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La Via Campesina

Suds and Socialism Forum: Workers and the Environment

Paraguay: The struggle for Food Sovereignty is the struggle for life.

By Perla Alvarez - La Via Campesina, May 4, 2021

Whether in the movement or outside of it, the word “agribusiness” brings to mind instant associations like “soybeans,” “Brazil,” or “the Mennonites.” Why? When did this word first enter common parlance? What are we actually saying when we use this word?

The word “business” is not an accidental component of this portmanteau word; on the contrary, it is central to the whole concept. Agribusiness embodies a different conception of the earth than the one upheld by peasants and Indigenous peoples. For agribusiness, the earth is a commodity, a product to be bought and sold and made profitable, to be commercially exploited. It is no longer seen as tekoha, the place where we are, where we live, produce, and reproduce, where we come into our own, in which our culture is rooted. No: for agribusiness, the earth and its capacity to support life are negotiable. They are measured in terms of uniformity, not diversity; in tonnes of grain, not seeds; in productivity, not safety; in dollars, not life; in contour lines, not disappearing species of trees and birds.

That is agribusiness: the capitalist exploitation of the earth, extracting from it anything that can generate a profit in record time. Agribusiness subjects the earth to “inhuman” treatment because for agribusiness, agriculture has nothing to do with humanity. What’s human about chemical fertilization, constant tillage with heavy machinery, backbreaking labour, the spraying of toxic compounds, an unswerving routine? That’s not how we provide food our bodies or care for our health, is it? But when agribusiness hears the word food, it thinks in terms of commodities. For agribusiness, the earth is not a living thing but a machine, and to be treated as such. It has been that way ever since capitalism set foot in the countryside. True, these tendencies were there earlier, but timidly, at various stages of production, when merchants refused to pay fair prices, or when they started selling seeds, or when they presented themselves as the peasants’ allies and starting hawking poisons. With the rise of agribusiness, this mentality invaded the countryside and stealthily changed everything, even the way we think.

What do I mean by “changed the way we think”? In general, when we talk of agribusiness, we refer to large commercial plantations. But we also see its effects in the luxury vans cruising through villages, in fantastical-looking, robot-like tractors roaming the streets and kicking up so much dust we have to stay indoors. We see the elements of “success” and we think to ourselves: “So much money made in so little time… Why work so hard, if poisons and machines will make you rich?” We think that maybe, if we emulate this model, we’ll get rich too. Or we take a stab at it and become divorced from our communities; we stop being communitarians and start being landowners. We start using “weedkillers” so we can stop hoeing; we buy genetically modified seeds; we go into debt to buy biotoxins; we get someone to harrow so we don’t have to plough. We lease tractors because we can’t afford to buy them, and can’t get a bank loan without giving our land as collateral (but we don’t have the deed). We secretly take after agribusiness, whom we personify as a successful businessman, a role model. So when agribusiness colonized the countryside, it also colonized minds. It planted genetically modified seeds in the countryside and planted new ideas in our heads. As a complex process of rural capitalist accumulation, agribusiness applies costly, high-tech recipes (machinery, hybrid or GM seeds, biotoxins, trucks, etc). It looks easy and attractive on the surface, and that’s how it took hold of our minds. It occupied the countryside, displacing communities, and it occupied our thoughts, displacing knowledge. What we knew became old hat, a thing of the past, for Luddites only. The result, for rural peoples, for peasant and Indigenous communities, has been depopulation of the countryside, disappearance of wild land, lost seed varieties, and changes in food customs. And we didn’t turn into the nouveau riche, not by a long shot. Instead we were impoverished, lost our land, had our knowledge taken from us. Only the old rich kept getting richer, while a few others managed to sweep up some of the crumbs. And all this is by design: The purpose of agribusiness isn’t to enrich us but to fill the coffers of investment banks and multinationals.

Food Sovereignty Is About Deciding To Change the World

By Pancha Rodríguez - La Via Campesina, April 27, 2021

To celebrate April 17th, International Day of Peasant Struggle, Capire publishes this interview with Pancha Rodríguez, a member of the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo—CLOC-La Via Campesina) and of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women of Chile (Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas—ANAMURI). Pancha spoke about a long personal and collective journey of struggle for food sovereignty, feminism, and socialism.

First of all, please introduce yourself, looking back at your struggle as a militant and your life story.

I’m Luz Francisca Rodríguez, and everyone knows me as Pancha, which is short for Francisco and Francisca in our country. I come from a rural village that is now part of the city, because as the city expands, it takes over a big part of the countryside and the sectors that used to feed the villages. This forces me to be constantly migrating from the city. I’m someone who doesn’t have much formal education, but I have a great contribution regarding social, political, ideological, and cultural education within the movement.

I’m a flower farmer—this was my contradiction, I produced flowers, not food. When I was young, my work was dedicated to what now may be called a seasonal worker. I was a farmer, a gatherer. We started with the beans and worked our way to the vineyards.

Since I was very little, I had to take care of my home. I worked in different areas, including seasonal work in the countryside and working several different jobs in the winter. I worked for two years at a casino, the post office, and the telegraph office. Then I started to work in the union, at the youth department of the CUT [Unified Workers’ Central]. At age twelve, I joined the Communist Youth, and I’m “old school”: I’m part of the Communist Party, I do militant work in a cell, I pay my dues, I buy the newspaper, I study, I don’t hold big positions in the party, but I’m dedicated to the organization.

I was the woman in charge of the Communist Youth national office in its Central Committee, I worked a lot with the Women’s Front of the Popular Unity for the people’s government, I was one of the sisters working side by side with great women who built the first Women’s Department in the Allende administration, working for the Ministry of Women. Later, when I went underground, I worked with human rights supporting women who were building collectives with partners of political prisoners and victims of forced disappearance, with political prisoners, and family members in exile.

As of 1979, I was no longer underground and I joined the work of the Peasant Confederation of El Surco, now Ranquil, and became the female head. In 1988, when the “no” plebiscite was about to be held, my partner was elected secretary of the International Union of Agriculture, Forests, and Crops, which at the time was part of the World Federation of Trade Unions. I was in charge of the Women’s Matters office. From this process, I went on to build the campaign to commemorate the 500 years of Indigenous, peasant, Black, and grassroots resistance, and then the constitution of the CLOC and La Vía Campesina, always developing work with women in the organization, side by side with young sisters who come from feminist movements and organizations.

NFU Statement on the International Day of Peasant Struggle: Food Sovereignty in Canada

By Jessie MacInnis - La Via Campesina, April 16, 2021

Every year on April 17, La Via Campesina (LVC) honours the work of peasants, small-scale farmers, rural workers, and Indigenous peoples around the globe by marking the International Day of Peasant Struggle. This year is especially notable, being the 25th anniversary of the term “food sovereignty”, coined by LVC members in 1996 while demonstrating against the capitalist industrial food systems’ model being proposed at the World Food Summit in Rome. As defined by LVC, food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It emphasizes democratically controlled food and agriculture systems, horizontal learning networks, and agroecology. The National Farmers Union, a founding member of LVC, quickly resonated with the concept, and it is now a deep-rooted principle and vision for an alternative food system that informs our policy, movement-building, and solidarity work. 

The NFU takes this occasion to reflect on the struggles of its farmer members, as well as those of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities across Turtle Island, migrant farmworkers, the food insecure, and all food producers and rural workers whose right to food sovereignty is challenged. We stand in solidarity with you.

Who represents the peasantry in Canada? 

La Via Campesina is attempting to reclaim the word ‘peasant’ from its derogatory, pejorative connotations to represent a distinct political social group with specific human rights demands. According to the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) – a landmark achievement for LVC, who developed and pushed the UNDROP from local peasant organizations to the UN – peasants are those who engage in small-scale or family-based agriculture, pastoralism, fishing, forestry, hunting or gathering, migrant and hired farmworkers. This wide-reaching definition acknowledges that despite differences, people in these categories often face similar oppressive forces when engaging in their livelihoods. Forces of neoliberalism, globalization, and corporate driven food systems leading to human rights violations. The undermining of dignity and justice of peasants brings together seemingly disparate farmer organizations around the globe into LVC. In Canada, though many do not relate to the word ‘peasant’ in a literal sense, as farmers in the NFU we are part of this wider umbrella of the peasant movement that seeks food system transformation rooted in food sovereignty. 

Women and Nature: Towards an Ecosocialist Feminism

Spain: Peasant women find it more difficult to access agricultural aid

By staff - La Via Campesina, March 8, 2021

On the occasion of International Women’s Day (8M), the Women’s Department of COAG and the Confederation of Rural Women (CERES) denounce the fact that peasant women-owned farms have more difficult access to agricultural aid.

According to data published by the Spanish Agricultural Guarantee Fund (FEGA), the number of women’s farms receiving CAP aid is far from being on a par with men’s. Only 27.5% of women’s farms receive CAP aid. Only 27.5% of direct aid is received by women and 26.34% of Rural Development aid. For all these reasons, COAG and CERES believe that it is essential to carry out an analysis of the gender perspective in these two programmes to promote agricultural activity.

COAG and CERES consider that the objective of advancing equality between women and men in the Common Agricultural Policy and in the Rural Development Programme is to apply a new gender strategy to the reality of the countryside, not only to achieve real equality but also to stop the depopulation of rural areas.

Currently, both the CAP and the RDP support have been designed from a male point of view, in which a model that suits the majority of farms whose owner is a man is established as the “standard” farm receiving support. In other words, it does not take into account the gender perspective, which should take into account the fact that the majority of farms owned by women have a different model to those owned by men. They are smaller farms and, in many cases, have alternative crops and livestock production that are not eligible for aid. This does not mean that they are not viable or productive, in fact “they have been there all their lives”.

Two years on: the UNDROP must be built into the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the CAP strategic plans

By Staff - La Via Campesina, January 13, 2021

Two-years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP), considerable work remains to implement and guarantee the rights it sets out – the Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) and the CAP national strategic plans are the place to start.

For European Coordination Via Campesina, the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal can only be reached by integrating clear measures to implement the UNDROP, including within the CAP national strategic plans. Peasant agroecological methods and family farming offer ready-made, proven solutions to climate and biodiversity issues. A clear shift of European Policy in support of these practices would help to avoid the various human rights, economical and social issues facing small-scale farmers and agricultural and migrant workers, many of which were highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic.

The UNDROP represents an opportunity to transform food systems in an holistic way, with the long-term vision needed to tackle climate change. These key rights, if respected and used as a framework, would lead the EU towards achieving the Green Deal goals. To give just a few examples, proper implementation of Article 14, to ensure healthy working conditions for peasants and migrant workers, could have prevented the unsafe working conditions of slaughterhouse and other agrifood workers around Europe in the recent pandemic.[i] Further subsections of Article 14, relating to the use and handling of toxic and harmful chemicals, along with the right to traditional peasant seeds highlighted in Article 19, are key to achieve the EU’s goals on pesticide reduction and preventing the pollution of natural areas.[ii] If the rights laid out in Article 17, relating to access to, use of and control over land, were protected, the land grabbing and concentration that contributes to significant losses of biodiversity could be tackled and the EU’s focus on next generation farming (a key topic of today’s Agricultural Outlook conference) given a bigger focus.[iii]

The clear parallels that can be drawn between the outcomes of the proper implementation of the UNDROP and the goals of the Green Deal and F2F Strategy highlight the important role that peasant farmers, who represent the backbone of EU agriculture, have to play within the urgent agriculture transition.

This legal tool offers a ready-made, rights-based roadmap for EU Institutions and Member States to ensure the objectives laid out for the future of EU agriculture, so that they can be achieved in an effective and democratic way that will truly “leave no one behind”.

Moreover, at both European and national levels, the many organisations that have been fighting to implement and ensure these rights for decades, such as ECVC, it’s member organisations and allies, can offer expertise on policy proposals towards a paradigm shift and achieve real change for our food systems and consequently to society and the planet. Instead of focusing on purely profit-oriented, technical and digital solutions that in the end promote further intensification through intensive livestock farming and monocultures, allowing large scale food-industry to maintain the status quo and putting the costs of the long term impacts of those model of productions on the shoulders of the future generations, it is now time for fair food and agricultural policies promoting healthy economies and fair models of production and distribution that guarantee the right to quality food for all citizens.

The EU must ensure that the Farm to Fork Strategy is in line with the UNDROP declaration and use these tools, resources and knowledge to act now, before it’s too late.

India Farmers’ Protest: Peasants around the world send messages of solidarity and support

By Staff - La Via Campesina, January 6, 2021

Braving harsh weather and an apathetic government, Indian farmers continue to camp at the national capital demanding that the Central Government roll back the three controversial legislation that was brought in late last year. The sixth round of negotiations, held on 04th January also failed to make any significant progress as the national government refuses to repeal the three laws.

As per the latest updates, another round of talks will take place on 20th January. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India has passed an order and has put on hold, until further orders, the implementation of the three laws. The Court has also named a committee to suggest — in two months — what changes, if any, were needed after it listens to all sides. The farmers organisations have raised doubts about the neutrality of this committee, and has vowed to not leave the national capital unless the three legislation have been repealed.

Speaking to a news channel earlier in January, Yudhvir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union reiterated the following

“The government thinks that protesting farmers will soon disperse because of the biting cold and rains in Delhi. They are wrong. We are farmers, and we often face these conditions in our fields. So the harsh weather will not deter us, and we will not leave until the three laws are repealed. And farmers everywhere are protesting – not just UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Farmers in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP etc are all camping at their state borders…We are nearly 500 organisations from around the country in this protest.” ~ Yudhvir Singh, BKU after the meeting on 04th January failed to make any progress.

Agroecology to Combat the Climate Crisis

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