The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project has affirmed on its Facebook page that despite the COVID-19 pandemic: “We continue with our work of accompanying national organizations and monitoring violations of human rights.”
PBI-Honduras highlights, “This exceptional situation demonstrates just how necessary the people who work towards human rights, land activism, and food sovereignty and security are.”
The National Union of Rural Workers (CNTC) works on all these issues and has been accompanied by PBI-Honduras since May 2018.
PBI-Honduras explains, “The difficulties faced by rural communities prior to the COVID-19 health crisis were already alarming.”
“However, with the arrival of this global pandemic, smallholder farmers have seen their problems multiply. Under a state of emergency, where basic rights like access to health and food are limited, the helplessness of many families is concerning.”
For instance, “Smallholders who work the land and rely on their crops to feed their families are forced to leave their homes but are not permitted to do so by government decrees.”
Nora Ramírez of the CNTC says, “The lands we farm are far away, and when we go out to work or harvest our crops we are stopped by roadblocks, where they force us to go home or even threaten us with arrest.”
Furthermore, smallholder farmers are impacted by the intensified militarization of the countryside under Decree PCM-052-2019.
The Honduran digital newspaper Criterio has reported that peasant organizations have challenged the decree because it “usurps the functions of the institutions of the agricultural public sector and puts under the command of the Armed Forces, the direction, administration, and execution of agricultural policies, functions that have neither a constitutional mandate nor secondary laws.”
PBI-Honduras comments, “[This measure] adds to issues related to land ownership, the expansion of the extractivist model in the country, and the proliferation of criminalization that smallholders across Honduras face every day.”
Smallholder farmers are also impacted by another decree, PCM-030-2020.
Franklin Almendares of the CNTC says, “With the new food production law approved by the government through PCM-030-2020, businesspeople will be the ones in charge of food production, not small producers or peasant farmers.”
Almendares adds, “The most serious element is the inventory and registry of all national lands to bring them under this scheme. In other words, this will deliver these lands into the hands of businesspeople. This will lead to the escalation of indigenous and smallholder activism, and an increase in evictions and criminalization.”
Given the ongoing challenges faced by smallholder farmers, the concern about increased militarization, and the new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, PBI-Honduras affirms: “Now is the time when we must be most vigilant and present with those who defend fundamental rights.”