International Conference in Kathmandu: For Food Sovereignty and Farmers' Rights

The National Farmers’ Commission of Nepal organized a 2-day international conference on 10-11 March 2019. The topic of the conference was ‘Food Sovereignty and Farmers’ Rights’. Nepalese Prime Minister Comrade KP Oli was the Chief Guest at the inaugural session chaired by Nepal Farmers’ Commission President Comrade Chitra Bahadur. Delegates from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, North Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries participated in the conference. Comrade Purushottam Sharma, Comrade Hannan Mollah and Ujjaini Halim represented the All India Kisan Mahasabha, All India Kisan Sabha, and Food Sovereignty Network South Asia respectively.

In the first session, the Farmers’ Commission presented issues of food security and livelihood facing Nepal’s agriculture and two-thirds of the population dependent on it. Prime Minister Oli said that Nepal has given food sovereignty and food security the status of fundamental rights in the Constitution. He said that we need to take big steps in the field of agriculture. Two matters are being talked of with regard to Nepal: first, the end of private ownership of land; and second, the development of agriculture through farmers’ cooperatives. From the speeches made by former PM and Opposition Congress leader Minendra Rija, it appears that a consensus on cooperative farming in Nepal can be reached. Serious discussions are on regarding agriculture in Nepal and livelihoods of the large population dependent on agriculture. Therefore, today this has become an important issue not only for the government but also for the Opposition and the common people.

In the second session, delegates from Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka gave power point presentations on the agrarian situation in their respective countries, followed by a question and answer session. It became clear at the conference that all countries whose populations are dependent on agriculture face similar problems, regardless of their geographical location on the globe.

In one session of the conference, Nepal’s Agriculture Ministry presented its plans for food sovereignty and food security. The aim is to make Nepal a country with 100% organic produce in 10 years’ time. The plans outlined the methods by which Nepal would move towards more productive and commercial farming so that agriculture can become the means of livelihood for a large part of the population.  

Next came the presentations of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi delegates. 65% of land in Pakistan is still in the hands of big zamindars. Land Reform Acts were passed thrice, in 1957, 1972, and 1979. But later the Shariat Law declared these land reform laws to be against Islam. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh are struggling with the challenges of fishing communities’ issues. Vice President of North Korea’s Agrarian Workers’ Union Kil Sung Bong said that since its inception North Korea has been facing the embargoes and conspiracies of American imperialism, restricting export as well as import. But despite this, North Korea is trying for just distribution of their limited resources. He said that there is no private ownership of land in North Korea. Lands have been given to worker-farmer cooperatives in the villages. The government has given an engineer and an agricultural scientist to each cooperative society. The cooperatives do modern and scientific farming. They sell their produce to the government.

CPIML CC member and All India Kisan Mahasabha National Secretary Comrade Purushottam Sharma attended and addressed the conference. He congratulated the Nepal government on constituting a National Farmers’ Commission to understand and solve agrarian issues and thanked the government and the Farmers’ Commission for providing a platform for countries to share and discuss their agrarian problems and experiences. He presented a pamphlet at the conference and suggested that the following also should be included in the Kathmandu Resolution: protection of agricultural land and indigenous seeds (without which food sovereignty is not possible); ensuring that the PDS system reaches every needy person in order to guarantee food security; guarantee of purchase of all crops by the government at a price profitable to the farmer.

At the conclusion, the conference was addressed by renowned Communist leader and former Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’.