Friday, August 5, 2016

Agroecology: Youth will be the change!

Youth will be the change 

15 days/3 month Intensive course on agroecology with rural youth at Amrita Bhoomi, 

     Youth are leaving agriculture. Our agonizing countryside doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture to build a life upon. Their parents encourage them to go to the city, take up a white-collar job -‘we don’t want our children to suffer like us,’  they say. Yet many rural youth experience that visceral pull to the land. They want, like their forefathers, to live in the countryside. They want to focus on the success stories instead of the misery. The city doesn’t really excite them, some of them have already tried their hand at IT or engineering. They know it's possible to come back to the land, but they just don’t know how to start.

     It is to encourage such rural youth that Amrita Bhoomi along with outstanding Baduku Community College is carrying out an intensive and profound life-changing course on sustainable agriculture. But this is not just a theoretical or technical course on practices. This 15-day course, spread over 3 months, begins with an exploration of the ‘self’ as a farmer - it asks the students to go deep into their hearts and histories to ask who they are in society- What is their position? What caste are they? What is their gender? what are the power relations that lie behind all these relations. Are they privileged? Are they the oppressor or the oppressed? What does it mean to be a farmer? What disasters have their own farming families been hit by? Most of them have never asked such questions of looked at how they form part of the larger society or its structures, and how they themselves can also be the change.

     The 25-odd students of the course came from such a diversity of backgrounds, classes, castes that it was an emotional, intensive and a deep bonding experience. Only 1 woman participated, mainly because of the course timings that ran late into the evening and against their families comfort levels. There are plans to bring out a women-only course in the future set to their convenience. About 5 students were of urban origin--they quit their city jobs to move to the countryside for good.  

    The students lived on the Amrita Bhoomi campus for a week during this first phase of the course. The other sections of the course are called ‘perspectives’ and ‘skills’- the first is a historical Perspective of agriculture in India. It deals with pre-colonial agriculture, the impact of colonialism and advent of cash crops, the changes post independence, green revolution, trade liberalization, and ongoing current agrarian crisis and its facets. The Skills section focuses on practices of agroecology--observation of the land, plants, seed production, water conservation, crop cycles, microbial mixtures with cow dung and local ingredients. They learn to observe nature, they learn these skills as art and passion, not just through the scientific technical lens.

    The day started with some ‘seva’ or service - they had to work in the kitchen, clean the showers and toilets, work on the farm, and dedicate some time daily to keep the machine running. The day ended with movies, song or dance. 

   Now the students are home for a month. They have been asked to practice at least 3 of the skills acquired on a section of their parents' lands and come back with the lessons that the earth teaches them. They will use their new found epiphanies to look at their world in a new way, one where they have the power to change their own realities.

     “Our families are against us doing this course, they really don’t want us to come back to the land,” expressed many students. The main struggle for them starts at home, "but we are determined."
    “They are very idealistic and romantic, but we will see over the next three months how they fare,” said Ramesh, the main farmer-trainer from Baduku college.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Letter from ICCFM to the Ministry on Licensing guidelines and formats for GM Technology Agreements

Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, India
Tel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: 
                                                                                                                            Date: 25/07/2016
Shri D.S. Misra 
Deputy Commissioner (QC)
Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare,
Room No.B/116, 2nd Floor,
Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi.

Dear Mr. Misra,
We are a network of farmers’ organizations in India, comprising of farmers movements from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra.
We, hereby, submit Comments by Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements on:

The Direct effects of Monsanto’s high royalties, faulty technology and monopoly through patents

Prices and royalties of Bt cotton seeds will increase. The Bt Cotton model of revenue extraction will be applied to other seeds, (hybrid & native) and the price of seeds will increase. This would entail more exploitation of already indebted Indian farmers. Plus, there will be increased risks of crop failures as seen recently in Bt cotton failure in Punjab.  The cost of agriculture will go even higher due to patents, royalties and stricter corporate control of Indian agriculture. The seed corporations, which have now become the biotech corporations, want to patent every seed in India so they can profit from every item in our plate and farms. 

Corporations will privatize farmers’ shared “commons”. Monsanto and Bayer are already negotiating terms for a merger. The deal would create one of the biggest agribusiness business monopolies in the world and a global exploitive seed and chemical empire.

If this trend of patenting is encouraged, then the day is not far when our traditional knowledge will become patentable and corporations will profit for India’s indigenous knowledge. 
India will enter a new age of food and seed imperialism which will be controlled by US corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill. 
India will lose its sovereignty and heed to the demands of corporations on issues of IPRs, Biodiversity and Farmers’ Rights. 

1. We reject all patents on our seeds, our biodiversity and our life.
Seed is life and farmers as traditional seed breeders they have the rights to their biodiversity. Our Biodiversity Heritage is our 'collective commons'.

2. The farmers have rights to reliable and affordable seed. It is the duty of the government to protect farmers’ right to livelihood and right to life. It is the government’s duty under Art 21 of the constitution to protect the life of all its citizens. The Cotton Seed Price Control Order issued by the Government of India needs to be seen in the context of farmer’s rights.

3. IPRs, patents, royalty, and technology fees collected by Monsanto are unjust for it comes in the context of false claims and a failing technology which is costing farmers heavily. It is the duty of Government to act to revoke a patent according to Article 64 and Article 66 of the Indian Patent Act.

4. Traditional knowledge and knowledge systems are our shared property. We reject the hijack our knowledge by corporate agenda and monopoly.

5. We want an end to Monsanto’s monopoly. As farmers, consumers and citizens we have the right to control our market. The government should control of the prices of Bt Cotton seeds and all other seeds. Monsanto must not be allowed to collect illegal and exploitative royalties.  We reject Monsanto's control over our seed prices. The Government has a duty to prevent monopolies being established. This is why we had the MRTP commission earlier, and now the competition commission. The issue of monopoly is before the Competition Commission of India, which has stated that Monsanto has violated Competition laws and there is Prima Facie evidence of monopoly.

6. India should honour the integrity of her people and not bow down to pressure from corporations to amend her Biodiversity Act, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act.

Yudhvir Singh

Convener, ICCFM


Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
KS Puttanaiah

Karnataka RajyaRaithaSangha,Karnataka
Sh Vijay Jawandhia
ShetkariSanghatna Maharashtra

S Kannaiyan
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

CK Janu

P Raveendranath,
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association

ChukkiNanjundaswamy, Karnataka RajyaRyotSangha, Karnataka

President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Farmer-to-farmer training session on Millets at Amrita Bhoomi | Karnataka, India


b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Farmer_checking_Millet_Seed_-_Copy.jpgAt least 60 farmers, mostly from the neighboring indigenous Soliga community, as well as other small farmers including some urban origin farmers gathered for a farmer-to-farmer training session on millets at the Amrita Bhoomi agroecology center, on 2nd July 2016.
Amrita Bhoomi is linked to the Karnataka State Farmers’ Movement (KRRS for its initials in Kannada language) and is La Via Campesina’s agroecology school in South Asia. 
Successful millet growers, both young and old came to share their experiences and answer questions. This was followed by millet seed distribution to the trainees. Grameena Kutumba, a group that promotes millets and organizes direct farmer to consumer markets, co-organized this training session. They committed to follow up with a farmer to consumer fair early next year to allow trainees at this session to directly sell their produce to consumers.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Urban_farmer_gifting_millet_seeds_to_a_Soliga_indigenous_woman_farmer.jpgUrban origin farmers sponsored and gifted packets of millet seeds to the Soliga indigenous farmers. Some members of a local bakery also came by to present millet cookies made by them and showcase different forms of value added food products from millets. 
There are many types of millets- Finger millet, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Kodo millet etc- all with varying flavors, textures and culinary adaptations. Millets are hailed as a miracle crop. This favorite food of birds, is also one of the world’s healthiest food for humans. It is a crop that can grow naturally without the need for any irrigation, chemicals or fertilizers. Sadly, millets were wiped out of our diets and farms because of the government’s heavy promotion of rice, wheat, sugarcane and other green revolution crops. Millets can resolve not just ecological problems by ending chemical and water use, they also provide income benefits to farmers by greatly reducing their cost of cultivation.
The nutritional profile of millets is by far superior to that of rice or wheat. Millets are high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and most vitamins. They can alleviate hunger and malnutrition; a major crisis in India, by simply including them in people’s diets and partially replacing polished white rice and over-processed wheat as much as possible. They also have a very low glycemic index thus improving insulin response and fighting diabetes. Millets improve heart health, are high in anti-oxidants andimprove digestive health.
Millet crop residues are an excellent source of fodder too. India’s serious drought crisis has adversely impacted livestock, which are first to die in times of water and fodder scarcity. Millets can grow in drought and also are very nutritious for animals.
Although millets are still a big part of indigenous peoples diets, their consumption among other rural and urban populations has depleted tremendously after polished white rice took over. These days, there is a growing consciousness and demand for millets from consumers due to its great health impacts, but there is not enough production in Karnataka. This is a major reason behind this training session organized by Amrita Bhoomi- to encourage and spread millets among Karnataka’s farmers. Promoting millets is a key campaign for Amrtia Bhoomi and many other activities and fairs are planned through the rest of the year.
Boregowda, a millet grower from Mandya (a region dominated by sugarcane and rice because of the presence of a dam, which is drying up fast) said,

“It was 40 degrees this year, the hottest summer ever, and we had no water or rain. I decided to try to grow millets, and they grew so well, my fields were green without any watering! My neighbors were impressed. So I went to agriculture university scientists to get their opinion and see what they had to say. But I didn’t tell them that I was already growing millets. I asked them if they had any millet seeds and whether I would be able to grow them during this dry spell. The agricultural scientists told me that nothing would grow in this summer, and even if it were to grow, there would be major pest attacks. They advised me to buy various chemicals to spray to fight pests. I later informed them that in fact my millets were already growing and lush and that I didn’t use any water or chemicals! They were surprised.”

There are also challenges in cultivation – birds love millets! If a single farmer grows millets then she would lose most of her crop to birds. This is the reason why millets need to be grown collectively over a large area so the birds have many farms to pick from and not just one. “Millets teach us to come together,” said Yellapa, a farmer teacher from Dharwad, who is part of a millet grower’s collective. The Soliga indigenous farmers said, “we must also share our crops with the birds, our food is not just for humans.” Soliga farmers were the most enthusiastic participants of the training session as they have traditionally grown millets as subsistence crops. 

“There is not even a single millet mill in the entire state of Karnataka! The neighboring Tamil Nadu state government on the other hand has set up processing units in their state. Most of the millets from Karnataka go to Tamil Nadu for processing and then come back here. We have to demand from the Karantaka government that they set up at least two processing plants in the state, one in the north and another in the south of the state. This will really encourage farmers to grow millets.”, said Chukki Nanjundaswamy of Amrita Bhoomi. 

Traditionally millets were processed by hand and a very labor-intensive and time-consuming method. This would really increase costs for consumers. On the other hand, small millet processing units do exist but they lead to major waste- upto 30-40% waste. The more efficient larger mills are more expensive, which is why Amrita Bhoomi is demanding that the state pay for them as a support to farmers who can then collectively grow and process millets.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Millet_Workshop_-_Amritabhoomi.jpgThe UN celebrated 2013 as the international year of Quinoa, a wonderful grain given to the world by the Andean people. The participants concluded that the time had come to also celebrate millets internationally, especially in its various centers of diversity in Africa and Asia, as a crop that can eradicate malnutrition, hunger and resolve many ecological problems. They also stressed that millets need policy support  – not just for farmers but also for consumers. The government should include this nutritious food in public programs such as in public school meals plans, and primary health centers instead of just focusing on pharmaceutical vitamin pills or chemically fortified foods.

by Ashlesha Khadse

Saturday, June 25, 2016

People in Paanama, Sri Lanka protest again demanding their lands back

21st June 2016

People in Paanama chased away from their lands on 17th July 2010 by the official thugs of the Rajapaksa government. Since then, people in Panama demand for return to their lands with the support of the civil society organization in Sri Lanka.
As a result of the continues struggles for several years by the people of Panama and civil society together, landless people of Panama were confirmed to ensure their land rights and giving back their lands by a cabinet decision made on 11th February 2015 by the "good governance" government.
But the government officer who was addressed by the cabinet decision to take required actions to release the lands back to the people continued to neglect the government decision, therefore people of Panama decided to move to their lands again on 26 March 2016. However the officer has sent demanding letters to the people asking to evacuate themselves from the lands before 30th June 2016.
Hence, a protest campaign was held in Panama on 21st June 2016 against this dreadful situation asking the government whether their cabinet decision a joke. People in Panama number of civil society organization and their members from all around the country was participated in this protest campaign.

"Do not try to take us away from our lands. If anyone tried, that will be a catastrophe. These are our lands. Good governance promised us we would be given them back. Please do this without providing false and fake solution. A sticker was also distributed among tourists in Panama and Arugambay to build their awareness on the issue.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Farmer’s Message for Narendra Modi

Was the prime minister’s standing ovation for farmers a cruel joke?
The Wire
Paddy farmers in Tamil Nadu. Credit: Feng Zhong/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In July 2014, barely 60 days into his new role as the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi was addressing a group of agricultural researchers and scientists in New Delhi on the occasion of the 86th foundation day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It was also his first public event as a newly-elected prime minister.
In a speech that was nothing more than politically correct rhetoric, Modi called for a standing ovation for India’s farmers. He even took a dig at the scientists, reportedly telling them that it is not enough to spend time in five-star seminar rooms analysing why things cannot be done, but also important to think about how these problems can be overcome.
Modi was evidently scoring a point over his predecessor, who was often accused of turning a blind eye to India’s farm force. He wanted to craft an image of a farmers’ leader. Amidst the many things he said, he also coined a new punchline, ‘per drop, more crop’,which was splashed across newspapers at the time.
Two years on, I am sitting in my farm in Gattawady village, Erode, Tamil Nadu, filled with mixed feelings. Here is why.
Low budget allocation
That dig at scientists notwithstanding, the budget allocation for agricultural research is despicably low. There are some indigenous drought resistant varieties of crops, but Indian universities and institutions remain heavily underfunded and unable to make any serious research interventions on that front. A little bit of a push from the government to promote indigenous research could go a long way in addressing the climate-induced distress that we are witnessing of late. Instead, what we are seeing is a systemic weakening of public sector research and institutions, and attempts to serve the interests of transnational corporations.
No visits during drought
While the country has been under the grip of one of the most severe droughts of recent times, the prime minister, between his hectic foreign trips and election sloganeering, could not find time to visit any of these parched pockets, including mine. It is one thing to be occupied with delivering monologues on public radio and quite another to actually pay heed to the concerns of people on the ground. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India had to remind the government that rural distress needs urgent attention.
Inadequate increase in MSP and low farm incomes
The most important of these points for me is that one of the poll promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party was to increase the minimum support price (MSP) to 50% above costs. A few days ago, they made a joke of that promise by increasing the MSP of rice by 4.5%.
How does the government decide on the MSP? The answer lies with the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). They conduct national MSP calculations, which apply only to 25 crops. The methodology is opaque and questionable, especially when the same MSP is declared for all states, irrespective of the varying labour and input costs in each region. Or to borrow the prime minister’s words, a group of people who sit in air-conditioned seminar rooms decide on the MSP for paddy while completely neglecting the reality on the ground. The functioning of the CACP is always to satisfy the government’s treasury rather than farmers. This is evident from the announced MSP for rice as well.
There is a reason why a farmer produces paddy or wheat despite low prices. It is because she or he is assured that the produce will be procured by the government at the MSP. However, oilseeds and pulses are most often sold in open markets and there is no assured procurement from the state. If someone says that this was done to motivate farmers to produce pulses (thereby reducing the import burden), that argument farthest from reality.
What is unimaginably hurtful is the fact that on one hand they talk about doubling farm income, while on the other we see a dead end for the MSP. It also makes you think: the average farm income in this country hovers around Rs 6,000 per month. By 2022, even if by some wave of a magic wand the government doubles this, it still amounts to the pitiable sum of Rs 12,000.
Apart from qualifying as a good headline, what use does the promise of doubling farm income serve? Was Modi’s standing ovation for farmers a cruel joke?
Kannaiyan is a farmer, General Secretary of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM) and associated with La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement. He can be contacted at 

Please find the article on the following link:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On April 17th, 2016-- KRRS inaugurates first Migrant Farmers

17 April - International Peasants Day- The Struggle Migrates to the City!
Migrant peasant women and men launch organisation in Bangalore city. Most now work as domestic workers, auto rickshaw drivers, street vendors or coconut sellers, yet they maintain their peasant identity and want to continue their social justice struggle protecting the rights of migrants

Chukki Nanjundaswamy speaks in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, April 17th, 2016 as a new chapter of KRRS is inaugurated

Domestic Worker Representatives

Auto Rickshaw Driver Representatives


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A wholesome agro-culture, A healthy citizenry, A toxin-free nation - A step forward to accept Ecological Agriculture as a policy in Sri Lanka

A wholesome agro-culture, A healthy citizenry, A toxin-free nation - A step forward to accept Ecological Agriculture as a policy in Sri Lanka 

Toxin-free Agricultural Education Trade Exhibition and Academic Dialogue started today, 6th March 2015 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall in Colombo Sri Lanka organized by the National Program of Food Production of Precedential Secretariat of Sri Lanka. The event has organized under the theme of "A wholesome agro-culture, A healthy citizenry, A toxin-free nation" as the launching ceremony of shifting Sri Lanka's agriculture in to chemical free ecological agriculture under the guidance of Sri Lanka's president Mithreepala Sirisena.

Mithreepala Sirisena pledged that he will convert the Sri Lanka's agriculture into a more sustainable, environment friendly, healthier and ecological farming system at the last presidential election which he won in January 2015. After he got in to power as the Sri Lanka's precedent, Sirisena banned five toxic pesticides including world's most used weedicide Glyphosate which is a most selling product of Monsanto Company. Propanil, Carbaryl, Cholopyrifos and Carbofuran are the other four pesticides banned in Sri Lanka in February 2015 together with Glyphosate. According to the ban these pesticides are prohibited to import, store, distribute, sale and use for any reason.

President took this fearless decision according to the revelation of WHO report saying that these pesticides has direct links to the Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) which has affected more than 200,000 farmers in the main agricultural regions in the country during last decade. According to the hospital reports more than 9 farmers are dying every day due to CKDu in Sri Lanka. However the president decision was under heavy attack by the agro-chemical companies, agronomists and scientists backed by the agribusiness but farmer organizations like Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) and handful of scientists and academics supported his wise decision to ban these silent killers.

This toxic-free agricultural exhibition is another step by the president in this long process and will be open for public until 8th Mach 2016. This is an opportunity for the farming community, farmer organizations, researches, scientists, journalist and artists who are committed to create toxin-free nation and will accommodate discussions, debates, seminars, lectures and presentations by the agro-ecologists and activists.