Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Groups of Small-Scale Farmers Reject “Oaxaca’s Program for Self-Sustaining Agriculture”

The program endangers small-scale agriculture and the biodiversity of corn. It also harms the environment and people’s health.

We call on Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico; Enrique Martínez y Martínez, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Cattle Ranching, Fisheries, and Nourishment (SAGARPA); and Teodulo Manuel García Corpus, Oaxaca State Delegate of SAGARPA; and we convey to them the following:

As part of the Crusade Against Hunger, the government drives a national program of “Self-Sustaining Agriculture in support to small producers of corn of up to three hectares”, in 1,122 communities, located in 50 municipalities in the State of Oaxaca.

Supporting self-sustaining agriculture is very important to guarantee the food security of families and to strengthen the country’s food sovereignty. According to data from SAGARPA, at least 8 million tons of corn (around 30% of the national production) does not enter the market because they are destined for human and animal consumption in the communities where they are produced.

The self-sustaining agriculture program in Oaxaca plans to give the equivalent of $2,200 pesos per hectare, with a limit of 3 hectares per producer. This money will not be given directly, but in the form of supplies: hybrid or improved native seeds, chemical fertilizers or bio-fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and metallic containers that must be bought from certified agrochemical providers.

Because of this we consider that:

  1.  These types of subsidies weaken self-sustaining agriculture because they increase the dependency of small-scale farmers on external supplies, which are currently given to them for free, but that they will have to pay for in the future. The program benefits the companies that make agrochemicals, seeds, and agricultural supplies, more than it benefits the small-scale farmers that are the beneficiaries of this program.
  2. In many of the communities and municipalities eligible for this program, the small-scale farmers maintain and conserve ancient native seeds and endemic varieties of corn, adapted to the particular environmental conditions of each region. This program will cause the loss of the biodiversity and variety of native corn that currently exist in the state. Native seeds will be displaced by homogeneous seeds, hybrids, or improved native seeds, which in many cases will not be able to adapt to the environmental niches, and will not result in higher yields. Additionally, scientific studies have documented cases of transgenic contamination in lots of commercial seeds that are sold by companies as “certified” or declared “conventional” hybrid or improved seeds.
  3. The work of small-scale farmers who improve native seeds is not recognized or supported by the program. We risk losing the small-scale farmers’ knowledge on native seeds if they stop planting their own seeds and choose to use the commercial varieties. Additionally, Oaxacan cuisine, considered human heritage, depends on the existence and the diversity of native varieties.
  4. In many communities, small-scale farmers use traditional and environmentally sound techniques that allow them to produce healthy, nutritious, and good quality foods. The program promotes an agricultural model that at its base uses technological packages with high amounts of fertilizers and chemical pesticides, that will decrease the nutritional quality of corn, which is our main food source. 
We reject the Self-Sustaining Agriculture Program because it threatens the genetic diversity and variety of corn, puts at risk the nourishment and health of the communities, pollutes the environment, increases the factors that cause climate change, jeopardizes our culture, and destroys the small-scale farming economy.

We ask that the government create an alternative to this program in the state of Oaxaca, one that improves the lives of small-scale farmers and that promotes the cultivation of a variety of native corn, traditional and environmentally sound agricultural techniques, the use of locally produced supplies, and that guarantees the nourishment, health, and nutrition of the population of the communities, with respect to our culture and the environment.

“2013: year of resistance and defense of Oaxaca’s native corn and all national territories”
May 2013

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