Our Hungry for change campaign calls for aid that boosts the power of small-scale farmers within the global food system. In Sri Lanka, small-scale farmers have very little power individually, but together they form nearly three quarters of the electorate, so how do they make politicians sit up and listen to their needs?
It’s busy and loud. A thousand farmers, holding hand-written signs and shouting slogans, fill the streets. Lorries and rickshaws swerve round them beeping their horns. Crowds stop and wonder what’s going on. Orange-robed Buddhist monks mix with Catholic nuns. There’s street theatre and speeches. Police watch warily, ready to intervene.
These are paddy farmers whose lands were once protected by law, but their way of making a living is now under threat from large scale agri-business. They used to receive government support in selling and marketing their crops – but this has all gone.
On top of that, conflict and natural disasters have destroyed farmland, and few farmers have paperwork to prove ownership or claim compensation. The pressures on small-scale farmers are increasing and they are taking to the streets.