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AgBioIndia Mailing List
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03 October 2002

Subject: A common vision for the future of agriculture

Three dalit women farmers from India, along with two farmers each from
Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka and one from Pakistan participated in a
unique dialogue in August with about 10 Canadian farmers at Victoria,
British Columbia, Canada. And what a dialogue it was. While the South
Asian farmers were delighted to learn that in Canada, which they had
thought was a monocultured, chemical agri-desert, there were such oasis
of commitment from individual organic farmers and their organisations.
This valiant struggle of Canadian organic farmers delighted the hearts
of the South Asian farmers.

On the other hand, the South Asian farmers articulated that organic
farming for them is not an issue of technology but of culture.
Biodiversity for them was an integral design of their complex farming
systems and not an assembly of small monocultures which they witnessed
on the Canadian farms. They advised the Canadian farmers that livestock,
crops, vegetables -- all of these must be integral elements of matural
farming systems and they miss this integration on the Canadian farms.
They said again and again that their farming can feed the millions and
they needed no biotechnology or TNCs to help feed their populations.

We bring you this unique experience. Such modest and humble cooperation
is the hope for the future. It revives the spirit of cooperation. After
all, the Earth is our Common Ground. If you feel equally concerned,
please do endorse the statement of hope.
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COMMON GROUND

A Vision from the South Asia-Canada Dialogue on the Future of
Agriculture

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
August 24, 2002

Preamble

We, farmers and activists from Canada, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri
Lanka, and Bangladesh, have visited Canadian farms together and
discussed the issues that affect the lives of farming communities all
over the world. We are participating with our concerns in the World
Organic Congress in Victoria, British Colombia and the World Summit on
Sustainable Development
in Johanesburg, South Africa.

We want to share our concerns and our determined will to develop and
defend ecological and biodiversity-based agriculture all over the world.
We oppose the policies of multi-lateral and bilateral agencies and
practices of transnational corporations that undermine the culture and
systems of production of agrarian communities.

We want to reassert, along with many other groups making the same call,
that food sovereignty is not negotiable. This means respecting and
protecting the sovereignty of individual farmers, farming households,
communities and nations to decide what seeds to plant in their soils and
to localize agriculture in accordance with their cultures. We cannot let
our sovereignty be willingly surrendered to corporations by national
governments anywhere. Despite government commitments to protect and
enhance local and indigenous lifestyles made during the previous Earth
Summit in the Convention on Biological Diversity, little has actually
been done.

Consumer movements for safe and healthy food, movements against
Genetically Modified Organisms, movements to rebuild local communities
and movements for a new form of urbanization have made it clear that
non-farmers also want to re-establish an authentic relationship to food
and community. Around the world they are defying the notion of food
constructed for them by transnational corporations and their media
allies. They are also building a consensus that control over food
security must lie in the hands of the local people and not be decided by
remote governments and transnational corporations.

We invite the farmers, development workers, activists, researchers and
academics to stand by our side on these issues and support this document
by signing and discussing it with your communities and translating the
ideas into your own farming practice and work with communities.

Let us become one voice in our struggle. Enter, come in and rejoice.

FARMER STEWARDS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND REWARDED

The role of farmers as caretakers of the land, water and biodiversity
and as stewards of the Earth must be acknowledged and rewarded. This
stewardship is the life-line of all human communities, present and
future.

We reaffirm that farming is not simply an economic activity. Farming is
a way of life, both ethical and concrete. Food is produced in a cyclical
and nurturing process of birth, growth, maturity and regeneration. This
is a life-affirming process with its own inherent value.

DESTRUCTION OF LAND IS THE DESTRUCTION OF FUTURE FARMERS

The Earth sustains us, and is truly our mother. Yet we bury her under a
toxic layer of urban sprawl, spoil her with destructive farming
practices and give her over to those who have no interest in her life
giving capacities. Land should be free from transnational corporate
control and placed in the hands of local farmers servicing their
communities.

We want an immediate end to the abuse of land, in urban and rural
settings. The destruction of land through misguided forms of land use
not only takes food from our mouths, it also removes land from the hands
of young people and women. Conditions should be created for youth and
women to take leadership in farming by ensuring their access to land. A
new form of urbanization is needed to ensure access to farmland, to
integrate food producers in the urban landscape, and to build equitable
relationships between rural, peri-urban and urban areas.

DESTRUCTION OF FARMER KNOWLEDGE DIS-EMPOWERS WOMEN, FAMILIES AND
AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITIES

The development of the art and skill of farming over thousands of years
has been cast aside by so-called modern agricultural technologies. Many
of the technologies support monocultures that fail to regenerate the
soil, the biodiversity, and the water we all depend upon, and therefore
are not really agricultural technologies at all.

The corporations that produce pesticides, fertilizers and seed
technologies have appropriated the skills of food production and taken
control of the food system. The propaganda machine in turn relentlessly
bombards farmers with advertising of their products and methods.
Appreciation and respect is lost for the intimate knowledge of the soil,
plants, and animals developed through a genuine relationship to farming
practice.

Through these processes the genuine thirst for farming knowledge is
replaced by a lifeless profit motive. This destroys the status of women
as seed savers in their communities and disheartens the young people who
see no art and craft remaining in the farming profession of their
fathers and mothers.

The modern education system has sidelined rural life and failed to
develop the capacity of young people to enjoy and develop agrarian
cultures. Youth should be encouraged to recognize and respect the
possibilities of different lifestyles emerging from different ecological
and cultural contexts

BIO-PIRACY AND CORPORATE CONTROL OF SEED ROBS ALL FARMERS, BOTH IN THE
NORTH AND SOUTH

Many farmers in the North have already lost control over their seeds.
This devastation is coming hard and fast to the South. Seed that is
purchased, not saved, is vulnerable not only to ever increasing seed
prices but to an ever narrowing range of choices for farmers. Varieties
that farmers use for particular purposes can simply be withheld by
corporate seed suppliers through patent control, technology contracts,
genomic control through genetic engineering and marketing contracts.
Heritage varieties of food crops that maintain our living biodiversity,
broaden our diet and provide nutritious food are being lost forever. The
evolution of plants in different kinds of farmers' lands is blocked by
corporate seed systems. These developments have very serious
implications for the future of agriculture and the survival of humanity.

We reject biotechnology and genetically modified organisms in
agriculture because these technologies concentrate control of the food
system and compromise farming ecologies. Opposition to GMOs must begin
with seed saving, and protecting the rights of farmers to save seed.
Farming communities can draw inspiration from the farming women of South
Asia who retain a rich knowledge and practice of seed saving. To nurture
this knowledge, there must be no patenting of seeds and lifeforms.

ORGANIC INDUSTRY OR A NEW AGRICULTURE MOVEMENT?

We must resist the corporate takeover of our achievements in the organic
agriculture movement. The struggles of individual farmers and their
organizations to transform conventional farming into organic farming are
succeeding around the world, but the gains are vulnerable to the greed
of corporations seeking new profits in organic food production. We
appreciate these struggles, and recognize our common responsibility to
defend farming in the South from further destruction under the guise of
an organic
industry.

The conditions of production must not be defined by super-markets, food
propaganda and an urbanizing culture that has lost its link to the true
meaning of agriculture.

LOCALIZATION OF AGRICULTURE AND REBUILDING OUR COMMUNITIES

The localization of agriculture means taking control of the food system
away from a process of globalization that divides people. Food is our
common ground. Localized food production means producing more food
locally according to the farming seasons and importing less. It nurtures
and enhances local diversity by valuing the seasonality of local food
production and consuming less energy to move food from one place to
another. It integrates livestock, poultry and fish with cultivated and
uncultivated
plants in an authentic food system that strengthens farmers' knowledge.
It enables non-farmers to also rebuild their relationship to food,
cultures and ecologies. These are the meaningful expressions of
agriculture.

Corporate agriculture does none of this.

A COMMON STAND

It is becoming clear to farming communities in different contexts around
the world that we are experiencing many negative effects from corporate
control of the food system and destruction of communities and agrarian
knowledge. Many of our concerns are the same, and our different
struggles to address them woven together in a single strand.

To reinforce this unity and common ground, we encourage more exchanges
between farmers, more openness to understanding each others'
experiences, and more sharing on how to develop a common stand on the
world being created against our will.

We invite you to stand with us by indicating your agreement with the
following positions:

* We promote biodiversity-based ecological agriculture in our struggle
to defend and rebuild our local communities.

* We value and acknowledge farmers' services to humanity and future
generations and therefore demand they be rewarded.

*  We support our rights as communities to retain control and remain in
command over the regenerative capacities of the natural and biological
worlds, including seed and our own lives.

*  We oppose the destruction of our landscapes, cultures and communities
for the benefit of transnational corporations.

*  We reject biopiracy and corporate control of seeds; No patents on
life forms.
---------

South Asia-Canada Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture - 2002

About the Authors

Ms. Jahanara Begum is a pioneer farmer of the "New Agriculture Movement"
in the coastal area of Cox's Bazaar District in the southern part of
Bangladesh.

Mr. Mohamed Afsar Ali Miah, has a five acre farm in Tangail, a flood
plain zone of Bangladesh.

Mr. Massala Koralalage Jayathissa is a small rice farmer and Chair of
the National Farmer Federation for traditional seeds in Sri Lanka.

Ms. Dana A. Kalyanawathi is an organic vegetable farmer in Sri Lanka
with 3 acres of land and an executive member of the Women Farmers
Federation of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Upali Munasinghe is a small farmer and the Secretary of the National
Farmers Federation of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Muhammad Azeem, has a biodiversity rich farm in the mountainous area
of northern Pakistan.

Ms. Min Maya Karki is a small farmer in the Terai of Nepal and member of
the Nipane Village Development Committee.

Mr. Ram Sharan Magar is a farmer in the mountainous District of
Lalitpur, Nepal with 2 acres of land.

Ms. Begari Laxmamma is a non-literate Dalit farmer with a one acre farm
in the Deccan Plateau of South India, and a leading Seed Keeper in her
community.

Ms. Chinna Narsamma is a non-literate Dalit woman with a 2 acre farm in
the Deccan, and an accomplished film maker.

Ms. Begari Sammamma is a non-literate Dalit farmer in the Deccan with
1.5 acres of rain-fed farmland.

Ms. Lee McFadyen is a farmer in the Similkameen Valley, British Colombia
and President of Living Earth Organic Growers Association.

Mr. Gregoire Lamoureux is a farmer in Winlaw, British Colombia and
director of the Kootenay Permaculture Institute.

Ms. Alison Hackney farms land in her family for over 120 years near
Montreal, Quebec.

Mr. Patrick Steiner has a heritage seed farm in Sorrento, British
Colombia

Mr. John Wilcox has a 15 acre farm on Salt Spring Island and is a
founding member of Island Natural Growers.

Ms. Madeleine Roussel is a biodynamic farmer near Montreal who supplies
300 families with a weekly food box.

Mr. Robert Guilford has a mixed grain and livestock farm near Winnipeg,
Manitoba.

Ms. Martha Jane Robins farms with her parents in Laura, Saskatchewan and
is the Youth President of the National Farmers' Union.

Ms. Abra Brynne works to foster local food systems in the Kootenay of
British Columbia.

Mr. Dominique Caouette is with Inter Pares in Ottawa, Canada, and a
researcher on political issues in Asia.

Mr. Kevin Conway is a writer with the International Development Research
Centre based in Ottawa.

Mr. Brewster Kneen co-publishes The Ram's Horn, a monthly journal on
food systems, out of Sorrento, British Columbia.

Ms. Cathleen Kneen co-publishes The Ram's Horn and is editor of the
British Colombia Organic Grower.

Dr. Daniel Buckles is a Senior Program Specialist with the International
Development Research Centre and an author of several books on
development and agricultural issues.

Ms. Farida Akhter is one of the Founding Members of UBINIG and a leading
activist in the women's movement of Bangladesh.

Mr. Farhad Mazhar is a well-known poet and inspiration to the "New
Agriculture Movement" of Bangladesh.

Mr. Mohamed Rafiqul Haque is the Director of the Bardakhali Centre of
UBINIG in the coastal District of Cox's Bazzar, Bangladesh.

Dr. Shahid Mahmood Zia is the Executive Director of the Sungi
Development Foundation in Pakistan and one of the Founding members of
SANFEC.

Ms. Farzana Shahid is a Professor at the Allama Iqbal Open University in
Pakistan and partner with the Lok Sanjh Foundation of the District
Sheikhupura in Pakistan

Mr. Shree Ram Shrestha is the Country Director for the Unitarian Service
Committee-Nepal, based in Kathmandu.

Mr. P.V. Satheesh is the co-founder and current Director of the Deccan
Development Society, India and a development communication specialist.

Correct Citation: South Asia-Canada Dialogue on the Future of
Agriculture, 2002. "Common Ground: A Vision from the South Asia-Canada
Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture,"  South Asia Network on Food,
Ecology and Culture (SANFEC), South Asia, Inter Pares, Canada.
*************************************
COMMON GROUND

A Vision from the South Asia-Canada Dialogue on the Future of
Agriculture

I endorse this vision:
Name Organization (optional) Email

Send endorsements to: Dominique Caouette, Inter Pares, 221 Laurier East
Ave., Ottawa, Canada, K1N 6P; Fax: 613-594-4704
Email:
doming@interpares.ca
****************************************

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