Over a hundred civil society groups from 30 countries came together to urge governments to ensure the rights and welfare of rural communities. The call was made after numerous countries implemented restrictive lockdown measures in a rush to contain COVID-19.
In a joint statement, 122 organizations stressed that the rural people have been among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“The lockdown has worsened hunger and poverty in far-flung sitios and barrios. In some areas, farmers do not even know about the Luzon lockdown being enforced,” said Danilo Ramos, chairperson of peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. “The absence of public transportation, curfews, and checkpoints are affecting their farming activities and the conduct of their rural work.”
“Kung nasa kabilang barrio or sitio ang sakahan ng mga magsasaka, may mga dadaanan pang checkpoints. Hanggang alas-5 lang dapat nakabalik na sa bahay. Apektado ang pagsasaka at kabuhayan,” he added.
The civil society groups outlined their demands to protect the rights of rural people amid the pandemic:
– Ensure that the lockdowns and quarantines are not carried out at the expense of the food security of the people, and that the right to produce and earn a living for small farmers, fishers and other direct food producers is duly respected;
– Provide immediate and substantial economic relief (including food grains, cash, and other forms of aid that are essential and appropriate) and social protection that are readily accessible to the marginalized sectors, including the landless rural people, as well as other forms of government assistance such as production and marketing support for the small food producers;
– Ensure that no further displacements of the rural people from their lands and livelihood are carried out in the pretext of COVID-19 lockdowns;
– Allot sufficient public resources to the health sector and make reliable public healthcare services, including free testing for COVID-19 infection and treatment, available without delay or difficulty for everyone, including the rural communities; and
– Call for accountability of public officials at all levels in addressing the urgent needs of the people and in respecting human rights at all times.
The groups came from different countries such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam and Zambia.
On social media, the groups initiated the #ThankYouFarmers as a show of appreciation and support to farmers around the world who continue to produce food and feed the people, despite of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictive lockdowns. Netizens were asked to post and share pictures of their food on social media.