Decades of family farming just ahead

Peasants voice their hopes and concerns about the UN's Decade of Family Farming

The Decade was officially launched at FAO headquarters in Rome on 29th May 2019 and was preceded by sessions to exchange and discuss the priorities to implement the global action plan

In December 2017, the UN General Assembly declared 2019-2028 as the “United Nations Decade of Family Farming” and mandated the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to implement the Decade. The resolution of the General Assembly also called on governments, international organizations and civil society organizations to contribute to the implementation of the decade.

The goals announced for the Decade are based on a global action plan with 7 pillars:

  • Pillar 1. Develop an enabling policy environment to strengthen family farming.
  • Pillar 2 – Transversal. Support youth and ensure the generational sustainability of family farming.
  • Pillar 3, – Transversal. Promote gender equity in family farming and the leadership role of rural women.
  • Pillar 4 – Strengthen family farmers’ organizations and capacities to generate knowledge, represent farmers and provide inclusive services in the urban-rural continuum.
  • Pillar 5 – Improve socio-economic inclusion resilience and well-being of family farmers, rural households and communities.
  • Pillar 6. Promote sustainability of family farming for climate-resilient food systems.
  • Pillar 7. Strengthen the multidimensionality of family farming to promote social innovations contributing to territorial sustainability and food systems that safeguard biodiversity, the environment and culture.

Agriculture means much more than just a daily activity. It carries values, a culture, feeling love for our earth and life and, more importantly, taking pride in what we do. Today, we are threatened by transnational corporations that have found the means to act on our food system. We have taken action, and that is why we proclaim food sovereignty as a right of the peoples. We have also made very strong, clear and precise proposals so that people understand that, today, not only peasants are at risk of disappearing, but that peoples are at risk of becoming subordinate and living in slavery by being forced into a large market of cheap labour. We refer to peasants’ rights to ensure healthy diets, to keep our land alive and with diversity, to conserve our earth, the source of wealth. Above all, we want to protect life. And food is life, as long as it is produced using the forms of traditional agriculture that have been practised for millennia by indigenous peoples. This is why, for us, family farming is peasant and indigenous agriculture; it is practised by families, true, but in connection to the community, with workers united to build the future.

Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, gave the following address before the government representatives at the launch of the Decade:

“Right now, while we are sitting here, climate change and agribusiness are threatening us; hunger is increasing around the world and peasants commit suicide every day. We must move into action. It is time to implement solutions. We, the peasants, have these solutions and we have been explaining them for many centuries. The solution is to promote peasant family farming based on agroecology and food sovereignty, including small-scale food producers.”

Food Waste Reduction

Better Post-harvest Processing

a solution to global hunger?

Though hunger rarely makes the headlines anymore, it is still a burning issue in many countries, with an estimated 821 million undernourished people in the world. For decades, governments and donors have been increasing investment into food production to alleviate the problem. But what if the solution lies elsewhere?

Seven years have passed since FAO estimated that about one third of the food produced worldwide is either lost or wasted. Surprisingly huge amounts of food are lost even in the poorest countries, the very same which have the highest numbers of hungry or malnourished people. Most of these countries are affected by high levels of post-harvest losses caused by inappropriate handling of the produce after harvest.
For example Rwanda: like many other sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture is the leading economic activity in this densely populated nation, with more than 70 per cent of the workforce employed in the agricultural sector. Most of the produce is handled by smallholder farmers in their own homes through rudimentary post-harvest practices, often leading to low quality produce and high post-harvest losses.

Climate change is a big part of the problem. Due to shifting climatic patterns, maize harvesting currently happens during the peak of the rainy season. Most farmers do not have access to adequate drying facilities and cannot dry their produce to acceptable moisture levels before storing it, leading to pest infestation, mold and contamination. The result: large quantities of their maize is either inedible or unsalable.

The problem is a real one and there is data to prove it. According to the Africa Post-Harvest Loss Information System (APHLIS), the leading source on post-harvest wastage in Africa, losses in the Rwanda maize supply chain could be as high as 22 per cent. The figure is also alarmingly high for other crops in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average grain loss estimated at 13.5 per cent continent-wide.

Reducing such losses could constitute a more cost-effective answer to hunger than increasing productivity. If the figures published in a 2011 World Bank report paint an accurate portrait, eliminating grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa alone could provide the annual calorie requirement for around 48 million people. And this increase would not be detrimental to the environment, as it would require no extra resources (water, land and energy) to grow the food that would otherwise go wasted.

The problem is that it is difficult to isolate post-harvest losses from the issue of rural underdevelopment in general. That is because they are largely due to the lack of infrastructure and appropriate equipment that affects many developing economies. What is really needed is a complete overhaul of the rural sector and its value chains, and one that leaves no loss behind.

A growing number of projects supported by IFAD follow a holistic approach that aims to improve the overall efficiency of the value chain by upgrading the capacities of all actors involved. An internal desk review found that between 2013 and 2016 IFAD earmarked about US$433 million to post-harvest operations through such projects. The infrastructure, equipment and capacity developed thanks to this investment is essential to enable producers to reduce their losses.

More focused interventions may still be needed to reduce losses at critical loss points, as we've done for example in East Timor by subsidizing 42,000 improved storage drums for household storage. Yet the comprehensive and durable development many of our projects have brought to rural communities is arguably more effective than piecemeal interventions, which may have a more immediate and measurable impact, but a more uncertain future.
Source: https://www.ifad.org/web/latest/blog/asset/40810706

Reducing food losses is just as important as improving yields, especially in the context of shifting climatic conditions. But the most effective way to stop the loss is to take a holistic approach that carefully integrates post-harvest loss reduction into every step of the targeted supply chains, from production to retail. If adequately funded and implemented, this approach could be the key to building more sustainable food systems, ensuring that everyone is adequately fed while our environment is protected.

The New Standard for Human Rights

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

(25.10.18): The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in Rural Areas was presented in the UN headquarters to the 'Third Committee of the General Assembly'. This comes after nearly two decades of consultations and negotiations led by millions of peasants, pastoralists, artisanal fisher folk, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples’ organisations ... and with the support of CETIM and FIAN International.

UPDATE: (19.11.18)

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly has voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, through the Resolution no. A/C.3/73/L.30 - [119 for :: 7 against]


The Declaration, now finally ratification, supports the development and implementation of socioeconomic policies that improve our food and agriculture system. It will also pave the way for the creation of public policies in favour of peasants and rural workers in countries where such policies do not exist.

The vast majority of the world's citizens support the Declaration. The European Economic and Social Committee has shown its support, and the European Parliament voted a resolution asking EU states to back the project. On 2nd October in France, the National Advisory Committee on Human Rights urged the French government, in an advisory opinion, to back the text. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has also expressed its support to the Declaration and so has the former rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter as well as his successor, Hilal Elver.

It is estimated that of out of 820 million people suffering from hunger (2018 UN figure), 80% live in rural areas. These people are particularly vulnerable and discriminated against,. They suffer forced expulsions and lack access to essential resources: land, seeds, loans, education, justice and basic services. Yet, on average, small food producers contribute 70% of the world’s food, with this figure rising to more than 80% in so-called developing countries.

Source: Time to Mobilise   #peasantsrightsnow

The current draft of the declaration was finalised in April 2018. A process that began over 10 years ago. Thereafter, the text was tabled for final voting and adoption at the UN General Assembly in September 2018. Ratification is expected by mid next year.


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New Zealand didn't bother turning up for this one.

16th October, 2018

International Day of Action for the Food Sovereignty of Peoples and Against Multinationals

Peasants' seeds are a heritage of peoples in the service of humanity. They are the basis of global food production and they enable peasants to produce and a healthy and diversified food supply.

The world's seeds are threatened by the seed policies of rich countries, free trade agreements and agribusiness. Under the pretext of "improving" seed productivity, agribusiness has created a neo-liberal seed system that has homogenised, impoverished and monopolised seeds, causing the loss of three-quarters of seed diversity and annihilating a diversity that it took people – thanks to the work of peasants – 10000 years to generate.
Three companies, Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta-ChemChina and Dupont-Dow, control more than 50% of the world's commercial seeds – usually GM seeds claimed to resist herbicides and deter insects. Under the impetus of the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, and through free trade agreements and laws protecting seed and breeders' rights, such as UPOV standards, this seed system only allows the circulation of its own seeds, criminalising the saving, exchange, donation and sale of local farmer seeds.

The situation is such that farmers have lost a lot of their heritage seeds, are put in prison for the defense and exchange of their seed heritage, and risk raids and seizure of their seeds. Biodiversity is destroyed by the use of chemical fertilisers, hybrid seeds and genetically modified organisms developed by multinational companies. \Everywhere citizens have difficulty accessing healthy, diversified and healthy food.

All over the world, La Via Campesina and its member organisations are stepping up their efforts in training, education, mutual support and seed exchange. We fight for national laws and international treaties to guarantee the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange, sell and protect their seeds against biopiracy and genetic contamination, we write books on the history of seeds, carry out studies and mapping. We also found agro-ecology schools and organize peasant' seed exchange fairs. We exercise our right of self-determination to select the seed varieties we want to plant and reject economically, ecologically and culturally dangerous varieties. These are rights affirmed by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and by the United Nations Declaration on Peasants' Rights which has just been adopted by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is also the only way to ensure healthy food for citizens, the preservation of biodiversity and the achievement of food sovereignty.

No government measure can limit the collective rights of farmers to use, exchange and sell their OWN seeds.
Free seed exchange between farmers should NOT be subject to restriction.

“Adopt a Seed”

We call on every peasant, peasant family or community to engage in the adoption of a variety of plant or animal seeds, to become the guardian of this seed, ensuring its propagation, reproduction and distribution and to engage in the collective defense of their rights to use, exchange, sell and protect them. In this way, we will create a large network of peasant seeds to save those that have become rare and extend production towards the food sovereignty of peoples.
By adopting a seed, peasant families preserve their identity and territory and affirm their peasant way of life. They claim the historical memory and ancestral culture of seed management, promoting an urban and rural ecological agriculture that reproduces the miracle of more seeds and food of better quality, taste and nutritional value.

Land Rights Regulations

Land Deals

Indigenous land rights are increasingly under threat

The soaring demand for food, fuel and other commodities is cranking up pressure on land, but the sector remains largely unregulated internationally.

Increasingly, secret deals are struck between governments and investors, and communities robbed of land that’s rightfully theirs.

Imagine waking up one day to be told that the land that your family has lived on for generations has been leased to developers. You have to be out by the time the bulldozers arrive next week. You can’t see the documents behind the deal, and you won’t be getting compensation. And if you don’t go quietly, soldiers will make you wish you had.

This type of “land grab” is happening more and more often across the developing world, as investors scramble to acquire cheap land for everything from food to biofuel plantations to mining. As much as 54 million hectares has already changed hands in land deals over the last decade, or is under negotiation. And this figure is set to grow as population growth, consumption and financial speculation drive demand upwards.

With strong rules to protect communities and environment, these investments could stimulate development in some of the poorest parts of the world. But the market is moving much faster than regulators can, leaving behind a murky trade controlled by powerful and often corrupt elites.

Land deals are often done in secret, without consulting those most affected. Environmental damage and human rights are paid lip service at best, and more often completely ignored. Communities can’t find out who has been given their land or see the contracts, so they don’t know what it is worth or who to blame for taking it.

Global Witness is investigating the impact of large-scale land concessions on rural communities and the environment, and is pushing for solutions to fix the system at the national and international levels. Our Dealing with Disclosure report, for example, sets out practical steps for governments and companies to make land deals fair and open. We also work with rural communities in a number of countries to help stand up for and strengthen their rights to their land.

Land grabs are closer than you think. Holes in international law mean we have very little way of ensuring that our supply chains and savings don’t link us to land that has been illegally or violently taken.

Source: Global Witness campaign (May, 2018)
Report: Dealing with Disclosure – setting out in detail what governments, companies and citizens can do to ensure against the negative impacts of secretive land deals.

The much-touted Bt-cotton leaves the party

India's 2018 cotton harvest was devastated by swarming armies of bollworms

In India, 90 per cent of the land under cotton uses a GM Bt-seed variety cotton supplied by Monsanto. But the main pest it was meant to safeguard against is back, as a virulent pesticide-resistant species.

The bollworm lays thousands of eggs and multiplies into millions of worms within days. Estimates based on surveys by the state revenue and the Maharashtra agriculture departments around November and then again in February-March indicate that the pink-worm infestation affected over 80 per cent of the 4.2 million hectares under cotton in the state. Each farmer reportedly lost 33 per cent to over 50 per cent of their standing crop.

Bt-cotton gets its name from bacillus thuringiensis, a soil-dwelling bacterium. The Bt seed contains cry (crystal) genes derived from the bacterium and inserted into the cotton plant genome (the genetic material of the cell) to provide protection against the bollworm.

Bt-cotton was meant to control the bollworm. But farmers will now find the worms surviving in Bt-cotton fields, Kranthi wrote in a series of essays in industry magazines and on his own CICR blog. Neither the ICAR nor the Union Agriculture Ministry seemed alert to the potential devastation at the time. The state and central government have since been aware of the extent of pink-worm devastation, but have not come up with a solution.

In 2006-7, Monsanto released BG-II hybrids, saying the new technology was more potent, more durable. These slowly replaced BG-I. And by now, BG-II hybrids occupy over 90 per cent of the around 130 million hectares under cotton across India, according to government estimates.

Where to now?

There is no new GM technology in sight now or in the near future that promises to replace BG-II. Neither is any technology available for more effective insecticides. India is in deep trouble on its fields of cotton, a crop that occupies vast stretches of land and creates millions of workdays in rural India.


The Ministry of Agriculture of the government of India acknowledges the problem, but has rejected the demand from Maharashtra and other states to de-notify Bt-cotton – a move that will change its status to regular cotton since Bt’s efficacy has gone.

Brazilian landless workers’ movement, children and food sovereignty

Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is organised around three main objectives : Struggles for land, agrarian reform and for socialism. They have organised on several fronts; namely production, health, youth, culture, education and human rights.

The participation of their children, the so-called “Sem-Terrinha” (Landless Children), within the MST organisation has been around since the beginning in the first land occupations.

Over time MST has developed activities with children as protagonists, such as: children’s “cirandas” (pedagogical spaces for development and care; gatherings of the “Sem-Terrinha”; the Journey of Struggles for rural schools, as well as publications such as the “Sem-Terrinha” newspaper and the “Sem Terrinha” Magazine.

The most recent experience with the “Sem Terrinha” has been the Cultural Journey …Healthy Eating: A Right of All. This Journey was started in 2015 and is at the heart of the debate on Popular Agrarian Reform. It involves children and adolescents in rural schools and encampment schools throughout the country. The main objectives of the Journey are:

  1. To strengthen and disseminate different experiences from different regions on healthy eating and its relation with Popular Agrarian Reform ;
  2. To work together with families on the issue of food and food production in both settlements and encampments ;
  3. To contribute to the food education of landless families and to the general struggle for the right to adequate food free of pesticides ;
  4. To strengthen initiatives to reorganise school canteens ;
  5. To study and debate the relations between healthy eating, food sovereignty, agro-ecology, peasant agriculture and Popular Agrarian Reform ;
  6. To introduce, in elementary schools, the debate on agroecology and on practices of ecological agriculture ;
  7. To resume the debate on how the link between education, socially productive work and educational content needs to be guaranteed.

During the Journey hundreds of activities have been carried out throughout the country – specific studies in schools on eating habits and food history, understanding what is produced in local settlements, research into agro-eco-systems, workshops related to local cooking, field practices and agro-ecology experiences.

The founding elements of MST’s struggles were also present during the activities of the Journey, i.e. there were theatrical interventions, awareness campaigns, public hearings, marches seeking to denounce the use of pesticides and of transgenic seeds, as well as the monopoly and food standardization that has been imposed by transnational corporations and agribusiness.

During the Journey itself, substantial changes took place in the schools where the debate was promoted, abolishing the use of soft drinks and processed foods from school meals, introducing agro-ecological food produced in the settlements, starting vegetable gardens to supply schools and initiating a native seed bank.

Eating is a political act !

La Via Campesina now an irrepressible global movement

La Via Campesina is a global activist movement linking together rural organisations from many countries under a unified umbrella. Its goal is to bring about change in the rural sector: real changes that improve livelihoods, enhance local food production, and open up democratic spaces for food-land-people issues.

It promotes changes that empower people working on the land with more rights on issues that impact their everyday working lives. The movement believes that real change can occur only when local communities have greater control over local productive resources, and more social and political power.

Whenever international institutions like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank (WB), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meet to discuss agricultural and food issues La Vía Campesina[ 1 ] (LVC) aims to have a presence. LVC is also active in local communities whenever peasants and farming families in places - such as Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Europe or Canada - are resisting the spread of genetically‐modified seeds, or are being evicted from their land to facilitate urban sprawl, golf course development, intensive shrimp or pig farming, or oil-palm plantations.

brochure linkThis uprising of the peasantry is surprising to many westerners. It was always assumed that modern intensive agriculture would eventually supplant the old ways of farming. Surely by now that should all be gone! Instead, peasants are turning up everywhere[ 2 ], a troublesome and discordant voice to those extolling the praises of economic globalisation. La Vía Campesina has become an outspoken radical opposition to the globalised corporate model of agriculture.
Politically, the (neo)-liberalisation of agriculture is a war on peasants: it decimates rural communities and farming families. Environmentally, it causes a degradation of the rural ecology and biodiversity, causing superbugs, superweeds and toxified soils.
La Via Campesina is strongly rooted in local communities, at the same time being increasingly engaged on the international stage. Its growing visibility as a key social actor has attracted the attention of many rural organisations. It now includes 164 organisations from 73 countries. Much of its success is due to the fact that it is represents the diverse interests of its membership, balancing potentially divisive issues such as gender, race, class, culture and North/South relations3. According to LVC the conflict is not between farmers of the North and peasants of the South, rather, the struggle is over two competing models of land-use, social and economic development. On the one hand the neoliberal corporate-driven model of input/output agriculture; on the other hand the socialised model of ecologically-based sustainable agriculture geared to localised resources and markets.
The rise of La Via Campesina indicates that small-holder families have not been passive victims in the face of the global economic restructuring, with its increasing poverty and marginalisation. Instead they are resisting the corporate model of agriculture, using the typical methods of the oppressed; organisation, cooperation and community to build an alternative model of agriculture based on the principles of social justice, ecological sustainability and respect for peasant cultures and peasant economies. This involves creating small agricultural cooperatives, local seed banks, fair trade ventures and reclaiming traditional farming practices. It also means linking these efforts beyond the local by working at the national, regional and international levels.
In forming La Via Campesina, the smaller peasant organisations have effectively internationalised and succeeded in carving out a space in the international arena. It provides an international space for the peasant voice, its demands and efforts to resist the imposition of a corporate model of agriculture. The solidarity and unity experienced within this organisation yields perhaps the most precious gift of all, hope. Hope that ‘another’ agriculture is possible. Indeed, La Via Campesina enables us to imagine that change is possible and that an alternative way is being created.


  1. Translated from the Spanish it means ... 'the way of the peasant woman'
  2. Peasants and small-holders comprise about 40% of the world's population, and growing.
  3. Food sovereignty, seed sovereignty, land grabbing, biopiracy, land use, women's rights.

For more information visit www.viacampesina.org

Right for Peasants

Join the movement for Peasants’ Rights and ask the EU and its Member States to actively participate in good faith in the elaboration of a “UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas“.

Background:

“Peasants and others working in rural areas  represent the largest group of people in the world  suffering from hunger and malnutrition. These  people have faced political and economic  discriminations for decades. In light of this situation,  the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  undertook several studies that ultimately asserted  the need for an international protection instrument.  Consequently, a working group was created to draft  a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other  People Working in Rural Areas. The first draft of the  declaration was completed in early 2015, following  two rounds of negotiation. The current challenge is  to pressure States to actively engage in the process  so that an ambitious declaration can be adopted.” ~ Factsheet: Hands on the Land (2015)

Join the movement and ask for the adoption of
the UN Declaration on Peasants’ Rights!

Sign the petition here …
No peasants, no food. Let’s grow their rights!


Resources:

FACTSHEET Declaration of the Rights of Peasants: Special Protection is Needed”


Videos:

“Towards a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants”

References:

International focus:
International Congress on Global Peasants’ Rights (7-10 March 2017, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany)

European focus:


Sign the petition here …
No peasants, no food. Let’s grow their rights!

Peasants Struggles: Commemorated

The international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina calls all its members and allies to mobilise on April 17, the International Day of Peasant’s struggles.

(March 2017): This year, we want the world to know that peasants and other people working in rural areas have been working very hard for their rights. The rights of peasants initiative, which La Via Campesina started 17 years ago, is now at the final stages of a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, within the United Nations. Once approved  this declaration will create an international legal instrument to protect the rights of, and draw attention to, the threats and discrimination suffered by peasants and other people working in rural areas.

The need for such a UN Declaration of Rights has become more urgent in the 21st century. Peasants, those who produce the bulk of the world’s food, continue to face criminalisation, discrimination, displacements and persecution despite the existence of numerous international legal instruments for the recognition and protection of such rights.

Peasants’ basic rights are increasingly vulnerable as the economic and ecological crisis worsens. This situation is closely linked to human rights violations: expropriation of land, forced eviction, gender discrimination, the absence of right to land and lack of rural development, low income and lack access to means of production, insufficient social protection, and criminalisation of movements defending the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas.

For instance, in Africa, over 70% of the agricultural production and care-giving is done by women but there is little recognition of their rights in relation to asset ownership, access to credit, information and participation in policy making etc. In Brazil, despite many years of peasants struggling for comprehensive agrarian reform, fair redistribution of land remains unfulfilled. In Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy and market recent deregulation of the milk sector affect hundreds of thousands of family farmers. In Asia, as in rest of the world, free-trade agreements and bilateral treaties have destroyed local markets and continue to threaten local and traditional ways of farming and farmers’ exchange. Land concentration has increased as some farmers are forced to sell their land; youth participation in farming is at its lowest level ever.

We call upon the people around the world to celebrate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle by continuing to work to reinforce food sovereignty; the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity; to fight for a genuine agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing; continue to conserve, use, and exchange our seeds; and strengthen the solidarity among ourselves. These combined struggles give us the strength to defend our land against corporate interests, persecution and violence against peasants and other people working in rural areas.

This year in July 2017 in the Basque Country (Northern Spain), La Via Campesina will hold its VIIth International Conference to deepen our analysis of the current crisis and work on strategic lines of action to strengthen our movement.


— International Conference on Agrarian Reform , April 2016 (Brazil).

We also call upon countries to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. We will mobilise our members and allies to pressure our governments to make the next negotiation in the 4th session of Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on rights of peasants and other people working in rural area at UN HR Council Geneva successful. We believe in championing the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, humanity also wins.

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