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PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on Friday demanded an end to the role of international corporate sector in agriculture, opposed the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector and called for just and equitable distribution of land among small and landless farmers in order to turn Pakistan into a real agricultural country.

The event organised at the Peshawar Press Club to commemorate the International Day of the Landless Farmers was arranged by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance.

PKMT national coordinator Altaf Hussain, Asian Peasant Coalition’s general secretary Raja Mueeb, PKMT’s coordinator Peshawar Shehzad Baig and KP coordinator Fayyaz Ahmed were the main speakers.

They said the day highlighted the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty.

They said farmers were being evicted from lands that had been tilled for generations by their ancestors. They demanded that development projects across the country, including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors, should be scrapped.

On the occasion, Altaf Hussain said from 2000 onwards, transnational corporations worldwide had grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through over 1,500 agreements.

Similarly, Raja Mueeb said more than 200 deals spanning almost 20 million hectares of land were further being negotiated. Most of the land deals were being carried out in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources, he pointed out.

It was pathetic that only eight per cent of these land deals were exclusively for food production, and 60 percent of these, were for export purposes, he said, adding around 70 per cent of these deals were reserved for agro-fuel production, which was only fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries.

Mr Mueeb said in the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road initiative had further accelerated land grab.

Fayyaz Ahmed pointed out that various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project had resulted in land grab across the country.

He pointed out that 1,000 acres of land had been leased in Haripur for a special economic zone, the Northern Bypass Peshawar; 6,500 acres of land was leased for growing high yield seeds to a foreign corporation in Punjab; and 140 acres of land were leased in Khairpur, Sindh for a special economic zone.

He said farmers and fishermen were losing their livelihoods due to these measures.

Shehzad Baig said small and landless farmers were facing exploitation because of unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture. He said the government was also planning to build a cement factory in Palai area of Malakand, a greenbelt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2019