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La Via Campesina

Invitation to sign on statement to denounce corporate takeover of Climate Summit

By La Via Campesina - September 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We call upon all fellow social movements, peoples organizations and environmental and climate justice movements to sign on this statement and join us in this call to action.

On the 23rd of September, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, will host a Climate Summit in New York, bringing political leaders, big business and a highly select few civil society representatives. The Summit has been surrounded by a lot of fanfare but proposes voluntary pledges for emission cuts, market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives such as REDD+, Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. These are all false solutions of the green economy that seeks to further commodify life and nature and further capitalist profit. The undersigned social movements that all together represent more than 200 million people around the world, denounce this corporate take over of the UN and the climate negotiations process and call for a deep systemic change.

Climate change is the result of an unjust economic system and to deal with the crisis, we must address the root causes and change the system. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.

To sign on the statement, please send the name of your organization to: espaceclimat@gmail.com If you would like to be included in the statement to be released to the media, please send us your endorsement on or before September 14, 2014.

Hundreds of women demand a People-Centered Agenda for SADC

By Via Campesina Africa, WoMin and Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) - La Via Campesina, September 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, August 18, 2014) – Women and Mining (WoMin), Via Campesina Africa and Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) contributed to demands made to the SADC Head of States during the just ended SADC People’s Summit held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from the 15th to the 16th of August 2014.

The RWA, WoMin and Via Campesina delegates were part of the more than 2,500 delegates drawn from grassroots movements, community and faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, labor, student, youth, economic justice and human rights networks and other social movements.

The Peoples’ Summit was convened under the leadership of the Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) and Peoples Dialogue at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair grounds in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe under the theme ‘Reclaiming SADC for People’s Development-SADC Resources for SADC People’. This political position responds to our shared analysis that the SADC development agenda is increasingly determined by corporate interests, which are privileged above the region’s 260 million people.

Via Campesina and RWA met under the agriculture and food sovereignty cluster while WoMin met under the extractives and climate cluster, and developed their own statements, which were included in the communiqué submitted to the Heads of States.

The Mozambique Union of Farmers, member of La Via Campesina, met to speak about Pro-Savanna’s role in land grabbing in Mozambique and asked for regional solidarity.

“Rural women in Africa are the main producers of food, yet their contribution remains invisible. They are the most marginalized in terms of access to land and secure tenure, natural resources, and political rights. Patriarchal relationships continue to prevail, making rural women vulnerable and subject to violence” read part of the RWA declaration.

The communiqué went on to demand that governments fulfil their commitment to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture following the Maputo declaration at African Union level.  RWA and Via Campesina also demanded that governments include small-scale farmers in policy and decision making processes.  Other demands included women’s rights to land and security of tenure and protection of organic products, indigenous seeds and knowledge to ensure food and seed sovereignty.

Monsanto: the Toxic Face of Globalization

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First! Journal, May 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

The Stuff of Coups

To the rhythms of drums and chants, concerned people took to the streets across 436 cities in 52 countries yesterday. The message was clear: smash Monsanto. With thousands marching from coast to coast, Canada to Argentina, and around the world, the day of protest has emerged as one of the largest global events—and it has only been around for two years. However, more than small hopes for a mandatory labeling of genetically modified products, smashing Monsanto entails a larger transformation of the modern relationship between people and food.

It is not only GM products, but the continuing economy of globalization, that Monsanto represents. Thanks to major seed companies and agricultural conglomerates like Monsanto and Cargill, the very definition of farmer has changed throughout the world—from a person or group of people in a given community who specialized in producing food to a corporate, land-owning entity comprised more of machines, technological assemblages, and inputs than of people who work the land. Thus, the target of protest is not only GMs, although GMs are a central aspect, but also the supply chain of multinational corporations that transforms food into a commodity that many throughout the world cannot afford.

In the context of today’s historical epoch—the Global Land Grab, in which farmland is being grabbed by multinational corporations from vulnerable populations like small farmers, campesin@s, and Indigenous peoples throughout the world—the March Against Monsanto has taken on a particularly sharp edge. In Ethiopia, where Monsanto has taken up shop through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, reports have emerged of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets of the capital city, Addis Ababa, to demonstrate against land grabbing.

What is a Just Agriculture System and Why Does it matter?

By Elizabeth Henderson - The Prying Mantis, November 13, 2012

Panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of the Domestic Fair Trade Association with Nelson Carrasquillo, Michael Sligh, and Elizabeth Henderson, November 13, 2012

My presentation:The current cheap food system coupled with Free Trade makes it difficult to keep family-scale farms afloat. Over the years since WWII, family scale farms have been going out of business at a steady and alarming pace until very recently. In 1943, the year I was born, there were over 6 million farms. There are only 2.2 million today. The local foods movement has reversed the trend and the number of small farms is actually growing. Nevertheless, something like 84% of the existing farms are in debt. Prices do not cover farmers’ costs of production. Many of the farms that do not have labor do have a family member who works off the farm so that the farmer can have health insurance or the farmer works a regular job and spends evenings and weekends doing farm work. While there are some outstanding examples of farms that do not have labor and are doing well financially, most of the family scale farms I know about are struggling to make ends meet, or are run by people who have chosen to live “simply.” Often, farmers are so discouraged about the money aspects of their farms that they do not even try to calculate costs accurately. They farm for the love of it, and either eek out a living that would qualify as below the poverty line or make money doing something else to support their farming habit. Family-scale farmers are a marginal population in the US and all of North America. These are fragile small businesses.

Taking a market-based approach, domestic fair trade seeks to pay farmers enough to allow them to use sustainable farming practices, to earn a living wage for themselves and their families and to pay living wages for the people who work on their farms. The Agricultural Justice Project hasassembled farmers, farm workers and other stakeholders to compose high bar standards for fair pricing, and decent working conditions for people who work throughout the food system. The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. The reality is that family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty. Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired helpers minimum wage, soon to rise to $7.65 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours aweek year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize. The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor RelationsAct, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too.

Since 911, the Department of Homeland Security has increased its operatives along the NY northern border from 341 to 2000, and farms complain bitterly about raids and arrests. There is a critical need for immigration reform and passage of the AgJobs bill.

A major squeeze or speed up has been underway that has been especially hard on dairy farms and farms that produce commodity crops. Rising costs, global warming (droughts, floods) and low prices due to concentration in markets that reduces the number of possible buyers. Contracts, including those given by organic processors, are poor. Most farms are not profitable, and many are in debt.

A fair food system would pay high enough prices for farm products that farmers could pay themselves and everyone working on the farm true living wages – that cover shelter, high quality, culturally appropriate food, health care, education, transportation, savings, retirement,self-improvement and recreation.

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