Organisations of peasants, fisher peoples and victims of the earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that work with and support peasants’ and fisherfolk’s organisations, came together at the “Regional Conference on Rebuilding Peasants’ and Fisherfolk’s Livelihoods after the Earthquake and Tsunami catastrophes” on the 17-19th February. Over 80 participants from 11 countries representing around 20 organizations were present.
On the 17th some of the participants visited Serdang Bedagai, North Sumatra. After the Conference the participants went on a field trip to Aceh on the 20-21st February visiting Banda Aceh, Sigli, Bireun, Lhokseumawe, Langsa and Medan, the six coordination centres of the KSKBA (Koalisi Solidaritas Kemanusiaan Bencana Alam di Aceh dan Sumatera Utara – Coalition of Humanitarian Solidarity of Natural Disaster in Aceh and North Sumatra).
The tragic effects on the lives, property, livelihoods and socio-economic basis of hundreds of thousands of people in the tsunami-affected regions of Asia and Africa are immense. A significant number of the victims are peasants and from small-scale, artisanal, traditional, beach-based, labour-intensive fishing communities, living in marginalised socio-economic conditions.
Over 220,000 people died and many others are still missing. We are in solidarity with their families and communities whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered by this unprecedented disaster. We recognize and acknowledge the immediate support and commitment of all the people and groups that have shown great solidarity with the victims of the tsunami catastrophe.
The victims, their communities and social organizations must be enabled to rebuild their livelihoods themselves. Victims of the tsunami, their communities and organisations have to be the key actors in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Such rebuilding has to be controlled by the people themselves, should be democratic and non-discriminatory, and lead to improved and sustainable livelihoods. Traditional ecological knowledge systems for protecting and managing natural ecosystems, biodiversity and human habitats, have to play a central role in this.
Especially in disaster situations such as this it is crucial to strengthen peasants’ and fisherfolk’s organisations as key actors that will defend the interests of these communities and will support coalitions, networks and campaigns to further the cause of peasant and fishing communities.
Relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts for the tsunami victims have to be transparent. People have the right to know where the funds go and for what they are used. International and national NGOs and institutions must respond to the agenda and demands articulated by organisations and communities of fisherfolk and peasants for the rebuilding of their livelihoods in the long term.
This includes a guarantee that funds are utilised for building public infrastructure for fishing and peasant communities, such as water and sanitation, public housing, religious centres and medical facilities that provide free healthcare and basic medicines.
Special attention has to be given to children, through providing free schooling and health and trauma care infrastructure especially designed for them; and women and elderly people, particularly those who have lost all their relatives.
There is a need for autonomous, independent disaster management and preparedness agencies, as well as early warning systems, nationally, regionally and internationally, which should be done by people themselves. These bodies should be co-ordinated by democratically elected committees, respect human rights and aided by experts and supporters of fishing and peasant communities.
We call on governments, international institutions and other policy-making bodies as well as NGOs and peoples’ organisations to support and guarantee the following rights for small-scale farmers, peasants and fisherfolk in the tsunami-affected regions:
In the case of peasant communities:
Houses should be rebuilt in their original locations, based on traditional practices and local knowledge, in contrast to some official attempts to relocate people under the pretext of safety. In case of potential safety problem, a dialogue with the affected communities should lead to an effective solution for the communities concerned.
Ensure that peasants are not displaced from their own traditional lands and homes, and can stay on their farms.
Guarantee clear and unambiguous rights to their lands, including recognising customary rights where applicable; ensure clearly defined demarcation of boundaries of the lands they were living on, before the tsunami devastation, and in the case of land that was wiped out by the tsunami, equitable provision of land to peasants must be guaranteed.
In the case of land appropriated by trans-national corporations or other vested interests, rehabilitation efforts have to ensure that it will be returned to peasant owners.
Systems for irrigation, traditional wells, sanitation and potable drinking water have to be rehabilitated and soil desalinated, where necessary. Peasants and their organisations should have a decisive role in planning this work and carrying it out.
Rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts have to take into account people’s food sovereignty, including a genuine agrarian reform program.
We demand that national authorities reject GM food aid and any imported food aid that depresses local prices, purchasing food locally wherever possible, and matching local cultural and social tastes and preferences.
Ensure a fair and equitable trading and market system as well as transportation infrastructure for agricultural products that will guarantee remunerative prices for crops and reasonable costs for inputs at the national level.
General training and education for building up human resources among peasants, and training centres for organic agriculture have to be established. Promote in tsunami-hit areas the practice of organic agriculture as an alternative to the pressure by multinational companies for transgenic seeds (GMOs) and industrial agricultural production.
Co-operatives managed by peasants and their organisations must be set up.
In the case of fishers and their coastal communities:
Design housing projects that are safe and appropriate for fisherfolk and coastal communities engaged in beach-based fishing activities.
Prevent private corporate interests, including the tourism and travel industry, from appropriating coastal areas for profit-making activities.
Ensure that gear and craft for small-scale fishing communities are designed and manufactured by traditional artisanal fishworkers.
Make certain that government aid for fisheries development goes to small-scale traditional, beach-based fishing communities, and not to large-scale, industrial, harbour-based fishing interests.
Prevent the eviction of fishing communities from coastal areas and recognize their rights of access to, and management of, coastal resources.
Enforce legislation to ensure fishing zones exclusively for traditional, small-scale fisherfolk, with distances to be determined as locally appropriate, in consultation with fishing communities and their organisations.
Ensure that rehabilitation plans involve fisherfolk, their communities and organisations, respecting customary law and traditional rights and practices.
Emphasize that while rejecting the neoliberal agenda for reconstruction and rehabilitation, fisherfolk and their organisations stress that the above principles should be applicable for all disasters, big or small.
Strengthen local, national, regional and international organisations of fisherfolk and fishing communities.
As NGOs and other organisations that work in support of peasant and fisherfolk organisations and communities, we commit ourselves to:
Support the defence of labour-intensive, beach-based fisheries and the livelihood interests of peasants, as well as the monitoring of relief and reconstruction efforts.
Raise awareness and campaign against dumping of discarded fishing vessels from industrialised countries in tsunami-affected areas.
Support initiatives by the victims and their communities for a social audit of relief and reconstruction efforts so that they can control how and for what purposes funds are used.
Demand that governments of tsunami-hit countries desist from anti-people and anti-democratic activities and policies, and respect the rights of the people for justice, without any discrimination whatsoever, whether this relates to their nationality, ethnicity or religious beliefs, and guarantee the safety of all those engaged in relief and rehabilitation work.
Press international NGOs to respond to the capacity-building and other requirements of fisherfolk and peasant organisations in order to strengthen them to facilitate fisherfolk and peasant rebuilding their livelihoods according to their needs.
Adopted on the 21st of February 2005 at Langsa, Aceh, Indonesia by the following participants of the Regional Conference on Rebuilding Peasants’ and Fisherfolk’s Livelihoods after the Earthquake and Tsunami Catastrophes:
The affected fisherfolk and peasant organisations
FSPI – Indonesia,
NAFSO and MONLAR – Sri Lanka,
NFF – India,
Southern Federation of Fisherfolk – Thailand
World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)
The NGOs and other organisations in support of peasant and fisherfolk organisation present at the Conference:
1. Green Movement, Sri Lanka
2. ICSF, India
3. MORE AND BETTER campaign
4. CROCEVIA, Italy
5. Focus of the Global South, Thailand
6. INSIST Yogyakarta, Indonesia
7. YSIK Jakarta, Indonesia
8. YBA Aceh, Indonesia
9. JALA Medan, Indonesia
10. LEUHAM Aceh, Indonesia
11. SBSU Medan, Indonesia
12. SINTESA Medan, Indonesia
13. LENTERA Medan, Indonesia
14. KAU Jakarta, Indonesia
15. CODE, Mexico
16. CECAM, Mexico
17. NOUMINREN, JAPAN
18. Confederation Paysanne, French
19. Catalan Department for Cooperation and Development, Spain
20. Hyogo Research Center and Quake Restoration Kobe, Japan
Other organisations in support of this declaration, not present at the Conference:
1. Focus of the Global South, Philippine
2. Focus of the Global South, India
3. The Asia Project, Washington, DC, USA
4. Bangladesh Krishok Federation,
5. Bangladesh Kishani Sabha
6. Bangladesh Adivasi Samity
7. Grassroots International, USA