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  • Rashida Kabanda & Andrew Adem

Government, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP)

Today, 17th April, is the International Day of Peasant Struggle, a day to highlight the persecution and violence suffered by peasants and farmers worldwide daily due to neoliberal policies. On this day in 1996, members of the Landless Workers' Movement were shot dead by the military police of the state of Pará with impunity. This incident shocked the whole world and provoked massive resentment, especially in rural communities. La Via Campesina responded with solidarity actions and demands for justice, mobilising peasant communities in Brazil or Latin America and worldwide. It declared 17th April as the "International Day of Peasant Struggles" to keep the peasant resistance alive in memory.

Increasingly, small-scale farmers and land-based people around the world are facing grave crises of human rights, and dignities such as continued criminalisation, oppression and repression of peasants, workers, and indigenous people communities as big agribusiness, big dams, the global mining boom, and other mega-developments continue to put profits first and peasants last. Over the years, ESAFF Uganda has been calling on the Government and stakeholders to recognise the essential contribution of peasants and other people working in rural areas, such as small farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers, landless rural workers, and Indigenous Peoples for feeding communities and ensuring food systems flourish all over the world.

On 28th September 2018, United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, which the United Nations General Assembly later adopted in December of the same year. The UN Declaration aims to protect better the rights of all rural populations, including peasants, fisherfolks, nomads, agricultural workers, and indigenous peoples, improve living conditions, strengthen food sovereignty, fight against climate change, and conserve biodiversity.

In Uganda, our main struggles are achieving climate justice and comprehensive access to productive resources for agriculture, especially for women in rural areas. Although global warming is a global crisis, its effects are not felt evenly worldwide. Agriculture in Uganda is highly vulnerable to climate change. Small-scale farmers' access to natural resources (land, forests, water, fisheries, pastures, etc.) is essential for sustainable poverty reduction, yet crimes, laws and negative cultural norms are hindering this access. Agroecology and food sovereignty is key to achieving both climate justice and protecting small-scale farmers’ resource rights.

ESAFF Uganda calls upon the Government to work with other members states in the East African Community (EAC) to develop and implement a regional strategy aimed at domesticating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) which set platforms for voices from rural communities to be heard. When implemented, UNDROP would be essential in addressing the economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions of climate change and human rights.

We are using this day to highlight the need to defend agroecology, food sovereignty, and the right to the land as the bedrock of social justice and dignity. Agroecology has the explicit goal of strengthening the sustainability of all parts of the food system, from the seed and the soil to the table, including ecological knowledge, economic viability, and social justice. ESAFF Uganda further emphasises that the demand for social justice also means that those who feed the planet should be able to live in dignity and peace, without fearing either for their own lives or the lives of their family members, without fear of being expelled from their land, nor of being persecuted for the defence of their rights and lands.

ESAFF Uganda will continue to organise small-scale farmers into a movement and increase their visibility. To stand together and influence policies that support the rights of small-scale farmers. ESAFF Uganda will continue to oppose any program, policy, or law that jeopardises small-scale farmers' rights. On this day, ESAFF Uganda stands in solidarity with La Via Campesina, the international movement that unites millions of peasants, small-scale farmers, landless people, women farmers, Indigenous Peoples, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world to defend food sovereignty, social justice and dignity.

We are the farmers, no farmer, no food!

Long live all the small-scale food producers of the world!

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