women farmers' movement in IndiaIndia is experiencing one of the largest and longest-lasting protest movements in world history. It has seen continuous protests for about seven months, most prominently in New Delhi, the capital city. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have gathered to support the movement, in which farmers demand the repeal of three agricultural laws passed by India’s government in September 2020. Women, many of them farmers, are leading these protests.

The Farm Laws

The three laws passed are known as the Farm Laws. They allow for the privatization of agricultural markets. While the government stated that the Farm Laws would “give expanded market access and provide greater flexibility to farmers,” protestors say the laws will push small farmers into poverty by curtailing produce prices and favoring large corporations.

Women’s Role in Agriculture

Women are prominent in the farmers’ movement protest scene for multiple reasons. The laws can affect both their work as farmers and their family lives as spouses to farmers. According to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research, women account for more than 42% of India’s agricultural labor force but own only 2% of farmland.

In 2019, more than 10,000 agricultural sector workers in India committed suicide, partially due to financial hardships. Widowed women were left to provide for themselves and were often unable to gain rights to their husbands’ farmland due to gender-biased inheritance traditions.

Women’s Role in the Protests

The farmers’ protests and women’s role in them have received mixed reactions from the public and the government. S.A. Bobde, the Chief Justice of India, asked, “Why are women and elders kept in the protest?” Bobde asked advocates to encourage women to stop showing up at protest sites. However, women responded to his remarks by yelling “no” into microphones and continuing to protest.

Jasbir Kaur, a 74-year old farmer, told Time Magazine, “Why should we go back? This is not just the men’s protest. We toil in the fields alongside the men. Who are we — if not farmers?” On Christmas Eve, protestor Amra Ram, the vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha, acknowledged the work and importance of women in the farmers’ movement in India.“Women farmers are fighting the battle at the threshold, and we are here to follow them,” he said.

Global Response

Despite governmental dismay toward the protestors, there is support for the Indian farmers’ movement across the globe. Solidarity protests have been held in Great Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, women celebrities such as singer Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg and author Meena Harris have used their Twitter platforms to stand in solidarity with the Indian activists.

“We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” Harris tweeted in February.

India’s foreign affairs ministry accused foreign celebrities of being dangerously “sensational” after Rihanna’s tweet reading “why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest” increased anger toward India’s government officials.

History of Women in Protests

A large female presence is not new in Indian protest scenes. In the 1960s and 1970s, women activists stood up against gender violence and the economic exploitation of women. Their efforts drew the attention of the United Nations, which called for the reassessment of social conditions for women in India. That led to the founding of the Committee for the Status of Women in India (CSWI) in 1974.

More recently, in 2012, protests following the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey demanded public safety reform for women. India passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 to address concerns about sexual violence.

In India, women protestors have historically been persistent in demanding reform. Women are propelling the farmers’ movement in India, one of the largest protests in history. However, the Indian government has yet to repeal the Farm Laws as protestors demand.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

tea farmers in IndiaWhile many brew tea unaware of the extensive work that goes into a cup, more than two million people in India dedicate their lives to the tea industry. Many tea farmers live in impoverished circumstances with limited access to healthcare, education and nutrition. UNICEF and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) have teamed up to empower tea farmers in India despite setbacks caused by COVID-19.

Poor Quality of Life on India’s Tea Farms

Assam, located in Northeastern India, is responsible for most of India’s tea production, boasting around 800 tea estates. The inhabitants of these estates, mostly women and children, make up 20% of the region’s population and face several systemic issues. Furthermore, nearly one-third of Assam’s population lives in poverty. Children face even more risks, with 43% of girls marrying before age 18 and a little more than half of the youth enrolled in secondary school.

Improving Living Conditions on Tea Farms

With the help of UNICEF, the Ethical Tea Partnership, a nonprofit aiming to improve both quality of life in tea communities and tea sustainability, implemented the Improving Lives Program in 2014. The program works to improve health, hygiene, education and overall quality of life on 205 tea estates in Assam, India. For example, the program has funded and created Girls and Boys Groups and Child Protection Committees to combat child exploitation and has also built sanitation facilities.

In the first five years that UNICEF and ETP worked together, the organizations provided 35,000 girls in Assam with tools and education to prevent abuse and exploitation. The program has also trained more than 1,000 social workers and police to better facilitate trust between agencies and locals in regard to child protection.

In 2018, the Improving Lives Program expanded to cover education, sanitation, food, water, child care and overall health in a quarter of the region’s tea estates, making it the largest program in Assam working to better living conditions.

COVID-19 Challenges

Like the rest of the world, the Improving Lives Program had to adapt amid COVID-19. The ETP complied with local lockdown restrictions while also ensuring the well-being of everyone involved. The Indian government provided free COVID-19 testing sites, quarantine centers and treatment facilities. Meanwhile, UNICEF and ETP worked to fight COVID-19 by providing almost 5,000 portable handwashing stations across the 205 tea estates.

While most of the globe implemented online learning, limited access to technology made this impossible for many children on Assam’s tea estates. Instead, the Improving Lives Program gave “take-home learning materials” to about 20,000 children. Those who lacked access to smartphones used TV, local radio and the knowledge and utilities of their neighbors, making education a community effort.

New Mental Health Services

With new COVID-19 protocols in place, the Improving Lives Program can continue to fight for better conditions on India’s tea farms. A positive result of its pandemic-era adaptations is a new mental health support network. The program has trained 3,375 child protection officers thus far to provide psychological and social support to local children, offering relief from immediate mental health struggles as well as better opportunities for the future.

The ETP explains that through partnership, the organization is “one crucial step closer to realizing the ambition that children, young people and women living in tea estates in Assam can survive, thrive and fulfill their full potential.”

Caroline Bersch
Photo: Pixabay

Agriculture Cooperatives in Impoverished Rural Communities, Portuguese Winemakers Unite
For the estimated three-quarters of the global poor residing in rural environments, agriculture is the primary source of income. Any aspirations of poverty eradication are existentially dependent on the development of these communities. Cooperatives are associations of people who come together to achieve common economic, social and cultural goals. The long-standing tradition of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities, where small farms pool resources, is a potential component of an efficient policy to offset the ravages of endemic poverty in agrarian economies.

A Moment in the Sun

Designated by three branches of the United Nations, 2012 was the International Year of Cooperatives. One of its primary ambitions was highlighting the financial disadvantages of small farms and the potential for inter-community economic unions to fight poverty. Agricultural cooperatives, having an impact that “cannot be overstated,” figured heavily into U.N. recommendations and initiatives. Creating 20% more employment opportunities than multinational ventures, agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities provide a long-term potential for sustainable job creation, which is paramount to poverty eradication.

Harvesting Prosperitya 2020 World Bank report, concluded that funding agricultural productivity is twice as effective at reducing extreme poverty than alternative methods. Crucially, the exhaustive report details the belief that industrial farms are the gold standard of high-yield agriculture. Contrarily, current research of “the inverse relationship hypothesis” questions the correlation of scale and productivity. Because impoverished rural communities are overwhelmingly populated with small-scale subsistence farms, one cannot overstate the essentiality of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

Being unique entities based on democratic principles, each cooperative has distinct requirements that defy a universal approach. The economic complexities of members serving as both suppliers and owners create multifaceted organizations with financial and social obligations, as opposed to a corporate performance that is based solely on finance and profitability. The dualistic nature of cooperatives as inherently business and community actors gives these organizations a great deal of leverage to impact the well-being of their communities.

Portuguese Traditions in the Age of Globalism

Over the long history of wine-making cooperatives in Portugal, these unions have consistently allowed members to garner higher prices and greater market share while simultaneously improving value chains and decreasing transaction expenses. Additionally, Portugal has garnered attention as cooperative bylaws are enshrined in the constitution, making them integral to the national economy.

With 39,506 vineyards in the Douro wine-growing region alone, the long-term economic future of an essential component of Portuguese national character requires the implementation of structural reform. Cooperatives represent 46% of regional production in Douro and Port. With most farms under one hectare, individual producers must combine resources to vinify grapes. But after several failed governmental attempts at modernization in response to globalism, agricultural cooperatives have been stymied by encroaching foreign markets.

Upon Portugal’s entry into the E.U. in 1986, a direct-to-consumer model that sustained wine cooperatives became untenable as cheap imports via larger wine-producing nations like France and Italy brought competition. Furthermore, environmental and geographic factors prevented Portuguese vineyards from countering increasing imports through higher production. Often inefficient bureaucracies, a slow transition, accompanied by foreign investment allowed Quintas — independent for-profit producers — to flourish. Many Portuguese wine agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities did not survive the opening salvos of globalism.

Think Local, Act Global

The culling of slow-responding cooperatives has forced researchers and policymakers to develop a framework for adaptability. Several organizations, native and foreign, contribute to shaping and communicating the strategies for agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

  • CASES: As previously noted, cooperatives must satisfy social obligations in addition to economic concerns. At Cooperativa Antonio Sergio para a Economia Social (CASES), an NGO focusing on the interrelatedness of finance and society, an alliance of Portuguese Creditors finances various cooperatives throughout the economy. A €12.5 million endeavor, Social Investe enabled several wine cooperatives to fund various projects and improvements.
  • PDR2020: The active involvement of governmental agencies is crucial to structural reform. Wine industry infrastructure is notoriously expensive and beyond the resources of independent producers. A federal initiative, Programa de Desenvolvimento Rural de Portugal (PDR 2020), funds agricultural purchases that are particularly crucial for Portuguese vineyards. These grants, amounting to €37.5 million in 2020 alone, also help farmers adapt to increasingly frequent climatic abnormalities that disrupt production.
  • Fenadegas: In order to affect the regulatory environment, wine cooperatives actively lobby for policy reform. Difficult at the individual level, Adegas Cooperativas de Portugal (ACP) is a coalition of 41 members and represents a unified agenda in addressing distinct exigencies of the industry. Additionally, the organization provides a global marketing platform, helping one cooperative survive the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing exports by 18% in 2020.
  • SALSA: The dual requirements of integrating with the local economy and tailoring production while simultaneously developing global strategies present major challenges. With the intergovernmental organization Small Farms, Small Food Businesses and Sustainable Food Security (SALSA), Alentejo regional farmers created the “Km0 Evora” label that certifies local provenance within 50km. Efficient value chains are a traditional strength of cooperatives, but pressures of globalism have disrupted local economies, making community initiatives and branding more relevant. Mimicking Km0’s success, several European agricultural cooperatives have introduced similar measures.
  • Adega de Borba: Maximization of member profit and temporary gain often leave cooperatives under-invested. Despite initial struggles, Adega Cooperativa de Borba (ACB), which began in 1955, successfully transitioned to the global marketplace and produces 15 million bottles annually. A €12 million-member investment to build a state-of-the-art production facility has allowed 300 small farmers to compete internationally by diversifying product offerings.

Restoring Profitability to Agriculture

As rural communities face increasing pressure from foreign influence, these already-disenfranchised populations will struggle to have others hear them amid the cacophony of global interests. Portuguese winemakers, that the rapidly-changing economy overwhelmed, suffered immense emigration as farming no longer provided sufficient income. Restoring profitability to agriculture is a powerful mechanism by which endemic poverty can disappear. Organizations at numerous levels will be instrumental in this effort, but progress must begin with collaboration in agrarian rural communities.

– Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

Farming Crisis in India
Being an agricultural country from the beginning, India ranks second worldwide in farming outputs. With agriculture employing more than 50% of India’s workforce, it also is the largest source of livelihood in India with more than 70% of its rural households depending primarily on farming. Despite the incredible importance of farmers to the Indian economy and way of life, farmers in India have a history of debts, extreme poverty and low quality of life. In addition to these existing problems, the global pandemic has greatly intensified the pressure on farmers and has made it considerably more difficult for many to sustain themselves, resulting in a farming crisis in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 296,438 people in the farming sector in India have committed suicide from 1995 to 2019. Predictions have determined that this number will increase.

Farmer Debts and Loans

According to an NSSO report from 2016, the average Indian farmer earns about Rs 77,112 annually, which is about $1,045. As the Economic Times in India stated, only about 50% or less of the household income of a farming family comes from farming, while the rest comes from other sources. To supplement for low income, many farmers take up more than one job, sometimes working as a bus driver or security guard for example. With the pandemic and nationwide lockdown, many farmers have lost their second source of income, further aggravating their already strained financial situation.

The rising costs of farming and the low pay for farm produce have pushed many farmers into a cycle of vicious debts. The New York Times published an article describing the life of Leela Singh, a farmer in Akanwali village. Mr. Singh attempted to secure a loan of a few thousand rupees which is about $100, due to fears that his farm would be seized. Unable to sustain himself and his attempt to secure a loan failing, he hung himself in June 2020. Gurpreet Singh, his 24-year-old son, had to stop his schooling in order to save money on tuition fees so that he could help his family.  Gurpreet Singh described the pandemic and the enormous stress that his family must endure when he said: “We are now having to beg for money from someone or the other.”

The Reason Farmers are in Debt

According to the Economic Times in India, 85% of India’s farmers operate on less than five acres of land. With 82% of farmers being small and marginal and contributing 51% of agricultural input, small farmers are the backbone of the agricultural industry. Despite this, farming remains an unstable and difficult profession. In order for many small farmers to escape the clutches of poverty, they must find additional sources of income.

Risks in production further aggravate the low quality of life for small farmers. The increased cost of cultivation, inadequate irrigation, drought, flood and crop failure all contribute to the lack of viability in the farming profession and debt of farmers. Additionally, difficulty in selling within the market can make or break the income of a farmer. Agricultural costs and unstable incomes have caused many farmers to take on even more debt. Furthermore, money-lending due to necessity and often the inability to pay back loans, have pushed farmers further into poverty and debt. The nationwide lockdown has only exacerbated these existing problems, which has resulted in difficulty in taking produce to the markets and selling it.

Solutions to the Farming Crisis in India

Despite the potential for productivity in the agricultural sector, low productivity in agriculture contributes to the difficulty and poverty among farmers in India. Unutilized scientific knowledge and the mechanization of small farms are major solutions to the issue of low productivity. According to the World Bank, a key solution for increasing agricultural productivity and improving the incomes of farmers is the adoption of innovative technologies and practices by farmers. These actions will facilitate farmers in improving their yields, managing inputs more efficiently, having a better quality of products, adapting to climate issues and conserving resources.

The Open Knowledge Repository states that efforts to improve agricultural productivity include the gradual reforms in the agricultural sector that have spurred innovation and changes in the food sector due to private investment. These efforts have been successful and continue to succeed in light of the ongoing policy and investment imperatives. Due to these efforts, agricultural growth has improved in recent years, but with a long-term rate of 3% improvement, agricultural improvement has been meager in comparison to its potential.

Organizations that are Making a Difference

 The World Bank offers major support to the agriculture and rural development of India. Focusing on agriculture, resources, irrigation and rural livelihood development, the World Bank’s program in India has committed about $5.5 billion in net commitments. This money is going towards new technology, innovation systems, farmer livelihood support and poverty reduction efforts.

Many NGOs have emerged in recent years in order to improve the livelihood of farmers and to make farming a viable profession. One organization, Haritika, works on projects that target water harvesting and management, crop optimizations, afforestation and the conservation of resources. Additionally, it focuses on improving child education, promoting women’s empowerment, reducing illiteracy, responding to a lack of health care and assisting farmers struggling with extreme poverty. It provides farmers with seeds, saplings, pesticides and other supplies in order to alleviate the financial strain of farmers and ensure that they are able to support their families. Founded in 1994, Haritika has constructed water harvesting structures, built trenches around hills to treat non-arable areas and improved and diversified agriculture in order to create additional employment in the farm sectors. To support those in poverty, it has aided in the formation and strengthening of village water supply and sanitation.

The farming crisis in India has resulted in challenges for many families in the country. However, the efforts of organizations like Haritika and the World Bank should reduce some of the challenges farmers in India are facing.

– Arya Baladevigan
Photo: Flickr

Female Farmers In Ghana
Ghana has endured volatile floods and droughts over the last decade. Detrimental weather is especially harmful to countries like Ghana as many of its citizens depend on farming to make a living. Only 10% of the northern half of the country is able to sustain itself without agriculture. Estimates have determined that up to $200 million has disappeared annually from the country’s earning potential. This is due to frequent floods and droughts in the last few years. These unstable swings in weather greatly compromise farmers’ ability to grow crops. This instability often hits female farmers in Ghana the hardest. It is often difficult for them to find other avenues of income during periods of erratic weather.

As a result, an international relief fund called the Adaptation Fund has channeled a portion of its money to teach female farmers in Ghana how to turn crops into finished goods. Finished goods allow the women to have an array of products to sell when floods and droughts occur.

Milling Machines

The milling machine is perhaps the most useful piece of machinery that the Adaptation Fund introduced. Milling machines make popular products like flour, cereal and granulated sugar. In Ghana, many women use milling machines to make shea butter, soy milk and kebabs.

When weather conditions prohibit the harvesting of crops, women can work at milling machines to minimize wasted time and maximize income. Milling machines make it possible for women to earn higher margins on their products. A bottle of shea butter will sell for more than raw shea since it is a finished good. All of the labor and cost of the machinery factor into the final price.  Thus, women actually have the potential to earn a little more when selling finished goods.

The Progress

More than 7,000 women have gained access to milling facilities with the Adaptation Fund’s contribution. Women are able to earn more money and diversify their diets. A lot of the women choose to bring some of the products home so that their families can experience a wider range of food than was available to them before the milling facilities. Moreover, white rice and corn are popular milled goods in Ghana.

The Adaptation Fund has also introduced farmers to other special skills and techniques for when the weather is not ideal. For example, volunteers offer courses on how to process honey and farm fish. By opening up new opportunities, women become more confident that they will be able to provide for their families.

The Importance of These Projects

As weather patterns continue to change, projects like the Adaptation Fund are crucial in ensuring a smooth transition into a new world. Traditional methods of making a living, such as farming, are no longer sufficient for people to earn an adequate wage. As the name suggests, it is critical to teach workers across the globe how to adapt to a constantly changing planet.

The Adaptation Fund has pledged almost $800 million to projects just like this since 2010. Fortunately, more than 100 projects are currently aiding people. Overcoming the challenges ahead will not be easy, but like female farmers in Ghana, every human is capable of adopting and implementing new solutions.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste During Pandemic
The Philippines’ state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on farmers. While the new coronavirus guidelines halted city life, they were particularly damaging for individuals living in the lower-income rural parts of the island nation. Farmers primarily inhabited these regions of the Philippines and the new guidelines resulted in their isolation along with their farming businesses’ isolation from the major cities they feed. Luckily, a farmer rose to the challenge to tackle food waste during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Measures

When the first case of COVID-19 broke out in the Philippines in December 2019, the Filipino government had a severely delayed response over the course of four months which led to high and widespread transmission rates throughout major cities such as Quezon City and Manila. The spread quickly reached rural areas and had infiltrated much of the country before the Filipino government took action. Because the response was so late, it had to be immense. In turn, the Philippines declared a state of emergency and granted Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers by mid-March; Duterte treated the pandemic as war and took warlike measures to fight the virus by using ex-military leaders to spearhead the pandemic efforts. Under this new state, Filipinos had to enter strict curfew and lockdown, and the country mandated the use of masks and shut down commercial roads, transportation and businesses.

Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Farmers

Just as the Philippines entered a state of emergency and lockdown took place, many of the Filipino farmers were harvesting the products of the dry season. Without the pandemic, these farmers would typically gather their crops and utilize commercial routes to bring them into the bigger cities. In these urban areas, the farmers would be able to sell their products to larger markets where the farmers could make a larger profit while simultaneously feeding the cities. However, the coronavirus lockdown in the Philippines shut down the major commercial traveling routes, effectively cutting farmers off from their major source of income. Moreover, lockdown prevented farmers from selling off their crops which resulted in a major food waste during the pandemic.

From March 2020 to May 2020, farmers amassed their Spring crops and eventually had to dispose of them due to a lack of consumers. Consequently, massive amounts of edible food underwent destruction while people in the urban areas did not have access to fresh produce. Moreover, Filipino farmers lost tremendous amounts of money by not being able to sell their fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, the government leaders did little to assist the movement of produce from rural areas to big cities and largely left Filipino farmers at a loss of money for months. This was particularly detrimental for the farmers because they were losing income while already living in a low-income area; in turn, the farmers’ access to additional job and income opportunities did not exist and made the farmers more vulnerable to falling into deep poverty. Moreover, these farmers became extremely susceptible to the coronavirus as they did not have access to medical resources or personal protective equipment or the money to obtain any medical resources. The pandemic created an extremely unique predicament for the farmers as they were left to fend for themselves against income loss and the spread of the virus.

However, a youth-led initiative fought food waste during the pandemic by providing an avenue of opportunity for these farmers to produce, harvest and sell their products in a manner where they would not experience exposure to the coronavirus while simultaneously maintaining their main source of income.

AGREA: The Road Ahead

Filipino farming organization AGREA saw the struggle that Filipino farmers were facing at the hands of the pandemic and decided to take action. Spearheaded by AGREA CEO Cherrie D. Atilano, AGREA sought to minimize food waste during the pandemic by creating alternative methods for farmers to transport and sell their produce.

Atilano and AGREA organized the #MoveFoodInitiative for many rural villages which sought to engage local communities in the efforts to fight food waste during the pandemic. The initiative mobilized youth food producer groups and local trucker groups which helped ship food from the local farmers to markets in the larger cities. Consumers of these products can easily access a list of fruits and vegetables with their respective prices on an order form, a method of contactless shopping that protects both the producers and the consumers.

AGREA’s #MoveFoodInitiative has become wildly successful as it has helped over 7,000 Filipino farmers reach and sell over 160,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables to over 50,000 families across the Philippines. Additionally, AGREA has been able to utilize the surplus produce by donating the food to local kitchens that feed frontline medical workers who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

While the pandemic temporarily brought a stop to the businesses and livelihoods of many lower-income farmers and created massive food waste, AGREA’s quick work provided relief for farmers, food for consumers, and initiatives for youth groups to strengthen Filipino communities during these trying times. Due to her immense and important work in decreasing food waste during the pandemic, Cherrie d. Atilano has received the title of the Filipina U.N. Summit Food Systems Champion.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr

Farming Protests in India
Nearly 150 million Indians rely on farming to make a living. The farming protests in India started when the Indian government passed new laws that could negatively affect small farmers, leading farmers to band together in protest.

The New Government Laws

Government involvement in agriculture, which has included a minimum price guarantee for certain crops, emerged to help India overcome the 1960s hunger crisis. A major drought that hit the country between 1966 and 1967 caused the hunger crisis. The Indian government set the food pricing guarantee in place in order to allow India to be able to feed itself with less support from other countries. These laws were in place until 2021.

This support guaranteed a minimum amount of money for certain produce, but roughly 60% of farmers felt that it was not enough anymore. In addition, many designated markets with governmental price protection have become corrupt with private sellers from larger corporations being able to lower food prices below the standard. This has forced smaller farmers to cut their guaranteed prices and take serious revenue losses.

In late 2020, the government passed three new bills known as The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. These bills have the intention to minimize government involvement in agriculture and further open up the market for private investors.

Supporters of the laws claim they will free farmers from government prices and allow them to be more independent. Farmers, however, fear that the loss of government involvement will leave them at the mercy of large corporations they cannot compete with.

The Protests

Protests against the proposed laws began outside of New Delhi on November 26, 2020. Farmers, many from the Sikh religious minority, demanded that the Indian government change the law. Sikhs have predominantly relied on agriculture since the government prices have taken effect. Protestors took action on December 20, 2020, taking down hundreds of telephone wires, protesting the fact that large companies such as Reliance industries and the Adani group were joining the large contract farming business.

On January 26, 2021, India’s Republic Day, farmers organized a 100 km tractor protest. The government tried to prevent the protest from happening, enacting laws to prevent the protest. Some states even stopped the sales of tractor fuel to help mitigate the situation. These efforts did not deter the protestors, who continued to march down the streets.

These protests have been extremely symbolic, demonstrating to the government the need to support the country’s struggling working/lower classes. But the protests soon became violent. Hundreds of farmers, some still on tractors, dismantled police barricades and charged police with traditional weapons. Police tossed tear gas at the crowd and online videos showed police beating protestors with batons. Reports determined that 300 officers experienced injury and one protestor died.

The Importance of the Farming Protests in India

The protestors show no sign of stopping until India’s government meets their demands for more government protection. The farming protests in India aim to promote equality.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr

Harmless HarvestHarmless Harvest is an organic coconut brand that guarantees nonpesticide, chemical or GMO supplements in its young Nam Hom coconuts, harvested from Thailand. Known to be the first brand to introduce non-thermally pasteurized coconut water in the United States, its mission is to “create remarkable coconut products through sustainable farming practices while having a positive community impact,” says Harmless Harvest CEO, Ben Mand. Utilizing organic-certified Nam Hom coconut farms, Harmless Harvest ensures growing coconuts without “persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge.”

Fair Wages for Workers

In addition to its commitment to clean practices and natural coconut products, Harmless Harvest guarantees social accountability through its Fair for Life certification. Fair for Life certification demonstrates the organization’s efforts to provide fair wages for its workers in Thailand. Fair for Life advocates for financial resiliency for all its workers and reallocates funds to support communities of farmers to found mobile health clinics and provide dental checks and water filtration systems. The certification promises social responsibility and fair trade to all the people involved in the production, which starts with farmers that harvest in the very beginning to the consumers that take home the products. 

Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP)

In December 2020, Harmless Harvest announced its partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to introduce a new agricultural project called the Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP). This project aims to ensure a sustainable farming model with innovative coconut harvesting and the training of farmers to maximize their overall productivity. With plans to implement new regenerative farming methodology and agricultural management training for Thailand farmers, ReCAP considers many aspects of the harvesting process other than just the coconut’s quality.

Sustainable Farming and Education for Farmers

The main aspect of the project is to reinvent coconut farming and produce more eco-friendly efficiency. Harmless Harvest aims to implement new sustainable coconut harvesting practices by utilizing cover crops, which then increases the soil’s water absorption and reduces soil erosion during heavy rainfall. Other methods such as intercropping, bee-keeping and organic inputs were included in the coconut farm regeneration in efforts to promote clean farming.

The project also seeks to provide farmers with education in farm management and innovative agricultural practices that target longevity and resistance against climate change. By teaching farmers new strategies to increase biodiversity and resilience, sustainable coconut harvesting becomes a stepping stone to transitioning modern farming to regenerative agriculture. The brand’s overall goal is to rediscover a more environmentally sustainable and resistant farming methodology while also promoting farmers’ wages by the end of 2023.

Addressing Poverty Through Coconut Farming

Harmless Harvest’s project ReCAP shifts the coconut industry and other farm-dependent brands away from chemical-laden monoculture crop farming, which is susceptible to climate change and is inefficient environmentally. The project alleviates ecological stress and utilizes a more efficient system of production, which corresponds with Harmless Harvest’s overall mission of ethical practices. ReCAP seeks to encourage new methods of sustainable coconut harvesting and aims to increase the income of farmers by 10% or more by the end of 2023. From celebrating zero coconut waste in September 2020 to up-cycling and utilizing all parts of the coconut up to the husk, the brand continues to introduce techniques to better the planet and help farmers lift themselves out of poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Nespresso AAAPopular on every continent of the earth, coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. In 2017, more than two-thirds of the global coffee production was exported, creating 125 million jobs and an $83 billion retail market value. The market is also extremely vast. While the largest importing countries are the United States, Germany and France, most coffee beans grow in smallholder farms in developing countries across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, including 22 Low Human Development Countries, according to the U.N.’s Human Development Index. The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program aims to help coffee farmers in developing countries.

Coffee Farming in Developing Countries

In many of these underdeveloped regions, coffee is a particularly important crop and a significant source of income for farmers to recover from natural disasters, economic volatility or political conflicts. However, many smallholder farmers find it difficult to tap into the global premium market due to their low productivity, outdated processing technics and lack of market access. More than 2.5 million African smallholder coffee farmers are still in extreme poverty today. In other words,  they live on less than $1 a day.

Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

Seeing the difficulties that farmers face and the great potential for future development, Nespresso, a subsidiary of Nestlé, one of the most popular and successful coffee businesses of the 21st century, launched the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in 2003. AAA stands for the triple focus on high quality, productivity and social and environmental sustainability, aiming to encourage rural economic development and improve the livelihoods and well-being of coffee farmers while producing high-quality coffee. To enter the program, a farmer has to produce a specific aroma profile and meet the quality and sustainability requirements.

Technical Assistance and Business Support

Once accepted in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, farmers receive tools and learn sustainable coffee growing and processing practices from the agronomists that Nespresso sends directly to their communities. Nespresso also helps install small wet mills that allow for greater efficiency and quality control in coffee aggregating and processing. Thanks to the adoption of these new or improved practices, land productivity has increased 40-50% in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Besides, Nespresso trains the farmers for better farm economic management and business practices, easier access to new and differentiated markets and stronger resilience to climate change through climate-smart agricultural practices. Together, this ensures greater profitability and income stability. Farmers have the right to choose the buyers, although many just sell their coffee to Nespresso since it offers a fair price of around one third above the standard market price and up to 70% of the export price can go back to farmers and their local communities.

Wider Systemic Solutions

Beyond the coffee business, the ultimate goal of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is to improve farmers’ living conditions. After years of endeavor, the program is evolving into a broader rural development program that encompasses sustainable agriculture, financial literacy, municipalities and social welfares. For example, in 2014, Nespresso and Fairtrade International together launched the Farmer Future Program in Caldas, Colombia, to provide the first pension scheme for coffee farmers. This will also help with the generational transfer of farms from parents to children, ensuring opportunity for young people in coffee-producing regions.

As of 2020, Nespresso has committed an annual investment of CHF 40 million and 400 agronomists have been sent to help farmers. More than 110,000 farmers in 14 developing countries have been participating in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program.

The program is a veritable triple-win collaboration between coffee farmers, Nespresso and the customers. Nespresso sources approximately 95% of its total coffee supply through the AAA program, which is not far from 100%, its ultimate vision for the end of 2020.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr