Thursday, July 8, 2010

Promoting Farmers' Rights in ADB's NRM Projects and Investments

By Elpidio Peria

For quite some time, even as farmers are asked about the matter of natural resources management, some have said this as an issue for the governments only though it cannot be denied there are also active groups of farmers worldwide who have fought for the recognition of their rights, especially on the farmer's right to own the land, especially at the international level. Indeed, farmers have rights, not only from Art. 9 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources on Food and Agriculture of the FAO which talks about Farmers' Rights, but also from the UN Human Rights instruments, which includes the Right to Food.
With unabated biodiversity loss, climate change, lack of funds of developing country governments in Asia-Pacific, and the uncritical tendency to use modern biotechnologies to meet food security challenges, it is important to ensure and institutionalize the rights of farmers on matters relating to agriculture and natural resources management, more importantly on their rights to land, which is best concretized by the recognition of farmers’ right to land and to directly manage productive resources. This is the only way to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.
In the context of a tendency to use modern biotechnologies to foster productivity improvements in the farm, the rights of farmers are also an important complement to the forthcoming international instrument shepherded into completion by the Convention on Biological Diversity's Cartagena Protocol, the Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress from Damage caused by GMOs - shielding the small farmers from liability or enabling them to claim for redress and compensation for crop loss and any untoward effects on their health and their farming environment.
A clear articulation of what the rights of farmers are also ensures that farmers, along with indigenous peoples and local farming communities, have clear rights to recognition as well as to benefit-sharing from the uses of plant and animal genetic resources. It also guarantees their participation and decision-making on matters that relate to their well-being, including access to financial and other resources and technology. Ultimately however, the rights of farmers to manage natural resources are best guaranteed by the recognition and institutionalization of their rights to land and productive resources in agriculture. This should be the fundamental principle where any initiative of ADB on NRM should stand. If the ADB cannot change its ways now to address this, then it should be considered a failure.
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