“Globalising Hope” The courageous journey of La Via Campesina

https://www.patreon.com/posts/globalising-hope-99449833

Patron Jules shared this piece with me this morning, and I share it with all of you here, today, with our goal of getting 29 new members of this Patreon Community on Leap Day, February 29th!

Thank you to everyone who is sharing the message, inviting their networks to join them in solidarity, and responding to the urgency of our reality with direct actions today!

We can reach this goal today, as a community!

Reprinted from the OffShoot Newsletter:

Offshoot is a biweekly newsletter dedicated to grappling with the questions about the future of food. If you love it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber and supporting us to continue doing this work. Thanks for your support!

“Collective work cannot succeed in homogeneity —the foundations for a better world lie in the power of plurality; of thought, of cultures, of perspectives.

La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant and social movement, with over 200 million members across the globe, has demonstrated for the past 30 years that unity is key to advancing our collective struggles. For many of you reading this piece, this may be the first time hearing about La Via Campesina. Some of us, who have worked in food-related spaces before, didn’t hear about their work until we joined the team at A Growing Culture. It seems absurd that the largest social movement in the world, after 30 years of ongoing resistance, remains perceived not only as a niche, but also as a group engaged in a distant fight — one that many believe is none of their concern.

Founded in 1993 and at the heart of the food sovereignty movement since, La Via Campesina took shape in a political context where neoliberalism was rapidly expanding across continents, threatening to destabilise and even disappear small-scale agriculture. Regional groups of peasant farmers and rural workers across Europe, and Central and South America came together to denounce the agendas of global institutions like the IMF, WTO, and the World Bank. Their courage and determination gave life to La Via Campesina, a living and evolving act of resistance to the giant wave of private food systems control that aims to crash ashore in every corner of the world. Today, the movement is present in 182 local and national organizations in 81 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, with more than 70 schools and training processes based on popular education, to scale up agroecology at the territorial level.

La Via Campesina is leading the way to a future where toxic-free, nutritious food is a right of all. Where local cultures and traditions determine the foods that grow in our territories. Where farming practices respect and safeguard our ecosystems and planet. A future where farmers have a dignified livelihood, valued for their knowledge and not just their labour. A future where we all take part in defining the boundaries and dynamics of our food systems. A future where food sovereignty is the norm, not the exception.

We were privileged with the opportunity to join the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held in December 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia, where the co-creation of strategies for the future of the movement was embodied in the listening, dialogue, and the sharing of experiences of over 500 delegates.

With the presence and representation of internal groups like the International Women’s and Youth assemblies, the Men Against Patriarchy space, and an extraordinary first International Meeting of Diversities and Supporters days before the official kick-off, diverse perspectives nourished the findings and reflections of the conference. In a week of long-awaited togetherness, new fruits of unity sprouted in the light of hope. Hope for transformative change. Hope for justice. Hope for liberation.

The inspiring journey of La Via Campesina and the valuable learnings we got from their 8th Conference are crucial in a time where multiple crises seem to hit us from all sides. We’ve put together this instalment to shed light on the perspectives, issues, and solutions that peasant farmers across the world are voicing in a struggle that is intergenerational, intersectional, and international.

It’s become common to hear that urban bubbles are growing ever more disconnected from human relationships with the land, but the harsh reality is that even rural communities are being stripped from their cultural roots, their knowledge, their joy, and their pride in working the land. In regions of the world that used to be fertile and abundant with hundreds, even thousands, of foods, the very basis of our nourishment and sustenance has been eroded by the devastating wave of agroindustrial dominance.

This cultural amnesia of the rural world has silently permeated generation after generation, leading to an alarming rate of rural abandonment. While generalising would be unfair to the many young farmers who stand alongside their communities to preserve their heritage and farming practices, it is concerning to think of a future without the youth on the frontlines of food sovereignty.

In their 5th International Youth Assembly Declaration, young members of La Via Campesina broke down the many issues pushing youth away from agricultural aspirations: Limited access to land, escalating violence and worker abuse, forced displacement, the rise of ag-tech and false climate solutions, among others. In response to this dire landscape, the youth actively advocates for integral and popular agrarian reform, public policies for fair access to land, political education, and peasant agroecology.

As the motto of the 8th Conference explains, “In the face of global crises, we build food sovereignty to guarantee a future for humanity.” It is in peasant perspectives and their solutions that we find hope for our present and future.

Despite international treaties proposed as legal avenues for environmental protection and climate change mitigation, the reality on the frontlines of defence against ecological collapse is concerning. The upsurge in threats and violence towards Indigenous and peasant communities has led to at least 1,390 recorded killings since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. According to the most recent Global Witness report, a total of around 1,910 land defenders have been killed between 2012 and 2022.

Thinking of the global peasantry as a group of communities that simply grow and harvest our food reflects a narrow and disjointed view of the world’s vastly interconnected food systems. Their struggle reminds us that peasants not only feed us, but are also a driving force of popular mobilisation. Today, many peasant farmer communities around the world are taking to the streets to push against the corporate control of their food systems, denouncing price spikes and unfair policies, all while resisting state-backed abuse.

Their global uprising is an assertion of rights that extends far beyond agriculture:

Right to work.

Right to housing.

Right to land.

Right to seeds.

Right to culture.

Right to biological diversity.

Right to physical and mental health.

Right to food and food sovereignty.

This struggle is not just theirs — it’s all of ours.

All of the above, and more, are rights comprised in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), the only legal charter acknowledging and uplifting the rights of peasant communities; the adoption of which is becoming increasingly urgent. In La Via Campesina’s action plan for the next four years, implementing UNDROP worldwide is one of the movement’s key priorities. How to do this is a question to be answered in the local contexts and mechanisms of each country, but there is no doubt that cross-regional support between organisations can offer extremely valuable ways of learning and acting.

Hope for a different future was at the centre of the conversation during each of the conference panels and press forums. Under the slogan “Globalise the struggle! Globalise hope!”, multiple speakers stressed the importance of acknowledging the many advances that different communities in the movement have made in the face of current challenges. Hearing about their achievements and the possibility of further victories can offer inspiration for those seeking to overcome pressing issues back home.

We like to think better worlds are not only possible, they already exist. Listening, learning, and building from these pockets of hope can guide us in pushing our own boundaries, transforming visions into reality.

Imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy are systems at the source of the Majority World’s inequality, impoverishment, and over-exploitation. These systems rely on division, othering, and exclusion, bearing enormous responsibility for today’s multiple crises — in which the globalised food system also plays a key role.

Movements across the globe are trying to dismantle different systems of oppression from their unique points of view, and while it is important to identify the umbrellas which we can organise under (food justice, climate justice, gender justice, racial justice), we also face the risk of growing apart from each other and deepening the illusion that our visions are separate. Knowing clearly what it is that we fight against is fundamental. To recognise the commonalities between what we are all organising for is what takes us a step further. This is how solidarity is forged. How boundaries are pushed. How revolutions are born.

There is a certain paradox when it comes to dismantling globalised systems of oppression. Take colonialism and imperialism, for example; confronting them only at the local level is not enough; tackling them only at the global level is not enough. Each region, country, and territory has a unique experience with these systems and, therefore, a just-as-unique way to overcome them. Undermining the power of plurality for community-based solutions can only replicate a globalised colonial mentality across social movements. It limits us to the ways of the monoculture, depleting the groundwork of our movements.

La Via Campesina has a clear sense of the risks and contradictions that uniformity poses to food sovereignty. Its openness to diverse ways of working towards transformative change embodies its embrace of the wisdom and agency of its members. Because food sovereignty is a movement of movements. It is inherently anti-capitalist and decolonial. With land at its core, it connects almost every other struggle. Whether we want to talk about displacement, violence, climate, health, gender, or race, our common connection with land presents valuable opportunities for togetherness.

Whether in the middle of a panel or in between sessions at the conference, chants for a free Palestine and calls for an end to the siege were a constant reminder of the interconnectedness of our liberation. As of February 28, 2024, Israeli forces have killed at least 29,954 people in Gaza, of whom 12,300 were children and 8,400 women. Over 70,325 people are injured, and more than 7,000 remain missing. From the early attacks in Gaza after October 7, farmers have had their lands seized, their crops bombed, and fisherfolk were forced out of the coast with airstrikes deliberately targeting their boats and any infrastructure to support themselves. But the siege has been going on for decades. Since the Nakba in 1948, Palestinians have witnessed the destruction of their livelihoods, their weaponisation of food systems and the expansion of Israel’s settler-colonial project.”

Thank you, all of you, for your support, partnership, and solidarity as we work as a community to create and model solution-oriented alternatives to the waste, excess, and isolation so prevalent in our societies.


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