Islamabad: Around 250 farmers from different parts of the country, with the support of Pakistani NGOs and the international aid agency, Oxfam today launched a ‘Farmers’ Charter of Demands’. The wish list calls upon the government to adopt agricultural reforms to better protect poor and landless farmers.
Key demands of the 12-point Charter include calls for
- > the reform of existing tenancy acts to allow workers to establish unions,
- > demand fair wages and
- > receive land titles supporting their legal rights to the land.
- > It also demands that legal mechanisms should be put in place to adjudicate complaints and resolve conflicts.
It has been demanded in the Charter that there must be
- > comprehensive land reforms,
- > ensuring cultivable state-owned land
- > as well as land owned by absentee landlords be redistributed among landless farmers, particularly women.
- > It also highlights the need for the repair and reconstruction of irrigation channels ahead of the next monsoon season.
“Rising food prices, land grabs, exploitation of farmers, lack of effective land rights policies, and lack of farming support plans are creating a system that will directly affect people’s food security and their ability to earn livelihood, making it even harder for poor men and women to survive and pushing more people into poverty”, said Shahina Ramzan, member of the Dharti campaign.
The document was presented to key Pakistani politicians and experts here in Islamabad including Taj Haider, Former Senator, Kishwar Zahra, Member of National Assembly and Aftab Alam, Regional Coordinator on Food and Agriculture for Action Aid.
The Charter was released on the day that Oxfam launched a briefing paper, ‘My land, my right’, calling on the Government of Pakistan to include comprehensive land reforms as part of its recovery and reconstruction program in the wake of the 2010-11 devastating floods.
The aid agency said that reconstruction must explicitly address land issues and crippling inequalities in people’s rights and access to land. If not, the agency warned, millions of Pakistanis will remain trapped in deepening poverty, undermining the country’s recovery.
Most people who live in the rural areas affected by the floods are landless. Lack of land ownership and insecure access to available land are two of the major causes of rural poverty in Pakistan. The briefing paper said women farmers were among the most deprived. Despite their immense involvement in agriculture, they own less than three percent of the land – a figure which has fallen after the floods.
“The situation has significantly worsened since the floods”, said Fatima Naqvi, Manager of Oxfam’s Land Rights and Economic Opportunities Program and author of the briefing paper. “But recovery and reconstruction can also provide an opportunity to tackle crippling inequalities in people’s rights and access to land. There is a chance to ‘build back better’, but land reforms have to be part of that plan if men and women farmers aren’t to be pushed further back into a spiral of poverty.”
The launch of the Farmers’ Charter and the briefing paper kick off a new campaign in Pakistan,
‘Dharti –Anaaj.Insaaf.Khushali’ – brings together farmers, lawyers, and Pakistani NGOS, and is supported by Oxfam. This is one of thirty-seven campaigns launched across the globe on June 1 to fight against economic injustice and ensure a world where everyone always has enough to eat.
“The most vulnerable are those agriculture-dependent landless farmers who neither own land to grow or live. The Pakistan campaign will place these landless farmers at the heart of its efforts. It will advocate for policies that empower them through the creation of a new agricultural system that ensures a legal right to land for all and the resources needed to sustainably grow enough for themselves and others” said Dr Christopher John, member of the Dharti campaign.