Tuesday June 19th
When I attended the UN Climate Negotiations in Cancun and I was amazed by an organization called La Via campesina. Now about two years later I find myself in room with the same organization.
La Via Campesina is an international movement that contains millions of peasants, small and medium producers, landless people, indigenous people, migrants and farm workers around the world. Advocates the small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way of promoting social justice and dignity. Strongly opposes agribusiness and multinationals that are destroying the people and nature.
The Via includes about 150 local and national organizations in 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and America. In total, representing about 200 million peasants. It is an autonomous movement, pluralistic and multicultural, all political, economic or otherwise. The objectives of the organization is to achieve food sovereignty and stop neo liberalism food production projects. The organization works to create strong relationships between small and medium scale farmers as well as northern and southern farmers.
The core of the Via is the small farmers. In Brazil there is about 4.8 million traditional family farmers that occupy about 30% of the total agriculture land. The main crops of those families are maize, beans and cassava. They say these small scale famers like the ones in Brazil, will be the key to the food sovereignty the Via Campesina strives for. But there will be some challenges to achieve this. On the next decade we will need to find how to increase production for a growing population with the same or less arable land. Also the trade liberalization is the main mechanism driving farmers off their land and the principal obstacle to local autonomy. The current industrial agriculture model and its biotechnological derivations are not suitable to address the needs for the future.
The statements from the Via Campesina folks are true but I still see a missing component. To achieve food sovereignty world wide we need to include an immense educational component. Although there are small scaled farmers all around the world the idea of growing your own food has not come up for a big group of people. I live in Puerto Rico, a small island that imports about 60%+ of the food we eat. Even though there is still some farming and a new small scale urban agriculture trend Puerto Rico is very far from food sovereignty.. What most people on Puerto Rico don’t realize is that if food imports suddenly stopped we would have food for about two weeks and then the markets would be empty. Also younger generations in Puerto Rico see farming as their grandparent’s job and not something to strive for. The image of the campesino or jibaro in Puerto Rico has been put down with cultural stories and stigmas and even exploited by political parties.
I think the Via Campesina is a great movement that has the knowledge and will to move a shift in the current agriculture system. As the panel presented on the side event, the agriculture of the next generation will need to move away from fossil fuel dependence, create a low environmental impact, nature friendly agroecosystems and a multifunctional (social, cultural and economic) systems. We need to change the export led, free trade based, industry based agriculture model and promote capacity building and advocate for more rural movements.. But its crucial that all this has an educational component were w are not only teaching technical knowledge but creating a positive attitude to farming.
Some reactions from one of the Via Campesina speakers about who is influencing the Rio+20 process: