By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Rural peoples in different countries in Asia kicked off mobilizations geared towards the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 28 (COP 28) in Dubai come November.
Dubbed as Global People’s Caravan (GPC) for Food, Land and Climate Justice, rural peoples and advocates held caravans and other actions in the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
With the theme, “Rural peoples unite for a future free from hunger, dispossession, and destruction,” the GPC is an awareness and organizing campaign aimed at mobilizing rural peoples around their local and national struggles for food and land rights while bringing their demands for climate justice and genuine sustainable development to the international policy arena. Launched in March this year, the GPC is a continuation of the Global South-led campaign for food systems transformation.
In the Philippines, various organizations of farmers, agricultural workers and fisherfolk from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Negros and Bicol regions held their caravan on Oct. 19 to 20. A protest was also held by groups including the culmination of the October peasant month which is also the national day of protest against land grabbing, injustice and hunger. The protest also coincides with the 51st year of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Presidential Decree 27, which placed the country under martial rule.
In a statement, Cathy Estavillo, sceretary general of the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines (AMIHAN) and vice chair for Southeast Asia for the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), one of the GPC co-organizers, said that the primary solution to world hunger is genuine agrarian reform.
“We as small food producers remain as society’s poorest and hungriest because local elites, big transnational corporations, and imperialist powers continuously take away our lands and plunder our natural resources, exploit our labor, control almost all aspects of food systems, violate our rights, and destroy the environment. In order for us to sustainably produce food for all, we must end feudal and imperialist exploitation in our own countries by taking back control over land and resources,” Estavillo said.
She added that in order to move forward towards genuine rural development, the decades-old neoliberal policies must be reversed and capitalist profiteering in food and agriculture must stop. “Only then can rural peoples be free to build just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems,” Estavillo said.
Groups in the Philippines also protested in front of the Camp Aguinaldo demanding a stop in the killing of farmers who were tagged as members of the New People’s Army who were killed in encounters.
Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers in the province of Sindh in Pakistan joined the first in a series of caravans to be held in the country as a response to challenges related to water scarcity and other climate impacts, land grabbing, and deforestation.
Tarik Mehmood, spokesperson of Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek and APC secretary general, said that rural peoples directly bear the brunt of climate change impacts, which often translates to loss of lives and livelihoods.
“But instead of putting the brakes on capitalist profiteering that have destroyed our lands, plundered our natural resources, polluted and heated up the planet, governments and international institutions are giving the green light to big corporations cashing (in) on the climate crisis through false climate solutions that will lead to more land grabbing and displacement of rural peoples,” Mehmood said in a statement.
In Bangladesh, non-government organizations Bangladesh Resource Center for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK) and Shikka Shastha Unnayan Karzakram (SHISUK) held community consultations, discussions on climate impacts on farming practices, seed sharing, traditional food fairs, agroecology training, and mobilizations among indigenous peoples, rural women, and youth in various villages.
Community consultations and mobilizations–covering issues of land grabbing, seed conservation, climate impacts, and agroecology–were also held among pastoralists, indigenous peoples, farmers, and farmworkers in several villages in India, led by Keystone Foundation
and other organizations.
In Nepal, Caritas led a food demonstration among rural women to promote culturally appropriate and locally available food. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, women of Vikalpani led a petition signing to support the demands of rural people for food, land and climate justice.
The demands gathered during the caravan will be presented at the Rural Peoples Speak-Out at the COP 28.
The People’s Caravan is organized by the People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, PAN Asia Pacific, APC, International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, International League of People’s Struggles, Asia Pacific Research Network, and People’s Rising for Climate Justice. (RTS, RVO)