#NoLandNoLife | Indonesia: PANAP conveys solidarity with Kampung Dadap’s struggle for land and livelihood

Solidarity Statement

16 May 2016

We convey our firm solidarity with the people of Kampung Dadap in their struggle against the “PT Tangerang International City” (TIC) – a government backed massive reclamation project in Kampung Dadap, Tangerang Regency in Indonesia, and express our serious concern on the repression reportedly being committed against them.

According to the Jakarta post, the TIC will reclaim 9,000 hectares of sea. Indonesian peasant group Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) said that the reclamation project will displace about 900 families of small fisherfolk, small traders and casual laborers from their lands, homes and main sources of livelihood.

The TIC is part of the Salim Group and plans to reclaim seven islands stretching along 52 kilometers of the coast from Kronjo to Dadap, according to the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC). AGRA and APC have been our partner in the “No Land! No Life!” campaign against land grabbing and for the promotion of human rights in the region.

Unfortunately, instead of addressing the people’s legitimate grievances, fisherfolk and other rural communities opposing the PT Tangerang International City face increasing repression. A protest rally against the communities’ forced eviction last 11 May has resulted to eight victims of gunshot wounds, based on reports that PANAP received.

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Photo credit: AGRA

The incident in Kampung Dadap shows how supposed development projects driven by profit-seeking motives of big private companies are often carried out without the consent of the affected communities and at the expense of their rights and welfare. OurLand & Rights Watch initiative has monitored a total of 22 human rights violation cases related to development projects from January 2015 to present.

We urge the Indonesian authorities to heed the people’s demand to stop land and resource grabbing and halt the reclamation project. The people’s rights and welfare should always be paramount in any development project that the government intends to implement. We also urge that the incident last 11 May be immediately investigated and those behind the shooting be made to account. ###

11 Questions we asked Dr. Meriel Watts

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Agrochemicals like pesticides have contributed in the massive destruction of the environment including acute and chronic impacts on livestock, soil fertility, and pollinators like bees and other beneficial insects necessary for a stable, healthy and productive ecosystem.

Aside from environmental destruction, there is no question as well on the harmful impact of pesticides on human health and that the people of poor countries are worst affected. It is also in these countries that two of the most vulnerable groups — women and children — are most exposed.

Research shows there’s a link between the indiscriminate use of highly hazardous pesticides and infertility, birth defects and miscarriages. Endocrine disruptors from pesticides can mutate genes, even causing epigenetic (or heritable changes in gene expression) effects – potentially putting future generations at risk.The good news is there are alternatives to chemical-intensive agriculture. One is agroecology.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) has long promoted agroecology, which has shown to increase farm productivity and food security. Innovative, environmentally-friendly and communal, agroecology improves rural livelihoods and is adaptive to threats such as climate change.

In this exclusive interview, coordinator of PAN Aotearoa New Zealand, a steering council member of PAN AP, renowned activist and pesticide specialist Dr. Meriel Watts expands on agroecology, shares her experiences in practicing it, and details its many benefits. Her recent talk on agroecology is available here and her latest book, co- written with Stephanie Williamson, titled Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology is available here.

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1.How long have you been farming?

For thirteen years on our own farm, Tidal Organics but off and on throughout my life working on other people’s farms.

2. What kind of education or career did you pursue before farming?

Although I was city-raised, I always wanted to be a farmer, since my earliest memories. I would spend school holidays on my uncle’s dairy farm.

I worked on farms in New Zealand as soon as I left school, then completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. After that I worked for a while in plant disease research for the Government. I moved to the United Kingdom and worked on farms there, and eventually joined a medical laboratory. When I came back to New Zealand, after a little more farm work my life became urban for a while and I began growing my own vegetables (this was about 40 years ago!)

Then I trained in natural medicine including herbal medicine, homeopathy and nutrition, and established a practice treating people (and farm animals), as well as teaching young mums how to treat their sick children. When I began treating people with pesticide poisoning, I realised that something need to be done to stop people getting poisoned in the first place. So at that stage, about 25 years ago, I began my life’s work as a pesticide activist and advocate for organic farming, both streams of work continuing to this day.

During this time I completed a PhD in pesticide risk assessment and policy, sat on numerous Government committees on pesticides, worked for Greenpeace, the Soil & Health Association and Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP). At the same time I took a leading role in the organics sector in New Zealand. So my working life has been, and always will be, a happy blend of human health issues and agricultural issues – both the negative impacts and the positive pathways – because of course all are totally connected, although today these four areas are still mostly not brought together in policy, training or work areas. The silo approach to life still dominates.

3.Why do you feel that it is important to use agroecological systems in farming?

Well, the first thing is that it challenges the silo approach: it brings people to see their farms, their families, their communities and the environment as an interconnected whole. Once they see that, they understand that using toxic pesticides poisons the environment, endangers their own health, and undermines the sustainability of farm production. Agroecology gives farmers greater control over their production; they do not have to rely on expensive input to produce cash crops that don’t really feed the family. Agroecology enables them to use local resources to provide healthy food and a cash surplus.

4. What does agroecology mean for you?

It means the farmer and family and community working together with the land in a way that best utilises the particular climatic and geographic characteristics of this land to produce healthy food in a way that improves sustainability and biodiversity and the overall functioning of the agroecosystem. It means farmers and their families and communities having greater control over their own lives.

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5. You have documented many cases of successful methods of farming based on agroecology from all over the world in the book Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing Out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology. What is the key lesson you learned writing this book?

The utmost importance of farmer-to-farmer learning and the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

6. What personal characteristics do you have that drew you to (and keeps you motivated on) farming?

Determination; an enquiring mind; joy in solving problems.

7. What is the biggest challenge in farming right now?

The variability and unpredictability of the climate. For example, this year our forecast was for for a very serious prolonged drought; instead it has rained so much that we had problems with fruit rot for the first time ever. Grapes would not ripen and the olive harvest looks to be a disaster. What was normally a ‘Mediterranean’ summer – hot and dry – has become a hot and wet tropical summer. We have no idea what the next season will bring so it is very hard to plan crops.

8. What is the most difficult part in terms of gaining ground against corporate giants that promote pesticides?

The power they have over people’s minds. People want to believe that the food they are eating or the Roundup they spray in their backyards is safe because it is easy, so they believe it. They don’t want to question what they have always assumed to be safe. They don’t want to worry about chemicals, so they close their minds. If only people would open their minds, the corporations would lose their power. We, the people, actually do have greater power than these businesses through our choices as consumers (that includes farmers buying inputs) but we don’t exercise it. If consumers stopped buying chemically-produced and highly processed food, farmers would soon change to agroecology.

9. What does it mean to you to be able to farm?

Everything: producing healthy food for people in our community is central to my being.

10. What has been the biggest reward from agroecological farming?

For me, the biggest reward is the gratitude and smiles when people come to our place to collect their weekly order of fresh healthy fruit, vegetables and herbs. That, and sitting down in the evening to a big plate of organic vegetables straight from the garden. I want food that is healthy, fresh, grown without poisons, nurturing and sustaining; and that everyone has the right to such food.

11. How would you encourage other farmers to adopt agroecological practices?

Constantly observe everything on your farm; observe what other agroecological farmers are doing; ask questions. Make compost. Do not reach for a spray when you see an insect, but learn which ones are your friends and which ones you need to control. Look for smart control options, like traps.

Photo Credit : Jo Davies

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Meriel’s Latest Talk on Phasing Out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology is here !