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Gatherings of Rural People’s Advocates in Nepal and India Advance Struggles for Food Sovereignty and Genuine Pro-people Rural Development

Sept 16-18, 2011

September proved to be a very busy month for the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) which, in partnership with IBON International’s Reality of Aid Network (RoA) and partner civil society organizations (CSOs), conducted three trainings on Food Sovereignty and consultations on aid effectiveness in agriculture and rural development in Nepal and India. The trainings and consultations form part of the network’s activities but this time with the use of a structured module that has been a product of a number of years’ research and actual conduct among members. The consultations, meanwhile, are part of the run-up to the aid High Level Forum in South Korea this coming November.

Held last September 11-13th, PCFS and IBON’s RoA in partnership with the All Nepal Peasant Federation (ANPFa), hosted a two-day workshop on food sovereignty, followed by a one day consultation on aid and development effectiveness in Agriculture and Rural Development in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Participants came from remote regions of the country as well as the Kathmandu valley, representing peasants and pastoralists, women and Dalit rural peoples’ federations, and non-governmental organizations workings on securing people’s right to food. The program was inaugurated by Bamdev Gautam, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal.

IBON policy officer, Tanya Roberts, co-facilitated various discussions, including campaigning and organizing based on the concepts and demands of food sovereignty, and articulating policies that reflect a food sovereignty paradigm. She also spoke about the particular demands that the PCFS will be bringing forward to the HLF 4 in Busan on development effectiveness in Agriculture and Rural Development (see www.foodsov.org/). The President of the NGO Federation of Nepal, Netra Timsina, Deputy General Secretary of ANFPa Balram Banskota, Secretary of ANPFa Hari Parajuli, and Dr. Keshab Khadka, Senior researcher at ANFPa, provided key interventions and also facilitated various sessions.

The Nepali people are currently in the unique position of being among the minority of citizens in the world whose constitution includes the right to food sovereignty. However, the rural peoples’ movements of Nepal know they must organize for food sovereignty to be actualized, and see genuine agrarian revolution as one of the most urgent demands that must be advanced. The participants likewise further resolved to continue their efforts in this direction. Further reiteration of these demands were expressed the following day, Sept. 14th, during a gathering in Kathmandu of peasant youth advocates from across the country.

So what are the arguments for this story?

Following this program in Nepal, from Sept. 16-18, a similar three-day event on food sovereignty and aid effectiveness in agriculture and rural development took place in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India this time co-organized with the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum. Many of the speakers and participants in this session were particularly concerned about the impacts of pesticides, fertilizers and other agrochemical inputs that are poisoning the people and environment in their communities, and spoke strongly about the need for wider promotion and encouragement of organic farming methodologies within the context of food sovereignty. Some also spoke passionately about the problems of land grabbing and the need for more equitable land distribution. IBON’s Food, Agriculture and Rural Development program manager, Amy Padilla, and Tanya Roberts helped facilitate sessions on conceptualizing food sovereignty based on local realities, and practical points for advocating and campaigning for policies that reflect the food sovereignty paradigm.

The following day, Sept. 19, kicked off another three-day activity this time in Chittoor, Andra Pradesh, India, until the 21st in partnership with the agricultural workers’ union Andra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula (APVVU). Sessions were popularized and engaging, and based on several group work and interactive discussions that encouraged participants to think critically about the concepts of food sovereignty, and how these would be written into policies they could concretely campaign towards. Participants included adivasis (indigenous folks), fisherfolk, peasants, and agricultural workers, with Dalits and women among them. PCFS helped in providing inputs on corporate globalization, Better Aid Key Messages and Proposals, PCFS recommendations on aid and development effectiveness in agriculture and rural development, as well as a brief orientation about the Coalition. APVVU partners led by P. Chennaiah and A.J. Kumar provided the participants with valuable inputs primarily by making the participants thoroughly discuss the topics among themselves and report these back in plenary.

Participants in the three trainings all resolved to strengthen their advocacies and campaign for food sovereignty, including making their voices heard by endorsing the Coalition’s recommendations to the upcoming High Level Forum IV gathering.

At this writing, similar trainings and outreach with rural people’s advocates are ongoing in Uganda and Kenya.

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