July 1, 2021
On July 1, 2021, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity held a webinar to launch their joint campaign titled “Building a Healthy Planet: Promoting Safe and Nutritious Food for All.”
Mr. Tariq Mehmood provided an overview of the campaign with its objective of sensitizing small producers, consumers and society in general regarding the human and environmental cost of corporate-controlled and chemical-intensive industrial agricultural production and promoting the use of agroecology and food sovereignty as an antidote to corporate agriculture.
Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed from Roots for Equity highlighted the need for an alliance of progressive voices and platforms in urban and rural areas that can struggle for access to safe and nutritious food for all, especially in the face of a global crisis the Covid-19 pandemic. She highlighted the urgent need for solidarity amongst small producers, industrial workers, consumers, academics, women, youth and other actors in the struggle for food sovereignty. According to her, that was the most needful act as a way forward in the face of multiple social, economic and political factors that are impacting food production and consumption. She highlighted the numerous crises including food and economic crisis, environmental, health and climate among others. Dr Sayeed identified the role of corporate agriculture along with other imperialist institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other institutions that should be held accountable for the destruction of the environment and sharply rising global inequities, including rising hunger.
Shaheen Mahar, a PKMT member from Ghotki, highlighted women farmers’ immense, unparalleled labour and demanded immediate redressal for the injustices they face, especially their lack of access to food, let alone safe and nutritious food. In the face of Covid-19, women are facing acute hunger as well as lack of decent livelihood. She stressed the need for not only women’s right to land but implementation of land ownership for women farmers. She pointed out that the ongoing trade liberalization and corporatization of the dairy sector along with government-led crackdowns on the sale of raw milk are a direct threat to rural women’s livelihoods and their right to food sovereignty. Shaheen also elaborated on the gendered impact of chemical pesticide usage; since women agriculture workers are extensively involved in pesticide application, they face numerous health risks due to direct exposure to toxic pesticides.
Asif Khan, a farmer from Haripur and PKMT Steering Committee member stressed the need for self-reliance in food and agriculture production. He emphasized that unchecked industrial development, capitalist first-world countries and fossil-fuel driven corporate agriculture are responsible for environmental destruction, climate crisis and are a source of a high percentage of past and present emissions. Yet, it is small and landless farmers in third world countries, along with other marginalized groups, who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change. Asif critiqued the inequitable nature of the world food system; despite having tenuous access and ownership rights to land and other productive resources, small farmers toil ceaselessly to produce most of the world’s food. He stressed the need for an alternate just and equitable food system as the basis for healthy, nutritious food production.
Mr. Zahoor Joya presented an outline of the scheduled activities for the campaign starting from today and continuing until October 16, 2021, culminating in programs to mark 15th and 16th October as the International Day for Rural Women, and World Food Day which PKMT and Roots for Equity mark as World Hunger Day.
- An end to poisonous agricultural inputs and an end to monopolistic control of TNCs in the food and agriculture sector;
- Provision of food and agriculture laws that promote agroecological food production as a safe, viable & sustainable alternative to corporate agriculture;
- Mobilization of peasant movements to fight for their right to self-reliance and self-determination in food production & distribution;
- Promotion of healthy and nutritious cultural foods like local fruits and vegetables, milk, desi ghee, butter and lassi as opposed to mass-produced, processed foods devoid of nutrition
- Repeal of detrimental neoliberal food and agriculture policies that impede farmers’ right to decent livelihood
- Prioritize just, equitable and genuine land reforms that allow land redistribution to landless farmers (including women agriculture workers) along with control over all productive resources;
- Farmers’ access to and control over reliable markets for agricultural and non-agricultural products
- Small and landless farmers’ access to government credit schemes, government subsidies and social security benefits.