Voices from the field 1
The struggle for the planet is part of peoples’ daily struggle for life
María Everarda, Guatemala, Conavigua
My name is María Everarda de León. I am 42 years old and was born in a town called Maya Achí. I work with the national coordinating committee for the widows of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA), a part of La Vía Campesina. We don’t own land. Instead, we rent plots where we sow beans, maize and vegetables. Today, climate change has made production very difficult. We believe this results from the destruction of our mother earth. Since 2000, even basic grain production has been riddled with problems. The yield of the land has plummeted, riverbeds are dry and hydroelectric dams have destroyed our hillsides.
The struggle for the planet is part of peoples’ daily struggle for life; for capitalists it is just another commodity. Land is increasingly concentrated, estates ever-more massive. We want comprehensive land reform that is principled and value-based. It must be inclusive, and not only ensure Food Sovereignty but also the survival of communities. I have two children. Things are very tough for kids today. I believe that women’s struggles have given recent generations the possibility of a decent life. They have made possible the prospect of a fulfilling rural existence, in tune with mother earth.
Voices from the field 2
Agrarian reform is in the hands of the youth!
Zainal Fuad, Indonesia ,SPI
My name is Zainal Fuad. My family is in East Java. We produce cassava, corn and peanuts. I am on the national board of the Indonesian Peasant Union(SPI) – also part of La Via Campesina in East and South east Asia.
In Indonesia, in the pre-independence era, millions of acres of land were grabbed by the Dutch. Even though after our Independence land was nationalized through the agrarian reforms initiated in the 60s, it was a failure because of the wave of capitalism that swept through, pushed aggressively by corporations and the State. This continues even now.
SPI is pushing agrarian reform by occupying the land! We have targeted the occupation of 1 million hectares of land by 2019, while also pushing the government to distribute about 9 million hectares of land. This is important for our peasants whose lands are very small or are landless. We need land in order to build a livelihood. On occupied land, we produce through agroecological methods and distribute through our cooperatives. Mobilizing young people and keeping them on the land is a huge challenge. We have taken up that challenge because we believe that the dream of agrarian reform is in the hands of the youth!
Voices from the field 3
We share a special relationship with our land
Themba Chauke, South Africa, LPM
I am Themba Chauke, with the Landless People’s movement from South Africa. In South Africa, we are currently faced with one of the worst droughts in memory caused by El Nino, which is pushing the price of food higher and higher. The government must urgently implement Agrarian Reform, using a form of agriculture that people can understand. We call this agriculture peasant agriculture or agroecology. In this, we do not use agro-chemical inputs – instead we use what we have, the seeds that we have. My family comes from the region that is now known as the Kruger National Park. They were evicted from this land during the apartheid era, in the 60s. But we still share a special relationship with our land and go there to conduct our rituals. While growing up, I would often go to the field to see what my community was doing in the farms – to help and to learn. That is how I learnt about farming. I even tell my young daughter, who is 11 years old, that she has to respect this form of agriculture and that she should always support small scale farmers. Through the network of La Via Campesina, peasants learn from each other about new techniques of agroecology, which is very important in the current context.
Voices from the field 4
To be a peasant is to be proud
Attila Szocs, Romania, Eco Ruralis
I am Attila Szocs, a seed producer from Romania and I come from a peasant organization called Eco Ruralis. I produce peasant seeds and distribute them in our network. We have a collective farm together with Eco Ruralis members near our headquarters where we do this. At the International Conference on Agrarian Reform I was glad to witness the work of MST and their ideas on land management. Agrarian reform is urgently needed in Europe and Eastern Europe. In Romania, three peasants disappear every hour and the country is turning towards agro-industry. It is important to keep the peasants on the land and also to ensure that our youth are excited about agriculture. Agrarian reform presents an alternative. We need this concept to produce agroecologically and the only people who can do this in Romanian society are Romanian Peasants. It is also important for La Via Campesina to be present in Romania. The energy and enthusiasm of the movement is an inspiration and it is important for our members to see this energy and to know that to be a peasant is to be proud.