La Via Campesina
La Via Campesina, also known as the International Peasants Movement, has been around since the 1980s. This group has been able to evolve, grow, and strengthen throughout the course of its history. To be able to bring together so many diverse cultures and have a strong influence across the world La Via Campesina needed to overcome many challenges. There are five phases, identified by Martinez-Torres and Rosset, within this movement that has allowed it to accomplish so much within a relatively short time.
Phase One (1980s-1992): Setting the Stage and the Birth of a Transnational Movement
The Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) shifted away from foreign dependency on imports to a more local production. This period took place after the World Wars through the 1970s in Latin America and other Third World states. This was able to be accomplished by forming political alliances in each country between the capitalist class and the rest of the populations. While the governments within this period wanted to focus more on their own state, they still had mixed feelings about peasant farmers. The state wanted the farmers to feed the urban workers but at a cheap cost, they did this by enforcing cheap food policies. This maintained rural poverty. The farmers were able to organize but by associating with an urban-based political party, this lead to little to no change for the farmers and soon the organizations began to collapse. Soon after new organizations were able to come together and be mostly independent from political parties, the church, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Phase Two (1992-1999): Taking Their Place at the Table
La Via Campesina was officially founded at a conference held in Mons, Belgium in April 1993. Only a few months before the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which included food and agriculture for the first time ( Desmarais & Nicholson 3). The formation of La Via Campesina allowed many smaller organizations a space to gain international and national respect from other social movements and institutions. They also provided a way for these organizations to connect and work together to develop new solutions and concepts, like food sovereignty. During this period La Via Campesina established being a peasant organization and became a prominent anti-globalisation movement by assisting with the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests and Tlaxcala conference.
Phase Three (2000-2003): Taking on a Leadership Role
La Via Campesina’s Third Conference took place in Bangalore, India in September and October 2000. This conference was used to find ways to form alliances with other groups to put pressure on the international institutions destroying peasant agriculture, like World Bank, WTO, and International Monetary Fund (IMF). During this time a gender parity rule of representation which cascaded throughout all levels within LVC came into effect, making it the only transnational rural movement with this rule.
Phase Four (2004-2008): Deepening and Internal Strengthening
La Via Campesina has been able to hold itself on a international level but has realized that its internal organization is lacking. They start to focus on training for members and forming regional secretariats to keep the connections with regional and local engagement. This allows smaller fractions to gain more strength.
Phase Five (2008- Today): Gender, Capitalism, and Transnational Corporations
During the 5th conference, La Via Campesina defined capitalism as the mainsource of the problems that the rural world faces and identified Transnational Corporations (TNCs) as the ultimate enemy of peasant farmers. They launched an anti-TNC campaign and a World campaign focusing on an end to violence against women.
In 1996 at the World Food Summit in Rome La Via Campesina distinguished food security and then followed by introducing the term food sovereignty. According to the Genetic Literacy Project LVC beliefs “poverty and hunger are by food scarcity, but by social injustice.” The definition for food sovereignty coming directly from their website is as follows; “Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” Their definition goes into depth about the benefits of “small scale sustainable production” for both the communities and the environment as well. Food sovereignty allows the prioritization of local food production and its consumption which then gives the “country the right to protect its local producers from cheap imports and to control its production.”
To add to that, LVC supports and combats a variety of different struggles and movements such as climate and environmental justice, patriarchy, capitalism and free trade all while addressing peasants’ rights and the dignity for migrant and waged workers. In contrast to their beliefs, La Via Campesina does not support the use of agricultural chemicals or contract farming because of the damage it causes to the land. Nor do they believe that the Green Revolution has the best interest for peasants. LVC views the Green Revolution and “Borlaug’s legacy as an attempt to push western principles on other countries and peasants.” and their goals do not match LVC’s definition of food sovereignty.
La Via Campesina is one of the biggest social movements around and helps “fight” against a variety of causes (mentioned above) in a diverse matter to say the least. They serve as an “umbrella organization” for their members with the same struggles to come together. That being said La Via Campesina doesn’t directly work on changing or writing new policy their main approach is via social interactions. They focus on leading marches and campaigns to to defend small scale agriculture as well as their many other causes. They’ve specifically campaigned against GMO’s and Monsanto.
Approximately every four years La Via Campesina holds international conferences to fully globalize the movement. During these conferences LVC has accomplished a majority of their big recognitions. At their first conference in Mons, 1993 they fully established themselves then 3 years later in Tlaxcala, Mexico they confirmed their “commitment to the vital goals of [their] people.” This same year they established that LVC delegates should be represented in the World Food Summit. Throughout their quadrennial conferences La Via Campesina declared more and more countries and groups as part of their organization suchlike the International Assembly of Rural Women and even the declaration the First Youth Assembly both in 2004.
In addition it has fully established more movements that they have been involved with such as land reforms in the 2000 conference as well as denounced issues they stand against.
Background and Context
La Via Campesina is an international movement that incorporates millions of people from all over the globe. They do not fight against one specific law or an event; they fight for justice in all aspects whether environmental, social, or political. The movement uses the same model as most organization where members of the organization and people or effected come together to seek justice. In some cases they succeed in making a change, and other cases all they can offer for each other is standing in solidarity and help with needed supplies. For instant, during the Cape Town conference that was held in africa in March 2018, people gathered to help with providing food and water for those homes who do not have access. The conference was a few weeks before Day-Zero when the taps were predicted to run out of water.
Due to the diversity of the background of all members of this organization and the issues being addressed, members needed to find a way to communicate with each other. Luckily many volunteers stepped in for help whenever a conference being held with translation and interpretation. Some of the organizations and issues that La Via Campesina addresses will be discussed in the following sections.
Food is one of the most basic elements of life yet very important to have and when taken away the outcome is very ugly. Hundreds of people are suffering from hunger around the world even though the food wasted globally in the thousands of tons. When capitalist societies take control, money becomes the primary reason for growing food. Therefor, people lose their farm lands and their source of income to those big corporation due to the unequal competition. La Via Campesina is one of many organizations that fight to bring justice and peoples right back and provide resources so they can live independently from corporations. Every country and people are deemed to have the right to establish its own policies concerning its food and agriculture system, as long as those policies do not hurt third countries (Rosset 2008).
Climate and Environmental Justice
We live as a part of an ecosystem and a cycle of life that’s linked together. It is not surprising to trace back most environmental issue to climate change. Many people have lost access to water due to years drought. Climate change has not only affected water resources but also agriculture, weather pattern, animals and plants of all species. Moreover, La Via Campesina has taking a hand into looking for solution to these crises and support affected people all over the globe.
La Via Campesina is one of the main organizations that has been involved and actively demonstrated the relationship between food production and runaway greenhouse gas emissions.
Before the existence of Via Campesina, the only global solidarity linkage that claimed representation of the world’s rural poor was the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, or IFAP. However, unlike Campesina, the IFAP represented the middle and rich class of farmers (Peasant-led agrarian reform, 2011). Now La Via Campesina have hundreds of countries involved in the movements and thousands of people from all over the world. This organization have brought people from different backgrounds, culture, and languages together to fight towards a common goal. Furthermore, La Via Campesina fight fo not only environmental related issues, but also political issues. For instant, the palestinian war that have been going on for about a hundred years. When the issue is too big to be solved within a decent time frame, La Via Campesina members would help by standing in solidarity with those people and help with food, shelters, and give emotional support.
Agroecology and Peasants Seeds
So La Via Campesina is doing is best efforts in bettering the agroecology as worldwide spread as possible by hosting agroecological schools and training programs to help teach all kinds of farmers how to conserve the water and fertilize the soil to the reap the seeds of fruition. However, as much efforts as can be done in this regard, they can only do so much when there is such powerful, external forces such as hurricanes. In the case of the latter, it makes regrowth of the land very difficult because of all the roots and tubers pulled out from the disaster (Campesina Responds to COP23).
Land water and territories
LVC is making efforts of addressing the issue for equal disbursement among farmers through their organization, Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA); however, there is also other organizations that have labeled themselves with very similar sounding names, such as the World Water Council. Furthermore, like Campesina’s FAMA, they also host events, such as the World Water Forum (FMA). Except, unlike Campesina, these said events are used to gather up farmers in an attempt to steal what little water they have (Water is not a Commodity, 2018).
Dignity for migrants and waged workers
Some would expect the dignity of migrant workers within places such as Brazil to be ignored to a certain degree; after all, they are undeveloped countries. So while it is certainly disappointing to hear that they are suffering from the loss of labor rights and more, there are similar struggles going on for other third-worlds. However, what is especially shocking is the fact that places such as Morocco, with all its grandeur, are exposing their citizens, men and women, to treatments that would have been expected centuries ago, such as; forced labor, wages below the minimum guaranteed agricultural salary, overload work days, and the actual ‘loaning’ of these human beings to other businesses. Women are further expected to perform cleaning duties as well (Campesina in Solidarity, 2018).
While Campesina is fighting an incredibly uphill battle, A great way of exemplifying their arduous struggles and the change that La Via Campesina adherently advocates is through several peasants’ rights that were officially adopted as a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants by the United Nations just a little over half a year ago, in September, with the large margin of votes in favor. Furthermore, it also foresees its adoption in 2018 by the member states of the UN (A New Step Forward).
Historical and Socio-Cultural
Campesina is an international movement of poor peasants and small farmers from both the global south and north. Initiated by Central, South and North American peasant and farmers’ movements and European farmers’ groups. It was created partly because of how appalled the peasants were with the WTO’s rules that favored businesses
Room For Improvement
Each movement creates a space for change. This includes changes within the movement of itself, hopefully with opportunity to strengthen the effectivity of the group’s work. La Via Campesina (LVC) brings hundreds of organizations from around the world together to combat global injustices, however, not all organizations follow the mission of La Via Campesina. Working under the umbrella movement of LVC, participant organizations are offered resources and spaces for collective solutions, yet some would still utilize solutions that perpetuate the corruption of capitalistic systems if it was fit to solve the issue on hand. For this reason, education outreach within engaging communities is key to the movement of LVC and continuing stable expansion. Having knowledge of how one specific community’s issues interrelate and effect local and global neighbors is key to understanding the interwoven characteristics of capitalism. Solutions that allow for capitalist systems will undermine the common vision of LVC, and educating organizations acting under the movement will help to promote a truly transformed world.
The advancement in technology is making people more dependent on it. Therefore, when we are seeking information about anything, we can now conduct quick searches on the web. However, in LVC’s case, their platform is not easy to navigate. Our entire group of six found it difficult to find their mission statement and history for more than 10 minutes at a time. With this, it becomes difficult for interested people to become engaged with the global organization when they cannot navigate through the web platform that is supposed to represent the group. It is recommended that they make their tabs more direct.
Another place that has room for improvement are their focuses. Being that LVC is a larger movement, the areas they focus on for creating change are inclusive, yet broad. The issue would be the overwhelm that prospecting activists may feel. Prospecting activists may feel overwhelmed, tied, and other feelings from having many angles to combat global issues. Additionally, because it is a network for smaller organizations, prospecting activists may have many organizations to choose from, picking the right one may take a lot of research time. We do not foresee LVC narrowing their focuses or cutting their network however, we recommend the use of transparency. For example, are their standards that organizations must pass before joining the LVC network? How would activists know that these organizations are against the capitalist system?
In conclusion, La Via Campesina is at the forefront of the Peasants Movement. They facilitate spaces and provide a voice for peasants that are losing hope every day. Additionally, they provide spaces around the world for leaders of organizations that are both big and small to come together with common issues. La Via Campesina understands the intersectionality that exists within the key issues that their organization focuses on, and work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate these issues. How we shape and are shaped by the world will affect future unfoldings, as we presently are affected by the past. La Via Campesina sets a really great example for their network of organizations and for the world of what principles we need to nourish and grow. It is hoped that others use this intersectional lens in every decision made and with other issues in our world.
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