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Amid Climate Change Crisis, Kisan Swaraj Sammelan Asserts Food Sovereignty, Nutrition Security & Farmer Empowerment

The primary focus of this symposium, which coincides with the UNFCCC's COP27 in Egypt, is the climate issue, which poses the greatest threat to our food systems and agricultural livelihoods.

Ayushi Sikarwar
Kisan Swaraj Sammelan held at Mysore
Kisan Swaraj Sammelan held at Mysore

The 5th Kisan Swaraj Sammelan, held in Mysore from November 11 to November 13, drew more than 2000 participants, including women, youth, and Adivasi farmers, seed savers, community organisers, decision-makers, field workers, scientists, activists, consumers, students, and a wide range of other stakeholders. Interestingly, all the participants were involved in organising projects and movements across the nation, which demonstrates the size of the networks.

According to the organisation, at the conclusion of the 5th Kisan Swaraj Sammelan, their faith in ecological agriculture and sustainable farm livelihoods has been enhanced.

"Our relationships with one another and what we learn from one another revitalize us. This Sammelan was conducted shortly after the historic farmers' movement, which established farmers' agency and voice in the national polity", they stated.

The primary focus of this symposium, which coincides with the UNFCCC's COP27 in Egypt, is the climate issue, which poses the greatest threat to our food systems and agricultural livelihoods. There are powerful factors at work to deny small farmers access to land, seeds, markets, and government assistance. These are opening the door for artificial intelligence-driven, industrialised, corporate-controlled agriculture. The vulnerability of specific farmer groups is highlighted by increased tenancy rates, increasing feminization of agriculture, and displaced Adivasis.

The delegates came to the table with clear proposals and practical answers that resulted from their collaborative work, accepting these issues as a common responsibility.

The summit draw attention to these solutions and reiterate their commitment to and demands for:

The primary method of producing our food should be an inclusive approach to agroecology, which encompasses the various names and forms currently used in India.

Agroecology is no longer an optional strategy: It is a crucial pillar for enhancing climate catastrophe resistance. We are aware of the significance of agroecology for climate change adaptation and mitigation. We understand the significance of this historical moment as a true opportunity to synchronise bottom-up initiatives with state-led support, and we are grateful for the various programmes run by the national and state governments of India to promote agroecology. We urge governments to recognise that agro-ecology science and technology are firmly in our corner, and that the current effort requires innovative institutional architecture and extension that empowers farmers. The right investments will enable knowledgeable farmers to lead the effort, with women at the fore.

Fostering farmers' sovereignty: We acknowledge that there are systemic factors that ultimately result in reducing farmers' self-sufficiency, including the deterioration of legal rights over land, seeds, forests, and water, (international) trade regimes that aim to increase farmers' dependence on markets for inputs, financing, and the sale of produce, as well as newer forms of potential hegemony through technological advancements.

Promoting farmers' sovereignty: We acknowledge that there are structural factors that ultimately result in a reduction in farmers' ability to self-sufficiently produce their own food, such as the deterioration of legal rights over land, seeds, forests, and water, (international) trade regimes that aim to increase farmers' reliance on markets for inputs, financing, and the sale of produce, as well as newer forms of potential hegemony through data and technology. We commit to supporting policies that aim to boost farmers' freedom, independence, self-sufficiency, and sovereignty across all spheres. We need statutory frameworks, strong laws, farmer-centric governance, and farmers' prior informed permission when outlining their own need-based use cases in the area of digital agriculture as well.

Recognizing real cultivators and other types of farmers: Despite producing the majority of our food, our women farmers are not acknowledged as farmers because they do not own any land and because of societal patriarchal values. Similar to this, there are an increasing number of tenant farmers and sharecroppers who also need to be supported by state entitlements. Many farmers who do not cultivate are not supported and recognised as farmers in their own right. Castes who have historically been underrepresented in land ownership make up the majority of farm labourers today. It is important to identify all of these vulnerable farmers and give them priority access to land. Farmland is a limited resource; hence, it should not be diverted to market actors for financial gain.

Income security for all farmers: Unprecedented farm suicides have been brought on by the ongoing agrarian crisis. Our annadatas will be lifted out of insecurity and into a life of dignity through income assurance measures including Minimum Support Prices for all crops, suitable and effective disaster compensation systems, including insurance products, investments in farmers' collectivization, and social security.

Our seed systems for self-sufficiency and agro-diversity conservation and revival: Our efforts to address the climate catastrophe rely heavily on the agrobiodiversity of our country. Since they shouldn't be constrained by corporate IPRs, our seeds should continue to be in the control of farmers and be able to be freely exchanged and developed. For themselves and their future generations, consumers must take the initiative to change their purchasing habits in order to promote the resurrection of agro-diversity. In order to integrate farmer-specific varieties into official seed systems, governments must imitate the work of a few state government organisations.

Holistic, secure, and diverse diets for everyone: Every one of our residents has a right to food that is secure, wholesome, diverse, and suitable for their culture. Diversity on our farms and the quality of our soil are closely tied to the variety and nutrition on our meals. Our right to wholesome food is in danger due to current nutrition policies like fortification, which encourage the hazardous one-size-fits-all use of chemical nutrients in our food. Similar to this, it is against our constitution to tell populations what they may and cannot consume. The main means to solve nutrition security should be by reviving agro-ecology, agro-diversity, protection of local diverse food cultures, including uncultivated foods, animal-based nutrition, and entitlements to a full food security basket for everyone.

Preventing the hazards of unnecessary, unwelcome, and dangerous gene technologies from affecting India's food systems: GMOs that contaminate and wipe out our biodiversity have no place in our agricultural. Gene editing also produces GMOs. This group is alarmed and appalled by the approval of GM mustard that is herbicide tolerant, which was done so on the false pretences of increased yields and safety. We understand that this is a charade perpetrated in the name of the public sector.

Using hybridization technology, our food chain will be inundated with GMOs: We demand that the Indian government immediately revoke the granted environmental clearance in order to be "responsible to science and responsive to society."

Trade Justice: By enabling the dumping of agricultural products from nations that generously subsidise agribusiness businesses, free trade has seriously endangered farm livelihoods. The security of our food supply is threatened by free trade. International trade treaties cannot supersede countless other conventions and agreements. Trade must take place under fair conditions that do not displace local producers or harm the environment. Prioritizing local food systems while utilising sustainable technologies is more crucial than ever in the face of the climate catastrophe and a worldwide pandemic.

Solidarity between rural and urban populations: We observe that many urban residents are no longer aware of the challenges that our farmers in rural India are facing. We must acknowledge our interdependence and create solidaristic partnerships.

In total, 2000 farmers participated in the sammelan, which had participation from 27 states across India. In addition to this display, there were seminars and training sessions on a range of subjects related to sustainable living and agriculture. The gathering of farmers, seed savers, and allied businesspeople was really impressive.

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