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Dear friends,

FIAN has received an urgent call for support from CNOP, the National Coordination of the Peasants' Organizations of Mali, an organization that works closely with peasant communities against land grabbing.

The letter of support that you find attached to this correspondence has been sent by CNOP and four other organizations that have formed a national coalition against land grabbing.

We invite you to sign the letter and send it to the Malian Prime Minister to support the Malian peasants in their mobilization against land grabbing:http://www.primature.gov.ml/index.php?option=com_ckforms&view=ckforms&id=1&Itemid=100006.

Furthermore, we will soon circulate a letter addressed to the Malian Embassies, inviting you to send it to the Malian embassy in your country.

Please send the letter as soon as possible, preferably before May 3 (see details below).

The context:
Last week, on April 23, the peasants of the communities of Sanamadougou and Saou, located in the region of Ségou and in the zone of the Office du Niger, Mali, decided to work on their fields in order to prepare this year's agricultural activities. After having been threatened by shots fired in the air, eight persons were arrested, three of whom were finally brought to the police station in the nearby city of Markala. One of the persons arrested was the village chief. The three peasants were interrogated and finally released in the evening. The village chief was ordered to come back to the police station the following day.

These arrests were made on the communities' lands that are subject to acts of land grabbing by the local business man Modibo Keita, with the complicity of the Malian authorities. Owner of one of the biggest companies for the trade of cereals and foodstuffs and of a big mill (Moulins Modernes du Mali - M3), Modibo Keita has plans for an agricultural project that is supposed to cover 20,000 hectares of land in the Office du Niger zone. In May 2010, the regional authorities signed a contract with Mr. Keita for the lease of 7,400 ha for 30 years for the cultivation of wheat. The lands attributed to Mr. Keita in this contract are situated 30 km away from the villages of Sanamadougou and Sahou. However, in June 2010, Modibo Keita started to prepare the fields of these communities for the preparation of his wheat cultures.

As the local population protested the destruction of their fields by the bulldozers, the police intervened on the side of Modibo Keita, beating the peasants and using teargas. Several persons were injured, including a pregnant woman who lost her child. In addition, more than 40 persons were arrested.

Since then, the population that depends entirely on their agricultural activities for their livelihoods, is impeded to access their fields by police agents and private security personnel. In February 2012, after having in vain appealed to local, regional and national authorities, the villages of Sanamadougou and Saou have taken legal action against their dispossession.

The case of the communities of Sanamadougou and Saou has to be seen in the context of an increasing number of land grabs in Mali and especially in the Office du Niger region. Most of these investment projects are undertaken with the support of the Malian state, who in many cases leases the lands it claims to be state lands. According to studies, at least up to 800,000 ha of fertile land had been leased or were under negotiation for lease in Mali by the end of 2010, which represents between a third and 85% of the arable land in the area. Most of the investments are concentrated along the Niger River because of the important potential of irrigable soils and the promotion policy led by the state. The area is managed by the Office du Niger (ON), a semi-autonomous government agency that acts like a state within the state. The main stated purpose of this authority is to contribute to food security in Mali. About 70% of Malians work in agriculture and the country relies heavily on small-scale farming, which produces up to 80 % of Mali's food. In the ON area, small holder production represents 56% of the area cultivated.

Last week's arrests come at an important moment in the Malian peasants' struggle for their lands: on May 3, the court of Markala is expected to make a decision on the case filed by the communities of Sanamadougou and Saou. On the same day, another case of land grabbing in the region will be heard, filed by the community of Sansanding. In order to underline their claim for the respect of their rights, peasants and their organizations will mobilize in front of the court building in Markala. Together with four other organizations, CNOP calls for support of the communities by reiterating their demands, which are as follows:

-      The respect of the government's commitment to respond to the demands of the participants of the protest march against land grabbing and land speculation, organized by the Union of Associations and Coordinations for Development and the Defense of the Rights of the Powerless (Union des associations et des coordinations d'associations pour le développement et la défense des droits des démunis - UACDDDD) on March 13, 2012

-      The freezing of all works on the grabbed lands, the restitution of the lands to the communities and the full respect of their customary rights

-      The respect of human rights, especially the right to food, the right to housing and the peasants' rights to land and natural resources

-      The respect by the government of the Law on Agricultural oOrientation (Loi d'orientation agricole), which underlines the priority of respecting and protecting the equitable access to land of small scale farmers

-      The stopping of violence against the peasant communities


We thus invite you to send the attached letter to the Malian Prime Minister through http://www.primature.gov.ml/index.php?option=com_ckforms&view=ckforms&id=1&Itemid=100006.

In addition, FIAN will write a letter to the Malian embassies  which we will invite you to send to the embassy in your country.

Please inform CNOP of the action you have taken, by reposting your letter on http://stopauxaccaparementsdesterres.over-blog.com/.

Thank you and best regards,

Sofia