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Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal

By Elizabeth Henderson - The Preying Mantis, January 1, 2019

“For Sale” signs have replaced “Dairy of Distinction” on the last two dairy farms on the road I drive to town. The farm crisis of the 1980’s that never really went away has resurfaced with a vengeance. In 2013, aggregate farm earnings were half of what they were in 2012. Farm income has continued to decline ever since. The moment is ripe for the movement for a sustainable agriculture to address the root causes.

Just as in the 80’s, a brief period of high commodity prices and cheap credit in the 2010’s resulted in a debt and asset bubble. Then prices collapsed. Meanwhile, ever larger corporations have consolidated their dominance in the food sector resulting in shoppers paying more, and a shrinking portion of what they pay going to farmers. At first this mainly hit conventional farms, but in 2017, processors started limiting the amount of milk they purchased from organic dairies and cut the price paid below the cost of production. As a result, family-scale farms of all kinds are going out of business. Reports of farmer suicides are increasing dramatically.  Despite the shortage of farm workers, their wages remain below the poverty line.  People of color and women are often trapped in the lowest paying food system jobs and many are forced to survive on SNAP payments. The tariff game of #45 is only making things worse. The farm consolidation that has taken place has grave consequences for the environment and for climate change as well. The newly passed Farm Bill barely touches the structural and fairness issues that led to this on-going disaster for family-scale farms and the food security of this country.

An alliance of social movements and members of Congress led by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) are proposing a Green New Deal that would initiate an emergency mobilization to address economic inequities and reverse our blind march toward catastrophic climate change, attracting much more attention than the Green Party version. In a draft resolution, Ocasio Cortez proposes the formation of a Select Committee to develop a plan to transition the US to a carbon neutral economy within ten years, together with a comprehensive package including guaranteed living wage jobs, public banks, and a “Just Transition” for all workers. As of this writing, 43 members of the House have signed on to the concept.

The sustainable agriculture movement with our many organizations and individuals – farmers, foodies, ngos, faith groups and enviros together with farmworkers, food chain workers and their advocates – should become active shapers of the food and agriculture aspects of the Green New Deal. Frontline communities that bear the brunt of the negative impacts of climate chaos and food and economic system breakdown often have the most penetrating insights into pathways forward and real solutions.  For this reason, in addition to the ethical imperatives, fair representation of frontline communities at decision-making tables (of the Select Committee and beyond) is essential.  As a white woman wanting to be the best ally I can, I hope to warmly encourage white people in the food movement to un-learn racism and use privilege to acknowledge and overcome our history of oppression.

Radical Realism for Climate Justice

By Lili Fuhr and Linda Schneider - P2P Foundation, October 4, 2018

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial is feasible, and it is our best hope of achieving environmental and social justice, of containing the impacts of a global crisis that was born out of historical injustice and highly unequal responsibility.

To do so will require a radical shift away from resource-intensive and wasteful production and consumption patterns and a deep transformation towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Demanding this transformation is not ‘naïve’ or ‘politically unfeasible’, it is radically realistic.

This publication is a civil society response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while also paving the way for climate justice. It brings together the knowledge and experience of a range of international groups, networks and organisations the Heinrich Böll Foundation has worked with over the past years, who in their political work, research and practice have developed the radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas political change we need across various sectors.

Download a complete PDF of this collection of documents.

Missing Pathways to 1.5°C: The role of the land sector in ambitious climate action

By Kate Dooley, Doreen Stabinsky, et. al. - Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance, October 2018

Current climate strategies are leading us to brink of disaster. While some level of removal of atmospheric carbon is inevitably required for the 1.5°C goal, due to historical and committed emissions, it is critical to limit this removal to the lowest amount possible, by restricting future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ecosystem-based solutions can offer immediate, accessible, cost-effective and equitable strategies for meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal. In the context of international efforts to address climate change and increasing evidence of its rapid environmental impacts this report presents a global call to action for governments, development institutions and the broader climate community that challenges the fundamental assumptions that have so far guided national and international climate policies. Here we demonstrate the potential for targeted policies in the land sector to reduce the sustainability risks associated with mitigating climate change, while protecting human rights—particularly the customary rights of indigenous and local communities—and ensuring ecosystem integrity and food security.

Many narratives about climate change begin by asking what mitigation actions are technically or economically feasible, and how we can use the land sector to sequester as much carbon as possible. They focus on addressing climate change now so that we might ensure food security, human rights and biodiversity in the future, with little emphasis on who bears the brunt of the impacts of mitigation. The analysis in this report starts from a different place, giving primacy to food security, protecting human rights and protecting and restoring natural ecosystems in the battle against climate change.

This report addresses the shortcomings of current modelling approaches to deep mitigation pathways. Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) for 2°C and 1.5°C almost universally rely on intervention in the land sector on a truly massive scale, with most relying on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to remove carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it underground. In this report we substantiate and quantify the evidence that a large proportion, if not all of the required removals, could be achieved by conserving and enhancing natural sinks, while better land management and agricultural practices could avoid significant amounts of ongoing emissions. Further, when the protection and restoration of natural sinks is achieved through the stewardship of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, securing collective land and forest rights represents a far more equitable and cost-effective way to achieve

climate mitigation targets than other carbon capture and storage measures (Frechette et al., 2016).

This approach relies on ecosystem restoration to deliver ‘the missing pathway’ through avoided conversion of natural sinks and enhancing and protecting terrestrial ecosystems. It prioritises securing indigenous and community rights to land and utilises transformative agricultural practices to help eliminate over-production and consumption, including shifting diets and reducing demand for land for agricultural expansion.

Despite the advantages of multiple ecosystem-based carbon removal pathways in maintaining a liveable planet, such approaches have received little attention from policymakers. Policy choices have been largely informed by modelling that is geared toward accommodating our combustion-based economies, for instance building in the false solution of replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy. Policymakers have largely not been offered options that incorporate how behavioural and societal shifts—and strengthening tenure rights—can mitigate climate change.

The frame for considering pathways to 1.5°C must not be narrowly focused on emission reductions. Certainly the need for climate change action is urgent, but understanding the context for action is paramount. The world is one of growing inequality. Climate change arises from that inequality and feeds it, as the world’s wealthy continue over-consuming diminishing resources. The rest of this introductory section situates climate responses in the intersecting crises of climate, rights and biodiversity; addresses the shortcomings of modelling-based approaches to climate mitigation; and outlines our vision for ecosystem-based solutions that are centred on rights and food sovereignty.

Read the report (PDF).

Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset

By Colin Todhunter - East by Northwest, June 11, 2018

Food and agriculture across the world is in crisis. Food is becoming denutrified and unhealthy and diets less diverse. There is a loss of biodiversity, which threatens food security, soils are being degraded, water sources polluted and depleted and smallholder farmers, so vital to global food production, are being squeezed off their land and out of farming.

A minority of the global population has access to so much food than it can afford to waste much of it, while food insecurity has become a fact of life for hundreds of millions. This crisis stems from food and agriculture being wedded to power structures that serve the interests of the powerful global agribusiness corporations.

Over the last 60 years, agriculture has become increasingly industrialised, globalised and tied to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the international market, indebtedness to international financial institutions (IMF/World Bank).

Political Declaration – Second Continental Assembly of the CLOC-LVC

By staff - La Via Campesina, Feb 9, 2017

Declaration from the Second Continental Assembly of the CLOC-LVC

(Santandercito 4 May 2017) The Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations, CLOC-La Via Campesina, met in Santandercito, Cundinamarca, Colombia – home to Camilo Torres, María Cano, Juan de la Cruz Varela, Víctor J. Merchan. 150 delegates and 80 organisations representing peasants, indigenous, and afro-descendent peoples coming from 22 countries in Latin America also came to commemorate the Second Continental Assembly, under the slogan: Against Capitalism, for the Sovereignty of our Peoples: the Americas remain united in Struggle ­­– dedicated to the Eternal Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.

We are aware that we are living in a period of imperial coups against people and democracy, and where popular struggles, campaigners and organizations are losing their legitimacy. We are aware that we are living in a period of media dictatorships, bureaucracies, bourgeois States and coup governments. We are aware that we are living in a backward-looking period of conservatism, compounded by a sharp resurgence in the Right throughout the world, where, in recent years, governments are stripping away previously-accorded rights. There is currently a dispute as to who holds global hegemony. Ever since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the US had no opposition in holding world hegemony. Today, this is no longer the case, and China is challenging the US to world hegemony. Geopolitics has become a hot topic in the world that is responsible for these coups. What is more, new blocks such as BRICS have challenged this hegemonic power.

We focus our discussion on the obstacles that hinder the construction of a socialist society. We hold our discussions starting from having a clear understanding of the current challenges faced by our continent, and the world capitalist crisis that started in 2008. Today, this crisis has lead to readjustments taking place in peripheral countries, and money is transferred from these to central countries in order to help the latter get out of the crisis. High capital investment seeks ways of using natural assets, oil, land, water and nature as ways of gaining wealth and power.

We reject exclusive, neoliberal, imperial, patriarchal, and capitalist models that run counter to nature’s harmony and its relationship to human beings and the peace of the people, and that break away from the collective and visionary unity of social justice.

We reiterate our commitment as men, women, young people, peoples and nations to transform our societies right down from day-to-day activities, and achieve unity in diversity, all while maintaining an international perspective. We are committed to prioritizing grassroots-work via political and ideological training, and by using alternative tools and our media to strengthen our fights and achieve Socialism.

We reiterate our commitments to our campaigns and we propose a continental campaign for water to be considered as heritage of the people.

We will continue to work with the youth and strengthen their work, as they will be securing victories in future struggles.

We reaffirm our commitment to coordinate struggles via strategic alliances with other popular organizations and movements in an effort to achieve the Bolivian dream of the Patria Grande (Great Homeland): a socialist society where we will have to overcome huge obstacles in order to put an end to violence against women, and to safeguard the lives of the leaders of popular movements. We pay close attention to the Colombian government complying with the PEACE agreements, the rights of peasants, and the self-sufficient nature of the progressive processes coming out of our continent.

The CLOC-LVC closely monitors the Colombian government, ensuring that it complies with the clauses it signed in the Peace agreement. We closely monitor point one in particular –regarding a complete rural reform with a territorial approach – in order to ensure that the Colombian people have access to commons in order to achieve Food Sovereignty.

We salute the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivian Revolution, recognising them as beacons of Socialism in our America. The Revolutions intensify our hope as Latin Americans, and we stand in solidarity with the struggle and resistance of the people and government of Venezuela against the harsh onslaught of the empire.

We consider Food Sovereignty and Agroecology as basic principles, and as alternative methods to cooling down the planet. We consider them as the only way of changing the current model imposed by agribusinesses and transnational companies. We reiterate that peasant and indigenous agriculture is the only way of feeding humanity in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and that safeguards biodiversity and identities.

We call on all socialist fighting forces to revive the constant struggle for ideology and justice, taking inspiration from the historic struggles of previous generations that paid testament to solidarity among people. We are preparing for the La Vía Campesina’s seventh global conference. As part of our contribution to the political debate at the conference, we will discuss the challenges that the world is currently facing, and we will reiterate the need for unity in this Global Peasant Movement.

We will continue to struggle in order to safeguard life, seeds, water, land, territories and all commons that stem from the collective rights that Mother Earth has given us. The aim of our actions is to have a more socially humane, fair and equal society.

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