By Henrietta Mongalo – Ngulunews Community Paper*
DURBAN, Dec 7 – (TerraViva) Agriculture is the sector worst affected by climate change and various farmers’ groups are here at the global climate conference in Durban, to make sure that their issues are not left out.
On Dec. 5, hundreds of people took part in a march organised by La Via Campesina, which represents farmers and landless people all over the world. Nqobiziwe Siphiwe Mabaso from South Africa’s Landless People’s Movement, said they helped to organise the march to put pressure on world leaders.
Braam Fischer Road came to a standstill as hundreds of demonstrators, under heavy police guard, marched from Durban’s Botha Park to City Hall, not far from the COP 17 venue at the International Convention Centre, to hand over a memorandum demanding food sovereignty, meaning enough quality food for all as well as the freedom for producers and consumers to make decisions about how to get this food, rather than corporations. The marchers also demanded changes to secure land ownership for the poor, especially women, and decent wages and working conditions for farm workers.
Via Campesina is arguing for these changes as part of a shift to agro-ecology, a more sustainable model of farming to replace agribusiness-dominated, chemical-intensive agriculture that is dominant today.
Mack Sekete is a farmer from Mathlomoleng, a village in Mopane District, of the northern South African province of Limpopo Province; he and other members of the Mopane Farmers Union say that as small scale farmers, climate change impacts directly on them and affects their income.
He is in Durban at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) together with members of a group called Itireleng, meaning “Do it yourself” and he explains his demands in simpler terms.
“We do not want genetically-modfied seeds, we do not even want fertiliser any more, because it is killing us,” Sekete said. “We want organic farming.”
While Via Campesina and its allies took to the streets, the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, a regional grouping of farmers, chose the corridors inside the ICC to lobby for agriculture. SACAU is pressing for the Green Climate Fund to be established, and to include mitigation finance for farmers. The idea is that farmers would be paid to use techniques that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and instead absorb carbon into plants and the soil.
People passing SACAU’s stall are invited to show their support by playing a game, throwing a ball through holes in a makeshift wall that correspond to the various demands.
Many passersby were happy to win a prize. We are yet to see if agriculture will win an instant prize at COP 17.
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.