Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty are closely intertwined. Both demand accountability to the people, self-reliance, freedom from imperialist policies and complete sovereignty of the state. Therefore, in wake of the Super Floods 2010, which was a terrible climate catastrophe suffered by the people of Pakistan, Roots for Equity initiated its Climate Justice Program.
Pakistan has been categorized as a country vulnerable to climate disasters due to various factors. Floods, the most apparent form of climatic disaster have impacted rural communities, especially those who live in the riverine areas; they are very vulnerable due to their geographical presence near major river arteries, a pre-requisite to their livelihood based on agriculture production; rushing floodwaters sweep away their abode and belonging bringing disaster to the lives and livelihood of the poorest and most marginalized. Small and landless farmers loose not only their homes but also crops just ready to be harvested, food and seed stocks, fodder and livestock. In essence, livelihood as well as other assets that could be used later by communities for rebuilding their lives is lost to the floods.
In Pakistan, farmlands that are protected from flooding by government-constructed embankments, in the local vernacular are called ‘pacca’ areas, and those outside the embankments ’kaccha’ areas. The farmers living in the kaccha areas or the riverine areas are in essence living either on the river banks or even right on the (for the moment) dry river bed. The reality is that the riverine area farmers are the most vulnerable. They face acute atrocities through numerous exploitative mechanisms.
For instance, the question is why are they living next to the river or on the dry riverbed? The answer is a the feudal structure of society that has not allowed an equitable distribution of land. The riverine communities, with no other skills but farming, no access to government schooling, no other means of employment and with no other place to go, are forced to live their lives in a vicious cycle of evacuation during floods, coming back and rebuilding, and in a just few months back to evacuation.
Second, floods – which are certainly not a new phenomenon – have increased in their frequency and intensity directly tied to climate change. Farmers, bound to a debt-ridden, highly toxic industrial agriculture production system promoted and pushed by state machinery and agro-chemical transnational corporations, suffer huge economic loss year after year and are unable to provide either economic or food security to their households and community. No doubt, the carbon emissions from the advanced industrialized countries have certainly brought havoc in our communities – all this suffering is in face of the fact that Pakistan is only responsible for 0.8% of global emissions.
Corporate agrochemical TNCs have taken advantage of the misery of farmers and have been providing subsidized hybrid seeds seemingly as ‘help’ to disaster-ridden communities. Other forms of aid is also ‘flooding’ the country, leading to a culture of dependency, oblivious to the fact that the donor countries are often the foremost responsible for the ongoing climate change and resulting disasters.
It was critical to develop a holistic awareness among communities about climate change that would foster a political understanding of climate justice and food sovereignty It is in this back drop that the project proposal in hand has been developed. The program’s objectives are:
- Organized riverine communities demanding Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty;
- Promotion of agroecology in riverine communities by relying on indigenous knowledge systems for agricultural production and cropping patterns that would be able to deliver food security and self-reliance in the face of floods as a coping mechanisms against climate change.
- Promotion of women farmers role in traditional agricultural practices and their right to land.
- Establishment of farmer-led Roots for Equity in situ seed banks show casing seed sovereignty through collection, multiplication and dissemination of indigenous and local seeds.
- Conservation of biodiversity and genetic resources through search for indigenous and local varieties of seeds for grains, vegetables and fodder;
- Mass multiplication of local and indigenous seeds in riverine areas by small and landless farmers to escape dependency on corporate controlled hybrid seeds and as a response to corporate controlled market based seed monopoly.