Landlessness and Land Defenders

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DEFEND OUR LAND, a peasant ang migrants forum, will be on April 21, 2024, at 4:00 pm in Vancouver (7:00 pm in Toronto and April 22 at 7:00 am in the Philippines). It will feature Ka Daning Ramos, the chairperson of the peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), as the main speaker. To register and make sure you get in, visit this link: tinyurl.com/Dayofthelandless (Photo Credit: Migrante Canada)

Global is the condition of landlessness and the everyday reality of the world’s rural peoples. Landlessness is not just the state of being without land, it is also being without access to land. For the world’s rural poor and landless people, it is being impoverished, being displaced from rural to urban cities (and then to cities overseas), unable to meet the basic necessities to live with dignity,  and burdened with food insecurity, especially when there is no land to grow their own food or raise their own animals.

Nine years ago, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) declared March 29 as the Global Day of the Landless to raise awareness of the continuing struggle for land. It also marks the first day of the Coalition’s global days of action until May  to assert their right to land and exercise their right to resist. The APC struggles for “the rights of farmers, landless peasants, fisherfolks, agricultural workers, dalit, indigenous peoples, herders and pastoralists, including the women and youth across these sectors.”

In the Philippines, we continue to see land grabbing, land conversion to evade land reform (turning agricultural lands to golf courses and subdivisions, etc.), aggressive development projects that displace indigenous communities to give way to mining, dams, agribusiness plantations, logging concessions, land investment schemes, etc. with the collaboration of local bureaucrats, elites, and big foreign interests. The Philippine government’s relentless push towards the Marcos Charter Change and the proposed 100% foreign ownership (among other charter changes) means the plunder of lands and homes of indigenous communities and peasants, resulting in landlessness, displacement, and hunger.

To give an example, the Philippine independent think tank Ibon said that “foreign interests continue to be one of the biggest threats to farmers’ access to land. US firms Dole and Del Monte, for instance, have been operating banana and pineapple plantations here since the American colonial era. Together, they now have effective control over more than 100,000 hectares of mostly Mindanao lands and are seeking further expansion.”

Land grabbing continues to happen globally. Where there is land grabbing, landlessness expands and the food crisis worsens in the name of profits. People’s Coalition of Food Sovereignty (PCFS) sums it simply: “The worsening food crisis is generating greater resistance to defending the right to land. Rural people across the world are resisting imperialism – the world’s biggest land grabber. Imperialism is moving to sustain its domination over our lands and food systems.”

This domination is seen in the neoliberal food systems, monopoly corporations, land conversions, transnational investments, and international finance institutions that profit in global crises joined by their partners from the local elites and bureaucrats in the different countries that include the African continent, Latin America and the Caribbean, Cambodia, Indonesia, and India.

The most heinous example of imperialist aggression is the land grabbing and occupation of Palestine, described by PCFS as the “deadliest and most destructive means to brazenly grab lands.”

The situation may look hopeless but rural movements have upheld their right to resist, assert their right to land and to defend their land. Read up and listen to the voices of farmers in India, the farmers groups in Europe, Latin America, and the land occupations in Brazil, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines.

Many of us say grace before we eat. It is good to acknowledge the hands that have prepared or planted our food when we say grace. It is even better when we also recognize what a tragedy it is when those who do so often go hungry and are exploited.

This column is my shout-out to this important online event in collaboration with groups in the Philippines, Canada and globally.

DEFEND OUR LAND, a peasant ang migrants forum, will be on April 21, 2024, at 4:00 pm in Vancouver (7:00 pm in Toronto  and April 22 at 7:00 am in the Philippines).  It will feature Ka Daning Ramos, the chairperson of the peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), as the main speaker. To register and make sure you get in, visit this link: tinyurl.com/Dayofthelandless

This April, let us also remember a revered and respected land defender and warrior, MACLIING DULAG of the Cordillera who fought with his people against the World Bank funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.  Macliing Dulag was killed by government soldiers on April 24, 1980. ###