Monlar (Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform) wrote about the situation in Sri Lanka:
Small farmers are managing better than many people in Sri Lanka’s urban centres.
The economic crisis has pushed the cost of fuel and food out of reach. Rural households have been able to switch to locally available firewood. Firewood is much more expensive in urban areas where many homes do not have access to open fires.
High transportation costs and the lack of fuel have pushed up food prices in the towns and cities. Rural households grow their own or can buy food more cheaply.
Small farmers have been able to adapt much more easily without fuel than those that relied on machines. The small farmers are working together on each other’s land and some can use cattle for ploughing. They are making compost to replace the artificial fertilisers they might have once used. Large farmers say they cannot afford to employ enough labour to make enough compost for their land.
Monlar reports there is a huge demand for the workshops and training programmes run by its People’s Planning Forums (local self-help groups). The Forums are teaching organic or regenerative methods to new groups of farmers who are in trouble because of the economic crisis. Forum members are sharing seeds they have saved with these farmers as imported seeds are no longer available.
The plantation sector has been hit hard by the crisis because of its reliance on imports. The main crops grown are tea (its largest export earner), rubber and coconut but the producers cannot afford to buy the fuel and fertiliser necessary to grow them. Some plantations are closing down. With food prices rising, plantation workers are unable to buy food for their families if and when they can work. Many are living on one meal a day. Health authorities are predicting malnutrition and other nutrition deficiencies will increase, particularly in this sector where wages are very low and living conditions poor.
Plantation families cannot afford school transport costs. The lack of schooling will have a long-term impact on their children. Former plantation workers or young family members who had been employed in the construction or hospitality sector or in other casual jobs have lost their jobs. Unemployed, they have returned to live in overcrowded line houses with no way to earn income.
You may like to write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Nanaia Mahuta asking her to insist that Sri Lanka upholds the human rights of all its citizens including the right to peaceful protest and protection from harm, support good governance that represents all people, and provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those most in need.
Note: On May 14 Nanaia Mahuta tweeted “New Zealand is deeply concerned about the hardship being experienced” and announced that New Zealand would give NZ$500,000 to the World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organisation “to help feed vulnerable children and assist struggling farmers in #Sri Lanka.”
Hon Nanaia Mahuta,
Private Bag 18 888
Statement from Monlar including the People’s Planning Forums:
In Solidarity with the People of Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka is now facing a severe economic, social and political crisis resulting from many years of mismanagement by corrupt political regimes. For several weeks, citizens and social movements have erupted onto streets in protest and are calling for substantive changes in the national polit
On the 9th of May, bowing to immense public pressure, the Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, submitted his resignation to the President (also his brother), Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The situation remains tense as citizens and activists allege that they were targeted by violent mobs who are pro-government. News of brutal crackdown on protesters continues to come in, but people’s movements are pressing on with their protests and are steadfast in their demands.
The crisis in Sri Lanka has its roots in a series of neoliberal policies pushed forth by global financial institutions. Implementing destructive neoliberal policies advocated by multi-lateral bodies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund resulted in the State’s withdrawal from essential public services like education, health, nutrition and other basic needs.
The rural debt crisis has pushed several people from the poorest communities to commit suicide. The neoliberal development model has resulted in massive inequities between rich and poor. The poor continue to be exploited through the market-linked reforms that have kept the wages low. Pervasive patriarchal practices have aggravated the challenges for rural women and girls.
Although Sri Lanka ended its civil war in 2009, it still uses military tools to oppress the descendants and even has brought the military personnel to the civil service to manipulate the decisions. Deregulation of the natural resources in the past years has resulted in over-exploitation, thereby rendering Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) a distant dream.
This year, Sri Lanka’s defaulted on all its external debt of US$51 billion. Sri Lanka finance minister Ali Sabry told the Lankan parliament about declining liquid reserves – which have plunged below $50 million. The main reason for the bankruptcy is the push of the Sri Lankan economy into a debt-dependent economy and the neglect of the productive economy.
Today country is in a shortage of fuel, medicine, food, and industrial and agricultural inputs. Their prices have skyrocketed during the last few months as the inflation rate rose to 22.9% in April 2022.
As a result, people have started protests around the country, demanding the President and the government step down and provide immediate solutions to the current crisis. However, instead of giving answers, the government is suppressing mass uprisings using military force and has declared a state of emergency.
The government reached out to International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a last resort to solve the economic crisis. It has also availed bilateral loans from India and China. The government proposes taxes increases and curtailing public subsidies and welfare to reduce government expenses.
All of these will further increase the prices of essential commodities and worsen the current debt crisis.
Moreover, the government strongly expects Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to increase the foreign reserves and serve as a magic pill for the crisis. However, people warn that these investments come with neoliberal conditions to deregulate further – a policy at the root of the current situation. They fear that these FDIs would once again threaten the rights of the people and increase land grabbing and seizure of natural resources.
As MONLAR, we stand in solidarity with the peasants, workers and indigenous peoples of Sri Lanka. We extend our solidarity to social movements calling for a systemic change in addressing the crisis.
The Sri Lankan organizations call upon the national government and the President to assume responsibility for this crisis and step down immediately.
We are demanding an enabling environment to form an interim government representing all the political parties to solve the country’s urgent economic and entailed social issues as per the people’s will.
We call upon the international institutions to remain alert and demand that the Sri Lankan government uphold civil rights to allow peaceful protests as enshrined in the country’s constitution and international human rights treaties.
We support a process toward a future peoples’ government to formulate and implement peoples’ friendly economic policies as demanded by the people to provide short term, long term and sustainable solutions for the future of Sri Lanka.
We call on the international allies of social movements and communities to stand with the people of Sri Lanka and support their demands to realize immediate solutions to burning economic and social issues.
August 8, 2022