The Struggle of Rural Communities for Food System Change!

Press Release

October 16, 2020

Roots for Equity and the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) in collaboration with  People’s Coalition for Food Security (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and  Pacific (PAN AP) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) is marking the World Food Day as World Hunger Day on October 16, 2020. A webinar and protest has been organized in this regard in which small and landless peasants including PKMT members participated from different districts.

This event is part of a campaign, launched on the occasion of World Hunger Day, and titled “Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”. It aims to promote a strategy for highlighting the toxic impacts of industrial chemical agriculture production systems and the acute need for food sovereignty and agro-ecology based food production systems. This year’s global campaign focuses on the plight of rural populations during the pandemic, and their demands for changes in the food and agricultural systems.

Tariq Mehmood, a member of PKMT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke on the situation of hunger, poverty and unemployment during the Covid19 pandemic, He said that the transnational mega agro-chemical corporations’ domination in the food and agriculture system around the world, their exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats is a catalyst for Corona pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations FAO (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World), the epidemic could lead another 83 to 132 million people suffering from hunger by 2020, and if the current situation continues by 2030, 841.4 million people in the world will be hungry.

According to a member of PKMT Mohammad Zaman from Sahiwal, it is reported in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the corona virus had a severe negative impact on the Pakistani economy and at least another 10 million people are feared to be pushed to living below the poverty line in Pakistan. The number could increase from 50 million presently to 60 million.

In the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries where consumption of meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is six to 10 times lower than that of developed countries. The worsening situation of hunger and poverty can be gauged from the statement of Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Poverty and Social Protection, that “almost half of the country’s population will be covered by the Ehsas Program.” The statement indicates that in Pakistan, where almost half of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, the current epidemic of rising hunger, poverty and unemployment has exacerbated the pervasive exploitation and brutality of this rotten food and agriculture system that is based extracting super-profits from the poorest segments of society.

Speaking on the global food and employment crisis, Wali Haider, of Roots for Equity said that rural populations around the world are already aware of these facts and now the food and employment crisis and growing hunger during the Corona virus pandemic has proved that the current system of food and agriculture, which is dominated by the big capitalist countries and their for profit companies, has failed.

This domination of the imperialist powers over the global food and agriculture system has linked the local rural economy, in third world countries like Pakistan, to the global agricultural market. This has resulted in the most important resources like our agricultural produce, our land and water have become a source of surplus profits for multinational corporations.  A clear example of this is the increasing production of sugarcane and other cash crops for the production and export of agro-fuels like ethanol, while the production of the most important food crops such as wheat is declining.

This is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and the consequent increase in hunger. There is an urgent need to change the system where farmers are forced to depend on seeds, chemicals and toxic inputs of companies. These chemicals also pollute the entire food and agricultural system and destruction of the ecosystems and biodiversity.

In contrast, a sustainable food production system, agro-ecology, provides farmers with a strategy that protects not only their rights but also of other small food producers. Farmers’ right to land under agro ecology guarantees the establishment of collective and individual seed banks and their exchange. It also protects and promotes safe and natural systems of food and agriculture production ensuring food security of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as safe nutritious food and environment for all.

Speaking on the women farmers’ rights Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity said that the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 56% of the total agricultural production and the majority of farmers involved in milk and meat production are small scale. It consists of cattle breeders, especially women, who make it possible to produce 60 billion liters of milk annually in the country, but these same rural populations are starving themselves as a result of the monopoly of capitalist companies in the food and agriculture sector.

In the name of achieving so called standardization of milk, meat and other foods, corporations are paving a clear path to monopolizing the dairy and meat sector. This will only lead to further exacerbation of hunger and malnutrition in the country. It is important to note that according to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, 53% of children and 44.3% of women in the country are suffering from anemia.

Raja Mujeeb, a member of PKMT Sindh, referring to the small and landless peasants are most affected by the Covid19 epidemic, said that food producers have been forced to depend on poor quality seeds where the companies have established a monopoly and at the same time land is in the hands of feudal lords and increasing encroachment of capitalist systems of production and marketing.

If the farmers have control over all the productive resources including land and seeds, then our farmers, laborers, fishermen and the rural population can get food even in the face of the current pandemic or any kind of emergency. That is why PKMT believes that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture based an end to feudalism through just and equitable land distribution among farmers and imperialist food policies is critical for a peaceful democratic sovereign state!

Released by: Roots for Equity & Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

Press Release in Urdu (PDF)


The News December 28, 2016

LAHORE: Chief Justice-designate Justice Saqib Nisar on Tuesday, while referring to the prevalent adulteration of chemicals, urea and cane juice in milk, remarked if they could not give pure milk to children, they do not have any right to work.

The Supreme Court bench remarked that it would take up the issue of distribution of contaminated milk and water to its logical end. The bench, headed by Chief Justice-designate Saqib Nisar, also formed a local commission to inspect different milk and water companies and asked the Punjab Food Authority head to ensure completion of reports on samples taken from these companies.

Going through the reports proving contaminated material in milk produced and distributed by some companies, the court snubbed officials of these companies saying that no one would be allowed to play with the lives of innocent citizens.

Appearing before the court, the petitioner, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, submitted that according to the laboratory report of Pakistan Council of Scientific Industrial Research, there is detergent powder and dangerous chemical particles in not only loose but also packed milk of some companies. He said authorities had failed to take action against the responsible for providing contaminated milk in the market.

PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mengal, appearing before the court, submitted that they were taking action against the responsible companies. He said they had imposed hefty fines on some companies and issued orders of closure of some milk outlets. He said every person who was responsible was being dealt with in accordance with the law. He said the PFA had sent 300 samples of water and 30 samples of packed and loose milk for laboratory test. At this, Justice Nisar remarked the court was well aware of the capacity of the laboratory test of PFA, which only had a scale and some other irrelevant items. He said the PFA laboratory had no modern machine to conduct the tests.

The court directed the PFA to present sample reports of milk and water on next date of hearing. The court also directed the local commission to submit a comprehensive report after inspecting these companies. The court adjourned the hearing.


The Express Tribune, July 31, 2016

ISLAMABADThe European Union has urged the Pakistani government to remove the 25% regulatory duty on import of milk powder, which has hurt the export of this product.

The demand was made by some EU ambassadors at a meeting with Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan in Islamabad last week.

The ambassador of EU Mission led the delegation, accompanied by ambassadors of France and Holland, to take up the issue with the Pakistani authorities.

The ambassadors argued that since Pakistan enjoys GSP Plus status in exporting its products to the EU, the government should avoid such curbs on EU products as well. They urged the commerce minister to take up the matter with the higher authorities.

The Pakistani side said that the duty was imposed to protect the local farming community. The government imposed 25% regulatory duty on the import of powdered milk and whey powder in the latest budget, resulting in a total duty of 45% (20% customs and 25% regulatory duty) on the import of these items.

This was done on the recommendation of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, which took the step after farmers demanded protection.

Sources said that after the categorical demand by the EU countries, the government is in a difficult situation about the issue as it cannot ignore the demand of the EU countries, particularly given the GSP Plus status.

At the same time, Pakistan’s agriculture and livestock sectors continue to show unimpressive growth, while forming a majority of the vote bank for the ruling PML-N.

Vicious Circles: Dyeing Babies In Pakistan

A documentary, more than 20 years old but tragically still true portrays the truth of entrenched corruption in the capitalist frame of development. The documentary Vicious Circles aired by Yorkshire Television in its program First Tuesday is a heart-wrenching true story of how transnational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and Nestle are capable of making profits at the cost of extremely malnourished children in Pakistan.

13432345_840278089439442_2367882224663155209_nThe advertisement given by Baby Food Manufacturers and Marketers Association (BFMMA) in a Pakistani newspaper Business Recorder on June 15, 2016, is making an appeal to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to reverse regulatory duties on import of powerder milk. They go further explaining that infant milk formulae are imported in Pakistan as milk powder which, according to them is an important food for fighting malnutrition. Their claims include that malnutrition among children under 5 will get worse if a high regularoty duty is imposed. It is important to watch the documentary Vicious Circles to understand the role of infant milk formulae in not only causing diarrhea among infants but recurrent diarrhea leads to thousands of infant deaths across the world. According to the World Health Organization,1.7 billion children are treated for diarrhea every year; and 760,000 children die of diarrhea every year.


In Pakistan, the extremely unhygienic conditions of our squatter settlements and rural communities, as well acute shortage of potable water are as rampant today as 20 years ago. The constant marketting efforts of the sales force of corporations ensure that not only physicians but also mothers use infant milk formulae for infants. It is well known that infant milk formula is given through bottles; both bottles and bottle-niples are a main cause of infection in an environment where it is impossible to fight dirt and infection by flies.

In light of such conditions, the appeal by BFMMA asking for a decrease in regulatory duties should be summarily dismissed by our government. The increased regulatory duties will not only add to the government’s revenues but also force mothers to opt for healthier, cheaper, home-made nutrious meals for infants and children; a practice that was the norm before the advent of profit-making propoganda of mega corporations such as Nestle and others.