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Peasant Farmers Revisit
World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

SINGY HANYONA / Zambia Daily Mail 9dec02

IT is now two months after the famous World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), but peasant farmers' aspirations have still not been met.

Was the Summit a waste of time? Are small farmers frustrated, especially after being part of the assembly? Who is going to implement what was resolved by small-scale farmers at their convergence at WSSD?

Did the farmers attend the summit knowing what they were doing, or it was merely out of excitement?

The Zambia branch of the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association, recently organised a two-day post-WSSD workshop for small-scale farmers in Zambia.

PELUM-Zambia programmes officer, Musole Mwila Musumali, said the objective of the workshop was to review the farmers' participation at the WSSD, whom PELUM supported.

"We would like to assist small farmers strategise, plan and form a consolidated small farmers' movement," said Musumali.

The workshop, held at Lima Garden Guest House in Lusaka, attracted peasant farmers from as far as Kazungula and Kalomo in Southern Province.

One small scale farmer who attended the WSSD but declining to be named, said the programme was too comprehensive for small farmers to follow.

"It was too difficult for us to follow and back-track.

Our voices were too small for such a heavy summit," the farmer said.

Mathias Choonga, a small-scale farmer from the community-based Natural Resources and Sustainable Agriculture (CONASA), in Kalomo, said small scale-farmers still faced a lot of problems.

"The WSSD is gone, but small farmers' problems still exist."

Mr Choonga was among the 300 small-scale farmers from East and Southern Africa that attended the Farmers' Convergence at WSSD.

The Convergence was held under the auspices of the umbrella PELUM Association regional office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mr Choonga said though the Zambian government had introduced subsidies in this years' agricultural season, many small-scale farmers still cannot access the facility, due to their bankrupcy.

"Small-scale farmers are not usually consulted in policy making", said Mr Choonga.

Participants' feelings at the workshop were that the current government subsidies to agriculture were bound to fail unless government listened to the interests of small-scale farmers.

Alfred Mulele of Kazungula Cooperative in Livingstone, Southern province, complains that the small-scale farmers' voice was never heard in the current facility offered by government to ensure food security.

He noted that in his area, the small-scale farmers had since time immemorial been practicing organic farming.

"But government brought us fertilizer and the farmers have rejected it. We do not want fertilizers because it destroys the fertility of our land.

"Instead of government giving us seed, they brought fertilizer. All we want is seed because we can't plant fertilizer.

"The problem with government is that fertilizers are delivered to farmers earlier than the seed," complained Mr Mulele.

Zambia has been promoting small-scale farmers since independence 38 years ago. The number of support institutions in Zambia today is over 230, all involved agricultural projects and programmes.

One such initiative is the Farmer Organisation Support Programme (FOSUP).

FOSUP is a consortium of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in supporting small-scale farmers in Zambia.

Michael Muleba, FOSUP programme manager says despite these initiatives, many small-scale farmers still feel marginalised.

"This is because civil society feel small-scale farmers have no capacity to articulate issues or understand government policies.

"Knowledge and information cannot reach a small-scale farmer in a vacuum. We need to empower and build capacity in farmer organisations", said Mr Muleba.

He noted that due to the 'confusion' in the small-scale agricultural arena, peasant farmers have no forum through which to engage government and civil society.

He says though the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) exists as an umbrella farmer organisation, peasant farmers cannot identify themselves with the ZNFU.

"I have been sitting with the secretariat at ZNFU to discuss this", said Mr Muleba.

He said FOSUP had been with a vision to promote small-scale farmers in Zambia.

"FOSUP is creating awareness on the rights entitlements of small-scale farmers".

Out of the estimated 650,000 small-scale farmers in Zambia, 70 per cent of them are considered resource poor, with limited access to capital and markets, according to FOSUP statistics.



Over 300 African small-scale farmers and fish harvesters had their reasons to celebrate at WSSD. They refused to be used by the rich.

In a joint declaration, at the end of their "Farmers' Convergence', the farmers from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa said :

"We demand a stop to the merciless killing of innocent people. Farmers cannot produce food under these conditions".

In a petition to the summit, the farmers said avoidable conflicts and wars have dodged the small-scale farmers and poor communities in Africa, for so long.

"Those in authority have ignored the soft voices of women and children crying and others dying.

"The western countries have gladly traded arms and propaganda to fuel these conflicts", read the petition.

The Farmers' Convergence, was a side event of the WSSD. The idea of the Convergence, whose theme was: "Increasing small-scale farmers' visibility", was to tell the world how small-scale farmers feel about food security, water, access to markets, and land.

The Farmers Caravan, was a trade mark for the Bus trip of farmers from East Africa, all the way to and from South Africa, the venue of the WSSD.

During the Convergence, from 24 August, to September 1, 2002, at the Civil Society Global Forum, small-scale farmers "met, planned, celebrated, and shared".

Arbuet Chibuye, a Zambian small farmer from Chibobo village in Serenje, Chief Muchinda's area of the Lala-speaking people, said African small-scale farmers had a reason to celebrate at WSSD.

"We are the solution to world hunger. All we need is appropriate technology to match with the rest of the world", Chibuye said.

He argues that the concept of poverty amongst African countries has been misunderstood by the west.

"We have not failed as African farmers. The only problem is the lack of infrastructure in terms of good communication, roads, and access to good seed, fertilizers and markets", he said.

According to farmers, the WSSD, could not be a "summit", without small farmers' presence. Ten years ago, world leaders met in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil, to discuss environment and development.

A number of actions were agreed on at the Summit. This included an agreement to strengthen the role of farmers, under Section III, 32.1, of Agenda 21, the global action plan o environment and development.

At the WSSD-Johannesburg 2002, the small farmers presented their own history and culture in farming and demonstrated against huge subsidies that go along with farmers in the rich western countries.

They shared experiences and strategies on enhancing biodiversity, seed multiplication and storage.

According to Parkie Mbozi, PELUM regional communications officer, small holder farmers constitute 70 per cent of the total world's population, but have largely been unheard and un-noticed.

Contact: Cell: 096-769940

source: http://www.daily-mail.co.zm/news-i/feat02.htm 9dec02

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