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.

La Via Campesina Launches 7th International Conference

La Via Campesina has commenced the process leading to the 7th International Conference, to be held in the Basque country in July 2017. These International Conferences take place every four years. They constitute La Via Campesina’s highest collective decision-making body and its most important space for debate and discussion and for developing a mobilisation agenda for the peasant and farmer movement.

La Vía Campesina has, over the last 20 years, constructed a global and politicised peasant and farmer identity that is connected to the land and to the commitment to building Food Sovereignty; through the provision of healthy, agroecologically-produced food for the population.

We have created a political heritage based on a common vision, which has helped us to understand the world and the future, and which has allowed us to develop a capacity for mobilisation that is both local and global. We realise that all over the world women and men peasants and small-scale farmers have the same problems and that they need to be united in facing them” ~ Marina Dos Santos, a member of the International Coordinating Committee.

Source: La Via Campesina (14 June 2016 )

Clinton Exposed

Clinton: Yet More High Profile Blood

When she was Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton green-lighted a violent Right-wing coup (2009) against the democratically-elected president of Honduras. She then worked to tirelessly to discredit its critics. One of those critics, Berta Cáceres, an articulate human-rights and environmental activist, just got a bullet in the head a few weeks ago. Cáceres wasn’t shy about mentioning Hilary Clinton by name.

Now, during the presidential primary and election season, she won’t be saying anything.

Since the Honduran coup more than 5,000 peasants have been imprisoned, including 1,700 peasant women, and over 140 women and men peasants have been assassinated in conflicts involving land tenure or the defence of territory.

Murder of Gaddaffi: Clinton Exposed

A recently declassified email exchange between Hillary Clinton and her adviser Sid Blumenthal shows that Clinton (while US Secretary of State) was up to her eyeballs in the conspiracy to kill off Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (2011) and his Pan-African “Gold Dinar” currency. This woman has no conscience and should face trial for her crimes against humanity instead of being rewarded by her handlers with the ultimate damage control career.

Gaddaffi: The truth.

Remembering Berta Cáceres

In 1993, Berta co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For years, the group faced death threats and repression as they stood up to mining and dam projects that threatened to destroy their community. Last year, Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. We hear Cáceres in her own words and speak to her nephew, Silvio Carrillo, and her longtime friend Beverly Bell.

Congratulations Maxima for stopping this destructive gold and copper mine

This was a difficult and dangerous 5-year battle, led by Máxima Acuña. Thanks to her and her friends, the sources for five rivers, four mountain lakes, and hundreds of hectares of wetlands will be safe — and members of the community won’t lose their homes.

Máxima has faced harassment and threats to her life in her efforts to stop the mine and now she is being recognised for her work. To top off the victory, today Máxima will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her tireless work standing up to Newmont. The Goldman Prize, known also as the ‘Green Nobel Prize’, honours ordinary citizens who’ve taken great personal risks to safeguard the environment and their communities — and Máxima’s tireless work is no exception.

“I would like to thank everyone from around the world who signed the petition in support of my case. In truth I am fighting with my family for something just, to defend my land, whatever it has cost me. For this I thank you because your support has given me the strength to continue fighting.”

But our fight isn’t over — Newmont are still planning lawsuits against Máxima and as of last week, her family continues to be harassed by security contractors.

Slain Peasants Commemorated Worldwide

April 17th 1996, is commemorated by millions of peasants around the world as The International Day of Peasant’s Struggle – to memorialise the massacre of 19 landless farmers in Eldorado dos Carajás, Brazil, and to continue the struggle for land and life.

Two decades after that incident took place peasants and peasant leaders continue to be assaulted and killed for defending their rights. The killing of Honduras activist, Berta Caceres, and other peasants in Columbia, Philippines and Brazil in recent weeks and the criminalisation of social protest and many other forms of human rights abuses still continue.

2016-03-27-Internet-Affiche-Via-Campesina-EnglishThe New Zealand Peasants’ Association denounces all forms of injustice that affect the peasant way of life, an important heritage of the people at the service of humanity.

Constant attempts are being made to advance the agribusiness model that imposes the practice of monoculture which privatises land and natural resources in order to increase profit, denying their preexisting appropriation by society for the common good. Monocultural farming destroys biodiversity, uses more and more toxic inputs, drives peasants off their land, and forces governments and nation states to bow to the industry’s will.

While our government continues to build repressive alliances with big businesses to promote profit taking, Peasants NZ believes the time has come to build an economy based on an equality between humanity and nature, and founded on Food Sovereignty principles.

“It’s unacceptable that in 2016 farmers are still being killed for defending the very basis of life: the nature and the right to grow food” said Elizabeth Mpofu, General coordinator of La Via Campesina.

With hundreds of actions taking place peasants and their allies are united in solidarity to defend their land and to push back the frontal assault on artisanal farmers in all parts of the world. The actions, led locally by peasant member organisations of La Via Campesina and by many other groups, collectives and organisations, involve reclaiming grabbed lands, demonstrations against agribusiness models, food sovereignty fairs, seed exchanges, video screenings, conferences and more.

Russian Dacha Gardening – 30+ times more efficient than industrial food production

Dacha gardening or self-provisioning gardening was the foundational reason that the Russian people did not experience a famine in the early 1990s after the USSR collapsed, and the state sponsored, heavily subsidised, industrial commercial agriculture collapsed along with it.

This was not reported outside of Russia, as it wasn’t considered newsworthy. What is truly newsworthy today is that we as a nation aren’t in as favorable of a position if there were a similar catastrophic occurrence in our food distribution, power grid or dollar value. We are all too dependent on outside sources for our food, with consumers tied to the grocery store and its 3 day supply of food being constantly trucked in.

Dacha GardeningRussian household agriculture – dacha gardening – is likely the most extensive system of successful food production of any industrialised nation. This shows that highly decentralized, small-scale food production is not only possible, but practical on a national scale and in a geographically large and diverse country with a challenging climate for growing. Most of NZ has far more than the 110 days average growing season that Russia has.

Today’s dacha gardening closely resembles the peasant gardening production of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This shows a continuation of methods and techniques that have proven effective in a small scale garden that works as well today as 200 years ago. The Russians do not use machines – tillers or tractors – or animals on their garden plots, cultivating them in much the same way as the peasants did in the 18th Century.

Dacha gardening is not and never has been simply a survival strategy – a response to poverty, famine, adverse weather or social unrest. Recent studies have shown that Russian food gardening is a highly diverse, sustainable and culturally rich method of food production. This was initially recognized almost a century ago and has been confirmed more recently.

If examined through a strictly economic lens, dacha gardening makes no sense at all. There is much more labor as a dollar value invested than is harvested, but that isn’t the point of this type of system at all. The function of dacha gardens goes well beyond their economic significance, because they serve as an important means of active leisure as well as a way to reconnect with the land. Traditional economic calculations fail to realize the true value and benefits of a dacha garden. Clearly, a wider viewpoint is needed to realize all of the benefits! Time spent in the garden is seen as relaxation, education, entertainment and exercise – all in one. Food production is a very valuable bonus.

Despite their significant contribution to the national food economy, the majority of dachas mostly function outside of the cash economy, as most dacha gardeners prefer to first share their surplus with relatives and friends after saving enough to feed them through the winter, and only then look at selling what remains. A few will sell the remainder at local markets, and move into a small market production model for extra cash.

The Russian mindset relating to the sharing of surplus food is important to examine, as it is one of the keys that ensure the success of the dacha gardening model. In dacha gardening, people will share their excess food out of a sense of abundance or plenty. It is a very positive and powerful motivator which creates an upward, positive spiral of sharing among the community.

In addressing the question of “How are we going to feed ourselves?”, we have a lot to consider in looking at the effective, proven and ongoing examples that Russian dacha gardening has to offer us. A closer study of the methods and especially the mindsets will help all of us become more resilient and self-sustaining in our food systems right here at home.

Russian Dacha Gardening Research – Dr. Leonid Sharashkin


African Peasants Protect Indigenous Seed Rights

Elizabeth Mpofu of Zimbabwe

Elizabeth Mpofu of Zimbabwe is General Coordinator of the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina.

We need to go back to indigenous knowledge-based farming systems, what is now called agroecology, because we know that these systems work peacefully with nature and don’t damage the environment.

Elizabeth Mpofu of Zimbabwe, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, speaks out about the need for seed sovereignty in Africa.

Via Campesina members organise seed exchanges and fairs which allow farmers to learn how others are producing and mobilise them to join to peasant movement. We also prioritise building relationships and working hands-on with policy-makers. We lobby governments to incorporate and protect our indigenous, local seeds as they develop policies, while asking that GMO seeds are not promoted. Of course, this is a big challenge because the commercial industrial seed companies have a lot of money to give our governments.

The biggest challenges to peasant farmers in Africa are threats to our agriculture and native, local seeds. Transnational corporations and the green revolution for Africa have introduced contract farming whereby a farmer commits to producing a product in a certain manner and the company commits to purchasing it – and GMO seeds without being transparent about the implications. Usually farmers provide both the land, the cheap labour, and carry most of the risk

Peasant farmers without the resources to produce enough food are pressured to accept these contracts and new means of production. They are forced to pay corporations back for what they’ve received [GMO seeds or loans]. If a season doesn’t go well, they are left to suffer, selling their livestock or being jailed for not being able to pay.

Harmonised seed laws, which require that seeds be ‘officially registered’ in order to be traded pose another challenge across Africa, as this introduces the slippery slope of intellectual property rights over seeds. Regional bodies like the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are developing rules that will increase the availability of commercial seeds, only benefiting corporations like Syngenta and Monsanto. Indigenous seeds are not recognised. Meanwhile, peasant farmers are not provided with adequate information about these laws and are not invited to participate in the policy formulation process. Because of this, we are forced to take action and put our concerns on the table.

In Zimbabwe, a member-state of the regional bodies COMESA and SADC, we are most focused on the harmonised seed laws. We’ve organized dialogues with relevant ministers and members of parliament about the policies and how we can work together to develop our country’s agricultural sector. The Via Campesina member group Zimbabwe Organic Smallholder Farmers Forum has been leading the process, together with women farmers. We’ve had success in rural areas, where we had a minister-facilitated workshop on seeds and cooperative African agriculture development.

Peasant farmers push for a Universal Declaration of Rights

Many people and organizations beyond Via Campesina now support the Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and are campaigning for it to be accepted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Support for the peasant rights declaration has been growing in the UNHCR, since drafting the declaration began in 2012. This comprehensive declaration includes issues from agricultural policies that recognise peasants: privatisation of water, seeds, and energy, and respect for gender in agriculture.

“We are organised and we know what we want. If the money syndrome continues to rule the world, the struggle won’t come to an end. We are fighting this fight together and we must strengthen our resilience together.” ~ Elizabeth Mpofu

Clear Winner! Our Family Farms Coalition    

In November 2014, voters in Jackson County, Oregon overwhelmingly passed an ordinance to ban the planting of genetically-engineered (GE) crops in the county.
The local farmers in particular were fearful that contamination from GE crops could destroy their livelihoods.

Not long after the ban came into effect opponents backed by Monsanto and their allies went to work trying to overrule the voters in court. Similar laws had also been passed in California and Hawai’i and were also challenged in court … this was a test case.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) quickly stepped in to legally defend the Jackson County ban — and were victorious: a precedent-setting win that will protect family farmers from genetically-engineered crops, and give consumers a choice in the marketplace, for decades to come.

This case marks the first time that a U.S. FEDERAL court has recognised farmers’ right to protect their crops from GE contamination.

Hundreds of Farmers go to COP21

La Vie Campesina (LVC) has been an active presence at each Conference of the Parties (COP) organised as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC – CCNUCC).

With no other option than migration when their lands are devastated by climate disasters, peasant farmers are among the first to fall victim to adverse climate conditions. This problem, whilst the most visible, is  but a small part of a much greater problem. In reality, all farmers, regardless of the part of the world they call home, are victims of adverse climatic conditions which impact upon their everyday practices. They are also implicated by the so-called solutions offered by multinationals and governments during these well-known Conventions of the Parties.

From 4th December, the men and women of la Via Campesina, present from 30 countries, including the European Coordination Via Campesina, and members of the Confédération Paysanne will be present in Paris to show that the form of agriculture that is the basis of their everyday life represents a valid means of counteracting adverse climate conditions.

Countries Represented: Zimbabwe, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Congo, Canada, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Haïti, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Palestine, Indonesia, South Korea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Germany, France, Turkey, Romania, Spain, Denmark, Austria, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Sweden … but NOT New Zealand

Syngenta convicted in Brazil

Brazil – 19.11.2015:  On October 21st 2007 around 40 gunmen from the NF Segurança company attacked the Via Campesina encampment located at Syngenta’s GMO experimental site at Santa Tereza do Oeste (PR). The site had been occupied earlier that morning by around 150 members of Via Campesina (LVC) and the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST).

With a 19% share of the agrochemical market and the third highest profits from seed sales worldwide Syngenta, along with other transnational companies, exacerbates the scenario of rural violence by imposing a farming model based on monoculture, gross exploitation of farm workers, environmental degradation, use of pesticides and private appropriate of natural and genetic resources.

The case was taken to court in 2010, as an attempt to get a response from the State regarding Syngenta being responsible for the attack perpetrated by private armed militia. The court sentence ruled (17/11/15) that the company must pay compensation for the moral and material damage it caused.

About the Sentence

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_Syngenta_Condenada.pngThe judge found that the fact that took place on Syngenta’s property was nothing less than a massacre. In his sentence the judge states that…

“to refer to what happened as a confrontation is to close one’s eyes to reality, since […] there is no doubt that, in truth, it was a massacre disguised as repossession of property”.

In its defence, Syngenta acknowledged the illegality of the paramilitary action, as well as the ideological nature of the action against Via Campesina and MST. The company stated that…

more than protection of farm properties, it is clear that the militia’s objective was to defend an ideological position contrary to that of the MST [Landless Rural Workers’ Movement], so as to propagate the idea that every action results in a reaction.”

Syngenta’s version; that the attack was not on the orders of landowners, but rather the result of a confrontation between militiamen acting on their own, and members of Via Campesina, was rejected by the Court.