Land Center for Human Rights
122 Galaa’a st, Ramsis Tower- Egypt
In the LCHR workshop
After ten years have passed on the implementation of the land law
A program for farmers that guarantees them safe farming and a dignified life
The LCHR held it’s workshop titled “The future of agriculture and farmers after the constitutional amendments” in it’s headquarters on Thursday, April 19, 2007. it was attended by (40) of expert participants, intellectuals and representatives of civil society organizations, who are interested in the human rights of farmers, from ten Egyptian governorates. From Giza Governorate attended (10) participants, from Cairo (5) participants from Behera (6) participants, from Fayoum (4) participants, from Sohag (3) participants, from Beni Suef (5) participants, from Menoufia (3) participants, from Qena (3) participants, from Gharbia (5) participants, and from Dakahlia (7) participants.
The discussions and activities of the Workshop started by a speech from Mr. Karam Saber - Director of the LCHR, where he demondetrated the objectives of the workshop, which try to reach a work program that protects the rights of farmers under the constitutional amendments, and the deteriorating economic and social conditions, especially after Ten years have passed on the implementation of law No.96 of 1992.
Then spoke Mr. Abdel Ghaffar Shukr - vice-chairman of the Arab Research Center. He made an intervention, where he outlined the nature of the general atmosphere the Egypt is currently witnessing, and the continuing violations of the human rights of citizens, regarding either the political, economic, or social rights. He asserted that after the landlord-tenant law was issued, the role of the agricultural associations became absent, the prices agricultural requirements increased, the rents of the agricultural land rose, and the Bank of Development has started to give loans to farmers based on possession only, and with very high interests, which led to the imprisonment of some farmers, and others being pursued by the police, and the sole benefactors became the owners and big traders, who exploit the small farmers. The constitutional amendments - which were made in spite of the public opinion and political forces in society being against it – came to show that the farmers who defend their rights against any corruption or attempt to seize their lands will be accused of being terrorists or be trailed in front of military courts.
Then spoke Dr. Mohamed El Sayed El Said - vice-chairman of the Center for political and Strategic Studies in El-Ahram. who pointed out that the rights of farmers and workers are the most wasted rights since colonialism until now. He said that the constitutional amendments speed up the process of capitalism transformation in the countryside, and that the regime will take economic and political procedures that will violate the rights of citizens and undermine it. that due to the implementation of the landlord-tenant law, the investment rate has collapsed from 30% to less than 15% during the 1990s, and job opportunities have decreased. He said that there has been a weak recovery in development rates from 1990 to 1997, then a collapse happened from 1997 until 2004,and then a small recovery happened again from 2004 until now. But the increase in prices eats rise in the growth rate, which is called inflationary growth. He said that after the constitutional amendments, any person can be arrested and the head of state can trial nay any person in front of the military court or any court that he sees fit. The Terrorism Act is now being drafted, and it will be worse than the emergency law. He asserted that the bad results of implementing the bad policies in the countryside, where the phenomenon of rural labor migration to cities, or to other States, or to work in different fields of work other than their area pf expertise, exacerbated. State investment in the countryside decreased. He said that the main problems that emerged after the implementation of the landlord-tenant law in the countryside are:
- The State not pumping new investments.
- The negligence of health care and education.
- A low-income after the successive rise in prices, especially in agricultural land rents.
- An Increase of agricultural exports, which only a few benefited from.
- An Increase in the irrigation, drinking water, and Sanitary Drainage problems.
- The deterioration of food security and the appearance of new types of modified seeds, with it’s negative effects on the environment and health.
- The collapse of the social aspects in the countryside.
He said that the problems of the countryside will not be resolved, except by raising the Voice of the countryside demanding the rights of farmers through farmer organizations that guarantee them a secure and dignified life.
Then spoke Dr. Kamal El-Nagar - Agricultural Research Center. He said that making the constitutional amendments in such a short time, asserts that the State is going to take steps and measures that will undoubtedly have their impacts on small farmers, especially as the government has withdrawn entirely from this sector, and because of the absence of cooperatives, the spread carcinogenic pesticides and decayed seeds, and the implementation of the landlord-tenant law No. 69 of 1992. He suggested that the increasing of the civil society organizations role, to claim the rights of farmers, establishing cooperatives and connections among farmers away from the cooperative associations, raising the awareness of farmers, to change some old customs and traditions ,and moving in clusters to support collective action in the countryside, and reorganizing the development associations to improve the quality of life for farmers.
Then spoke Mr. Eryain Nassif – (Farmer’s Union - under foundation). He said that the rights of farmers after being violated by force were now violated by the Constitution. He said that now in Deckerns, in the village of Marchak, there are farmers, who are staying-in strike to defend their lands. That after the constitutional amendments and the issuing of the Terrorism Act those farmers will be terrorists. He said that the farmers deputies in the People's Assembly have nothing to do with the problems and demands of the farmers. That the laws issued by the People’s Assembly violate the rights of farmers. He asserted that the 50% workers and farmers is fictitious percentage, and that there must be certain standards for electing representatives of farmers and workers, who can defend their interests through enactment of laws. He asserted that law No.92 of 1996 has wasted the lives of farmers and the agricultural land. That there is an attempt to seize the agrarian reform lands from the farmers. He emphasized the destructive role of the Bank of Development and Credit. He said that there were intentions to cancel the cooperatives since the 1970s, through canceling the Central Cooperative Union and the issuance of Law No.122 of 1980, amended in 1981, followed by the issuance of Law No. 117 of 1976 for the establishment of the Bank of Development and Agrarian Trust, which handed the functions and funds of the Cooperatives to the Bank of Development and its branches, and which resulted in the following:
- A high and continuous rise in interest rates (up to 17% and not to 7% as they say).
- Revolving accounts (compound interest) for farmers debts.
- Guaranteeing loans by land, and not by crop.
- Administrative attachments made by the bank's branches in the villages, in violation of the rulings of the High Constitutional Court of 2000.
- The actual refusal to reschedule the debts of farmers, which resulted in the imprisonment of thousands of farmers and the fleeing of others from their villages.
He said that to improve the conditions of farmers we must:
- Disengage the conflict between the cooperatives and the Bank, so that the independent cooperatives may play their role of in improving the conditions of agriculture and farmers.
- Establishing a pprivate bank for the agricultural cooperatives, to support agriculture and rural development.
- Cut the interest rate to no more than 4%.
- Cancelling the debts of small farmers and tenants who do not own land.
Then spoke Mr. Abdullah Elmamon – A political activist and the headmaster a junior high school in Daqahleya. He asked where is the Egyptian village now? Is it the village where there is internet, supermarkets, dishes, and Billiards Games? Why did the foods and products of the countryside disappear? He said the countryside is now divided into groups:
The group of isolated government employees, who have lost contact with the problems of the rural community.
The group of big agricultural landowners, who constitute a new group in the Egyptian countryside, and all they care about is to purchase land from the small farmers and exploit them.
The group of smallholders who find it difficult to obtain agriculture requirements and market their products. He asserted the spreading of unemployment among their sons, who were educated in schools and universities.
The group of farm workers and tenants of agricultural land, who Law 92 of 1996 got rid of them, and who are now working on daily wages, and who their children have drooped out of school.
He said that after the constitutional amendments the situation will be worse for most groups, except for the group of big landowners. These amendments will prevent the participation of the farmers in the political or cooperative activities, increase the number of school dropouts from the poor farmers children, spread illiteracy, and increase the number of deaths among poor farmers, because of expired pesticides, spoiled fertilizers, and the contamination of drinking water. The incomes will be low, and there will be a deterioration of health conditions and public services, because there is no place for the poor and the farmers among the ruling elite, especially after they approved the amendments against the refusal of the national and political forces he said that the solution lies in raising the poltical and cooperative awareness, especially among the farmers; establishing a party for farmers, ,to demand their rights; and increasing the role of civil society in supporting and protecting the rights of farmers.
Then spoke Mrs. Wafa Elmasry - Egyptian lawyer from Al-Karama party. She Pointed out that the conditions of farmers were worsened by the absence of farmer organizations and associations that defend the interests and rights of farmers. She asserted the necessity for the establishing of a committee to organize the struggles of farmers and defend their rights to secure living, and safe agriculture, and to provide them with support and back up .
The interventions of the participants asserted the necessity of demanding the government to cancel the debts of farmers, support the tenants, register their contracts with the agricultural associations, allow them to establish committees and associations to defend their rights, and to obtain the necessary agricultural production requirements safely and without exploiting, dig and clean canals, and to provide clean drinking water and Sanitary Drainage to all the villages in the Egyptian countryside.
the participants asserted the need for the State to support the agriculture process and the farmers for the production of food and to ensure the minimum standard of living for the poor people of the countryside.
The participants also called for the need for the government to control the circulation, production, and import of pesticides and fertilizers, to protect the food of the Egyptians and their lives.
The attending participants demanded the LCHR to crystallize their demands through an integrated program that takes into account the different aspects of the problems of the farmers and the Egyptian countryside, on the condition that it includes solutions to ensure their safety and that they live in dignity and freedom. The participants also asserted the necessity of establishing a committee involving academics, journalists and lawyers, farmers and NGOs, that implements a program for farmers, which guarantees them a decent living for and safe agriculture.
To obtain a full copy of the workshop papers please contact the LCHR
Tel. /fax: 5750470
E-mails: Ichr@lchr-eg.org - firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.lchr-eg.org