#NoLandNoLife | Groups plan campaign vs. corporate oil palm plantations, mark Day of the Landless

Press Release

29 March 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today joined peasant and indigenous groups, land activists, and human rights campaigners in the region in marking the global Day of the Landless through a solidarity action in Jakarta.

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Photo credit: AGRA

Together with the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC), PANAP was among the organizers of the Asia Strategy Meeting on Corporate Palm Oil Plantations held in the Indonesian capital. Organizations from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Hong Kong attended the meeting.

Peasant group AGRA (Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria) organized a protest march in front of the President’s Palace in Jakarta, which targeted about 1,000 participants to highlight the Indonesian rural people’s struggle for land.

“Corporate oil palm plantations are one of the biggest drivers of land grabbing in Indonesia. About 29 million hectares of palm oil lands in our country are controlled by just 25 companies including Sinar Mas and the Wilmar group,” said Rahmat Ajiguna, AGRA chairperson and APC secretary general.

Around Indonesia, AGRA chapters and allies in 18 provinces also held simultaneous actions on the Day of the Landless, mobilizing about 10,000 small and landless farmers, indigenous peoples, rural women and other marginalized rural sectors.

“The strategy meeting on oil palm is timely amid the massive expansion of the industry. We need to launch a coordinated campaign that will expose and oppose the plantation companies and the investors that back them up including the transnational banks and international financial institutions like the World Bank,” APC chairperson Rafael Mariano said.

PANAP executive director Sarojeni Rengam, for her part, reiterated that solidarity through regional actions among mass movements campaigning on the ground against land grabbing must continue to be strengthened. “The landless people, including those displaced by corporate oil palm plantations, have been fighting back. An effective regional initiative needs to build on and highlight these struggles and victories,” Rengam said.

Rural folks are poor mainly due to landlessness. About eight out of 10 of the world’s poorest live in the rural areas, many of them from landless rural families. The advocacy group GRAIN estimates that a mere quarter of farmlands globally are in the hands of small farmers. This amid continuing threat of land grabbing by big corporations and investors. There are more than 1,000 land deals covering almost 38 million hectares worldwide, based on data compiled by the website Land Matrix.

29 March is a historic event in the people’s struggle for land and resources in the Asia Pacific with the founding of the APC on the said date 13 years ago to challenge imperialist and feudal oppression and exploitation. The APC is composed of farmers, landless peasants, farmworkers, peasant women, fisherfolk, dalits, herders, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, rural youth and their allies. PANAP is an associate member of the APC.

PANAP and APC also launched the campaign “No Land, No Life!” on the Day of the Landless 2015 as a regional initiative to highlight the human rights aspect of land grabbing. ###

For more details, please contact Ms. Danica Castillo of the PANAP secretariat atnolandnolife@panap.net

PANAP gears up for Day of the Landless, joins global outcry for justice for Lat Am land activists

Press Release
23 March 2016
PENANG, Malaysia – As various peasant and indigenous people’s groups gear up for the “Day of the Landless” on 29 March, regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today joins the global outcry for justice for slain land activists and indigenous people’s leaders in Honduras and Colombia whose deaths are apparently linked to their strong opposition to large-scale corporate mining and logging.

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Berta Caceres and Nelson Garcia are leaders of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), a group opposing large scale mining and logging. Caceres was killed last 2 March while Garcia’s murder followed less than two weeks later. The former was the 2015 winner of the Goldman environmental prize.

In Colombia, community leader William Castillo Chima was killed last 7 March. Chima has worked with local campesino organizations to campaign for land rights. María Dania Arrieta Pérez who worked with Chima has reportedly received death threats in the days prior to his murder. Community leader Maricela Tombe and indigenous leader William Alexander Oime were killed last 28 February and 1 March respectively. Both are known defenders of indigenous peoples’ rights.
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PANAP, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), and other groups in the region mark 29 March of every year as the “Day of the Landless”, which is APC’s founding date, to highlight the rural people’s continuing struggle against feudal oppression and exploitation and against land grabbing. The “Day of the Landless” is part of PANAP and APC’s “No Land, No Life!” campaign that kicked off on 29 March 2015 (Read here)

PANAP expressed grave alarm over the intensifying attacks against land activists and the reigning impunity in Colombia and Honduras. Two consecutive reports by Global Witness in 2014 and 2015 have already identified Colombia and Honduras as dangerous countries for environmental defenders but the numbers continue to rise.

PANAP’s own human rights monitoring initiative Land & Rights Watch has monitored a total of 42 cases of human rights violations in the context of land grabbing in Latin America from January 2015 to 15 March 2016. The group called for a thorough and credible investigation to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

The group said that gross human rights violations are prevalent in rural communities worldwide where there is strong assertion for the people’s rights to land and resources. In Ethiopia, for instance, over 140 anti-land grab activists and farmers have been killed in just three months (November 2015 to January 2016). The Lumads of Mindanao, Philippines continue to suffer from displacement and killings where the 58 Lumads have been killed since 2010 to September 2015.

PANAP will join peasant and indigenous people’s leaders from member-organizations of APC in Jakarta, Indonesia to mark this year’s “Day of the Landless”. Several groups in the region are planning to hold coordinated activities as well. ###

For more information, contact Danica Castillo of the PANAP secretariat at nolandnolife@panap.net

– See more at: http://www.panap.net/campaigns/land-food-rights/noland-nolife/post/2821#sthash.Zrn1b5R8.dpuf

Empowered Farmers Ensure Food Safety

“Farming without pesticides is far more economical and safer for farmers and consumers. This has led me to harvest my first pesticides-free crop of cabbages,” thus said Mr. Vellusamy who had undergone the Farmer Field School (FFS) carried out in Blue Valley, Cameron Highlands in 2015.

The FFS is an initiative by the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) that aims to develop the capacity of farmers in making informed decisions based on their experience of observing, conducting experiments and monitoring of their farms. It also involves the participation of scientists, extension officers and experts in the field of agriculture to provide input and work with the farmers for viable solutions to the problems they face on the farm.

The focus of this particular FFS in Blue Valley was to incorporate biological control instead of harmful pesticides to deal with the infestation of the Diamond Back Moth among cabbages. According to a published research by entomologist Dr Peter Ooi, the moth causes significant damage to the crop and was discovered as early as 1925 in Cameron Highlands.

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Learn making organic liquid fertiliser.

PANAP started the FFS to help farmers lessen their dependency on chemical inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers manufactured by agribusiness which put our food safety in danger. Farmers also often lose their ability to make sound decisions based on their knowledge of agriculture and instead rely entirely on agriculture extension officers, and sellers as well as distributors of agrochemicals to carry out their agriculture practice. Clearly, it is profitable for agribusinesses but not the farmers who put themselves and consumers at great risk by using these chemical inputs.

The ramification of pesticides usage in Cameron Highlands was revealed in a study conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Cameron Highlands from 2014 to 2015. The study discovered that the rivers and tap water in Cameron had traces of highly toxic persistent organic pollutants such as endosulfan, which have been banned in Malaysia and globally under the Stockholm Convention.

The FFS in Blue Valley is part of the campaign, ‘Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides’ to raise awareness about the harmful impact of pesticides on human health particularly children. “These hazardous pesticides are extremely toxic to children and are linked to birth defects, learning disabilities, lowered I.Q. scores and cancer” said Deeppa Ravindran, Coordinator of the Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides Campaign.

“We must not lose sight of how profit-driven, corporate agricultural production dictates the type of food available, most of which have been produced with heavy dosage of pesticides that damage the environment and people’s health, especially children,” said PANAP executive director Sarojeni Rengam.

Recently, PANAP published ‘Replacing Chemicals with Biology:Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with Agroecology’ which provides a wealth of case studies and data that proves farmers can make more money, ensure food safety and improve their health, and protect the environment by not using pesticides. PANAP along with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International has also started a global petition urging governments and corporations to take concrete steps towards the phaseout and ban of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) and to replace these with safe, sustainable and ecological alternative methods of pest control in order to protect children’s health.

Please contact Wong Pei Chin at 017 725 1758 or pei.panap@gmail.com for further details.

PANAP renews call for tighter regulation of agrochemicals and ban of highly hazardous pesticides amid batu gajah poisoning

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PENANG, Malaysia – PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today renewed its call for authorities to more tightly regulate agrochemicals and ban the highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) amid reports of pesticide poisoning in Siputeh, Batu Gajah in Ipoh. Thirty seven people, aged two to 71, were rushed to the hospital – with four in critical condition – after eating food apparently contaminated with the pesticides from carbamate group from a local stall last 4 March. Weedicides were also traced near the premises.

“The tragedy illustrates the toxic effects of pesticides that are often acute and irreversible,” PANAP Executive Director, Sarojeni Rengam said. She also noted that the test conducted by the Department of Chemistry did not identify the specific type of pesticide but only looked at the general chemical group called carbamates.

“Therefore, we call for more stringent tests to identify the particular pesticide behind the poisoning for more rigorous regulation and hopefully, even making the manufacturers accountable,” added Rengam.

Pesticides from the carbamate group are generally neurotoxic and have been associated with adverse effects on human development, affecting both babies and children.

“People and children are continuously being poisoned by pesticides, and children are particularly more vulnerable. This must stop and authorities need to make necessary steps to protect and give children a save and healthy environment “ says Deeppa Ravindran, coordinator of the Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides Campaign.

Pesticides are widely rampant and sold in Malaysia, in the recent study done by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Cameron Highlands found highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) like Endrin,Aldrin, DDE and Endosulfan has been found in drinking water.

PANAP, together with PAN International, and other groups have launched an appeal to ban HHPs worldwide. More than 430 organizations from over 80 countries in all regions of the world have already signed the appeal. “We urge the public to support our campaign and sign the petition. The incident in Batu Gajah makes even more compelling our collective appeal to the government and agrochemical corporations to phase out the HHPs and protect our people, especially the children,” said Rengam. ###

Petition Link >>  HERE

For more information, please contact Deeppa Ravindran: deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

*Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In time for International Working Women’s Day 2016: Stories of 500 Rural Women Leaders Launched

Press Release

08 March 2016

Women’s stories assert rights to land and resources

“We’ve learned that mining companies are after the rich minerals and biodiversity found in our communities. As a result, our ancestral domain is being grabbed and encroached by greedy businessmen and foreign companies…We still have the same problems my parents faced three decades ago. And we confront these problems like they did:  we fight!”

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The story of Gertrudes Layal, a Lumad leader from Mindanao, Philippines finds resonance with other women’s stories from other countries in Asia, particularly Philippines and Malaysia. These women are at the forefront of the battle against land grabbing by their states, usually for transnational corporations’ interests in mining, agricultural plantations and energy. Their stories are part of a collection of 500 rural women leaders’ stories being launched online today by PAN Asia Pacific and its partner organisations, in time for International Working Women’s Day 2016.

With the theme “500 Rural Women Leaders:  Asserting Rights to Land and Resources”, the collection features the life, struggles and triumphs of current rural women leaders. Their stories speak of a wide range of issues facing rural women today, such as poverty, land grabbing, landlessness, lack of jobs and livelihoods, lack of basic social services, climate change, gender discrimination and violence and caste discrimination and violence, to name a few.

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But rural women are fighting back, at the forefront of their communities and side-by-side with men.  The stories narrate how the women organize themselves into groups, associations or join existing women’s groups to advance common concerns and cause; how they creatively raise awareness through education, trainings and mass campaigns; how they collectively take action through petitions, dialogues, demonstrations and strikes; and how they find viable alternatives in the midst of long-drawn struggles, such as ecological farming against use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, or land occupation and collective farming against landlessness and land grabbing by the state.

As Aravalli, a Dalit widow from Ananthapuram, Andra Pradesh, India narrates in her story:“On 1st November, the eve of Andhra Formation Day when the government is celebrating, we collectively occupied the land and planted Ragi (finger millet).  When the landlord came with police and revenue officer, I told them that this land belongs to all of us because we are poor and eligible to cultivate the land…The landlord and police held back as we already have the caveat from the court. Although the case is still on-going, land is in our hands.”

Aravalli and Gertrudes’ stories and the rest of the women’s narratives represent 18 countries from 29 partner groups in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka); Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), East Asia (China), Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan), Pacific (Fiji), and Africa (Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia).

The collection of stories come under the PAN Asia Pacific campaign “No Land, No Life” and is a continuation of the 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women, both launched last year. It aims to document and highlight the leadership and importance of rural women, draw lessons from their failures and victories, and inspire others especially the new generation of women, with the collective strength and leadership of rural women.

To read the stories, click the link: http://www.panap.net/campaigns/women-assert-our-rights/500-rural-women-leaders

Reference:  Marjo Busto, PAN Asia Pacific, ARWC Secretariat, marjo.busto@panap.net

Fight Back Imperialist Globalisation, Militarism and Religious Fundamentalism!

Statement of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition for the International Working Women’s Day

08 March 2016

As we celebrate International Working Women’s Day today, we also mourn the death 5 days ago of Berta Caceres: a Lenca woman leader and environmental activist murdered for the defense of her people and their lands in Honduras. Her life and struggle mirrors that of women around the globe, who suffer but fight back against imperialist globalisation and militarism.

After three decades of neo-liberal globalisation, and as its economic and social crisis deepens, women all over the world face intensified exploitation, oppression, multiple forms of discrimination and violence. Women and families coming from underdeveloped countries suffer worse conditions, as the burden of the imperialist crisis is shifted to their countries.

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Neo-liberal globalisation intensifies inequalities of wealth, power and resources between countries, between rich and poor, and between men and women. It further escalates land, water and resource grabbing in the imperialist drive for profit and geo-political control, concentrated in the hands of big transnational and local corporations and landlords, for dams, mining, agricultural plantations and aquacultures. These displace peasant women, indigenous women, fisherfolk women and their families, as well as other rural sectors sourcing their livelihoods from the land and waters. Peasant and indigenous women’s role as food producers and seed keepers are drastically eroded, putting food security and safety at risk and farmers at the mercy of patented and genetically modified seeds.

Mining displaces indigenous women and entire farming communities from their homes, livelihoods, and native cultures. Armies, police and mining company goons inflict gross human rights abuses to the displaced population as well as to those resisting mining. This plunder of natural resources has also resulted to climate change and catastrophic disasters. Rural women bear the brunt of climate change and disasters, as they are in charge of food production, water supply and maintaining families’ homes. Environmental and natural disasters place women and children most vulnerable to health risks, while placing women at higher risks of harm and even death when disasters strike.

Within the framework of neo-liberal economic agenda, the US-led TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) will deepen imperialist economic control of poor and underdeveloped countries in the region as it further opens up land and resources to imperialist plunder. For toiling women of Asia, this will mean further economic oppression.

When imperialist interests are at stake, militarism in the form of wars of aggression and interventions are not far behind. The TPPA is partnered with the “US pivot to Asia” which will strengthen US economic, military and political control in the Asia Pacific as well as contain China as a threat to US power in the region. This will bring about heightened political repression in countries like the Philippines where US-puppet regimes are installed and are eager to surrender national sovereignty. For women activists, movements and human rights defenders in the region, this spells heightened human rights violations and political repression.

Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in the past years, especially in South Asian countries like India. Generated and fanned by the protracted and worsening crisis of imperialism, religious bigotry with the support of imperialist forces, state and non-state actors, have intensified rural women’s invisibility, further restricted women’s civil and political rights, legitimated violence against women, revived religious sanctioned prostitution, perpetuated discrimination and denied women’s inherent right to control their lives, bodies, sexuality and resources. Fundamentalisms and imperialist globalisation processes interact with caste discrimination denying Dalit women the right to life, land, and equal status with men.

Rural women in Asia condemn and resist land and resource grabbing, militarism and fundamentalism and is in solidarity with the women of the world resisting imperialist globalisation.

We reaffirm our demand and persevere in the struggle for genuine agrarian and aquatic reforms and rural women’s ownership and access to land, waters and other resources; food sovereignty and ecological biodiversity based agriculture; the right to self-determination; the right to fair living wages, job security, freedom of association and our demand for development justice.

We reaffirm our demand and resolutely struggle for an end to all state-led, state-supported wars; justice for all human rights defenders and affected communities; the prioritization of basic social services over military budgets; the repeal of repressive laws and an end to extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

We reaffirm our demand and determinedly struggle for an end to the caste system and untouchability practices; our inherent right to life with dignity; our sexual and reproductive health and rights; and our right to political representation at all policy levels to represent different religions, ethnic groups and marginalised sectors.

Rural women in Asia are more resolute and more militant in organising, educating and mobilising its ranks, and links its struggles and movements with the peoples’ movements in different countries and the world anti-imperialist movement.

We call on the young generation of rural women to link arms with us and the toiling women all over the world, to collectively march towards our liberation.

Rights, Empowerment and Liberation!

Women of the world unite! Fight back imperialist globalisation, militarism and fundamentalism!

Reference: Sarojeni Rengam and Marjo Busto, Secretariat, arwc-secretariat@asianruralwomen.net

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*The ARWC is facilitated by the Steering Committee (SC) body composed of 10 member groups of national formations/alliances and regional organisations working on rural women’s issues. The SC members include national alliances: Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF) and Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) in India; Tenaganita in Malaysia; Human Development Organization (HDO) in Sri Lanka; INNABUYOG and GABRIELA National Alliance of Women’s Organization in the Philippines; and the All Nepal Women’s Alliance (ANWA) in Nepal. Regional networks include Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP).