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End Hunger, End the WTO: The Peasant Caravan to Geneva Against Free Trade

By staff - Capire, June 21, 2022

Free trade is an enemy of food sovereignty—this is what grassroots, peasant, and ecological movements strongly stated last week on the streets of Geneva, Switzerland. Between June 13th and 16th, 2022, government representatives met for a ministerial conference at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO’s decision-making spaces are responsible for formulating the free trade agenda around the globe and facilitating corporate agreements across several industries, including the food industry. This is why, concurrently with the official meeting, delegations of grassroots organizations promoted an intense mobilization, with spaces for discussion, press conferences, and a demonstration. La Via Campesina sees it as a moment to denounce: free trade fuels hunger.

In an international statement, La Via Campesina called states to exit the WTO and proposed the creation of a new framework that considers the peoples’ ways of living, based on food sovereignty. The organization also shared statements by peasant leaders. Jeongyeol Kim, from the Korean Women Peasant’s Association and an International Coordination Committee (ICC) member of La Via Campesina, pointed out that “it is time to keep agriculture out of all free trade agreements,” adding that “the pandemic, and the shock and disruptions induced by war have made it clear that we need a local and national food governance system based on people, not agribusinesses. A system that is built on principles of solidarity and cooperation rather than competition, coercion, and geopolitical agendas.”

La Via Campesina brought a diverse delegation to Geneva, with more than forty people coming from southern Africa, southern Asia, Europe, and the Americas. “We are speaking from outside this institution, which we do not want to recognize, because there is no possibility of intersection. The WTO must be dismantled and destroyed, it must disappear, because its origins have been damaging peasant, Indigenous, and fishing communities around the world,” said Perla Álvarez from Paraguay, and member of the Latin American Coordination of La Via Campesina (CLOC-LVC).

Webinar: Extreme Heat; Protecting Public Health and the Economy in California’s Central Valley

By Irene Calimlim, Dr Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida, Elizabeth Strater, Kimberly Warmsley, et. al. - The Climate Center, June 8, 2022

Over the past few years, extreme heat episodes have been on the increase throughout California and especially in the Central Valley. Home to 4.3 million Californians and nearly one million people working in agriculture, the Central Valley faced more than 35 days of extreme heat in 2021. This number is expected to double in the next few decades. In this webinar, presenters will discuss the impact on Central Valley residents, workers, and the agricultural sector, along with how to build community resilience in the face of these climate-fueled hazards.

Spanish interpretation brought to you by Linguística Interpreting & Translation.

En los últimos años, los episodios de calor extremo han ido en aumento en todo California y especialmente en el Valle Central. California es hogar a 4.3 millones y casi un millón de personas que trabajan en la agricultura, el Valle Central enfrentó más de 35 días de calor extremo en el 2021. Se espera que este número se duplique en las próximas décadas. En esta videoconferencia, los presentadores analizarán el impacto en los residentes, los trabajadores y el sector agrícola del Valle Central, además de cómo desarrollar la resiliencia de la comunidad frente a estos peligros provocados por el clima.

Interpretación en español presentada por Linguística Interpreting & Translation.

Bankers Are Driving the Wheat Price Explosion, Not the War in Ukraine

By Matteo Tiratelli - Red Green Labour, May 19, 2022

In late March, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that the war in Ukraine risked unleashing a “hurricane of global hunger”. With climate change-induced droughts in east Africa and intense heatwaves in India, they feared that a war in Europe’s most fertile and productive region could compound the situation and lead to food shortages on an unprecedented scale. The UN’s concerns were made terrifyingly concrete earlier this month, when the World Food Programme estimated that “44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation”.

The problem is, this narrative – that war and climate change are leading to mass starvation – is wrong.

The recent news cycle has been driven by the explosion in the price of wheat, which has gone from $7.58 per bushel at the start of the year to nearly $12 a few months later. But the prices of basic commodities are extremely volatile. And these spikes have little to do with the amount of food going around, or how much people are eating. Instead, they are driven by financial speculation.

#8M2022: Strong Mobilization of Peasant Women Worldwide

By staff - La Via Campesina, March 31, 2022

Through acts of denunciation, activism, education and rebellion, the women of La Via Campesina and around the world commemorated International Working Women’s Day on March 8, 2022. With the motto: Sowing Food Sovereignty and Solidarity, We Harvest Rights and a Dignified life! hundreds of decentralized actions were carried out in the territories.

Outstanding symbolic actions were carried out by organizations in countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Honduras, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India, where rural and city women mobilized and denounced exploitation and oppression under capitalist patriarchy.

Here is a short update:

#8M2022: Women peasants in India: one year of intense struggles

By Bianca Pessoa and Chukki Nanjundaswamy - La Via Campesina, March 20, 2022

Since November 2020, Indians peasants struggle for their rights that are in constant danger of being withdraw by the far-right, authoritarian government ruled by the prime-minister Narendra Modi. The country is struggling against Modi’s agenda in partnership with transnational companies that put in risk the lives of many farmers in the country especially women. In India, 80% of the food that are produced, is produced by women. They are the majority working on the fields and plantations, even when they’re not officially considered farmers, and the ones that suffer the most with the lack of policies.

Chukki Nanjundaswamy have been part of the farmers movement from her youth. She’s one of the coordinators of an agroecology school, based in the southern part of India, in Karnataka, and worked as a member of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina. During this interview, Chukki talked about this last year of intense struggles in the country, their mobilization for the minimum support price and against the privatization of the markets, the violence suffered by women farmers and the events of this last year of protests. To understand more about the women struggles in India, read the other contents from Capire here.

Spirituality is key to building solidarity: An interview with La Via Campesina’s Nettie Wiebe

By Priscilla Claeys, Jasber Singh, and Nettie Wiebe - Agroecology Now, March 1, 2022

Nettie Wiebe, you are one of the women leaders of La Via Campesina (LVC), a transnational peasant movement that defends food sovereignty and unites over 200 million small-scale farmers, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples working the land. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got involved in LVC?

I have farmed all my life. I may have missed a few harvests when I was abroad studying, but otherwise I am committed to, and deeply rooted in, farming. That’s been my life along with academia. I have a PhD in philosophy and in ethics. I have always, in my mind, in my life, made the link between how we live, what we eat and how we think about ourselves. I see it as one package. My intellectual life is not separated from my lived, practical life. I’ve always integrated those two. People sometimes have asked me, what do you need a philosophy degree for? That seems so impractical. And I say no, it’s in fact very practical. I have lots of time to think when I’m driving around and around on fields, but more importantly, our ethical and our intellectual or academic lives need to be embedded in our practical lives. I don’t think we will make any progress on the serious climate and ecological issues unless we think collectively and individually about our positioning here. It’s not just an economic issue, it’s an ethical one.

I have been involved in La Via Campesina for many years. We are small scale farmers here in Saskatchewan (Canada) and when we started farming on our own, we immediately became members of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU, a LVC member organization). Because I am a woman and, because of how academia was then, and maybe still is, in terms of the role of women, I failed to get a permanent position teaching at the University of Saskatchewan. I then stepped away from the University and decided to use my qualifications in the movement, where my heart really was. I became active in the National Farmers’ Union and became the women’s president, for six years and then for the first time in the history of the NFU, actually in the history of any national farm organization in Canada, they elected a woman as their president. So I was the president of the NFU. This was the late 1980s, and the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) negotiations were going on. At the NFU, we had already been resisting the US-Canada free trade agreements, which set the parameters for the neoliberal globalization of agriculture. So we had that experience here in Canada, and we knew this corporatization of agriculture was going to be devastating for small-scale farming. In 1993, we sent a delegate to Mons, Belgium where La Via Campesina was created, and we played a major role in organizing the second International Conference of La Via Campesina in Tlaxcala, Mexico in 1996. We already had good relations with peasant groups in the Central American region.

Peasants still feed the world, even if FAO claims otherwise

By AFSA, et. al. - GRAIN, February 2, 2022

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has bumbled into a controversy over whether peasants or agribusiness feed most of the world. Eight organisations with long experience working on food and farming issues have written to the Director General of the FAO sharply criticizing the UN agency for a 2021 report that is statistically confusing and contradicts FAO positions. The open letter calls upon FAO to examine its methodology, clarify itself and to reaffirm that peasants (including small farmers, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, and urban producers) not only provide more food with fewer resources but are the primary source of nourishment for at least 70% of the world population.

According to the letter’s signatories, the problematic study, “Lowder SK, et al.,(2021) “Which farms feed the world and has farmland become more concentrated?”, World Development, 142., reverses a number of well-established positions held by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as many other multilateral organisations and civil society.

The study:

  • Changes the definition of “Family Farmer” adopted by FAO and the UN Decade of the Family Farm by excluding artisanal fishers, pastoralists, urban food producers and other accepted categories. By extension it also excludes these food producers from the definition of “small farmer”.

  • Arbitrarily defines a “small farm” as less than 2 ha contradicting FAO’s own decision in 2018 to reject a universal land area threshold for describing small farms in favour of more sensitive country-specific definitions founded on the relationship between different variables.

  • Discounts or ignores recent FAO and other reports proving that peasant farms produce more food and more nutritious food per hectare than large farms.

  • Without evidence, maintains that policymakers are wrongly focused on peasant production and should give greater attention to larger production units.

The signing organisations also strongly disagree with the study’s assumption that food production is a proxy for food consumption and that the commercial value of food in the marketplace can be equated to the nutritional value of the food consumed.

The paper is not only a clumsy departure from FAO’s previous research and positions, it also feeds into an agribusiness narrative anxious to play down the importance and effectiveness of peasant production in order to build support for their proprietary technologies, subsidies, and regulatory needs.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: Examining False Corporate Schemes advanced through the Paris Agreement

Global Free Trade is on its deathbed. Globalized Solidarity and Localized Agriculture will bring food sovereignty: Korean Peasants’ League

By Lee Kyung Hae - La Via Campesina, September 10, 2021

In a statement issued to commemorate the International Day of Action against WTO and FTAs, the South East and East Asian members of La Via Campesina have issued a statement reminding that free-market economy has failed the world and food sovereignty is our future. Read the full statement below.

“WTO Kills Farmers!”—it is what Lee Kyung Hae, who took his own life during a protest against WTO in Cancun, Mexico, shouted out on September 10, 2003. The world was outraged by his death. Peasants from the world once again strengthened their will to fight against WTO at the global peasant funeral for Lee. The anniversary of Lee’s death has been designated as the International Day of Action against WTO and FTA.

18 years have passed since Lee’s death. For 18 years—even before Lee’s death, free trade with an arsenal of FTA, mainly led by WTO, has threatened the lives of the people all over the world, including peasants; it has influenced all parts of the world—from cities’ dense buildings, jungle and grasslands to deserts.

Over the past 30 years, free trade has only satisfied global capital’s appetite by emptying out people’s money and depriving freedom to peasants in smaller nations. And its result has been disastrous. Under different names, free trade has brought poverty, starvation, deprivation of resources, and destruction of environment; degrading food producers to food importers; privatizing water resources and public service; obliterating native seeds; and destroying a traditional mode of agriculture. Then, a nation has lost their own sovereignty, while multinational capital replacing for its place.

However, we are facing the end of free trade now. Every country has taken its leave of free trade, for national borders are closed with a movement restricted among nations due to COVID-19, and for the world is confronted with a new kind of food crisis from climate change. Those who used to insist free trade, claim protectionism now; agriculture is no exception. In the midst of this crisis, the world is struggling to secure foods to provide their people. The opportunity to achieve food sovereignty is right ahead of us.

Due to unjust capital and policies, free trade threatening lives of peasants and the people all over the world, has almost drawn its last breath; globalized solidarity and localized agriculture will fill in for it. Finishing free trade, peasants and the people will pave, on their own, the way toward a new era of food sovereignty.

Korea Peasant League resolves to lead this way, requesting as follows:

  • Against free trade threatening peasants’ right to live in the pursuit of the benefits of capital!
  • Against free trade bringing debt, poverty, hunger, and death!
  • Against free trade expelling peasants from the community!
  • Let’s build a new trade order based on peasants’ dignity, self-supply, and solidarity!

Mexico’s Only Independent Farmworker Union Struggles On Despite Obstacles

By James Daria - Labor Notes, August 30, 2021

In 2015, tens of thousands of poor, mostly indigenous migrant farmworkers (or jornaleros) went on strike in Mexico, blockading the transpeninsular highway that connects agricultural production in the valley of San Quintín, Baja California, with distributors across the border in the United States. These workers produce crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, and berries for U.S. and world markets—under conditions they decry as “modern slavery.”

The federal recognition of the National Independent Democratic Union of Agricultural Workers (Sindicato Independiente Nacional Democrático de Jornaleros Agrícolas, or SINDJA) was one of the few concrete achievements of negotiations between workers, growers, and state and federal governments.

The union—Mexico’s only independent farmworker union—has carried on in the years since, though it’s fighting an uphill battle. SINDJA has yet to achieve a collective bargaining agreement with the local growers and multinational corporations that operate in the valley.

This July, SINDJA elected a new executive committee, which could mark an important turning point for farmworkers in Mexico. Abelina Ramírez Ruiz, the new general secretary, began her involvement with the union by organizing around the multiple forms of violence suffered by migrant farmworker women. This includes issues of gender inequality, harassment, and sexual assault in the fields as well as domestic violence in the home.

Even as the migrant farmworker workforce becomes increasingly female, women continue to struggle to gain equality in both migrant and labor justice movements. Local social movements, community groups, and labor organizations have been largely male-dominated spaces where the voices of women are marginalized. The farmworker strike of 2015 was a watershed moment as female leaders emerged to challenge the gender hierarchies inherent in previous organizing efforts.

In another hopeful development, the Mexican government has agreed to work towards more transparent and democratic labor relations. Recent labor reforms stipulate that all collective bargaining agreements must be renegotiated by 2023 by means of democratic elections where workers decide their union representation. That’s thanks to reforms implemented by Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as pressure by U.S.-based unions in negotiating important labor provisions into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the successor to NAFTA. This could potentially offer unions like SINDJA a more favorable environment for organizing.

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