We Stand in Solidarity with Indian Farmers: Speech

Remarks by Heather Day, Director of CAGJ, at India Solidarity Rally

On February 6, 2021, a car caravan from Federal Way to Seattle protested repression against India’s farmers by the Modi regime, with a rally following at Westlake Plaza. In the largest strike in history, farmers have been peacefully mobilizing since November against 3 proposed reforms which threaten to destroy small-scale farmers’ livelihoods; 75 people have died since the protests began. All photos by Heather Day except where noted. See more photos from the rally.

#FarmersProtest #NoFarmersNoFood #CanYouHearUsIndia? #IStandwithFarmers

Thank you for inviting me, I am honored to be here to share my organization’s message of solidarity with the inspiring mobilization of farmers in India. When I was asked to bring a message of solidarity two days ago, I reached out to farmers across the United States to ask them what messages they wanted to share with you today.

Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ) is a member organization of US Food Sovereignty Alliance and National Family Farm Coalition, who is a member of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. These alliances represent farmers, ranchers, fishing organizations, food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, and faith-based groups. We uphold the right to food as a basic human right and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty. We fight for farmer rights, fair prices, clean air and water, strong local economies, the right to sell and buy locally-grown and -processed food. We fight for the right to be free from corporate domination, the right to live in vibrant and healthy rural communities, and much more.

We too have had to organize to demand justice for small-scale farmers in the US. In a recent solidarity statement with India’s farmer strikes, NFFC proclaimed:

“NFFC fights for farmer rights; fair prices; clean air and water; strong local economies; the right to sell and buy foods that are locally grown and processed; the right to be free from corporate domination; the right to live in vibrant and healthy rural communities; and much more.

Our family farmers, ranchers, and fisherfolk have joined protest marches, tractorcades, and countless meetings with government representatives to advocate policies that would achieve economic, racial, cultural, and social parity throughout the US.

Beyond a doubt, the Coalition stands in solidarity with the Indian farmers who are courageously demanding repeal of the anti-farmer laws that would relinquish more control of their farm and food system to profit-centered agribusiness corporations; they are defending their livelihoods, their food sovereignty, and the future of their republic.”

 

On Jan. 18th this year as India celebrated National Women Farmers Day and the U.S. celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Family Farm Defenders, based in Wisconsin, sent a message of deep solidarity. In their statement they wrote,

“Little did we believe that when the Modi government decided to railroad through such regressive farm legislation amidst a global pandemic that this would lead to the largest strike in human history – now over 250 million strong – and provide such an inspiration to others all around the globe.

…Women have always shouldered the largest burden when it comes to feeding the world, and women of color in the global south remain the majority of the world’s farmers today. In India women have also been at the forefront of this latest grassroots protest in the world’s largest democracy. And for obvious reason. They will be the ones who will have to figure out how to sustain their family in the face of orchestrated commodity shortages and inflated food prices. They will be the ones left to defend their family’s land from contract forfeiture in the wake of so many farmer suicides and mounting rural debt.”

Dena Hoff is a farmer in Eastern Montana who plays a leadership role in NFFC and La Via Campesina North America. She urges the importance of Indian farmers knowing how lucky they are to have so many farmers in India. She shares that family farmers in the US were once powerful before carefully planned bad farm and food policy and consolidation and technology were used to control our livelihoods, destroy our rural communities, and strip us of our political power. Today in the US, farmers and ranchers make up just over 1% of the workforce, down from 70% in 1840.

George Naylor is a farmer in Iowa, and is the former president of NFFC. He shared the following viewpoint:

“The new laws dictated by the Modi government are identical to the early 1950 laws here in the US that broke the New Deal’s guarantee to family farmers of parity prices.  The Indian farmers are absolutely correct in their analysis of the consequences of this new legislation.They know that lower prices mean lower incomes that will drive farmers off the land, while bigger farms struggle to survive the incessant pressure of even lower prices, thus compromising their traditional methods that are more sustainable and less fossil fuel-intensive than any “modern” methods promoted by transnational agribusiness.

This new legislation is a demand from the Modi government on behalf of transnational corporation’s profit motive  to “Get big or get out.”

The Modi government tells the Indian farmers their farms are obviously not big enough and they should follow the path of US agriculture. Really?  Here in the US family farms disappear only to be replaced by giant farms, only to be replaced by farms that are even more giant, and livestock are raised where corporations now own the livestock in giant inhumane confinements.  US agriculture is now totally dependent on chemical pesticides, antibiotics, and the abuse of soil and animals.

Farmer decisions will soon be replaced by Bill Gates’ hidden cyberspace artificial intelligence so our food and agriculture system will be devoid of any democratic or human values.

We in the US see the calamitous future of corporate agriculture worldwide,  because we in the US live today with the destructive consequences of the agribusiness model—the illusions and the pollutions of an undemocratic agricultural system that serves only the profits of corporations at the expense of family farmers, consumers, and the planet’s climate and ecosphere.   We have no choice but to stand in solidarity with the farmers of India and commit ourselves to their success and a restoration of a sustainable, democratic family farm system here in the US and around the world.”

Finally I want to share that my organization has a campaign called AGRA Watch, which aims to hold the Gates Foundation accountable for their agricultural development initiatives in Africa, which favor chemically intensive, industrial and high-tech approaches to farming. In this work, we are proud to work with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.

I have stood here before several times to protest the Gates Foundation’s partnerships with agri-chemical corporation Monsanto, and the March Against Monsanto left Westlake plaza many times to march to the Gates Foundation’s headquarters nearby.

Launched in 2006 by the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, AGRA – the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – promised to double yields and incomes for 30 million farming households in Africa by 2020. Yet a recent report found that yield growth is slow and uneven across staple crops, that farmer incomes are not rising much as a result, and that food security has not improved and may have gotten worse with the decline in crop and diet diversity.

We protest the Gates Foundation and stand in solidarity with Africa’s farmers, farmworkers, pastoralists and fishers to counter the Green Revolution because we know the devastating impact of the failure of the Green Revolution in India, and other countries.

Recently we joined Vandana Shiva’s organization based in India, Navdanya, to signal an alarm about the growing power of the Gates Foundation in global governance to promote agricultural technologies.

We are gravely concerned about the false high-tech solutions being promoted by the Gates Foundation, including a whole new generation of technologies that will take us even further from the practices and knowledges farmers hold right now, to feed the world sustainably.

We condemn the Gates Foundation for having further legitimized and emboldened Prime Minister Modi and his supporters to intensify their divisive politics by awarding the Goalkeepers Global Goals award to Modi in 2019.

We at CAGJ believe farmers and fishers and all who produce our food deserve to hold the power to make decisions affecting them – that is Food Sovereignty, and we are committed to working in solidarity with those struggling for justice worldwide.

As La Via Campesina has said, “Time has come to ‘Globalize the Struggle and Globalize the Hope’ for a dignified life for the communities who feed a majority of the world’s population. It is essential to show our collective strength and remind the world that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”

Photo by Jaslina Kochhar

I say Globalize the Struggle, you say Globalize the Hope! Thank you! Solidarity!

 

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