Dignity seeds sown by Burmese farmers in decades of dictatorship, started blooming in 2011. Trade unions operating underground since 1991, striving against forced labour, killings, rapes, land confiscation, from 2011, were authorized to set up Agriculture Farmers Federation Myanmar. From then till now, AFFM succeeded to organize 26.714 farmers in 503 trade unions. 200 more are waiting for registration. AFFM project is to build decent work and sustainable farming. For this AFFM set up a Women Committee, Lawyers Network and a Land Dispute Settlement Committee and with agronomists help, AFFM members use organic farming in many townships and in the Thai Parami School, involving 500 Myanmar refugees and migrants children. From now to 2016 AFFM priority is to organize farmers trade unions all over Myanmar, farmers cooperatives to gain decent work, social protection, sustainable agriculture, food security and a just inclusive democratic society, giving farmers hope in the future.
Agriculture Farmers Federation Myanmar - Burma (Myanmar)Lead applicant
Parami Learning Center - ThailandInitiative partner
the Parami learning Center, best known as Parami School is organized by the members of the FTUM former FTUB in Thailand for the horphanes and children of Burmese migrant workers. the School hosts children from the kindergarden to high school. the school teaches also human rights, antitraffiking culture, environmental protection, organic farming
Italia-Birmania.Insieme - ItalyInitiative partner
Promote and implement initiatives and exchanges between Italy and Myanmar to support the institutional, economic and social actors and civil society organizations in the promotion of democratization and reconciliation of the country, of the rule of law, human and labour rights, the implementation of responsible economic relations, based on compliance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the ILO fundamental Conventions, the OECD Guidelines on Multinationals, the UN principles on Business and human rights.
FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS MYANMAR - Burma (Myanmar)Initiative partner
Democratic and inclusive trade union organization organizing sectoral workers unions to negotiate agreements with government , national and local authorities and employers to promote decent work, gender empowerment, workers rights, good employment, skill and vocational training health and safety at work, sustainable and fair economy, peace and democracy in all Myanmar.
Burmese farmers have working in a clandestine way during the dictatorship. they risked their lives and freedom to denounce forced labour, killings, rapes, crop and land confiscation. in 2011, after they were authorized to set up the Agriculture Farmers Federation Myanmar, they organized 26.714 farmers in 503 trade unions. 200 more are registering. Despite big obstacles, AFFM is building decent work and sustainable farming, empowering Women, solving land disputes through social dialogue, with help of a land dispute Committee and Lawyers Networks. AFFM members now practice organic farming in many townships and in the Thai Parami School with 592 Myanmar migrants children. up to 2016 AFFM priority is to organize farmers all over Myanmar, to promote a new pattern of agriculture based on sustainable development, decent work and income in a just inclusive democratic country for all.
After decades of dictatorship, AFFM knowledge seeds are centered in the democratic decision making and participatory management principles, a new conflicts resolution culture through social dialogue, to improve farmers living and working conditions, to end human rights violation, forced and child labour and land confiscation. For the first time, farmers and landless workers are not afraid to organize.
Thanks to continuous training on legal issues and on sustainable agriculture best practices, AFFM was able to gain credibility and to become a strong collective, responsible voice in negotiating land rights, legislative changes and new sustainable productive methods. The Women Committee is working to empower women farmers, encouraging them to take part to collective actions and to all AFFM leadership position. Organic farming and sustainable agriculture culture and methods are used as key strategies to foster decent jobs and food security, granting a future also to the environment.
Myanmar is the poorest South East Asia country. Near 85% of poverty is in rural areas where 40 million people live and rely on farmland and forests, particularly on rice crops.Agriculture contributes to 1/3 of the country’s GDP to 15% total export earnings. The new political phase is overcoming the military dictatorship legacy and that of its grave human right violations: widespread corruption, forced labour, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests particularly in the rural Ethnic villages. Rural poverty stems from unskilled, unprotected labour subject to casual wages and lack of assets, particularly land. 54% of the rural population is landless. Small farmers and local authorities are not aware of the specific international instruments to protect workers’ rights, particularly in front of foreign investors. The new semi- civilian government approved key positive political measures, but the new agriculture laws do not answer farmers,women and landless workers Legal rights.
AFFM farmers in only 2 years from their legalization gained outstanding results:
Contribution to forced labour eradication and to the offender’s prosecution;
Through advocacy, social dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building, the 503 AFFM unions empowered poor farmers, enabling them to have a collective voice, and to win many land conflicts government recognised them as key social actor.
AFFM implementation of organic farming projects in Magwe, Bago and Yangon Region, through skill training is enabling farmers to reduce indebtedness, increase food security quality production reduce social exclusion and poverty, while promoting secure and just access and control over land for poor women and men. AFFM membership of Asia Farmers Association, cooperation with ILO and IITALIA.BIRMANIA.INSIEME helped them to gain from international experiences and links. The adoption of a smart phone communication system on farming issues and organizing, enabled easy interaction with no costs.
AFFM beneficiaries are poor farmers, women, landless workers and their families who fight for decent income, food security, land rights, dignity and human rights.
Through collective organizing, awareness raising, training, social dialogue and legal action, the AFFM aims to respond to the farmers demands for overcoming polluting and poor agriculture methods, in favour of organic farming, fertilizers production and pest fight methods. AFFM work replies to poor crops quality, lack of modern techniques and infrastructures and indebtedness with new farming experiences in Magwe, Bago and Kayan Region, where farmers experiment organic farming, quality seeds and paddy production, new food processing and marketing methods, that in the long run can open the perspective of entering in the international markets, increasing farmers income. The Thai Parami School small project answers to the need of students, families and local consumers who want to benefit from organic products.
Farmers started organizing during the dictatorship, thanks to key person such as U Maung Maung, FTUM Gen. S.,Ronnie Than Lwin, Vice President; U Min Lwin active . Many young women such as Ma Phyo Sanda Soe, Ma Khaing Zar Aung,Mae Thazin became key women organizers. U Than Swe, a poor farmer, now AFFM president. Studying at night he became a lawyer to defend farmers against land and crop grabbing. In 2011, the project of a national agriculture and farmers trade union could legally develop. AFFM is affiliated to FTUM and ITALIA-BIRMANIA.INSIEME supports both organizations with its professional skills. After only 2 years from its start, AFFM organizes 503 unions in 10 regions and 18 townships. The AFFM is made up by a National Secretariat with 3 trade union leaders, an Executive Council of 13 leaders with 3 women, a lawyers network of 20 lawyers and a Women Committee of 12 women. Thai Parami school has a wide staff of teachers, voluntary personnel and agriculture experts.
Lack of resources, skill and infrastructures to organize and train the poor farmers scattered in the countryside are the main difficulties in the AFFM creation, growth and implementation of a sustainable farming. Little transportation means,little free time due to hard work to be carried out daily were key problems, besides the bureaucracy obstacles in the trade union registration. Thanks to International trade unions: ITUC, ILO, Rengo -Japan, ITALIA-BIRMANIA.INSIEME, AFA AFFM initiatives, are consolidating through mobile skill and organizational training groups, the expertise of agronomist, trade unionists and lawyer, plus smart phone data sharing. The reaching of remote areas such as the dry zone or the mountainous Naga region villages, with farmers awareness raising initiatives are changing the future perspectives of neglected farmers, creating the basis for a collective action to positively change agriculture work and the country.
Since the dictatorship times, farmers trade unionists are fighting against environmental and natural degradation from intensive, polluting farming, land confiscation for agribusiness, energy and mining projects and unsustainable business practice.
Farmers through underground organizing presented detailed complaints to ILO and UN on such human rights and environmental violations. After 2011 and AFFM formation, farmers trade unionists are openly struggling to overcome the negative culture of mono-cropping practices, land degradation and soil erosion, particularly in upland agriculture areas and dry zones. These issues with salinity increase in the delta regions and inadequate flood control, cause increasing farmers poverty and indebtedness. The adoption of organic farming and the smartphones network experiment helps farmers to manage a range of risks, improve land and natural resources management and information, particularly early climate warning.
AFFM organizing strategy, based on democratic decision making and responsible rural development culture, thus being an integral compo¬nents of sustainable development and decent work, are creating trust and joint work also in the ethnic States, enhancing the rich multi-ethnic differences and the full inclusion of women and ethnic representatives.
All the three pillars of development, economic, social and environmental are the basis of the strategy for the strengthening of a national representative trade union organization. AFFM plans to realize its objectives within two years, through a participated practice, capacity building process with the support of international experts, lawyers and ITALIA-BIRMANIA.INSIEME. The successes obtained in the solution of land grievances, government recognition of the AFFM role, the success in the experimenting of organic farming, soil testing and organic seeds productions are creating trust and interest in AFFM initiatives in new areas.
The farmers, women and landless workers empowerment are stimulated through specific and targeted training and organizational means. Young workers meet and organize concerts in which specific social slogans are included. Role play and stories presentation help to disseminate ideas, boost cooperation and solidarity. The new productive methods and the values behind their participative organizational structures are illustrated through workshops. Small farmers themselves are trained to become local leaders and initiative promoters. Training of trainers, information, videos, power points defined by farmers themselves plus the networking through smartphones, internet, and Facebook are new means used by farmers themselves to inform, contact, organize and publicize the results of their work.