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Reclaiming Land as a Source of Life and Livelihood (2003) Position Paper of Chethana Network Perspective Land is not merely

a source of livelihood but it should be recognized as the matrix in which life is sustained. Hence, the culture represented by Agri-culture, of diversity, relationship and mutuality must be lifted up as one that re-produces, sustains and enhances life on this earth. Land and agriculture should not be viewed solely in terms of productivity and profit but rather as the backbone of the livelihood security system for 70 Crore of our population and a basic requisite for food sovereignty and national sovereignty. More over, they should be seen as essential to the survival of the human race, and the earth. Land to the Tiller: The post independence slogan The post independence slogan of Land to the Tiller was not motivated by any socialist intentions, but rather reflected the enlightened self-interest of a society that was facing the pressures of industrialization. Land and its productivity were important to even the non-producers of food. It was in their interest that land was to be given over to those who would till the land and that they were encouraged to produce a surplus. Thus, the industrial and business classes ensured that their food requirements would be met by the surplus production by the farming community. Naturally, farmers also began to look upon agricultural not only as a means of livelihood but also as engaging in surplus production and associated value production. Thus, we have traveled much from subsistence farming to market and export oriented agro-business and hence, a romanticized view of land and agriculture does not hold much water. Nobody will engage in agriculture unless it rewards him with good profit. This is the economic and cultural backdrop in which we try to look at the issue of Land. There is no longer a land issue in the abstract, but the groups that are fighting for it and the location of these groups decide its meanings and contours. Today, particularly in urban areas, a large section of the employees and the industrial workers simply need a place to stay. With growing urbanization and migration of the rural poor to the urban areas, the need for house sites for the poor will increase. While land to the tiller is still a live issue, land to the dweller is going to assume increasing importance, especially in urban areas with associated class tensions and conflicts. For the Dalits and tribals in rural and forest areas, land is still a means of livelihood, a means of survival, and more importantly, a means of gaining social status as they have been denied the right to own land for centuries. Thus, land ownership reflects or determines the existing social relations within a rural society. Control and management of land for them is a question of reclaiming their life and dignity as human beings. For the real estate business, land is something that would appreciate in value and hence to be sought after as a commodity in the market. Taking advantage of the rural distress, they appropriate prime farm lands close to the metropolitan cities, often

classified as land under agricultural use. These lands are then converted into housing sites, high-rise apartment complexes, palatial farm houses surrounded by manicured gardens and lawns, as well as the sites for their occasional rest and recreation. They are also turned into shopping malls, and other facilities that serve the interests of this elite section of society. For the proponents of neo-liberal economic agenda, land and its resources are seen as basic requirements to establishing mega industries, and thereby attract investments. What we witness today is the governments role in acquiring large acres of farm lands and even forcibly evicting farmers from their lands to be given over to private corporations at nominal price for their industrial initiatives to create their own private enclaves (SEZs) where they are protected from most of the laws of the land. In fact, this leads to the further marginalization of a sizable population from land and livelihood resulting in growing class tensions. Initially, in the context of the agrarian crisis, the small farmers may find the price of land very attractive and may be willing to sell the land at a good price, but once the amount that they got from the sale is frittered away in consumption and is not used in ways that will sustain themselves over time, they also end up as the garbage heap in the outskirts of the metropolises. It is these conflicting interests and pressures that make land issue so complex and volatile. Hence, today, it cannot be brought under the rubric of one slogan, the land to the tiller Reclaiming Land as a Source of Life and Livelihood Hence, it is important to clarify Chethanas slogan Reclaiming Land as a Source of Life and Livelihood. The slogan defines our constituency, our perspective and our commitment. Dalits, tribals and the rural artisans were the original people of the land. Their life was intrinsically related to land and its resources; land represented life for them - life as embedded in a relationship of interdependence and mutuality. They acknowledged earth as the matrix of their existence. In relation to land, agriculture represented a way of life, a culture marked by respect for diversity, inter-relationship and interdependence. Land, agriculture and associated industrial activities (rural arts and crafts) have been for them a means of livelihood. Today, not only are they unable to take advantage of the liberal economic policies, but are also displaced from land and their livelihoods and left to face the brunt of agrarian crisis sweeping through rural India. We would like to reclaim the very understanding of land as a living system, as the vary basis of our life, as a means of survival and livelihood, and as essential to food sovereignty and national sovereignty. In short, Chethana is taking up the challenge of ensuring the rather difficult balance among livelihood security, ecological conservation, and sustainable income generation. India Lives in its Rural Villages Around 65% of the population lives in rural areas. Land is at the center of rural life in India. Land is inherently valuable, and it generates value. Land can provide a household with physical, financial, and nutritional security. It provides a laborer with a source of wage. It enhances ones credit worthiness. Land provides the base for many farming and non-farming livelihood options. It is a basis for identity and status. Most of all, it acts as

the support base for a wide variety of flora and fauna and a sustainable and lifeenhancing ecosystem. Landlessness and caste and Patriarchy Landlessness and rural poverty are closely linked. India has the greatest concentration of rural households that are totally landless - 60 million households. Another 250 million rural residents live in households that own less than 0.2 hectares of land. The absolute landless and small land holders (those owning less than 0.2 ha of land) account for as much as 43% of the total peasant households. Between 31% and 35% of the total agricultural labor force is landless. Landlessness has been institutionalized, with Dalits, tribal people and women being kept out of ownership of land, thus forcing them to eke out a living in agricultural labor. This entrenched and systemic caste and patriarchy is furthered through their landlessness.

For women, land is not just for agriculture or ensuring food and nutritional security; it is linked to a whole lot of other basic needs like firewood, water, rearing cows, goats, hens, horticulture, and a base of operation for a number of diverse non-farm livelihood activities, which are all part of an ecologically sound and sustainable lifecycle. While they may not be producers of profit, they play a crucial role in the sustenance and regeneration of life. Of the Indian poor, 40% are landless agricultural laborers; 45% are small or marginal farmers (60% of Indian farmers own less than an acre of land). This means that 85% of the poor are either landless or marginal farmers whose survival and livelihood is related to land. Hence, Chethanas campaign for livelihood will be carried forward by the rural constituency of Dalits, tribal, women, small and marginal farmers and rural artisans on the issues of land and water and other natural resources and the livelihood options depending on them with the special emphasis on agriculture and enhancement of the life and dignity.

This is the context in which Chethana undertakes the campaign focusing on Land as source of life and livelihood with a three pronged strategy of 1. Claiming Rights over the Land and Natural Resources Chethana is committed rights based approach to land distribution. A rights based approach holds that a person for whom a number of human rights remain unfulfilled such as the right to food, information, participation, etc. - is a poor person. Poverty is thus more than lack of resources it is the manifestation of exclusion and powerlessness. In this context the realization of human rights and the process of development are not distinct. On the contrary, development becomes a sub-set of the process of fulfilling human rights. In fact, development itself is recognized as a human right. Chethana is focusing on empowering rights holders to invoke their rights. Rights holders are people who have a legal entitlement to rights under law. Rights holders are entitled to claim these rights from duty bearers and bring action against duty bearers that do not

fulfill their obligations. Rights holders must have the capacities to claim their rights as entitlements. Through awareness-raising at the grassroots, rights holders will learn that their rights to land and a decent living. Participation of grassroots rights holders will be stressed throughout chethana mission. Chethana is ensuring a supportive environment that will empower free, active and meaningful participation of the targeted communities. Chethana is also addressing the duty bearer's capacity to recognize, respect and fulfill the rights holders right to participation. The components of this strategy include Identify the nature of ownership and possession of land in every revenue village using land records such as A-register, Adangal, and SLR (settlement land record). Right to information Act can be effectively utilized for the said purpose. Identify the lands distributed under the Land Ceiling Act and the Bhoodan Movement and ensure that they had been distributed as per the records. Identify DC /Assigned Lands and ensure its distribution to the landless Dalits. Identify the lands under Co-operative Land Societies and rejuvenate the original societies or establish new ones to manage them. Make use of Jama Banthi (Sittings of Revenue officers at each Taluk headquarters, once in a year) proceedings to settle land disputes. Use the protection of SC/ST atrocities Act to prevent encroachments on Dalit lands. Help those who have titles but do not have lands to locate and take possession of the land. 2. Promoting of sustainable and ecologically sound agricultural Practices Chethana is committed to promote an evergreen revolution that would enhance productivity of land in perpetuity without associated ecological harm. It is not to go back to the past but to integrate the past into the present with adequate scientific basis so that agriculture is made economically rewarding and intellectually satisfying and undertaken with social and ecological commitment. Small and marginal farmers, who constitute 25 percent of the global farming population, have to lead this revolution. This would involve linking scientific and research and Training institutions with sustainable and organic agriculture practices and evolving more and better practices that can stand the scrutiny of scientific investigations and can be applied to larger areas of land and made acceptable to greater number of people. The goal is to make organic and sustainable agriculture a movement with participation of people (small and marginal farmers) both in the development and maintenance of land, water and other essential natural resources and also their conservation with the formation of farmers collectives. Attempts must be made to make the state an equal partner in this endeavor, with making available the services of agricultural extension officers, subsidies, credits and marketing mechanisms.

In this context chethanas strategies are to promotion of Traditional seed saver groups with following objectives and components:Farmers in some of the areas have retained a reservoir of diversity on their fields especially in remote areas, tribal hamlets, flooded areas, and drought and semi drought areas. This rich diversity of the region will be identified by implementing several participatory activities. While implementation project activities, attempt will be made to bring in farmers across the region and build farmer network, including other likeminded organization, policymakers, media, scientists interested in sustaining agriculture and in a broad sense to explore the chances of sustaining eco-system and traditional culture. On-farm conservation or conservation in the farmer's field will be another important strategy to increase the biodiversity of the region. Multi-cropping system in the region would be perceived essential for food security/sovereignty and nutritional security of the farming community, thereby protecting farmers rights over seeds. Whilst it being a viable tool to increase on -farm biodiversity is also potentially important component of sustainable cropping system, it is ecological insurance against pest and diseases and against drought and climate change. Sustainable practices with farmer proven methods will be emphasised. Alternate models will be developed in these regions with support of the farmers and people to make government and its agencies understand the issue in its totality and the need for systematic sustainable agriculture practices. Participatory Research and Experimentation to increase the yield performance of varieties will be carried in association with the farmers and like-minded scientist. Systematic and validated experimentation and solutions on field will be documented and disseminated to many other farmers. There will be awareness campaigns conducted that will sensitise different sections of the society, including the farmers, media, consumers and scientific institutions, about the threats of genetic engineering in agriculture. Women, through their multiple roles as farmers, cooks, gardeners, keepers of culinary traditions, seed custodians and healers, will play a major role in shaping this diversity. Redressing the role of women in reviving the culture of the local supply chain, from seed conservation to cultivation to traditional processing (harvest to cleaning to milling and value added products) to marketing and finally to ensure nutrition and food security. Their work will be documented and specially highlighted through the media.

To document the different practices and culture of the region and the fairs and melas conducted in different regions will get the stakeholders to understand the objectives of Traditional Seed Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture. Although farmers are producing more, that does not bring them any additional benefit. There are numerous green shops or organic outlets in all the southern states and through networking and capacity building workshops among the organic farmers a linkage will be created between these shops and farmers. Marketing forms an essential part of the proposal and income generation of both seed and food products becomes an important aspect.

Here again, Chethana would like to translate ecological and livelihood concerns into holistic development of the quality of life of the people and the community 3. Promoting Alternative Livelihood Initiatives While improving small farm productivity, concurrent attention must be paid to on-farm and non-farm employment which has a base in the natural resources specific to an area. The small and marginal farmers and the farm labor cannot sustain themselves by farming and the income generated from it alone, but they have to rely on other income generating activities and other productive endeavors using readily available natural resources and the traditional skills. These skills have to be updated and thus, value must be added to the time and labor of the poor, particularly women. The Womens Alternative Livelihood program is aimed at promoting an agro -processing, agro-business and non-farm employment revolution in the rural areas with small womens groups as the basic unit of operation. The alternative nature of the program is defined as per the following norms given below: 1. It will be a collective effort of women with womens empowerment as one of the crucial components 2. Their productive activities will be agro-based or local natural resource based 3. Their activities will always keep in focus the enhancement and conservation of local resources 4. Their work environment will be more domestic, casual and less time bound, with sufficient space to take care of the needs of children and family and also one that facilitates inclusion of children and the elderly in the labor. 5. Community needs will be the basis of production, but surplus production will be distributed through socially committed market mechanisms. 6. There will be a profit sharing mechanism, which ensures that community needs are also met from the profit that the quality of life of the community in general is enhanced. This livelihood initiative is to be built on the already developed social infrastructure of womens co-operatives. Emphasis will be given to up-gradation of skills and product

diversification, so that value is added to womens time and labor and the products meet the needs of the community. These groups should be networked within states and across states to create market linkages and outlets, take up questions of womens rights, land rights and human rights issues and also resist the withdrawal of the state from its role in providing food at reasonable price (rationing of basic food items at fair-price). They can also be a pressure group against governments attempts to withdraw from meeting primary health care needs of the community and providing quality education for their children.

CONCLUSION In conclusion, Chethana would like to make it clear that this three pronged strategy, in the final analysis, is meant to resist neo-liberal economic policies that leave out the poorthe dalits, Adivasis, Rural Artisans and women- completely from the main stream economic activities. Its aim is to empower them to claim their human rights and rights over land and its resources, create livelihood options based on agriculture and other natural resources specific to their environment, add value to the time and labor of these people through up-gradation of their skills, and preserve and conserve earth and its diversity as the very basis of life. In short, we would like to address the question of development within the larger framework of the quality of life. We want to be proponents of an alternative model of development that affirms justice to both humans and the earth, the responsibility of humans in the creation of a new heaven and a new earth and the essential interdependence of our existence as the very matrix in which our live is sustained. This will form the basis of our campaign for Land as a Source of Life and Livelihood. The member organizations of Chethana are expected to further prepare in detail their action plans in the three strategic areas of our campaign. CHETHANA