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Our land is worth more than carbon: Civil Society Statement COP 22

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 16, 2016

The Paris Agreement required the 196 Parties to the UN Climate Convention to limit temperature increases to 2° or 1.5°C below preindustrial levels. While COP21 benefitted from a high degree of mobilization linked to the adoption of an international agreement, COP 22 on the other hand has received rather less attention. 

Yet the stakes remain significant. 

In its haste, COP 22, being called the “action COP” or the “agriculture COP”, is in danger of adopting various misguided solutions for agriculture. Last May at the Climate Convention HQ in Bonn, discussion on this sector was a source of tension between countries. They studiously avoided the key question of differentiating between agricultural models according to their impact on climate change and their ability to provide food sovereignty to people. At the same time, and outside official negotiating channels, voluntary initiatives, especially in the private sector, have expanded and may well become incorporated in countries’ future public policies. 

Although 94% of countries mention agriculture in their strategies for combating climate change, the Paris Agreement fails to mention the word “agriculture” even once. You have to read between the lines to understand what is really at stake. 

It is really the highly political subject of agriculture that hides behind the use of the expression “carbon sink”. It is true that the soil plays an important role in sequestering CO2 (carbon dioxide), turning it into a genuine “carbon sink”, like forests. Yet that is not soil’s only role, particularly if farming land that is central to food sovereignty is involved. Unfortunately its use (employing the expression “land use”) in combating climate change represents a huge opportunity currently for those promoting misguided solutions and serves as an excuse for public inaction. 

In searching for a balance between emissions and absorption by greenhouse gas sinks, the Paris Agreement enshrined the principle of compensation in dealing with the climate crisis. This notion does not mean that emissions actually have to decrease but that emissions and absorption can cancel each other out. This approach has already begun with forests through the highly controversial REDD+ mechanism and, to an increasing degree, is now targeting farming land, the new carbon Eldorado. 

We must remember that unlike avoided emissions, natural carbon sequestration is reversible and has a limited lifetime. So rather than attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically, agriculture is becoming a unit of accounting permitting emissions to continue or even increase. Consequently, though roundly condemned by civil society and social movements, various initiatives have arisen around climate discussions that appear to many to be misguided solutions. This is the case with climate-smart agriculture and its global alliance (GACSA) which, in the absence of clear criteria, does a balancing act between promoting agroecology and the use of GM seeds and their herbicides. Moreover, 60% of GACSA’s private sector members are companies in the pesticide and agricultural input sector. 

This alliance and its concept are nothing more than an empty shell that agro-industrial multinationals can hide in to continue the industrialization of agriculture, to the detriment of smallholders. 

Similarly, the 4 per 1000 initiative fails to make clear choices in promoting transition in farming systems. Its scattergun approach to the problem fails to take account of considerations beyond carbon sequestration such as the use of herbicides for example. 

Unless there is a real re-examination of agro-industrial models that are highly dependent on chemical inputs and based on exports, such initiatives have absolutely no place in the list of solutions. 

Quite apart from the question of the agricultural model there is also the danger of pressure on land and the financialization of natural resources. Therefore by putting a value, through compensation, on farming land as a tool in combating climate change, you increase the pressure on it. So the small scale farmers who were already the first victims of climate change become doubly threatened. If we are to encourage investment in agriculture to sequester more carbon, especially from private sources, much greater expanses of land will be needed with an increased risk of land grabbing. This danger would be multiplied if the race for land were accompanied by mechanisms linked to carbon finance. Numerous studies on similar mechanisms developed for forests (like REDD+) have already demonstrated the dangers of an approach that pays scant consideration to protecting human rights. This approach to combating climate change opens the door ever wider to endangering small scale farmers’ rights and their acquired knowledge, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity. 

Our organisations deprecate this rush towards compensation to tackle the climate crisis. Only immediate, drastic reduction of greenhouse gases will prevent a dramatic increase in the impact of this crisis even though it will still only limit it. Farming land cannot become an accounting tool for managing the climate crisis. It is fundamental to around a billion people in the world who are working towards food sovereignty, an inalienable right of people who have already been harmed enough. We support the continued existence of agriculture suited to meeting the agricultural challenges already magnified by the climate crisis. Such farming methods, based on peasant agroecology which, in addition to a store of good practice, imply socially- and ecologically-based farming rooted in its home territory and a rejection of the financialization of Nature.

Faced with the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, Food Sovereignty is more necessary than ever

By Michel Buisson, et. al. - La Via Campesina, March 17, 2017

With the Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of the extreme right in Europe and the increase in migration, there is an urgent need to intensify the cooperation between countries and their populations. Wars, climate change, the depletion of natural resources, poverty, hunger and malnutrition, but also the increase in inequalities, are all fundamental problems that humanity must seek to resolve together.  This cannot be done without questioning both the current neoliberal globalization, and the xenophobic and nationalist orientations that are opposed to economic globalization while protecting and defending their own interests. 

The false answers to neoliberalism are in the spotlight, notably that of Donald Trump  who, in his presidential project,  on the one hand develops protections against imports and brings the Transpacific Treaty to a standstill, and on the other promotes financial capitalism, US transnational corporations, fossil fuels, and green capitalism,… while denying climate change and repressing social struggles. The European Union is no exception, which imposes on Africa very unequal economic partnership agreements (EPAs), and maintains, in its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), masked tools enabling protection and dumping . Official criticism, including that of the IMF, of the defects or excesses of globalization, the postponement of the transatlantic treaty project (while the CETA  is in the process of adoption), and the current reduction in international trade, show us that the neoliberal framework is out of breath. But these developments do not prevent transnational corporations from pursuing their offensives, protecting themselves with patents, and seeking to impose private arbitration tribunals in trade agreements. 

Social movements are struggling against the negotiation of “free” trade agreements, and demanding climate justice, international solidarity, and that the human rights of all be respected, everywhere.  These various struggles aim to meet the expectations of the populations affected by the impacts of neoliberal globalization, in the areas of food, the environment, income and employment. At the heart of these struggles is the food sovereignty movement, which claims the right of peoples to democratically decide their food and agricultural policies, and aims at radically changing our food systems. 

Our response to the rise of nationalism and xenophobia lies in strengthening mobilizations at four levels (local, national, regional, international) to achieve food sovereignty, a demand made by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina and many other organizations since 1996.

Food sovereignty is “the right of people, their countries or unions, to define their agriculture and food policy, without dumping vis-à-vis third countries", (La Via campesina, 2003). It « puts those who produce, process and consume healthy and local food at the heart of our agriculture and food systems […] instead of the demands of market and transnational companies …"(Nyéléni Forum, 2007). Food sovereignty is a democratic requirement, which goes contrary to the capturing of power by the corporate agenda. And this is not an agenda of withdrawal: the social movements who claim food sovereignty express international solidarity, and they do not question the role of international trade – although they call for its regulation and for a rebalancing between international trade and reinforcing local food systems.

Food sovereignty must be translated at the UN into new international trade rules, favouring the adoption, at national and regional levels, of agricultural policies that are adapted to the needs of countries in terms of market organization, and are conducive of sustainable agriculture and alternative production and exchange practices. It aims to provide food security in good conditions.

Food sovereignty is not autarky. It wants to put international trade in its proper place by giving priority to agriculture and food for the people, not to markets. It provides a new framework, favorable to policies of relocalization of production, agro-ecology, and sustainable access to/protection of natural resources. It makes it possible to develop culturally adapted food systems that prioritize nutrition, health, and the environment. 

At the international level, food sovereignty provides the basis for moving from currently hegemonic trade - favoured by WTO rules and benefiting powerful states and transnational companies -, to cooperative exchanges, which set limits on the advantages of countries that could abuse their competitive position.  To the duty of countries not to harm the agricultural economies of third countries, must correspond the right to put in place real protections – tariffs and import quotas in particular -, that are justified on economical, social and environmental grounds. 

Faced with the global concentration of agrifood power, consumers and citizens have developed both an increased understanding of the stakes and their capacity for action. Initiatives to relocalize food systems are multiplying but remain fragile under current policies. In this battle for food sovereignty, let us not leave peasants alone. Food is everyone’s business. Together,  peasant and civil society organizations, institutions, researchers, must propose new rules, new frameworks for international trade in agriculture and food and agriculture policies, building on successful local « transition » alternatives. It’s urgent. The forthcoming adoption at the UN of a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas, and advances at the Committee for World Food Security (CFS), including on the importance of access to territorial markets for small food producers, should constitute a base towards food sovereignty.

Through the large and plural mobilizations it implies, and its many contributions, food sovereignty is an essential battle in this current period of high risk: to curb nationalism, injustices, xenophobia, and to safeguard and develop peasant agriculture, the production of affordable, nutritive and healthy food, and the protection of our planet.

Grassroots and peasant’s movements deliver solutions that COP23 fails to provide

By Michaelin Sibanda and Boaventura Monjane - La Via Campesina, November 17, 2017

Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build resilience and resistance.

The transnational corporations responsible for over 70% of the man-made emissions continue to push forward new false solutions to address the climate crisis. Such solutions not only focus on growing their profits but create more conditions to commodify nature, while turning a blind eye to the increasing social and environmental crisis they have created. Today, millions of peasants, indigenous people and fisherfolks are losing their source of livelihood to rising sea levels and adverse weather conditions.

It is clear that capital survives and feeds on chaos and destruction of nature. Human dignity and life are not respected at all. Recent climate disasters in Puerto Rico expose this immoral behavior. After suffering two hurricanes (Irma and Maria), the US administration blocked any form of assistance to rebuild the island, only allowing its corporations.

For Jesús Vázquez Negrón from Puerto Rico, who was attending the people’s mobilizations parallel to the 23rdedition of the Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, climate change is real. “We are here to remind the world that the change must be systemic. That is why the proposal of systemic change proposed by La Via Campesina, a global grassroots movement and alliance, is crucial.”

The peasant struggle is not just about climate resilience – which is an act of resistance in itself. It is also a global fight against the expansion of agribusiness, which relies on free trade agreements. There is an urgent need to critically question the mass production of meat and reduce the import of feed from the global south to Europe.

To make sure they keep growing despite global climate change, transnational corporations have developed their own ways – false solutions such as blue carbon, REDD[1] mechanism and climate smart agriculture.

Another issue that is generally undermined in climate change debates is migration. There are today more than ever before a growing number of climate-migrants. According to Massa Koné of the Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles – West Africa, the climate and the migrantion crisis are the two sides of the same coin. “…  It is those who try to contain migrations who have also provoked it! It is their false solutions that are taking over our land, disturb our rainfall, that create wars! This is why migration increases everyday”, says Koné.

The good news is that the debates have a strong youth movement that is leading the struggle in various places of the globe, as they are the future of humanity. “We are the present for a better future and we will not give up, but continue to defend the interests of the peasants, the whole society, for a social transformation. We, peasants across the world, firmly reject the industrial model of agriculture which is at the very root of climate change”, says young French peasant Fanny Metrat of Confederation Paysanne. “We are the ones who can cool the planet and feed the world”, she added.

There have been many COPs before and many more will follow, but their impact on public policies is minor. Sustainable development, green economy, REDD are the buzzwords of capitalism being hammered these days in Bonn. But social movements expect governments and multinationals around the negotiating table to deliver real solutions.

To change the system, grassroots and peasant movements have to keep growing and establish more alliances. Our governments do not realize the urgency of the situation but the peasantry suffers from it on a daily basis. Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build their resilience and resistance.

Which way after Paris Agreement?

By Marienna Pope-Weidemann - New Internationalist, December 13, 2015

In 2007, a man named Keno was killed with two bullets to the chest at point blank range near the Iguagu National Park in Brazil. He was one of many farmers peacefully occupying a GMO research plant to protest the imposition of an industrial agricultural system that had no place for them. The men who murdered him were part of a private militia working for the Syngenta biotech corporation. They perpetrated what the courts would later describe as an attempted ‘massacre’ to, in Syngenta’s chilling words: ‘propagate the idea that every action results in a reaction.’

As any physicist (or farmer) can tell you, this is a basic law of the universe. But it also applies the actions of big agribusiness, whose land grabs, pollution and exploitation have reaped their own reactions from peasant farmers across the world. They are organizing, across communities, sectors and borders, and now they made themselves heard here in Paris.

‘They are destroying our homes, our livelihoods and poisoning the food in people’s mouths.’ Maria, another Brazilian farmer and spokesperson for La Via Campesina, had tears in her eyes as she finished telling me about the relentless destruction of indigenous and farming communities back home. But she held her microphone tight like a weapon. ‘This pollution is worse than death. If we have to give our lives to fight these transnationals, then that is what we should do.’

An International Farmers Alliance Links Climate Change to Industrial Agriculture

By La Via Campesina - In These Times, November 17, 2015

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agriculture is responsible for a major portion of the increase of greenhouse gases. Not all agriculture has the same impact, however—the vast majority of the effect comes from the post WWII industrial agricultural system.

This system—an agricultural model based on capital concentration, high fossil energy consumption, overproduction, consumerism and trade liberalization—has put our planet’s ecosystems at risk and pushed human communities toward disaster. 

Industrialized countries and the industrialization of agriculture are the biggest contributors to global warming, but it is farmers and rural communities—especially in developing countries—that are among the first to suffer from climate change. Changing weather patterns bring unknown pests along with unusual droughts, floods and storms, destroying crops, farmlands, farmstock and farmer’s houses. Moreover, plants, animal species and marine life are threatened or disappearing at an unprecedented pace due to the combined effects of warming and industrial exploitation. It is estimated that by 2080, Latin America will likely see a 24.3 percent decline agricultural yields, Asia 19.3 percent and Africa 27.5 percent. Life at large is endangered by the decreasing availability of fresh water resources. By 2050 an estimated 4 billion people will live in highly water-stressed environments.

In tropical regions, global warming is likely to lead to a serious decline in agricultural production and to the acceleration of the desertification of farmland. On the other hand, vast regions of Russia and Canada will turn into cropland for the first time in human history. Yet it is still unknown how these regions will be able to grow crops. Farmers have to adjust to these changes by adapting their seeds and usual production systems to an unpredictable situation.

What is expected is that millions of farmers will be displaced from the land. Such shifting is regarded by industry as a business opportunity to increase food exports and imports, when the reality is that hunger and dependency will only increase around the world.

Via Campesina, a transcontinental movement bringing together of small farmers and producers, asserts that it is time to radically change the industrial way to produce, transform, trade and consume food and agricultural products. We believe that sustainable small-scale farming and local food consumption will help reverse the devastation and support millions of farming families. Agriculture can also cool down the earth by using farming practices that store CO2 and reduce the use of energy on farms.

Food Sovereignty is the true solution to uphold Peoples’ Right to Climate Justice

By Ulf Allhoff-Cramer and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 6, 2017

PEASANT AGROECOLOGY CAN FEED THE WORLD AND COOL THE PLANET | FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IS THE TRUE SOLUTION TO UPHOLD PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO CLIMATE JUSTICE

On Friday, November 3rd, at 6pm in Bonn (Germany), the People’s Climate Summit 2017 began, opening an important space for social movements to put forward alternatives and solutions to the global climate crisis. This summit will last until 7th of November and bring together thousands of delegates and climate activists from all over the world.

Just this year, we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of climate change, both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and other forms of devastation. The most affected are the world’s peasants, poor people, rural workers, fisherfolk and Indigenous peoples, especially the women and youth among them. Tragically, many people have been uprooted from their homes and livelihoods and forced to migrate. The stakes for action are high and mounting.

“Humanity is on a collision course with itself. We are generating nuclear waste that we can’t get rid of for a million years! We are taking back the planet’s climate to a state that existed millions of years ago and it is unjust and inhumane for our generation to do so. Our actions are not only harming ourselves but also future generations who never contributed to the climate crisis. For peasants all over the world, climate change is a question of survival. The climate crisis has to be stopped!”, says Ulf Allhoff-Cramer of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

To the accelerating crisis, world governments are responding with business-as-usual ‘false’ solutions that seek to maintain and expand markets for transnational corporations. These false solutions, including Carbon Capture and storage, creation of carbon markets, so-called Climate Smart Agriculture, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), geoengineering and other schemes further degrade life on Earth. They do not meet the requirements for action that science and justice demand. We must, therefore, make peoples’ voices heard at all levels of the UN COP23.

“The voice of the people is needed now more than ever before. We urgently need to mobilize together with civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty, which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level. We must change the system, and by this, stop the system from changing the climate”, says Paula Gioia, who is La Via Campesina’s International Coordinating Committee member from the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).

La Via Campesina—the world’s largest peasant movement—will be represented at the People’s Summit by delegates from East Timor, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Brazil, Puerto Rico, USA, Canada, France and Belgium. They will cooperate with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) – LVC’s member organisation in Germany – and other allied grassroots movements and NGOs.

The programmes include plenary sessions, a people’s tribunal for the rights of nature and street mobilisations. Many issues will be discussed including: peasant agroecology, food sovereignty, climate justice, just transition towards building local economies and the collective cooling of the planet. Other issues of importance such as migrant rights in a context of climate crisis will also be addressed.

In solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 1, 2017

Solidarity Statement

Harare: October 27, 2017

La Via Campesina International Coordinating Committee (ICC) gathered in Harare affirms its support and solidarity with the victims of the climate crisis around the world.

Since August this year we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of the human made climate change both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and more. This year only the Atlantic hurricane season had about 15 tropical storms, 10 hurricanes of which 6 (Harvey, Irma, Maria, etc.), were major and led lost lives, homes, and damage running in to huge financial impacts in Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, United States of America, etc. Africa also experienced flooding in West Africa (i.e. Sierra Leone) besides continuing droughts in parts of North and sub-Sahara Africa. In Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc.) experienced flooding which led to thousands of deaths and the destruction of croplands.

In Europe too, severe droughts and high temperatures and winds have made it difficult to control forest fires. Recently, intense storms (Xavier, Herwart, Ophelia) have battered some countries (Germany, Ireland, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic) leaving a trail of destruction devastating storms. In all these cases hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, thousands killed. The most affected are our brothers and sisters, the peasants, poor people, rural workers, the indigenous and the fisherfolk, some of whom have been forced to migrate. Climate change continues to aggravate the life conditions of many peasants who are already suffering marginalisation and repression from capitalist state. Both in the urban areas and countryside, our sisters and brothers have limited resources to rebuild their lives, their homes, their plots and their communities.

La Via Campesina is appalled by the continued denial of the link between these climate change catastrophes to anthropogenic emissions and also by the recent pull out by U.S. President Donald Trump.

We urgently call upon our allies, friends and social movements to galvanise their struggles towards a system change. We urgently need to mobilize together with the civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty and peasant agroecology which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level.

Therefore, during the forthcoming UN climate talks in Bonn (Germany) we will be on the streets pushing forward our peasant agenda, our true solutions and staying in solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world today.

Peasants of the world unite in Schwaebisch Hall for a declaration on Peasants' Rights

By Rudolf Bühler, Geneviève Savigny, Sofia Monsalve - La Via Campesina, February 23, 2017

Peasants* feed the majority of the world‘s population. Still, they are increasingly repressed by governments, as well as by the food and agro industries. From 7th to 10th of March, over a hundred peasant and food producer representatives from all over the world will meet with politicians, human rights advocates and Global South activists to pave the way for stronger legal protection of their basic rights in the German town Schwaebisch Hall. Supported by 40 partners, the Global Peasants‘ Rights Congress is the result of intensive and joint work by organizations struggling for the rights of peasants: the “Foundation House of Farmers” (HdB), the “Farmers’ Cooperative Schwaebisch Hall” (BESH), the “European Coordination Via Campesina” (ECVC), the Working-group Peasantry Farming (AbL) and FIAN International (FIAN).

Peasants fulfill a most fundamental task: They feed the vast majority of the world‘s population. According to their ancient know-how about soil cultivation, breeding and harvesting, they cultivate their land in a sustainable manner that corresponds to the local conditions. In doing so, they preserve biodiversity, increase soil fertility and contribute to strengthening the region’s added-value.

Nevertheless, peasants are increasingly losing their access to land due to unfair competition from powerful local elites and transnational corporations. This includes practices that ultimately grant the genetic base of their plant breeds and stock to multinational monopolies. In such a context of landgrabbing and biopiracy, many small scale food producers lose their livelihoods along with their traditional knowledge. Additionally, as regional food markets erode, food production for local needs is increasingly being replaced by export-oriented cash crops. Peasants who resist those developments are often harassed and criminalized.

The existing international legal framework does not protect peasants sufficiently against these threats to their livelihoods. Since its founding in 2012, the foundation House of Farmers has strived for instruments that strengthen peasants‘rights. In doing so, they support the worldwide peasants’ movement La Via Campesina and the international human rights organization FIAN. For several years, these have, together with others, successfully carried out advocacy work at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish an Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) to draft the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas”.

In a joint effort, the organizations will bring together peasant representatives from all over the world, who will report on the violations of their rights and work together on a peasants’ rights manifest. The manifest will address the UN working group and will encourage all State parties in the UNHRC to strengthen the rights of peasants nationally and internationally. 

The Global Peasants’ Rights Congress will take place from the 7th to 10th of March in Schwaebisch Hall. Among others, inputs will be given by: Klaus Töpfer, former director of the environment program of the UN (UNEP), Nardi Suxo Iturry, Bolivian ambassador und chairlady of the open-ended working-group on peasants rights at the UNHRC and Pat Mooney, winner of the Right Livelihood Award from the ETC Group, Rudolf Bühler, founder of the “Foundation House of Farmers”, Henry Saragih and Elizabeth Mpofu, the leaders of La Via Campesina, the world’s biggest peasant movement. For more information, see: http://www.global-peasants-rights.com.

Declaration of LVC Delegation to the 2016 World Social Forum

By La Via Campesina - August 14, 2016

We not only believe that another world is necessary, the members of La Vía Campesina are already building a better world."

--Carlos Marentes, co-coordinator of the North America Region of LVC

We, representatives of member organizations of La Vía Campesina from the North America Region (Union Paysanne from Quebec, National Farmers Union, Canada, National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Coalition and Border Agricultural Workers Project from United States), accompanied by LVC members from Europe, Palestine and Brazil took part in the World Social Forum in Montreal, Quebec from August 9-14, 2016.  

We were graciously hosted by the Union paysanne and reaffirmed our support for their struggle to end the syndicate-monopoly control of agriculture in Quebec, adding our voice to the demand that "There is no Food Sovereignty without Peasant sovereignty". 

In our press conference of August 11th, Maxime Laplante declared: "The Quebec situation is extremely particular in that there is in Quebec only one organization having the right to represent farmers here, to negotiate with the government or to intervene in the management of marketing plans, marketing, etc. That organization is the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA). It is the only organization with the legal right to represent farmers." 

La Via Campesina North America woman coordinator and vice-chair of the National Family Farm Coalition Dena Hoff stated: ''The whole region of La Via Campesina stands behind Union paysanne in its demands for recognition by the government of Quebec as the voice of the peasants struggling for food sovereignty." 

The LVC delegation participated enthusiastically in the opening march, in many workshops, panels and assemblies on the themes of food sovereignty, the right to food, post extractive societies, agro-ecology and peoples agrarian reform, and the future of the WSF, among many topics, together with allies like ETC Group, Grain, Climate Space, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Global Justice Now, USC Canada, SUCO, Why Hunger, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Global Forest Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Development and Peace, Inter-Pares, Vigilance OGM Québec, and others. 

As Dena Hoff, stated: "The fight for food sovereignty will be won with a million grassroots efforts". 

At a time of deepening crises in the world, including massive suffering of migrants fleeing war, increasing poverty and hunger, extreme weather events, corporate driven land and resource grabs, the expansion and consolidation of big agribusiness and monocultures of feed and fuel plantations across the planet, we declare our firm commitment as LVC to the life-or-death struggle for food sovereignty, a peoples agrarian reform, seed and biodiversity sovereignty, the democratization of the food system and the strong defense of human rights. 

We question the use of the concept of "agro-ecology" and climate buzzwords that are removed from the context of food sovereignty and used as a means of justifying an expansion of  "green washing" or for NGO fund raising.  We insist that agro-ecology signifies a validation of small and medium scale farming, peasant-led research and innovation, and it signifies the integration of traditional practices, and peasant and rural community control of our seeds. 

Food sovereignty is the right of farmers and eaters to control their own food production, processing and distribution with culturally appropriate foods and equitable compensation and dignity for food providers. We assert that small-scale farming, fishing, herding, hunting and gathering are essential in the struggle to bring relief to climate change and continue feeding humanity.  We seek access to land for all, especially youth with the drive to feed their communities. We seek an end to the invasion of GMO seeds into our territories and we demand the right of farmers to continue to produce, save and share their own seeds.  We say  "No" to corporate agriculture and say "Yes" to the people of the land and to the peasant way.  

LVC also publically criticized the Canadian Government because many leaders of important social movements were unable to attend the WSF as many hundreds of visas were denied, including the visas of two of the peasant leaders in our delegation.  

We have also taken the opportunity provided by the WSF 2016 to express our solidarity with all the movements currently fighting against violence, dispossession, exclusion and the attacks against the democratic rights of people. We specially expressed our solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people against the oppression, and exploitation at the hands of Zionist Settler Colonialism, the struggle of our compañeras and compañeros of the Landless Movement of Brazil against the recent State Coup, the First Nations courageous struggle against the threats to the integrity of their land posed by tar-sand exploitation, pipelines and other destructive actions by capital, and the fight against the increasing violence against black people and therefore we fully support the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

¡GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE, GLOBALIZE HOPE! 

Given in Montreal, Quebec, on August 14, 2016

La Via Campesina responds to COP23 calling for Peasant Agroecology

By Bernd Schmitz and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 9, 2017

Peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples ‘feed the world and cool the planet.’ This is what the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has come to Bonn, Germany, to put onto the agenda at the COP23 climate meetings — both in the official space and at the People’s Climate Summit where social movements met to strategize for alternatives to capitalism and its climate crisis.

According to ETC Group, peasants and Indigenous peoples are the sole food providers for 70 percent of the world’s population, and they use only 30 percent of the earth’s natural resources to get all of the food to the table.

“No chemical has ever touched our soil. We have held onto our traditional seeds which withstand many of the climate challenges we are facing”, explained Michaelin Sibanda, a young peasant from Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF). “We know that, to have healthy food and healthy ecosystems, we need to have healthy soil.”

The principles of agroecology help to conserve water, soils and seeds. But, for La Via Campesina, agroecology is also political: “It is proven that there is resilience in agroecology, and resilience is also resistance — it relates to the way we organize collectively and bring together concrete proposals for change that are sustained by work and struggle in our different territories,” explained Jesús Vázquez, a young organizer and activist from the Organization Boricuá of Agroecology in Puerto Rico. In September 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by two, back-to-back hurricanes which severely undermined all aspects of life on the island, including food production. Vázquez continued,

“In the context of these hurricanes, we have witnessed that agroecological practices are more resistant to extreme weather phenomena, they bring resilience. Many roots and tubers, have pulled through the disaster. Many peasants and farmers are already back in the fields planting and cultivating despite the fact that the Secretary of Agriculture says that agriculture is completely devastated throughout the island. We are here to remind governments that the change must be systemic.”

La Via Campesina and their allies’ proposals for addressing the climate crisis get to the root cause of the problem — corporate control over decision-making and the resulting processes of land and water grabbing, peasant criminalization and human rights abuses in the transnational supply chains used to produce food. “At the climate negotiations, governments are putting forward false solutions. We call them false because these proposals do not bring real change but, rather, bolster corporate profits,” said Fanny Metrat, from the French peasant organization Confédération Paysanne. “Carbon markets, geoengineering, so-called climate smart agriculture are being promoted by the same people who are also promoting emission-intensive livestock production and an export-based industrial agriculture which requires massive amounts of fossil fuels. It is a big contradiction,” she explained.

At COP23, these contradictions are becoming clear. The German government, a big promoter of green economy, has positioned itself as spearheading efforts to address climate change while also expanding the production of coal—the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. The international delegation of La Via Campesina members joined the over 4.000 people strong Ende Gelände (‘Here, and No Further’) march and civil disobedience action against Germany’s largest mining company, KWE, strengthening the message that the most important action to address climate crisis is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernd Schmitz, from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) the farmer member organization of La Via Campesina in Germany, underlined the need for changes in Germany. Speaking to journalists, Schmitz said,

“The consequences of global warming are felt all over the world. In Germany, we have had extreme droughts in some regions and extreme rains in others. This year, because of severe hailstorms, we lost nearly all fruit production in some areas of Germany! The government is too slow to respond to the problem. The AbL contends that smallholder agriculture, which includes a localized food chain and ecological food production, helps to solve the problem. This system uses less fossil energy, reducing the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases. Small farmers around the world urgently need support to feed people and maintain their livelihoods in the context of climate change.”

La Via Campesina has been joined by other frontline communities, including from within the It Takes Roots delegation of impacted communities based in the United States and also the fisherfolk and peasants within the Global Convergence for Land and Water Struggles. A representative of the West African contingent of the Convergence, Massa Koné, from Mali, was clear about the importance of working with allies to address climate change and multiple injustices: “As grassroots organizations, we have similar perspectives on the problems and what we need to do about them. La Via Campesina allows our communities to be heard. Our call for system change is urgent because the damage is growing. Commons, including land, forests and water, must be protected and restored to the people. We need to work together with our allies to be prepared for climate change.”

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