Voices from the field

Latin America and Caribbean – Alianza

The nights are sacred for the gatherings of my Kuna people in Panama. There, we nourish ourselves with oral history, with the struggles for self-determination of other peoples. There, we embrace the universe, and organize ourselves in the defence of Mother Earth. Nyéléni is the Peoples’ Assembly for Food Sovereignty, where we share global struggles, feed ourselves with the strength of the people and the embrace of our sisters and brothers from other continents. For over 500 years the problems have remained the same. The struggle for life, water, territory, have other names and other forms, but continue to be the same problems that each generation must face with new strategies and tactics. The Nyéléni process is an opportunity for coordination between diverse organizations focused on the defence of Mother Earth and the Food Sovereignty of the peoples. Now, it is extremely important to weave alliances and organizational work in the face of the threat of megaprojects and extractive projects, as well as to define strategies to overcome the impacts of COVID 19.

As with every starry night, with or without the moon, with the sea choppy and storms approaching, the Kuna communities discuss how to solve social, cultural or spiritual problems in the same way that the Nyéléni process is a moment in time to gather the peoples of the world, to sing, to dance, to dream, to understand that we are part of Mother Earth, of Grandmother Sea, of Grandfather Sun and they call us from their shells to start a conversation around the fire, between social movements and Indigenous Peoples, to organize ourselves in the defence of Mother Earth.

Europe and Central Asia – Nyéléni ECA

Our world, including Europe and Central Asia, is undergoing a series of inter-related crises: armed conflicts and civil unrest associated with humanitarian crisis caused by war and political instability in many parts of our region. It is an economic crisis that manifests itself in food and energy price increases, and increased vulnerabilities related to loss of employment, access to healthy affordable food, the on-going COVID 19 pandemic, and the on-going climate crisis. The latest crisis is the war in Ukraine, which affects both people and the land, and impacts food security policies in the region and beyond. This crisis has shown us the level of local communities’ resilience and the importance of local food systems and of the central role of the Nyéléni space, allowing different constituencies to come together in solidarity and to work on policies related to our struggles.

Just like Nyéléni, the legendary Malian peasant woman who farmed and fed her people, small-scale food producers (farmers and fishers alike) in Ukraine, courageously struggle to continue feeding local populations in times of war, including the recent destruction of the national seed bank. But little is written about this, nor is much support provided to them.

The war also contributes to the aggravation of longer-term issues such as climate change. The majority of women and children in several regions are either internally displaced or have sought refuge in European countries. While in Russia, Indigenous Peoples and human rights defenders continue to be repressed.

The Nyéléni process implies a duality of influencing public policies at all levels and independent social movement-building. Social movements of the various constituencies are brought together through this work in intersectional support. The process also includes a broader, more intersectional, and much-needed approach to address the deep multiple crises of economic, social, and environmental issues around the world.

IPC African region

As the national government and private sector continue tightening the space for the family farmer to produce what they eat and eat what they produce by the introduction of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, this destroys the environment. The Nyéléni processes support the promotion of agroecological approaches which encourages socially acceptable, economically viable, and environmentally friendly production while also protecting the natural environment. This approach ensures the promotion and protection of biodiversity conservation. The process further discourages the corporate powers that prevent our family accessing territorial markets with their cheap food and food that puts our health at risk and damages the environment. food sovereignty cannot be obtained where food, land, seeds, fish and livestock are in the hands of corporate control.

The Nyéléni process helps to prevent the privatisation and commodification of native seeds from the introduction and use of new and old GMOs in our farming and food system. We are continuing to face land grabbing by corporate powers, corporate capture of our territorial markets, and challenges created by climate change and other external factors such as COVID 19 and other conflicts.

We believe that the Nyéléni process can support the social movements on the ground in strengthening and promoting collaboration and participation in regional policy dialogues where changes in national public policies happen. The stimulation of movements and the intersectionality of struggles can help in promoting land justice, agroecology, and territorial markets. Together we can enhance advocacy on land, seeds, and water for small-scale food producers.

IPC MENA Region

In the North African region, food sovereignty is commonly understood as a tool for democratisation that can provide major support to rural populations in order to include demands relating to the various threats identified. In this case, water contamination, privatisation of rural land, and the commodification of our food. In contrast, in the Middle East region, food sovereignty is seen more from a political perspective, particularly because of the people’s aspirations for the liberation of occupied and/or semi-occupied territories. The new context today calls, more than ever, for a synergy between the discourse and practice of food sovereignty in order to implement the principles in the daily work of the actors involved in the production, distribution and consumption of food.

It should be noted that the past Nyéléni meetings presented a strategic vision for achieving food sovereignty that recognises the contribution of women to peasant agriculture, yet these documents do not take into consideration the issue of gender relations.

On the other hand, food sovereignty must be understood as a multifaceted political project in constant evolution, whose substance is highly likely to vary according to the type of collective actors who claim it. In this sense, the Nyéléni process can support social movements in the MENA region to strengthen the convergence among movements of different constituencies. This is key to ensuring the development of the capacities of the social movements via the capacity building of the movements’ youth and leaders around food sovereignty.

IPC Asia and Pacific

Asia and the Pacific, home to 60% of the world’s population, is faced with a multitude of challenges in terms of food sovereignty.

All around the world, over 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers and artisanal fisherfolk grow, collect, and harvest food for human consumption. Such localised food systems provide the foundations of our nutrition, incomes, economies, and culture throughout Asia and in the world.

The COVID 19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing challenges to food security such as climate change impacts, disaster risks, shrinking natural resources and degrading environments, use of GMOs, changing demographics and labour profiles, and infrastructure deficits, among others. In the context of growing populations, increasing urbanization, and changes in the food value chain and food industry, the food sovereignty debate is quite crucial.

Local people’s loss of capacity for autonomy and self-determination is a direct consequence of the expansion of the industrial, heteronomous model of development rooted in commodity production. We as IPC need to collectively assert and advance the principles and policies that constitute food sovereignty and reject those that aim to further embed corporate interests in our food systems.

The notion of ‘food sovereignty’ is perhaps best understood as a transformative process that seeks to recreate the democratic realm and regenerate a diversity of autonomous food systems based on equity, social justice, and ecological sustainability.

Gender equity and respecting the voices of the very poor and marginalised remain urgent challenges for the food sovereignty movement and civil society at large. The Nyéléni process can strengthen the organizations of women, men and young people, Indigenous Peoples, farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, migrants, rural workers, fisherfolk and others.

IPC North American region

On April 5 and 12, 2022 the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) organized two online consultations for the North America region (United States and Canada) as part of the Nyéléni process. The dialogues brought together a diverse range of small-scale food producers, rural worker organizations, Indigenous and Native Peoples, scholar-activists, and civil society organizations to discuss the future of the food sovereignty movement and build common priorities for navigating the inter-related food system crises in the region.

Over the past two years, COVID 19 has laid bare the fragility of concentrated corporate food value-chains in North America, with farmers forced to dump milk and destroy crops, workers falling sick due to lack of protective equipment and corporate collusion, and rising food insecurity in marginalized communities. These challenges, coupled with mobilizations against racial injustice and the impacts of the climate crisis on rural communities, have shaped new opportunities for farmer-worker solidarity and union organizing, greater awareness and investment in resilient local food systems, and policy action on equity and justice in agriculture. In this context consultation participants emphasized anti-capitalist, racially just, anti-imperialist, and radically feminist approaches to organizing around land access, dismantling corporate monopolies, advancing agroecology, the right to food, and strengthening indigenous sovereignty.

Since the first forum in Mali in 2007, the political declarations and relationships that have emerged from Nyéléni have shaped the direction and strength of the food sovereignty movement in North America and solidarity actions beyond the region. As this collective work continues, the Nyéléni process provides a dynamic forum for building rural power within and across our communities as we advance the principles of food sovereignty in our local food systems and international policy spaces.

Boxes

Box 1

The Right to Food Sovereignty

The International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Sélingué, Mali in February 2007 was the beginning of the Nyéléni journey to build a global movement for food sovereignty. The concept of food sovereignty was introduced by La Via Campesina (LVC) in the 1996 International Food Summit a year after the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with its infamous agreements on agriculture, intellectual property rights, industrial policy, standards, and investment. Social movements, unions, activists, and academics knew that “food security” and “development” were smokescreens to camouflage the expansion of corporate power that WTO rules were designed for.  The call for food sovereignty was thus, as much a rejection of corporate, market domination of food, agriculture, and the economy, as it was a rallying cry for people all over the world to reclaim agency, autonomy and capacity to build a paradigm of progress centred on human rights, justice and respect for the planet.

As the concept gained support from a wide array of actors including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, LVC joined hands with other social movements and civil society actors to convene an autonomous and international forum to elaborate on food sovereignty for different constituencies and regions, based on diverse, lived experiences and contexts.

The first Nyéléni forum brought together more than 500 representatives from over 80 countries and numerous constituencies to share knowledge and discuss the multiple dimensions of food sovereignty, from land and water to seeds, breeding, and labour, recognizing the central role of women. These deliberations are summarised in the Declaration of Nyéléni and the Women’s Declaration on Food Sovereignty. At Nyéléni in 2007, we started to construct a new right: the right to food sovereignty.

Box 2

Global alliance against land-grabbing

In November 2011, we, peasants, pastoralists, Indigenous peoples and their allies gathered together in Nyéléni to share our experiences and struggles against land-grabbing with each other. We came to Nyéléni in response to the Dakar Appeal, which calls for a global alliance against land-grabbing for we are determined to defend food sovereignty, the commons and the rights of small scale food providers to natural resources.

In this meeting, we clearly identified that land-grabbing is a global phenomenon led by local, national, and transnational elites and investors, and governments with the aim of controlling the world’s most precious resources. The global financial, food, and climate crises have triggered a rush among investors and wealthy governments to acquire and capture land and natural resources, since these are the only “safe havens” left that guarantee secure financial returns. Pensions and other investment funds have become powerful actors in land-grabbing, while wars continue to be waged to seize control over natural wealth.

Land-grabbing goes beyond traditional North-South imperialist structures; transnational corporations can be based anywhere in the world. It is also a crisis in both rural and urban areas. Land is being grabbed in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe for industrial agriculture, forest plantations, mining, infrastructure projects, dams, tourism, conservation parks, industry, urban expansion, and military purposes.

But we are not defeated. Through organisation, mobilisation, and community cohesiveness, we have been able to stop land-grabbing in many places. Furthermore, our societies are recognising that small-scale food production is the most socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable model of using resources and ensuring the right to food for all.

Recalling the Dakar Appeal, we reiterate our commitment to resist land-grabbing by all means possible, to support all those who fight land-grabs, and to put pressure on national governments and international institutions to fulfil their obligations to ensure and uphold the rights of peoples.

Box 3

International forum for agroecology – Nyéléni 2015

At the end of February 2015, organisations and social movements of small-scale food producers, workers, women, Indigenous Peoples, consumers, environmentalists, and human rights organisations met at the Nyéléni Forum to agree on a common multi-sectoral vision on agroecology and strategies to defend and promote it.

Agroecology, it was agreed, is a way of life, a way of producing food, a science, and a movement to transform food systems for food sovereignty and social, racial, gender, economic, intergenerational, and environmental justice. It is based on similar principles that are implemented in diverse ways across a wide diversity of territories.

It was also agreed that the fundamental pillars of agroecology are: solidarity; local territories and the right of peoples and communities to preserve the spiritual and material links to them; collective rights and access to the commons; organisation and collective action; and the different knowledge and ways of knowing of our peoples, and the Dialogue of knowledge (Diálogo de saberes) as a way to develop, innovate and research.

The forum made it clear that agroecology seeks to transform power structures in society, so that the people control seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, water, knowledge, culture, and other common goods, and ensure a collective way forward to overcome crises.

The forum is a central milestone of the movement, and its agreements are a driving force for the broadening of alliances for the promotion and defence of agroecology and food sovereignty. Read more here.

In the spotlight

In the spotlight 1

The current political conjuncture: why do we need a new Nyéléni Global Forum?

In the last two decades, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) has assiduously worked alongside the communities of small-scale food producers, Indigenous Peoples, consumers, and citizens, guaranteeing the rights of those who produce and those who are marginalised. Today, the landmark results achieved by the IPC risk being overshadowed by a complex collision of several deep-rooted crises and the resulting shift in the geopolitical landscape which threatens the principles and values that the IPC has always defended and put forth in the quest for food sovereignty.

The COVID 19 pandemic has shone a light on the connections between different global justice struggles. It has exacerbated existing inequalities and reinforced power imbalances to the extent that many countries tumbled into a deep social and economic crisis where the most vulnerable suffer the most. The voices of those communities calling for systemic change, based on the existing experiences of agroecology and peasant family farming, which are feeding the vast majority of the world, need to be strengthened in a global alliance with social movements and Indigenous Peoples to address this urgent issue so that it is not eclipsed by the immediate issue of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Against this backdrop, the IPC is organising a new process for the purpose of discussion, not only within the movements struggling for Food Sovereignty, but with a whole new range of movements from different sectors. This new Nyéléni process aims at building responses at the global, regional and local level and tightening alliances with other movements that share the IPC’s vision and struggles, but which come from other fields: labour justice, climate justice, women’s struggles, for example. The process, in which intersectionality is a key aspect, collects the different but overlapping local struggles from the ground and takes them to the global level and will allow the participation of different movements at different levels.

If intersectionality is one innovative aspect in the process of Nyéléni, the second defining aspect is the focus on the process itself instead of only on the final Global Forum: it strives to build an entire process that brings with it all the power of the grassroots movements. As an initial phase of the process, IPC’s regions, working groups, and global organisations will undertake an exercise of internal consultation to reflect on, deepen, and widen the principles and concepts of food sovereignty into the new reality. The outcomes of these consultations will form the backbone of the Nyéléni process. Simultaneously, new alliances will be sought with social movements working on different issues: climate and labour justice, feminist movements, Indigenous Peoples movements, Black movements, and anti-war movements, to create an intersectional convergence towards joint proposals for systemic change.

Ultimately, the Nyéléni process will culminate in the Global Nyéléni Forum, in which hundreds of delegates from all over the world will discuss strategies and solutions for more just, inclusive, sustainable, and diverse food systems, and will relaunch a global alliance that is capable of counteracting the forces that are pushing the world into a deeper, multidimensional crisis.

In the spotlight 2

Nyéléni: territory, process, and methodology

The International Forum for Food Sovereignty: Nyéléni 2007 (see box 1) was the result of a long regional and international process of cross-sectoral political accumulation. It was a milestone that provided us with principles, a political framework, methodologies, and an agenda of initiatives to continue advancing food sovereignty and the defence of territories and peoples’ rights. Nyéléni was also home to two other important international processes on this journey: in 2011, to coordinate resistance to land grabbing (see box 2) and in 2015, to build a common multi-sectoral vision on agroecology and agree on strategies to defend and promote it (see box 3).

Nyéléni is the territory and platform for our multi-sectoral convergence process, which has allowed us to deepen our analysis and positions, make struggles visible and resist their criminalisation, strengthen solidarity links, build cross-sectoral agreements, and agree on initiatives to transform food systems and our societies. It is a common programme of local, regional, and global struggles built on the experiences and knowledge of social movements and organisations.

It is a process whose objective has always been to accumulate forces to strengthen the popular mobilisation of resistance to colonial, patriarchal, imperialist, and racist capitalism, its false solutions and all its forms of exploitation, oppression, and commodification of life, but also in defence of the commons, the sovereignty, rights, and self-determination of peoples and social, racial, gender, economic, intergenerational, and environmental justice.

Our methodology has a founding principle in Internationalist Solidarity on which to implement Dialogue of knowledge (Diálogos de saberes) that, based on the heritage, patrimony and diversity of peoples, cultures, and struggles, builds unity in action, while strengthening territorial organisational processes, since without strong and coordinated organisations, from the local to the global, there will not be sufficient resistance to the power of capital and conservative forces, nor systemic transformations.

These 15 years have been instrumental in raising the visibility of food sovereignty, agroecology, and integral agrarian reform, among others, in international, regional, and local political spaces and institutions, and have motivated various levels of government to implement our agenda. They have also been central in unmasking and denouncing attempts at corporate co-optation of our solutions and have made food sovereignty a political objective of various movements (feminist, climate justice, social justice, among others).

However, in order to dismantle the power of agribusiness and provide a global response to the rise of right-wing conservative forces, it is necessary to converge with peoples facing different forms of oppression, and with them to agree on programmes and strategies for social, racial, gender, economic, intergenerational, and environmental justice.

The Nyéléni process has given the food sovereignty movement the commitment to be a key driver in building a broader social front with the feminist, LGBTQI+, trade union, anti-racist, class-based oppression resistance and anti-colonialist movements.

In the spotlight 3

Join the Nyéléni process towards a new Nyéléni Global Forum of Food Sovereignty!

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) is the world’s largest alliance of small-scale food producers, including peasants, artisanal fishers, pastoralists and herders, nomads, Indigenous peoples and organizations, forest dwellers, landless people, urban producers, and rural workers.

The food sovereignty movement has been a dynamic part of the process of transformation and finding solutions; since its emergence as a global platform for the interaction of social movements of small-scale food producers and Indigenous Peoples, it has empowered the struggle of people for their human right to food, against dispossession and land grabbing, has managed to influence several international processes and has given a voice to people for the radical transformation of food systems, such as the historic 2007 Nyéléni Forum for Food Sovereignty.

Today, we face overlapping and deep-seated crises: economic, social, democratic, environmental, health, patriarchal and racist.

The COVID 19 pandemic is turning into a profound social and economic crisis in which the most vulnerable will again be the hardest hit: lacking access to healthcare, losing their jobs and income. A major food crisis is also looming in many regions, as people will not be able to afford food.

The current wars have become an opportunity for large corporations, through speculation, to increase the prices of input for food production; transnational corporations (TNCs) are increasingly influencing international institutions, including UN bodies and agencies, in order to receive favourable public policies and regulations. Through the direct influence of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other high-level (non-governmental) spaces in political processes, corporations have managed to slowly transform the governance principles and practices of UN institutions such as the FAO, as well as the approval of natural “protected areas” under the pretext of biodiversity protection, to continue with the dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ territories and natural resources and assets.

Faced with this situation, the IPC proposes to build a space for exchange and convergence among social movements across sectors, since it is imperative, in the current circumstances, to advance in the struggle by strengthening alliances with other global movements. This favours the development of collective strategies, the solidarity economy, protection of Indigenous knowledge and genetic resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation, individual and collective human rights and mutual support action to advance our vision of food sovereignty as a pillar of structural change and push back global capital.

Therefore, we encourage all our peoples, movements, organizations, collectives, and working groups to promote local and regional processes to engage in this new stage of the struggle for a just, resilient, and united world. This is the main goal of the upcoming Nyéléni Global Forum of Food Sovereignty.

Newsletter no 48 – Editorial

Nyéléni process: Towards a Global Forum of Food Sovereignty

Illustration: Rosanna Morris

Under the eye of Nyéléni, an African woman who defied discriminatory regulations and burned with creativity and agricultural progress, we will find the energy to transform the right to food sovereignty into a beacon for the construction of another world. (Women’s declaration on food sovereignty)

As the world lurches from one crisis to another, Nyéléni symbolizes the convergence of our struggles and commitments to build a world free of greed, hunger, exploitation, extractivism, misogyny, racism, discrimination, and violence. Since 2007, Nyéléni has been a space where we meet in order to build collective strategies to advance food sovereignty, rights to land and territories, agroecology, and the rights of all small-scale food providers. Our articulations have given us the strength to organize against capitalism, neoliberalism, corporate power, patriarchy, and ecocide.

Through the Nyéléni meetings in 2007, 2011 and 2015, the food sovereignty movement created the basis for our future position in many global negotiations. These events and the concepts born therein led to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, and the implementation of Farmers’ Rights in the context of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

But in the present global context, the food sovereignty movement cannot make it alone. To dismantle agribusiness and corporate power, as well as provide comprehensive responses to persisting systemic crises and the rise of conservative right-wing forces, we need to converge with peoples’ organisations facing different forms of oppression and threats. Collectively, we can propose true alternatives for all and advance social, gender, racial, economic, intergenerational, and environmental justice. The Nyéléni meetings are thus essential for building principles, concepts and strategies shared and reinforced by many movements across different sectors, while defending the most vulnerable at local levels.

IPC for Food Sovereignty, Focus on the Global South, Friends of the Earth International, Crocevia and FIAN

Voices from the field

Voice from the field 1

Reflection from a young fisher

Tylon Joseph, Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organizations (CNFO), Grenada

I am a young fisherman and fisherfolk leader from the community of Gouyave, the fishing capital of a Caribbean Island called Grenada. I have been fishing ever since I was a child, casting lines from the shore and our local jetty: catching Scad (or as we locally call it jacks), other Carangidae species and small finfish in general. My father is a fisherman by profession. I learnt a lot of what I know about fishing from him and being in that environment. I have truly learnt to appreciate my innate understanding of the marine environment, which stemmed from being a fisherman while pursuing a marine and wildlife conversation biology degree at St George’s University. Being a fisherman is what primarily pays for my tuition to attend school. Initially, I never thought about going to university; after I spent around 5 years fishing for a living, I realized that my country started to regress rapidly despite industry development. There is little to no government systems and staff in place to help the industry move forward nor are fishers involved in the big policy decisions and the local exporters who I sell to started taking more and more advantage of our fishers. I then decided that if I want to build a home and to be able to provide for my future family, then I had to branch out into another field and I choose one close to fish and fishing.

Voice from the field 2

Struggles of Small-Scale Fishers. A perspective from a Brazilian small-scale fisherwoman

Josana Pinto da Costa, Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais do Brasil (MPP), WFFP

I am a fisherwoman and I live in the Amador community in the municipality of Óbidos in the state of Pará. I speak from the perspective of a small-scale fisherwoman. I have witnessed losses in our territories and the main threats are the expansion of agribusiness, hydro-business, and mining, as well as the privatization of our waters. As a way to solve this type of problem, we small-scale fisher people have organised collectively as Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais do Brasil (MPP). We have also joined the World Forum of Fishers Peoples (WFFP) and I currently serve on its coordinating committee. In both MPP and WFFP, we have embraced the challenge to launch the ocean grabbing peoples’ tribunal in 2021. We recognize it as one of the main tools of information and education in the struggle against capitalism in our waters. The relevance of the tribunal must be recognized by all, galvanizing our social struggles and the preservation of the environment. Our aim is to always have free lands and wholesome food.

Voice from the field 3

A view from a non-fisher on small-scale fishers

Ravindu Gunaratne, Sri Lanka

I live in a village where most of my neighbours and friends make a living from fishing, but I am not involved in fishing. I come from a middle-class family and go to university. As I see it, small-scale fisheries are diverse, dynamic, and attached to the livelihoods and culture of the local communities. I’m an advocate for small-scale fisheries and support fishers for their betterment. The fishing industry contributes to less than 2% of the country’s gross domestic product, but small-scale fishing is of great importance for providing food on the table, and also for social functions such as providing work in rural areas. The majority of small-scale fisheries in Sri Lanka are traditional fisheries. I am a person who associates with small-scale fishers and understands the sector as I live in a fishing village. When it comes to the youth, I see how they struggle with both poverty and unawareness. Small scale fishing is eco-friendly, but there is a huge threat with garbage and plastic wastes near the shore. I’m working with the youth to promote environmental well-being and to make others understand that small-scale fishers do less harm to the sea and the environment because of their use of more nature-friendly fishing practices. When it comes to the challenges faced by the fishing community, I think of resource depletion, poor economic performance, food and nutritional insecurity and social and cultural stress among defenceless people. Small-scale fishing is a sustainable oriented livelihood occupation. I have noticed while working with SSF community that small scale fisheries have received relatively little attention or support from our government. It is contended that both the assessment and management of small scale fisheries increased effort in understanding and developing processes, mechanisms and methods that are more attuned to the issues faced by small scale fisheries. Promotion of the small-scale fishery is very important based on the principles of social, climate and economic justice, which empowers our fishing villages. All of these justices are part of food sovereignty. I stand for food sovereignty!

Boxes

Box 1

Climate change and the Ocean- are Marine Protected Areas a just solution to the climate crisis for fishing communities?

Coastal fishing communities are among the most vulnerable groups globally, bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and changing climate conditions which alter the ocean and marine resources. However, in the decision-making processes and discussions on impacts and solutions for the oceans, the voices and experiences of small-scale fishers and their communities are largely absent, with little regard for the possibility of any pre-existing system of customary law or customary fishing rights to govern, manage, and conserve the resources.

The COP26 negotiations of November 2021 illustrated the lack of inclusion of the voices of marginal communities. The same false solutions to the climate crisis that have been punted in the past in order to help countries meet their Nationally Determined Contributions and achieve a 1.5°C future were adopted. One such solution is that of the push for carbon markets as a technical and financial solution to achieve net-zero emissions. Although COP26 has attempted to close some of the loopholes of the carbon market, such as double counting emissions, through the development of a rulebook, the voluntary market is still uncontrolled and resembles greenwashing, with no real results and rather shifting CO2 credits from one side of the world to the other. The offsetting of carbon credits through the carbon market is a simplistic solution to a complex issue, allowing developed nations and the big polluters to continue emitting carbon, and further impacting vulnerable communities, without any benefit for the environment.

In the ocean space, the financing and expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is considered a form of carbon offsetting and gaining carbon credits (“Blue Carbons”). Environmental NGOs and large industries and corporations are pushing this narrative as a solution to the climate impacts on the oceans. However, MPAs lead to ocean grabbing and the marginalization of fishing communities, as small-scale fishers are excluded and denied access from traditional fishing grounds and criminalized for undertaking customary and traditional livelihood activities for the sake of conservation and biodiversity protection. The democratic participation of small-scale fishers in decision-making processes relating to marine protection should be promoted in line with the principles Food Sovereignty as well as the concept of Other Effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECMs), including preferential areas of access for small-scale fishers. OECMs are a conservation designation for areas that are achieving the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside of protected areas.

A just and real solution to the climate crisis in the marine environment must involve and prioritize the voice of small-scale fishing communities in decision-making processes in working towards achieving both social development and environmental protection. Fishing communities need to actively take part in the governance, management, and conservation of coastal and marine resources. This inclusion could result in the improved resilience to climate change-related risks for vulnerable coastal communities, improved governance, management, and protection of MPAs and OECMs, as well as improved livelihood conditions and food sovereignty.

Box 2

Masifundise and its work with small-scale fishing communities

Masifundise works with small-scale fishing communities in South Africa, which are amongst the poorest and most marginalised groups in the country. These communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change despite the fact that the sector’s contribution to carbon emissions is insignificant (in comparison with tourism, industrial fishing, etc.). The country’s complex history of colonial and racially-based spatial planning and conservation has shaped current conservation efforts, resulting in conflict between traditional communities and conservation authorities, as well as the undermining of human rights, customary livelihood practices, and access rights. In the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity, the prioritization and support of indigenous fishing communities is almost non-existent, as the emphasis is on conservation rather than human rights. Of 231 coastal fishing communities, 60 are located within or adjacent to MPAs. South Africa’s Small-scale Fisheries Policy (2012), which was developed hand-in-hand with small-scale fishers, has the primary goal of introducing “fundamental shifts in Government’s approach to the small-scale fisheries sectors” with an emphasis on “community-based co-management” and a “community-based system of [fishing] rights allocation”. However, in areas within and adjacent to MPAs, the policy implementation is not in line with its objectives and principles, co-management is ignored, and community-based fishing rights are yet to be recognised by conservation authorities. Small-scale fishers in the Dwesa Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape, have expressed that they “do not have access to fish and collect wood and reeds to secure livelihoods”, despite ongoing attempts to engage directly with the Reserve authorities as well as other stakeholders to find solutions. Since 2010, four recognised small-scale fishers have been shot and killed within MPAs, and in November 2021 alone, park rangers in the Isimangaliso World Heritage site, KwaZulu Natal, shot at four fishers. The South African case highlights the lack of inclusion of the voice and experiences of coastal communities in the journey towards the protection of marine resources.

Box 3

Small-scale fishers rising with the ocean

Two years of the pandemic have pushed fishing communities further to the fringes of society: Fishers are struggling to make ends meet, while all the ‘usual’ problems remain or have worsened. We are witnessing the culmination of political marginalisation of fisher movements, evident from the countless plans and policies being rolled out at national to international levels without any meaningful participation of fisher peoples and their allies. The new catch of the day is “multistakeholder” initiatives (MSIs) used by powerful elites such as transnational corporations and many environmental conservation organisations to work hand-in-hand with our governments. The High Ambition Coalition is one such MSI set up to eliminate human activity within 30% of the planet’s surface, and hence, accelerate the problems mentioned in the article on Box 1.

Another example of a multistakeholder process is the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, orchestrated by the UN together with the World Economic Forum and a wide range of corporations and organisations. Aquaculture, in a new ‘Blue Food’ disguise, was presented as a solution to the multiple crises. The High Level Panel on a Sustainable Ocean Economy, launched by the conservative Norwegian prime minister in 2017, is yet another multistakeholder space. This panel also promotes aquaculture as the solution to food insecurity and argues that the ocean economy is a triple win (good for nature, for the economy and people). These spaces and processes, amongst others, all contribute to the shaping of the agenda of the UN Ocean Conference that will be held in Lisbon in June 2022. Fisher movements, on the other hand, have not had a chance to influence the agenda.

In response to the deepening crisis affecting all small-scale food producers and other working people, several fisher movements and allies are embarking on a different strategy. Following the path-breaking peoples’ tribunals on the ocean economy held in five Asian countries in 2020/2021, movements from around the world are stepping up in collecting testimonies and conducting more peoples’ tribunals on ocean and fisheries issues to highlight the plight of fishers and hold responsible actors accountable. The IYAFA can serve as the key moment.

Box 4

Ocean grabbing: a political narrative for small-scale fishers

In 2012, the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and allies embarked on a path-breaking attempt to discuss ocean grabbing, raise consciousness, and build global resistance against the ever-increasing expropriation of fisher communities and destruction of nature. The outcome produced in a report also predicted the rise and the threat of the blue economy paradigm. Since then, this ‘emerging mantra’ has captured almost all spaces and institutions that address the ocean: countless ‘blue’ conferences, and numerous governments, NGOs, and academic institutions are actively facilitating the growth of the ‘blue’ paradigms. The pandemic also provided an opportunity for these actors and the corporate world to ‘seize the moment’ and entrench the blue narrative through new legislations with no democratic process. The global blue spaces such as the UN Ocean Conference in 2022 have also been ‘captured’, while the recognition and the representation of small-scale fishers and fisher workers remain largely ignored, or outright excluded.

According to Naseegh Jaffer, former WFFP General Secretary, “the conversations on the ocean have been co-opted by others. Governments and corporates are using a blue ‘ocean’ language that is now dominating. Many spaces where the fisher movements managed to articulate their interpretations have been taken over by others. FAO is inviting entities who are less struggle-oriented and more theoretical and academic to be the voice of the movements, while the representation of the movements is becoming suppressed”. Nadine Nembhard, WFFP General Secretary, encouraged that “this is the moment for us to revitalise ocean grabbing as a narrative. We are in IYAFA and also in the year leading up to our next general assembly. That is a good moment to bring conversations on ocean grabbing to life”.

In India, ocean grabbing is the narrative used by fisher movements in their resistance and in demanding redress for human rights violations and restoration of nature and territories. As Jones Spartagus, the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) puts, “Ocean grabbing should be placed at the centre of the Peoples Tribunals. Through People’s Tribunals we can bring back our language to assert our fisher people’s sovereignty”.

In the spotlight

Should we speak of overfishing?

Over the last 20-30 years, the vast majority of debates around marine fisheries have hovered around Overfishing, especially commentaries from the Global North. The World Bank and FAO’s Sunken Billions report in 2008 emphasised that the oceans are globally overexploited, to justify the increased adoption of State-led Fisheries Management Systems at international, regional, and national levels as part of fisheries reforms towards sustainability. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 demands ending Overfishing due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing with science-based fisheries management, as well as reducing fisheries subsidies. The World Trade Organisation has furthered this at the fisheries negotiations to cut down fisheries subsidies, as the most blatant use of environmental arguments to secure markets for western seafood companies. Thus, the notion of Overfishing and the need for Fisheries Reform constitute a globally dominant notion that traditional fishing communities are having to confront.

The problem does not lie with traditional small-scale fisheries (SSF), but entirely from Industrial fishing, and the commodification of fish. Big Capital created extensive supply and value chains for seafood in western countries which fuelled the intensification of technology and targeted mono-species exploitation such as tuna liners, shrimp trawlers, etc. The overfishing arguments rely heavily on fish stock assessments and Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) models that historically evolved in water and forest resource management[1], with questionable relevance for fisheries. This usage of MSY to restrict fishing activity also originates from the US to ensure their control of the Pacific oceanic fisheries as opposed to Japanese fleets[2] during the post-World War II era. This shows the historical geopolitical background of the overlapping discourse of Overfishing and Fisheries Reforms.

In India, the historical trend of fisheries policies from the 1970s has been to expand and exploit fisheries resources beyond 12 nautical miles (Nm) (termed Deepsea fisheries) in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)[3], for export earnings and foreign exchange, which was promoted as Fisheries Development and Modernisation. Fishing vessels were imported, joint ventures of Indian and multinational corporates were encouraged in the 70s, foreign vessels were given direct fishing licences to fish in India’s EEZ in the 80s, which was further deregulated after the 1991 neoliberal economic reforms. Led by the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), India witnessed massive protests from fishing communities against these policies, and the government had to withdraw the licencing policy in 1994. It is from 2004 onwards that Indian policies began using explicit environmental language, invoking a need for conservation of fishery resources, and resumed promotion of deepsea fisheries technology touted as “sustainable development”, while advocating for fisheries reforms. The World Bank document of 2011 titled Transitions for Sustainable Development in Indian Marine Fisheries laid out a neat timeline for the rollout of ‘fisheries reforms’ in phases. For the last decade, the union government has argued that seas up to 12 Nm are overfished, with too many fisher conflicts, and promotes capital intensive deepsea fisheries (beyond 12 Nm) as the way out. It has launched deepsea fisheries schemes including subsidised mechanised longlining and gillnet vessels, specifically targeting tuna species, costing over INR. 1 crore ($140,000). The government invites private capital to invest in mid-sea mother vessels, onshore seafood processing plants, as well as in direct-to-home online retail through start-ups funded by venture capitalists. Public funds have been invested in supporting infrastructure such as a network of deepsea fishing harbours, Seafood Parks, etc in all coastal states. The production based-policy initiatives India embarked on in the 1950s onwards with marine shrimp as its focus commodity, is being repeated with tuna in this Blue Economy era. It’s a case of history repeating itself as a tragedy and a farce.

Under India’s constitution, fisheries are listed as a state subject, falling under the provincial government. In the last decade, several coastal states have amended their respective state-based Marine Fisheries Regulation Acts. The Union government has also attempted to pass legislation to govern marine fisheries in India’s EEZ, the latest of which was the Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021 during the Covid lockdown. This was opposed by the NFF and the fishing community at large. These have brought in a governance system of boat registrations, fisheries licences with strict rules, and vast powers to officials in charge of implementing regulations. Taken together, these are an attack on the unrecognised customary governance institutions, as well as an attack on the constitutional separation of powers between the Union and state governments, while simultaneously promoting marine security and defence institutions. ‘Fisheries Reform’ in India represents centralisation as well as the militarisation of fisheries governance, which shifts power further away from the people.

In the context of the Blue Economy, terrestrial capital is increasingly expanding and intensifying its tentacle-like grasp on coastal and marine resources with different industrial components including ports, shipping, Coastal Economic Zones, offshore hydrocarbon, tourism, desalination, renewable energy, etc. Under the grand Blue Economy narrative, marine fisheries are envisaged as an industrialised deep-sea sector. Inevitable consequences are the criminalisation and steady dispossession of traditional fishers from coastal and oceanic commons. Blue Economy ultimately aims to clear the seas of marine capture fishers and make way for these sectors.

In conclusion, the overfishing debate has been centred upon fishery resources. It views fish stocks as mere commodities to exploit and regulate through State-led techno-managerial tools, whereas traditional fishing communities’ relationship with the coast and sea is as Home and fisheries as a livelihood. The struggle against the overfishing debate is not merely about claiming a share in the global fish stock for fisherfolk. It goes beyond the ‘right to fish’ but about reclaiming our status as the stewards of the coasts and oceans. Fishers do not claim the seas as their asset, but that they belong to the sea. The World Forum of Fisher People’s slogan of “We are the Ocean” stems from this spirit of belonging. Fishers cannot allow the takeover of this belonging through intellectual mythologies like Overfishing.


[1] Naveen Namboothri and Madhuri Ramesh. “Maximum sustainable yield: a myth and its manifold effects.” Economic and Political Weekly 53, no. 41 (2018): 58-63.

[2] Liam and Alejandro Colas.” Capitalism and the sea: the maritime factor in the making of the modern world”. Verso Books, 2021.

[3] The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area where sovereign states have jurisdiction over resources.

Newsletter no 47 – Editorial

Small-scale fishers : Struggles and mobilisations

Illustration: Cara Penton, @CaraPenton

The United Nations has declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) to highlight the importance of artisanal fishing and aquaculture.

Over the past ten years, and even more so since the pandemic, blue economy initiatives have been blooming. The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit advanced the notion of “Blue Foods”, which first and foremost means aquaculture. In 2021, the FAO Committee on Fisheries took unprecedented steps to advance aquaculture, giving birth to the “Shanghai Declaration” drafted by WorldFish, industry players, and other stakeholders.

IYAFA is now also showcasing artisanal fishing. Some prefer the term small-scale fishing, but regardless of the term used, it is always about the way of life that provides food and income for over a hundred million people globally. However, fisher people’s territories and resources are increasingly being grabbed: the entire blue economy agenda spanning from displacing people in the name of conservation (Marine Protected Areas -MPAs), to massive-scale investments for fish farming, to expanding ports to facilitate more global trade, and to unprecedented sound blasting and drilling for oil and gas, are examples of contemporary development that have and continue to dispossess fishing communities. We hope IYAFA will become the year for fisher people all over the world to scale up resistance and mobilise masses in demands for restitution and regeneration of nature.

Transnational Institute and FIAN International

Voices from the field

Voice from the field 1

Life of pastoralist in India during the COVID19 lockdown

Anu Verma, South Asia Pastoralist Alliance & MARAG, India, WAMIP South Asia 

India has 34 million pastoralists managing a livestock population of more than 50 million. Livestock rearing is the second largest occupation in India after agriculture, making a significant contribution of about 8.5 to 9 per cent to the country’s GDP. Its contribution is vital, as pastoralism is the most important means of support for landless pastoralists as well as marginal and small farmers, especially those living in drought-prone, hilly areas where crop production is not assured. It contributes significantly to the livelihood and wealth of communities in terms of milk, wool and meat with no market-based inputs.

Traditional pastoral institutions today are increasingly endangered by mass displacement due to intense competition from agriculture, population growth, herd dispossession and drought. While lockdowns (due to Covid-19) have impacted people from all walks of life, the impact has also been differential. Pastoralists around the country have a hostile policing system to brave, including forest guards. Amidst the outbreak, the regulation and control over their movement has escalated during the most crucial time, i.e., their move towards the summer pastures. While some state governments exempted their movement, like the transport of essential commodities, the shepherds who had gone to their farms were stuck and unable to join their flocks back. “We are unable to freely move with our herds for grazing since villagers are afraid that we are carriers of coronavirus,” said Sumer Singh Bhatti, who owns about 200 camels that feed in dry and desert areas of Rajasthan. “We were sometimes even prevented from going to the village shops to buy food rations. This coronavirus scare has broken the back of camel herders. With summer heat pastoralists will miss opportunities to get green grass as fodder.” said Mool Singh, a pastoralist from Nakrasar village in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district, who migrates in March every year to Punjab for his herd to graze on wheat waste.

Voices from the field 2

The future of peaceful transhumance in West Africa

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Peul Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad and a member of the executive committee of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), WAMIP Central Africa

As nomads are difficult to control, it doesn’t help governments. Several states have made the decision to focus more on agriculture at the expense of nomadic livestock. Yet in the Sahel, livestock accounts for more than 40% of the GDP of all Sahelian countries and in Chad, more than 20%.

Firstly, communities such as the Fulani, Arabs or Tuaregs, were not fully taken into consideration after colonisation, as they have a lifestyle far from the development imaginary that the state had thought to implement. This is why most nomads have no access to education, health care or drinking water,….

Nevertheless, in Sahelian ecosystems, the uncertainty over fodder resources requires herders to use special breeding techniques to preserve their production capital: livestock and ecosystems. Indeed, pastoralism relies on the great ability of herders to make the most of spontaneous fodder resources scattered in heterogeneous environments.

Governments need to change the way they view nomads and their environmental value. Most livestock species provide multiple services such as protein-rich food, manure and energy. Without livestock we could not alleviate food insecurity. In all our homes, we eat meat and milk acts as a food supplement, herders exchange livestock for millet with farmers, and all of this drives the circular economy in the communities. Herders are not a problem, they are a solution, and they are the past, present and future.

Voices from the field 3

Towards a network of shepherds in North America, a vision from the Sierra Tarahumara

Project “De la Oveja a la Cobija” and Red del Desierto, Campo Adentro, F. Marso

Life in the Raramuri (Tarahumara) communities, in Sierra Madre Occidental, Chihuahua, Mexico, is based on subsistence farming and ranching. The Rarámuri people, some 50,000 strong, survived colonialism in part because they are located in remote areas of the Sierra.   The practice is closely linked to ceremonies and festivities and is developed under a work organization scheme based on natural cycles called Mawechi. Due to the irregular orography, with large ravines and very poor soils, goat and sheep ranching predominates in the area. The processes of social fragmentation caused by extractive and tourist exploitation projects, as well as the generalized insecurity due to the presence of drug trafficking mafias, have caused this practice to diminish in the area.

Recently, there has been renewed attention and enthusiasm among young Rarámuri, mostly women, to continue caring for goats and sheep, based on extensive management that makes use of scarce and scattered pastures, where cattle cannot sustain themselves, and in rotation with the cornfield, taking advantage of its stubble field and manure as fertilizer. In exchange, they obtain meat, milk, leather and wool, and the adult animals are a kind of “piggy bank” that can be capitalized for emergencies.

An association of shepherds and weavers has been formed in this area, grouping 30 Rarámuri women, led by shepherdess Agripina Viniegra, who are responsible for the care of sheep and their productive exploitation, mainly for the creation of wool textiles. Likewise, the young Association of Raramuri Sheep Breeders is approaching shepherds from communities in the states of Nuevo León, Coahuila and San Luis Potosí, proposing the idea of Red del Desierto. They are also making contact with the Navajo people of the Southwest USA to reactivate the North American Region of WAMIP.

Voices from the field 4

Climate change and mining industry threatening Mongolia’s nomadic herders with extinction

Maamankhuu Sodnom, Mongolian Pastoralist Association, Mongolia

Mongolia covers an area of 1.564.116 km2 with a population of 3.4 million people, of which 30% practice pastoralism. Mongolian pastoralists keep mostly sheep, camels, goats, cattle (including yaks) and horses. Seventy percent of Mongolian land is used for pastoralist purposes, most of this territory being barren, semi-arid steppes and deserts. Nowadays, many of these nomadic people are moving to cities as a result of a combination of factors, climate change amongst them.

The climate in Mongolia can be extremely harsh even under normal conditions. There are 4 seasons; Winter is extremely cold and the temperature often goes down to -45oCand summer can be as hot as 45oC. Our spring is always windy and dust storms are the norm. In the last thirty years the Gobi Desert in Southern Mongolia hasn’t seen much precipitation during the summertime, which considerably exacerbated the aridity and adversely affected the activity of animal husbandry.

Previously unseen levels of snow in the winter and sandstorms in the spring helped aggravate the pre-existing predicament, leading to the acceleration of desertification in the entirety of the region. Mongolians are proud of their pastoral culture and their ability to subsist on their livestock even under extremely difficult environmental conditions, however, these days nomadic herders are being threatened by extinction.

The second major factor that threatens the survival of their lifestyle is the mining industry, which has grown substantially in the last 20 years. There are fourteen licensed mining companies in my province alone, Tavan Tolgoi and Oyu Tolgoi being the largest. Oyu Tolgoi is a copper and gold mining company which has been using huge amounts of water from already depleted underground sources. There are no rivers or lakes in the Gobi Desert, forcing pastoralists to dig wells in order to tap into the underground water supply. Many of these wells have already completely dried up, mainly because Oyu Tolgoi uses 950 liters of water per second. The once semiarid region is being turned into a desert at an alarming pace. The Tavan Tolgoi coal mining company exploits and exports coal to China on unpaved dirt roads, further bringing wanton destruction to pastoralists’ lands. Mongolian pastoralists have begun protests, but they lack the resources, organization, and power to effect any meaningful changes as the bulk of the Mongolian economy is dependent on the export of copper and coal to China. Nowadays, we are fighting an uphill battle to save our rangeland.

Boxes

Box 1

Shepherds for climate: Is animal husbandry always harmful to the planet? 

The annual report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock, oil and gas drilling, fracking, landfills, etc. are major sources of methane emissions according to the IPCC. But in the public/media/political debate, we must differentiate between the various sources to achieve a more informed and fairer debate on the necessary climate action. That is why WAMIP has conducted a scientific study together with the international team of PASTRES researchers and published the report “Is livestock farming always harmful to the planet?[1]

Not all greenhouse gases are the same. While methane has a short-lived warming effect, CO2 remains forever. In addition, emissions from livestock systems are widely varied and we must differentiate between intensive and extensive systems. Mobile pastoral and extensive livestock systems can be in CO2 emissions balance, and their methane emissions are not additional as they have levels similar to those of the wildlife systems they replace. However, intensive livestock farming is a polluter of CO2 and methane and therefore, we from the pastoralist movement are in favor of its dismantling and penalization.

It is essential to reduce greenhouse gases, but not all sources are equal: grazing, industrial livestock farming or fracking are not the same. Extensive livestock systems support large numbers of people, provide high quality animal products, and can be beneficial to the climate (improving soil fertility or preventing fires).

Therefore, we support emission reductions while addressing Climate Justice issues and recognize pastoralism and extensive livestock farming not as part of the problem of climate change, but as part of the solution[2].

Box 2

Reinventing an ancestral way of life: Shepherd schools

Faced with the threat of the disappearance of shepherding in the mountain areas of Spain, the non-profit organization Campo Adentro-INLAND initiated a system of theoretical and practical training in 2004, aimed at both young people interested in shepherding and active shepherds, enabling the integration of new shepherds and ensuring generational replacement. Hundreds of people have been trained with about 70 applicants each year.

On the one hand, the school trains people to start their own livestock project with agroecological orientation, and to develop their activity with new approaches to economic viability and added value to the product.

Likewise, people who have followed this training will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to work as salaried workers in those livestock farms that require workers, or for the execution of environmental services such as firebreak maintenance.

On the other hand, courses have been offered to active shepherds to improve their cheese making skills or other things that are in demand, as well as training and exchange trips.

The theoretical module is followed by a practical portion of work with the herd-school of Campo Adentro INLAND, which has a branch in the mountains of Madrid and one in the north of the peninsula. Recently, a Junior Shepherd School for children has been established, and also a system of free training scholarships for undocumented migrants interested in this way of life.

Once the students finish the theory and practice, they have to deliver an operational project, which has been tutored throughout the course.

At this point, the School provides the graduate student with support and guidance in the procedures and possible access to land. It is important to take an active role in the incorporation of the student, promoting land stewardship schemes among the different producers with whom they have been in contact, formulas for the transfer of ownership under leases, etc. in cases of early retirement, transfer, social economy formulas, cooperativism, etc.

Box 3

Gender and pastoralism

In 2010, WAMIP called for a Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists, in Mera (Gujarat), India bringing together over 100 women from herding communities scattered across 32 different countries to discuss the myriad of problems faced by nomadic and semi-nomadic women pastoralists worldwide, and how, united, they can strive to solve them. Participants at the Gathering identified key issues, including markets, rules and rights, environment, social movement, education, and, health, as well as a number of priorities for action, such as representation, communication and networking, education and capacity building, and advocacy. They also selected representatives to draft the Mera Declaration to inform and support the development of pastoralist policies, and also to demonstrate commitment to environmental sustainability and protection of biodiversity and common resources for future generations.

Since then, progress has been made in linking the struggles of pastoralist women within the framework of the demands of the feminist movement. The extensive livestock and pastoralist women claim our value both within the sector and in society, fighting to exercise our way of life without inequalities, and constitute a network of mutual support as a space for resistance and awareness-raising. The health and social crisis caused by the pandemic brought ongoing ureflections on care and essential work. Now it is even more necessary to recognize the activity of shepherdesses and livestock breeders who, from their territories, maintain life and highlight the great potential and enormous capacity of women’s networks to face adversities. We need to show the work of these women in caring for and reproducing the basis of life, from the countryside and for society.

Female livestock breeders and pastoralists are defending sorority, demanding the abolition of all inequalities suffered by those who feel themselves to be women in a patriarchal and capitalist context. They defend the right not to be violated, assaulted, raped, murdered; to equal pay, in decision-making, in access to land, in the distribution of care; to decide on their way of life, sexuality and reproduction, whatever their age, origin or citizenship; and to exercise and be considered valid as farmers and herders, and not mere “companions” or “helpers” of the men with whom they work.

We demand a liveable rural environment, with basic services guaranteed for all: health, education, public transportation, culture, care for dependent persons, access to land, decent housing and accessible services for the prevention of gender-based violence.

As pastoralist women, we demand an environmentalism that considers us as active elements in the region, allies of biodiversity and guarantors of natural environments. Extensive livestock farming is essential for the maintenance of ecosystems, forest maintenance, fire prevention and improvement of pastures, as well as for the struggle for food sovereignty. All this from a feminist way of working, putting the welfare of our herds and the territory we inhabit ahead of economic results, focusing the way we treat them from the care and respect for their needs, a relationship of care that extends to the people we feed with the meat, milk or dairy products we produce.

In a capitalist and ultraliberal framework, we are led to believe that it is no longer necessary to claim our rights, that the rural world is a consumer good, and that work in the rural environment and how it is approached, such as extensive livestock and pastoralism, is not productive and has no future. Rural women are the present, and they will be the future. They will become stronger and stronger. We women are and will be  the front line.

Box 4

The World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples and Pastoralists – WAMIP on the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists – IYRP

A few years ago, some entities working on grassland ecology (such as the University of Arizona, ILRI, etc.)  launched the idea of campaigning for a declaration of a UN Year on Rangelands. More organisations adhered and it was proposed the year should also include the recognition of pastoralists as custodians of rangelands. This year, 38 countries and 300 organisations are supporting the IYRP. The Mongolian Government presented the request for an IYRP designation at an open session of the October 2018 COAG meeting of FAO in Rome and the proposal was approved without reservations. The proposal has since also been approved by the FAO Council and FAO Conference. A final vote will be held at the UN General Assembly in Fall 2021.

As grassroot organisations composing the global alliance of WAMIP, we express our support to the initiative calling for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP), as stated in the letter addressed to the Government of Mongolia.

Since its inception within various networks, mainly composed by grassland and rangelands researchers and environmental entities, we welcomed the incorporation of the crucial element of the pastoralist peoples as the most affected by the policies governing rangelands and effective caretakers of them for millennia.

We have witnessed how this call has gathered enormous support from a wide range of organisations, as we can see in the growing number of members joining the RISG globally and in the defined regions. For a good progression of this endeavour, it would be important to make sure that an open definition of what is considered as rangelands is included in all materials and declarations: not only grasslands, but also forests, and crop lands after harvesting. As important as the rangelands definition so is the connectivity amongst them: sheep trails and cattle droves and effective mobility rights are crucial to ensure rangelands’ sustainable use.

On the governance of the IYRP process, we would like to open a process and specific working group to look at how the RISG are being constituted and operate in each region, in consideration of existing pastoralist networks and their recognition and centrality in the process. It is important to ensure pastoralists positions chairing and co-chairing each regional RISG, to be determined in agreement with WAMIP. For example, a process of previous consultation and agreement with pastoralist representatives in any decision or step regarding the IYRP.

When the IYRP is approved, there will be a need to implement actions surrounding it from now until 2026, actions that should be agreed and based on the pastoralist movement’s concerns and priorities, as, at this moment, the empowerment of the management capacities of pastoralist coordination at regional level is crucial.


[1]  The report is available at: https://wamipglobal.com/2021/09/26/pastoralist-movements-takes-part-in-the-report-are-livestock-bad-for-the-planet/

[2] WAMIP brought an international delegation of nomads to Glasgow to participate in the official COP26 negotiations as well as the protests, including a sheep demonstration, and issuing a press release.