PENANG, Malaysia – Still the most effective way to counter the land grabbers is the collective action of rural communities to resist and to assert the people’s rights to their own land and resources.
PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) stressed this message as it joined various peasant organizations and advocates of the right to land in the region in marking 29 March as the “Day of the Landless”.
Landless peasants across the region are taking bold actions to reclaim the lands that have been taken away from them. In the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao, for instance, farmers and farm workers have occupied portion of a banana plantation. They asserted that 145 hectares of land inside the plantation operated by Lapanday Foods Corporation, one of the country’s largest banana exporters, rightfully belong to them.
But these actions are often countered with violence. Alleged security personnel of the plantation fired upon the farmers in separate shooting incidents that wounded at least 10 people. In a solidarity mission to support the farmers, PANAP also learned that allegedly the plantation aerially sprayed pesticides on them and their children.
Despite the violence and harassments, the farmers and their supporters remained steadfast in their assertion to reclaim their land. Government eventually issued a cease and desist order against the plantation while Congress also probed the case.
29 March has been declared “Day of the Landless” by the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) – and supported by PANAP and other advocates of the people’s right to land – to highlight the struggle for genuine land reform and food sovereignty.
To commemorate the day, PANAP also launched a seven-minute animation “The Right to Resist Land Grabs”. The group said that through the video, it hopes to help popularize the issue of land grabbing and the repression faced by rural communities, and generate broader support.
PANAP pointed out that land grabs in the past decade have already turned over some 30 million hectares of farmlands from small farmers to foreign corporations, citing data from the group GRAIN.
This worsens the chronic poverty in the rural areas where 8 out of 10 of the world’s poorest live, PANAP said. At present, just a quarter of farmlands worldwide are in the hands of small farmers, based on World Bank data.
The Penang-based advocacy group has been a staunch supporter of community-led campaigns in Asia Pacific to expose and stop land and resource grabbing. PANAP and peasant groups from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, among others initiated the “No Land, No Life!” campaign to highlight the human rights dimension of land grabbing. ###