The systemic threats to food sovereignty and human rights and ways we can begin to address them was the topic of discussion for the Japanese delegation attending the Triangular Meeting 2018 held in Tokyo on November 20-22, 2018. In attendance were farmers and civil society representatives from Brazil, Mozambique and Japan.
Threats to food sovereignty and human rights of small landholders also exist in Japan according to analysis done by the Japanese delegation. The threats come from various sources. Ideologically, a commitment by government policy to economic growth marginalizes small holders because they are viewed as being inefficient in their use of human labor. Government agricultural subsidies encourage farm scale to increase encouraging specialization and high yielding crop varieties threatening biodiversity and the genetic diversity of our crops. Research subsidies for precision agriculture and autonomous farm equipment are removing human beings from the process of growing crops threatening human livelihoods and the survival of our rural communities. ‘Distancing’ between farmers and those who eat the food in the cities has been the result. Distancing is not only meant in a physical sense. Distancing is also psychological, political and spiritual. City people and farmers lose a sense of the connectedness of all living things with the commodification of food. It is hard to care if we do not have a connection to the sources of where our food comes from. Distancing also keeps Japanese people from seeing the political, ecological, cultural and human costs of continuing its ideological commitment to large-scale development projects. This new form of colonialism is being carried out through JICA’s desire to “help” farmers through development aid.
To address these issues there were several ideas suggested that would help Japanese people enter into solidarity with peasant farmers around the world in order to see that their struggle is in fact our struggle to maintain human dignity and freedom. First, we need to work to connect farmers with one another in an educational process that helps farmers learn about systemic exploitation in Japan. In Japan there are a number of farmer’s associations that are separately lobbying government on agricultural policy or organizing seminars on food and agriculture based on the interests of the particular organizations. In addition, there is a need to broaden our understanding of small farmer’s struggles by deepening our understanding and also our connections with international organizations like Via Campesina, the world’s largest organization promoting the rights of small-scale farmers. Through our connections with the mission of Via Campesina we would like to appeal to Japanese farmers and other citizens to broaden support for the United Nations “Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas” which the Japanese delegation abstained from voting for. Next year begins the United Nations “Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028” these two declarations can serve as a catalyst for creating a food system that promotes food sovereignty and an agro-ecological approach to food production that serves the needs of the people of this nation, cares for the land and mitigates climate change. We are planning an initiative in the next year to consult with the Japanese government on food and agricultural policy. In preparation for that we are planning a conference to further discuss the impact of ProSAVANA on the lives of farmers in Japan and Mozambique.

November 22, 2018