National Farmers Union Marks the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle, April 17, 2012

National Farmers Union Marks the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle, April 17, 2012

(Saskatoon) - The National Farmers Union, as a member of La Via Campesina, joins with our sister organizations around the world to mark April 17, the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle.

The International Day of Peasant’s Strugglecommemorates the massacre of 19 landless farmers demanding access to land and justice in 1996 in Brazil1. This year we draw the world’s attention to the issue of land-grabbing, where wealthy corporations and foreign countries purchase large tracts of farmland, taking control of the land out of the hands of local farmers, usually evicting the farmers and their communities. Such land is then used to grow crops for biofuels, to grow food for the exclusive use of the investor country’s population, to hold for speculative purposes or as a revenue stream for absentee investors. Farmers who once raised the food for their own people become precarious labourers on land they once owned, or they must leave the land and hope to find work elsewhere.

In Canada, land-grabbing is facilitated by agriculture policies that lead to farmers becoming burdened with unsustainable debt loads, due in large part to Canada’s single-minded focus on expanding trade through increased exports instead of ensuring Canada has a sustainable and equitable food policy that allows us to be able to feed ourselves and for our farmers to make a living. When experienced farmers can no longer meet their debt obligations, and young people are unable to take on the amount of debt required to set up a new farm, the land-grabbers are ready and able to take advantage of the situation. A key struggle for today’s farmers is to stay on the land and to make it possible for the next generation of farmers to take their place.

For more information about land-grabbing in Canada, please see the NFU brief, Losing Our Grip How a Corporate Farmland Buy-up, Rising Farm Debt, and Agribusiness Financing of Inputs Threaten Family Farms and Food Sovereigntyhttp://nfu.ca/press_releases/2010/06-07-losing_grip.pdf

(1) On April 17 1996, in the Amazonian state of Pará, at Eldorado dos Carajás, the state military police massacred peasants organized in the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), killing 19 individuals. That day, 1500 women and men organized in the MST occupied and blocked the BR-150 highway in Eldo- ado dos Carajás, with the intention to pressure the state and federal governments for agrarian reform. At about 4pm, 155 state military police from two brigades surrounded the MST on the highway, firing tear-gas, live ammunition and machine guns. In addition to the 19 MST killed during the massacre, three more died later from injuries, and 69 people were wounded. State authorities, the police, the army and powerful local landowners were involved in planning and executing of the massacre. Fifteen years later, none of those responsible for the massacre at Eldorado dos Carajás has been imprisoned or punished.

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For more information:

Terry Boehm, NFU President: (306) 255-2880

Colleen Ross, NFU Vice President (Policy): (613) 652-1552 or (613) 213-1522

Cathy Holtslander, NFU Director of Research: (306) 652-9465

 

Press Release – La Via Campesina

17 April: More than 250 actions around the world for the International Day of Peasant's Struggle

(Jakarta, 16 April 2012) Small scale farmers and their allies are celebrating the International Day of Peasant's Struggle tomorrow, 17thof April 2012, organising more than 250 actions and manifestations all over the globe.

This event commemorates the massacre of 19 landless farmers demanding access to land and justice in 1996 in Brazil (1). A full list of actions, ranging from university lectures to land occupations is available on the website www.viacampesina.org

The international farmers movement La Via Campesina is mobilising this year to oppose the current offensive by some states and large corporations at international level to grab land from the farmers, women and men, who have been cultivating it for centuries. Small farmers' demand is simple: they need access to land to grow food for their communities. When land is grabbed by transnational companies, huge monoculture plantations for export are developed. This only leads to increased hunger, social unrest and environmental devastation, including the current climate chaos.

Tomorrow, Farmers organisations and their allies will reclaim land all over Brazil and organise mass mobilisations against landgrabbing in Tete, Mozambique and in front of the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, Indonesia. In Brussels, they will launch a parody of the EU Commission's website marking the 50th anniversary of the Common Agriculture Policy.

This action day will take place a few days before the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC, April 23-26, 2012. The Via Campesina mobilisations will voice small farmers' strong opposition to the World Bank initiative of Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that is supposed to prevent land grab abuses but in fact legitimizes farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors.

“In the run up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, farmers and supporters of the food sovereignty and agroecology movement are now actively opposing the “greening of capitalism” that is now promoted at international level. We believe that land, water, seeds and all natural resources should be used by small farmers to protect them and feed to world, and not by transnational corporations to make profit”, said Henry Saragih, general coordinator of la Via Campesina.

For interviews and more information

Henry Saragih: +62 811655668 (Indonesia)

Josie Riffaud (in French) + 33(0) 6 13 10 52 91(France)

More information on www.viacampesina.org

e-mail: viacampesin@viacampesina.org