The following report is from Tom Wakeford in Andhra Pradesh, a state with some of the worst poverty in India.
Tom, who's with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, has just travelled up from Hyderabad to Medak to help with the final preparations for a "Prajateerpu" or "citizens'jury" starting tomorrow (26 June) which will be asking farmers from all over the state living below the poverty line what sort of future they want: GM or not GM, organic or chemicals, fair-trade for export or local self-sufficiency.
ALL THIS WEEK NGIN WILL BE PUTTING OUT A DAILY DESPATCH FROM THE JURY -- phone connections permitting!
This is a great opportunity to move away from headlines and sound-bites and explore the range of perspectives on what is the best way forward for ‘feeding the world’. It is also a rare chance for the excluded population of Andhra Pradesh to have a voice in the major decisions to be taken affecting their future.
Here's Tom's first report on Andra's "Prajateerpu".
Indian Farmers Vs Globalised Capital
Andhra Pradesh farmers put World Bank / DFID plans for their agriculture on trial. Citizens Jury to Start Tomorrow
Narsamma lives in a remote mountainous area in the north east of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Though she has never been beyond her local town ever before and cannot read, her literacy is written in her small fields and in the diverse harvest she and her family collect from the forest.
Now Narsamma is travelling to the other end of the state to take part in Prajateerpu - a citizens' jury on the future of agriculture in her state. It takes place in the district of Medak, a six hour train ride from the State's capital of Hyderabad. Andhra has some of the worst poverty in India, and Medak is one of its poorest districts, not in human resources or skills, but in its standards of living.
The whole state of Andhra Predesh is being courted as a major recipient of grants and loans from the World Bank and the UK's Department for International Development (DFID). Of the £110 million spent by DFID in India each year, 60% goes to just this one state. This is set to increase by two-fold over the next 3 years.
Having hired a group of management consultants from the US, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has developed a twenty-year strategy for the development of the state over the last two years. This 'Vision 20:20' forsees the wholesale mechanisation of agriculture in the state. Whereas 70% of the people currently draw their livelihoods from the land, the Vision forsees this dropping to only 40%. The specific policies outlined in the document include:
*Contract farming by corporations rather than farmers growing their food on their own land
*The consolidation of small farms into larger land-holdings
*Adoption of genetically engineered crops
*Mechanisation of harvesting, weeding and transplanting
*Incentives introduced for export-orientated cash crops
The Vision 20:20 has produced a heated debate within Andhra, and across India. In a country where the majority of the population still derive their livelihood from farming, Andhra is the first to arrange the financing of what would be a radical shift from labour-insentive largely subsistence system of agriculture to an indutrialised intensive cash crop system.
In March 2000 a citizens' jury in which small and marginal farmers conducted a debate on the desirability of GM crops occurred in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Lakshmamma, a member of this farmers jury, spoke about the situation at a meeting in Norwich in the UK during April 2001. She told the audience of what a drastic change was being planned by her state government, funded by the World Bank and the UK Government, without small and marginal farmers like her being consulted. She encouraged British NGOs and participatory development workers to come and help the excluded population of Andhra have a voice in the decisions being taken.
The resulting "Prajateerpu" or "citizens' jury" is the first time in India that ordinary people will take the place of a judge in a "court" which will examine three different visions for the future of agriculture. The people's verdict, which will be reached on July 1st and presented to state and national governments, along with the World Bank, will have implications for policy-makers at a national and international level.
The citizens' jury will consist of twenty people largely drawn from among A.P.'s small and marginal farmers, but will also include small-scale food processors, small traders and urban consumers. They will consider 3 scenarios which will be described in 3 specially produced films:
Vision 1: Vision 2020. This scenario has been put forward by Andhra Pradesh's Chief Minister and has been backed by a loan from the World Bank. It proposes to consolidate small farms and rapidly increase mechanisation and modernisation. Production enhancing technologies will be introduced in farming and food processing, reducing the number of people on the land from 70% to 40% by 2020. DFID (UK) and the World Bank have expressed an intention to provide a large grant towards this programme.
Vision 2: An export-based cash crop model of organic production. This vision of the future is based on proposals within IFOAM and the International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO) for environmentally friendly farming linked to national and international markets. This vision is also increasingly driven by the demand of supermarkets in the North to have a cheap supply of organic produce and comply with new eco-labelling standards.
Vision 3: Localised food systems. A future scenario based on increased self-reliance for rural communities, low external input agriculture, the re-localisation of food production, markets and local economies, with long distance trade in goods that are surplus to production or not produced locally. Support for this vision in India can be drawn from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, indigenous people's organisations and some farmers unions.
The jury members will receive evidence to aid their deliberations by key figures in A.P., India, and the international community including government officials, scientists, corporate and civil society representatives.
The process will be observed by an Oversight Panel of senior figures from India, chaired by Justice P.B. Savant, Chair of the Press Council of India, and former member of the Supreme Court of India. Funding has been provided by the Dutch government's aid agency, DGIS and the Rockefeller Foundation.
You are warmly invited to attend Prajateerpu, which will take place at the KVK Centre, Algole Village, Zaheerabad Taluk, Medak District. It begins at 10am on Tuesday June 26th. However, in case you can't make it, I will try and provide updates via NGIN's Email list, phone lines permitting.
Tom Wakeford is a writer and biologist at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex. His latest book, Liaisons of Life, is published by John Wiley.
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