Inclusive collaboration across Asia committed to producing key policy recommendations to achieve more sustainable, resilient and diversified food systems in a post-Covid19 world.
8 October 2020
At the 2020 Asia Land Forum, members of the International Land Coalition Asia (ILC Asia) voiced out the struggles of smallholder farmers, indigenous communities, and women farmers among others, in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Forum, which is organised virtually by ILC Asia from October 6 to October 8, was attended by about 200 participants from 54 member organisations in 13 countries.
The Asia Land Forum (ALF) is an annual event that brings together International Land Coalition (ILC) members in the region and other stakeholders ranging from grassroots organisations, activists, and local and international NGOs and researchers, to multilateral organisations and government agencies from the region. ALF aims to develop a common ground of the political, economic, environmental and social linkages between land governance, food security, poverty and democracy. This year’s theme is on the role of family farmers in securing our food systems.
The first two days of the conference this year was co-organised with ILC Asia members the People's Campaign for Agrarian Reform Network (AR Now!) and the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA). The first series of the event mainly discussed the current situation of smallholder farmers in Asia, their challenges and opportunities, as well as their contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today, the conference continues with thematic discussions about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local land users and communities to own, control, and manage their land and natural resources.
Saurlin Siagian, ILC Asia Regional Coordinator in Indonesia says, “How COVID-19 is affecting those working on land may seem like a stretch to some of us, but as land provides security, productivity, and opportunity, land has become a critical instrument to protect the most vulnerable groups in the face of a pandemic. In an unprecedented time like this, we are reminded of regional solidarity that responds to the immediate impacts of the crisis. Governments must work shoulder-to-shoulder with civil society and strive for a more sustainable world for all”.
As reported by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), while smallholder farmers in Asia produce most of the world’s food, they remain lacking control over tenurial security and food security, among others. Moreover, governments’ policies to ensure food security in the times of Covid-19 tend to be partial, failing to take into account the key roles that family farmers play to promote sustainable, resilient and diversified food systems.
Siagian added, “We call on governments to respond to these needs through policies and programs under their National Action Plans that will strengthen sustainable family farming systems and to support the establishment and strengthening of inclusive multi-stakeholder approaches that prioritise the livelihoods of smallholder farmers”.
Securing the right to land and natural resources for the landless and family farmers is fundamentally more relevant now than ever, in order to build back better. ILC’s member-led initiatives have played a critical role in mitigating the crisis by giving humanitarian assistance to local communities, distributing staple food packages, and raising awareness of protective measures. Today’s discussions are framed in the context of building sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems and highlight ILC members’ response to the pandemic.
During the first session on the rising wave of land grabbing in Asia during lockdowns caused by the pandemic, Ferry Widodo of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) in Indonesia emphasised that a stronger policy reform must be implemented from the district to the national level to reduce land conflicts in the country. “Until now, the oil plantation companies have not disclosed the resolution to the family farmers, so we need to take actions to fight against the issue of land grabbing that is currently still happening”, he added.
In the second session on the role of nomadic herders/pastoralists and indigenous peoples in achieving resilient food systems, Dinesh Rabari of MARAG India said, “We need to increase recognition that pastoralists are essential for food sovereignty as they are our food producers. Food security can be achieved only when pastoralists are allowed to follow the nomadic lifestyle and protected by the government.” Herders and pastoralists in South Asian countries like India are often blamed for contributing to global carbon emissions because of the methane produced by the animals.
Throughout Asia Land Forum 2020, ILC committed to produce and develop action plans and initiatives among members and stakeholders to secure land rights and achieve more sustainable, resilient and diversified food systems.