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In the state of Orissa, India, nearly 10,000 peasants have committed suicide in the recent years as a result of their inability to face the debts acquired with banks in order to “modernize” their production, says Nicholas Barla of the Federation for water, forest and land protection.
Orissa is a state located in the east coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal. It has a population of nearly 40 million people and it is also India’s poorest state.
Nicholas Barla arrived in Rome to participate in the negotiations around the Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure, forest and fishing resources that took place ahead of the 37th session of the World Committee on Food Security.
His testimony on the effects of what could be dubbed as a second “green revolution” on the Orissa farmers has no happy ending.
Peasant communities in that area had been working following their ancestral traditions, by preserving the soil, seeds and using natural compost on their lands.
However, two decades ago things changed with the introduction of industrial seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. “They are trying to induce the people to purchase all these seeds, fertilizers and chemicals [...] and people are unable to pay their debts and many of them are committing suicide. In the last five years or eight years about 10 thousand farmers committed suicide”.
All this (investments, land grabbing and changes in the agriculture model has favored industrial agriculture over family farming) is done “in the name of development”, regrets Nicholas.
Orissa is a mining state. However, despite the 60 iron mines and almost 50 iron and steel industries, unemployment is high and the new explorations are pressuring farmers over the use of land.
“There is no food security. Our rights are being constantly violated”, says Nicholas at the CSA’s headquarters. “I think the guidelines will be very helpful”, he said.
Big investments -either local or foreign- in agriculture, as well as land grabbing in India, says Nicholas, take place by violating the national rules on the subject.
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