A Plan to Act!

Declaration of the National Workshop on Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries

Cape Town, 7-11 June, 2015

We the delegates representing movements of small-scale farmers, and fishers, forestry workers, and rural workers came together in Cape Town. We represent many millions of members of the Coastal Links South Africa/Masifundise, Itirileng, Inyanda/TCOE, Women on Farms, Surplus Peoples Project, Mawubuye, Zingisa, CALUSA, Khanyisa, Masifunde, Western Cape Forestry Communities, and Mopani.

We, women and men who are the historical users and caretakers of the Commons, have a particular relationship with the land, forests, oceans and waters of our territories upon which we depend for our lives and livelihoods.  Through our interaction with the Commons we have developed our diverse cultures, knowledge and tenure systems.  We have fed ourselves and our communities and continue to do so as well as to provide food and nourishment for the communities around us. We did this despite the onslaught of corporate production methods. We acknowledge the interdependence and indivisibility of human life with that of natural life, respecting the rights of humans and nature in this relationship.  We note that this interrelationship between our well-being with that of natural biodiversity demands an approach to the use, care and governance of tenure that will protect the Commons both for us and for future generations.

We gathered in Cape Town to discuss our rights and access to land, forests and oceans and our rights to use the resources that nature contains. The discussion took place in a context of the national legislative frameworks and in context of international legislation, including the International Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (VGSSF) and with particular emphasis of the Voluntary International Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). In our discussions, we also engaged with governmental officials from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, who made themselves available for some of the time of our workshop.

Throughout the workshop we addressed the persisting gross violations of our human rights, and in particular our customary and tenure rights, and the many causes and reasons for this violation. Government’s failure to redistribute land and support farmers; the selling of fertile land to foreign and private investors; mining concessions; the development of leisure parks; and the selling and leasing of commonage and state owned land are some of the serious threats undermining our rights. Furthermore, the failure of the Land Reform to meaningfully redistribute land, the slow process of implementing the Small-scale Fishery Policy and the eco-centric approach to Nature Conservation (terrestrial and marine parks) are critical hindrances for us to exercise our customary practises and assert our human rights.

To reclaim our dignity and assert our rights and access to the land, forests and fisheries we have decided to embark on strategies, activities and campaigns to mobilise and strengthen our movements and our members. We also decided to direct action to and work with government at all levels and considering this  we adopt  the following Plan of Action:

We declare the following broad strategies and actions, which encompass both ourselves and government bodies, many of which are already well underway, and which we will utilise to fight for our human rights:

  1. We recognise the need for strong organisation within and among our communities. This organisation must span from the local, provincial, national and extending to international levels. Furthermore we see the value of networking with other direct interest groups continentally and globally.
  2. We will embark on a programme that will continue to instil democratic practice amongst our local leaders and within our organisations.
  3. We will continue to build solidarity in our communities and across sectors to, to inform them and raise awareness about our customary rights the, Tenure Guidelines, and (VGGT) other international UN related Guidelines.
  4. We recognise the role and strength that the media can add to our mass actions, court cases and other forms of proest and therefor will continue to utilise it to the best of our abilities. We  commit ourselves to present and submit comments to all levels of government, and to participate in ant relevant structures that they create to ensure our continued inclusion and participation in policy and legislative formulation.
  5. We will continue to invite government delegates to our meetings and workshops so that they can become familiar with our issues.
  6. At a local level we will recruit more youth, girls and women into our organisations in order to build new leadership that will advance our cause.
  7. We will embark on case studies that will document our own stories of the lack of ‘tenure’ and marginalisation and will expose these violations local and globally.
  8. Our struggles will be led by our community organisations and we will engage with government bodies, including, but not limited to, Local Government, DAFF, CGOTA, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Rural Development & Land Affairs, and the Department of Minerals and Energy. We will also to continue to engage with international agencies including the FAO.
  9. We will make all levels of government aware of the Tenure Guidelines (VGTT), its principles and objectives. This will be done in a manner that will expose how existing laws and policies disregards us and to campaign for this to be urgently changed. We will put into place a monitoring mechanism on how the Tenure, and other Guidelines are being implemented in order to highlight any progress – or the lack therof.
  10. We will work with government to build internal capacity in order to seek financial and other support, at national and local level, to achieve the livelihoods justice contained in this declaration.
  11. We will strengthen our financial capacity by mobilising funds through membership fees and donations from within our constituencies.
  12. We will support our communities to conduct local natural resource audits in order to help with securing our access to tenure and livelihoods in our communities
  13. We must work, within our communities, towards localised level management of natural resources and this will require intensive local level capacity building in our communities and hope that government will work with us.
  14. Using the principles of agroecology, we will build food systems that ensures food sovereignty, fight against genetically modified food products and promote collective and customary marketing approaches.
  15. In furtherance of this declaration we will endeavour to support the development of an ‘easy to read’ guiding document for our to implement this declaration starting at, but not confined to, local level organisation.

Our time has come…!

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