Land reforms essential for poor people’s food sovereignty

Economists and rights activists on Monday suggested land reforms for ensuring the food security of the poor farmers and marginal people of the country.

They made the suggestion at a roundtable on 'Food sovereignty of poor farmers and marginalized and their lack of access to land and natural resources', organized by the Association for Land Reform and Development at the YWCA's conference hall in Mohammadpur.

PKSF chairman Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, said that 'human dignity' should be ensured for all human beings and the right to resources should be ensured for all the people to bring about food sovereignty.

He observed that the 'opportunities' in the country had gone only to the people who have more resources and power.

Kholiquzzaman urged the implementation of the CHT accord to establish the indigenous people's rights to their traditional lands and resources.

The executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Mustafizur Rahman, urged the government to provide farmers with the necessary services and opportunities to grow, harvest and store their products, and also to ensure reasonable profits.

The senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Bimal Kumar Saha, urged the government to enact laws on land reform and land use to ensure the poor and marginal people's rights to land and food, and suggested that no individual should be permitted to own more than 7.5 acres of land, and the land belonging to absentee owners should be confiscated and distributed to the landless.

The executive director of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, said the government should enact a law on the rights to forest in the light of Awami League's election manifesto to ensure the rights of the indigenous people to lands and forests.

Alleging that the government has failed to stop land-grabbing, she urged it to provide social safety net and legal protection for the marginal farmers.

Sanjib Drong of the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum urged the government to recognize the right of the indigenous people to their traditional lands.

The executive director of the INCIDIN, AKM Masud Ali, who presented a paper on 'Interpretation of the discourse on food sovereignty and people's access to productive resources', said that availability, proper distribution and purchasing power could ensure food for the poor, not availability alone.

Kirti Nasha Chakma of the ALRD, in her paper on 'Commercialization of land and land-grabbing: a study of state policy in Bangladesh', said that only 20 per cent of the country's population own 80 per cent of the total land, and pointed out that the land distribution pattern was extremely inequitable.

She suggested enforcement of the existing laws, especially the land use policy, reviewing the existing laws and policies in this connection, recognition of the customary land rights of the indigenous people, taking appropriate measures to ensure the women's land rights and ownership and expansion of the safety net programmes.

The roundtable, chaired by ALRD's executive director Shamsul Huda, was also addressed by Jatiya Krishok Samity's leader Nur Ahmed Bokul and Hunger-Free World's country director Ataur Rahman Miton, along with others.

Source : New Age