Peasants assembly to focus on threats of food insecurity

KARACHI: Despite endorsement by all the political parties, peasant rights campaigners and civil society, the Sindh government is reluctant to pay heed towards the demands of recognizing livelihood rights of landless workforce through bringing land reforms. Without land, there can be no secure right to food – a right acknowledged in both constitution and universal human rights.

This is the core point of the case, plead the peasant activists in Sindh. Looking to this selfish denial by the government, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah links the recently reported deaths in Thar desert and spread of fears in other arid zone areas to the ignorance of policy makers and predatory governance by the state.

Quoting findings of PFF teams, which have been collected from Tharparkar, Kohistan, Kachho, Achhro Thar and coastal areas, Shah said: “Migration of the communities from these areas has been forced upon citizens even to survive.”

The findings show that the people residing in these areas have been denied basic facilities through generations. The government officials and legislators despite tall claims never genuinely visited these people except for publicity, even their voters.

PFF is organizing peasants’ assembly on April 5, 2014 in Hyderabad with participation of community activists, campaigners, researchers and academia to share their understanding about the issue, as food insecurity has unnecessarily imposed threats for the people residing in the remote areas through generations.

Shah claims to have taken the vulnerable segments of the society on board to fight together to safeguard the natural resources and get the government realized that the “cause of hunger and death is nothing but selfish and greedy governance by state institutions, in direction of the obligation to realize universal human rights.”

He criticizes the policy makers for being reluctant to have provincial legislation. PFF has played the leading role to mobilize fishers for protection of their rights to fish catch and safeguarding natural assets, now is mobilizing farmers, herders and indigenous artisans to show unity and get their rights to land and water recognized.

The food resources are declining in the rain-fed and coastal areas, mostly the rivers tail end zones, causing mass migration in search of source of living. For example, he said at the tail end coastal areas fish stocks have been depleted by the over fishing through big trawling nets and increasing marine pollution. Fishermen do not have enough catch to feed their children.

Almost similar is the problem facing the farmers, whose lands do not receive timely water through irrigation canals. Grazing fields have already depleted due to water scarcity created by upstream waste and misusage, and trends of urbanization, which have put millions of people vulnerable to face natural calamities sooner or later.

He said bringing land reforms is only way out to put the poor of the country safe and protect natural resources. He said the role of indigenous people like artisans, small farmers, fishermen and herdsmen should be recognized and steps should be taken to avert their displacement from ancestral fields.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates show that nearly 870 million people out of 7.1 billion people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries.

In this regard children are the most visible victims of undernourishment. Children, who are poorly nourished, suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least five million deaths. Under nutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria.

According to the Pakistan government survey, the food insecurity and the prevalence of undernourishment in Sindh was higher as compared to most of the other provinces of the country.

Shah said they have assigned tasks to the PFF teams in the vulnerable areas to keep close eye over the changing situation and collect data, the causes and visible impacts of exploitation of natural resources, climate change and the governance. He said the cry of the masses echoing in the remote areas is because there is gross government failure in planning and implementation. There is no food in stocks; there are no medicines and staff in basic health units; there are no veterinary teams to avert loss of livestock, which is major source of living for the people and the source of nutrition for minor children.

He said in the light of survey findings, we will share with the government authorities and world forums, including FAO to see the status of the malnutrition and intervene if necessary on humanitarian grounds. All international organizations have the duty to aid in enabling people to achieve universal human rights. Food sovereignty of people must take precedence over state sovereignty in public action.

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