On April 17, 1996, the Brazilian Military Police committed a massacre within the ranks of the “Landless Workers’ Movement” in El Dorado de Carajas, state of Pará, killing 19 farmers and wounding 69 others. This massacre has been commemorated since as a global day of the struggles of peasants (men and women) against the agro-industrial, export-led model of agriculture that destroys land, water, and biodiversity, and poisons people and the environment. It is also an occasion for those who directly contribute to feeding humanity, from small-scale farmers, fishers, agricultural workers, to pastoralists, forest users, and others, to emphasize their ongoing efforts in embodying the alternative of food sovereignty, which is based on restoring the rights of peoples over their natural resources and defining their food and agricultural systems that are rooted in environmental, social and economic sustainability.
The celebration of this year’s International Day of Peasant’s Struggle in our region, coincides with the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, which once again demonstrates the link between, on one hand, the spread of epidemics and the fragility of immune systems, and on the other, agricultural and animal farming models as well as the global chains of distribution and consumption that are dominated by multinationals. Direct producers find themselves in the fields of subsistence agriculture, seas, and pastures, as well as in capitalist farms, livestock and poultry units, basically on the frontlines of food provision as they risk their lives in the absence of the most basic conditions of protection and safety. Taking advantage of the health crisis, the big capitalists in agriculture and fishing intensify labour exploitation, reduce the number of workers, get rid of trade unionists and senior labourers, and reduce the duration of unpaid work. Meanwhile, they benefit from public subsidies, tax relief, exemptions from their dues towards social protection funds, and postponement of their loans’ payments. By contrast, small farmers, fishers, wage labourers, and rural families are all suffering under the crushing weight of debts from banks and consumer credit and micro-credit institutions at high interest rates. The Corona crisis will add to their income decline or even to its evaporation for a large proportion of them.
Therefore, the North African Food Sovereignty Network calls upon the states in our region to take the following urgent measures throughout this exceptional period of the pandemic:
1) For small-scale farmers, fishers, pastoralists, forest users, the unemployed in rural areas
– Paying monthly compensation that is not less than the minimum wage in rural areas during the health crisis.
– Increasing the amount of these compensations according to the number of children in the family.
– Mainstreaming the system of social protection and health coverage and facilitating the process of attributing pensions in a regular fashion.
– Cancellation of small farmers’ debts.
– Granting all kinds of support for subsistence activities in agriculture (on plains, mountains, forests and oases), livestock, poultry, and fishing, as well as encouraging the consumption of their products by organizing direct localized markets and fighting speculators and monopolies.
2) With regard to wage labourers who have lost their jobs in the agricultural and fishing sectors
– Payment of full monthly wages.
– Paying the social welfare contributions to all workers.
– Cancellation of consumption and microcredit debts.
3) For all direct producers in the agricultural and fishing sectors:
– Create or raise money for a special fund in order to subsidise the prices of the main items of consumption (grains, pulses, oils, sugar, butane gas, etc.)
The state shall bear the expenses of families in:
- Urgent protection against Corona virus
- Medicines and all medical services
- Consumption of water, electricity, telecommunications, and monthly rents
- Children’s education
The North African Network for Food Sovereignty, while advancing these urgent demands related to the global health crisis of the Corona pandemic and its consequences on the popular base that produces our food, calls for the intensification of mobilization to achieve them, through:
- Supporting all forms of organizing farmers, fishers, pastoralists and forest users
- Consolidating trade union organization and workers’ unity
- Rejecting all kinds of division and discrimination in our ranks
- Strengthening ties of solidarity and cooperation
The North African Network for Food Sovereignty denounces the state’s indulgence with the agricultural and fishing capitalists, whether those who exploit the Corona pandemic to lay off their workers, or those who want to ensure that production continues and profits accumulate at the expense of labourers’ lives. It is important to note that conditions of work and transportation in agriculture and fishing are characterized by overcrowding, increasing the chances of a rapid spread of the outbreak, especially in the absence of adequate transportation and necessary health and protection measures.
The network denounces the imposition of quarantine by force without providing the appropriate conditions for it. We condemn the restrictions to freedoms of expression and opinion in the midst of the health crisis. We also deplore the disregard and repression faced by fishers, small farmers, agricultural workers and pastoralists, demanding their rights to benefit from subsidies announced by the state regarding addressing the Corona pandemic.
The North African Food Sovereignty Network will continue to reject the prevailing model of production and consumption in all of our countries, a model that destroys our food, health and environment, and it will continue advocating for the alternative of food sovereignty as an emancipator project for all our peoples.
Sovereignty over food, sovereignty over land, sovereignty over our resources!
North African Food Sovereignty Network (NAFSN)17 April 2020
 Check statement from National Union of Fishers – Coastal and Offshore fishing (Morocco): https://web.facebook.com/na9abat.bahara/photos/rpp.1483923061893259/2630414683910752/?type=3&theater