrange boat and fishing gear repairs, to ensure the community can resume their daily fishing activities, and to be able to develop community-based natural resource rehabilitation plans.

Presently, communities that are still searching for their loved ones, can visit the information center set up by the Network at the Yang Yao Center in Phang Nga Province.

Government support has finally reached the communities, but in most cases it is insufficient for the small-scale fisherfolk to repair or replace their fishing boats and gear that have been destroyed. The Network will therefore work with 2,000 families of small-scale fishers in working for sustainable recovery of community and natural resources.

It is estimated that the recovery phase will take up to 1-3 months, depending on the extent of the damage incurred. In the most critical areas the Network has built temporary camps, provided food, looked after women and children, organized the communities, and helped rebuild their internal community solidarity. The network has provided scholarships for children to go to school, and facilitated boat repairing activities in those villages that are ready.

The focus at the moment is on community organizing, particularly of those families who are yet not a members of community organizations. This is important because through belonging through a group or an organization, the fisherfolk are not standing along, but have a visible identity, and thus are better able to seek support from the government. Furthermore, community organizations are the fundamental means to build or reinforce solidarity. Once an organization is stabilized, it has the capacity to intervene collectively to recover the village.

To ensure accountability, it has been agreed by the Network and the community organizations that any community organization that has already received support from the Network and also receives assistance from the government at a later date will return any excess funds that exceed the amount they needed for immediate relief. These funds will be saved in the community organization’s account, and will be used to support long-term rehabilitation plans. Once the community fully resumes their normal livelihoods, they will consider returning money after deducting from it the amount compensation for by the government.

The local community organizations are being encouraged by the Network to play the central role in rehabilitating their community and natural resources. The process is designed to ensure that the community determines the directions and approaches that are best suited to local circumstances. These approaches typically include setting up a central community fund to support housing reconstruction, conduct natural resource surveys, and organize natural resource rehabilitation activities such as mangrove replanting, sea grass management, installation of artificial reefs, releasing native fish species, re-establishing fish sanctuaries, etc.
[Contact: Pontip Samranjit, Assembly of the Poor,,]

4. Sri Lanka: Government Continues Clearing the Poor Out of Coastal Areas, Making Way for Tourist Development
Dear friends: This is a letter from the news today. The government yesterday issued orders to the police for strict implementation of the law banning any reconstruction within the coastal stretch island-wide. Public security ministry secretary Thilak Ranaviraja has instructed IGP Chandra Fernando to ensure strict enforcement of the law with minimum force, and also to shift the temporary tents put up by the displaced inland. "However the inhabitants of houses not damaged by the tidal waves are allowed to go back to their houses for the time being," Ranawiraja told the media at his ministry yesterday. He said police are empowered to remove all new buildings near the sea up to 100 M in the densely populated southern and western coast and up to 200 M in the North and eastern parts. These are temporary tents housing the displaced population. The media conference also attended by IGP Chandra Fernando was also convened to officially announce the government’s future policy on construction in the coastal areas. The secretary said a total of around 75,000 houses have been completely destroyed by the tsunami waves and the number of houses within the banned stretch is being assessed through the district secretaries. "Arrangements are in progress to acquire private lands to build permanent housing for the displaced in instances where state land is not available."
[Contact: Herman Kumara, NAFSO,]

PART II. About this Campaign

1. Solidarity from Japanese Farmers
Dear FSPI, Indonesia:
It has been past two weeks after the day that the huge earthquake and tsunami hit many Asian countries, and I am sure that you are directing all your energies for relief and re-construction activities. We send condolences to all victims and people who are still suffering from this tragedy. We have received mail from Via Campesina and from you many times. I appreciate that I can get specific information about this disaster and understand your tremendous effort to help people. Also, I really respect and thank that Via Campesina has called for aids through all over the world and works very hard.
Today, we had a meeting and decided to donate one truck to FSPI just for now. We will transferred the donation on January 11th. Please, check that the money has been transferred and buy a pick-up truck as soon as possible. All members and supporters of NOUMINREN hope that you can help people who are starving and suffering now as many as possible.

We are planning to send money enough for purchasing at least one more truck depending on how our campaign in Japan goes. I hope our decision can help for KSKBA’s and your relief and re-construction activities.

Yoshitaka Mashima Vice Chairperson of NOUMINREN National Confederation of Farmers Movement-Japan

2. 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.

3. What We Have Raised So Far
The fundraising campaign began on 12/30, and as of 1/18 we had about USD $50,000 in 498 credit card donations coming from the United States, France, Norway, Thailand, Belgium, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain, El Salvador, Italy, South Korea, Denmark, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Japan. 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 $23,000 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 more information, refer to: Campaign contact: Nico Verhagen, Via Campesina,