Newsletter no 3 – Editorial

Peasants’ seeds – rights and power

Illustration, Anna Loveday-Brow

The age-old process of creating and developing diversity in the fields has led to the development of a series of legal bases aimed at guaranteeing the exercising of collective rights, allowing for on-going co-evolution. Nation-states are responsible for determining how natural resources should be used and distributed, the rights that should provide access, use, and control of these resources, and who holds these rights. The balance of power within Nation-states and between states has now changed the nature of these rights, by imposing Intellectual Property Rights on seeds, and trying to undo the collective rights that communities or farmers have held and that have been codified over time. Against the violation of collective rights, such as those that guaranteed – or still guarantee – access, use and control of land, water and biodiversity, it is acceptable to exercise legitimate acts of self-defense, even if they are in breach of regulations.

The need for small-scale food producers to recover autonomy and sovereignty over the management of genetic resources is a fundamental tool. It is needed to adapt production to the needs of the world’s population and to the incessant changes of ecosystems. This must be explained to the ITPGRFA.

Antonio Onorati, President of Crocevia and international focal point for the IPC for Food Sovereignty

Newsletter no 2 – Editorial

Factory farms

Illustration by Anna Loveday-Brow

Industrialized food production: the base of the junk food system.
There is no more potent symbol of the almost absolute control wielded by the international agri-food system (from landgrabbing to retailing), than the factory farm. These industrial complexes cause extensive pollution and disease in entire regions and emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases, all in order to produce food destined for the poor: “cheap” meat of dubious quality, whose true costs are never measured. This system is imposed on us, on humanity, and represent in one crisis the sum of multiple crises. In the almost endless list of calamities caused by factory farms, the genetically modified soy bean monoculture – farmed with pesticides and then used to feed imprisoned animals – means that everything returns to the same pockets at a harsh cost to the planet. However, the people are organizing and having more and more conversations and debates in an attempt to comprehend this together. This is very subversive, because our collective memory, and continuing to produce our own foodstuffs, according to our own peasant traditions, represents essentially the most fundamental basis for our autonomy – allowing our peoples, with all our ways and wisdom, to persist, and even to cool the earth, and attain lives of justice and dignity in the present and into the future.


Newsletter no 1 – Editorial

Climate change

Illustration by Anna Loveday-Brow

Together we can create a thousand Cancuns for change!
International talks are hamstrung by industrialised countries failing to address their historical responsibility but our movements are forging ahead with real solutions to climate change. Across the world peasants and fisherfolk, pastoralists and Indigenous Peoples are articulating and living solutions – societies not based on high consumption of fossil fuels, protecting forests, and implementing food sovereignty. Increasingly they are joined by grassroots and workers movements in the industrialised world who recognise the harm that overconsumption and corporate control has done to their wellbeing.

The fact that these issues will now be taken from Cochabamba to Cancun is testament to the strength, integrity and interconnectedness of the climate justice and food sovereignty movements. But there are also real challenges to overcome. Proposals are on the table that would undermine the ability of people to make the urgent changes needed. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD) offset projects, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and geo-engineering are fundamentally flawed solutions, and arise due to the capture of the climate debate by corporations. This edition of the newsletter highlights the need for us to take the future of our planet into our own hands. Together we can create a thousand Cancuns for change!

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Food Sovereignty programme co-ordinator / Friends of the Earth International

Newsletter no 0 – Editorial


Illustration, Damien Glez for Afronline

Fair winds for the Nyéléni newsletter!
Following the International Forum on Food Sovereignty held in Mali in February 2007, the social movements that brought this initiative to life have decided to create a tool for communication and exchange in order to continue the fight for food sovereignty and to defend the interests of disadvantaged groups such as small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and pastoralists. The situation of these groups continues to deteriorate due to the ongoing assaults of an increasingly inhuman capitalism. A new wave of land-grabbing can now be added to the problems of our times, a reality which the World Bank seeks to legitimize in its latest report. It is therefore urgent and critical for social movements to regroup and to strengthen our alliances in order to deal with the neoliberal offensives, unprecedented in the history of mankind. This newsletter aims to bring a small stone to the edifice of resistance that will be built to counteract transnational corporations, the World Bank and their allies. We urge all organizations and all movements committed to the struggle for food sovereignty to embark with us on this great journey.

Ibrahim Coulibali, president of CNOP (National Coordination of Peasants’ Organizations of Mali) and member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina


Box 1

Agroecological training

“We struggle for an education that teaches us to think – not one that teaches us to obey.” Paulo Freire.

Feeding critical thought

The vast majority of rural youth are marginalized at all levels of the educational system, and the very few opportunities to study exist in institutions that reproduce the transnational perspective of agriculture, a model that goes against the interests of smallholder family farmers. While mainstream universities continue graduating what they call “technicians” and “engineers” who are promoters of agribusiness, since 2006 La Vía Campesina has been developing original experiences in agroecological formación for young men and women, campesinas and campesinos, indigenous people, rural workers and other excluded members of society – so that a new generation of Food Sovereignty activists can successfully build the new food system we so desperately need. These spaces are the direct result of social struggle, born of enormous efforts and mobilizations in defense of an education that dignifies rural livelihoods, and are guided by a popular education based in the philosophical and pedagogical principles detailed below.

Philosophical principles:

Education through and for Social Transformation;
Education through and for Diversity;
Education through and for Work and Cooperation;
Education through and for Rebellion.

Pedagogical principles:

Practice/Theory/Practice: popular education is based on the dialogue between action, reflection, and matured action. True formación takes place when society is being transformed.
Education/Learning: A dialectical and horizontal relationship exists between educators and learners, with both teaching and learning in a constant dialogue free of hierarchy.
Diálogo de Saberes: only through a diversity of visions, perspectives, and proposals do people come to truly understand the world around them.
Action-Based, Participatory, and Contextualized Research: Investigations that take place are directly related to the real needs of students, their families and communities and the struggle for Food sovereignty.

The harvest

The aforementioned spaces for agroecological formación within La Vía Campesina are beginning to see their first harvests – new pedagogical experiences, different methods for democratic dialogue, and the most important of all outcomes, young women and men who recognize in Food Sovereignty their platform for the transformation of their realities. And while many more sites for formación still need to be consolidated, there are currently hundreds of other permanent educational processes taking place at the roots of rural social movements. All across the World youth are asking and answering the question, what do we do to achieve Food Sovereignty?

Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

A Landless youth, 30 years later

Raul Amorim – Collective Youth Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) – Pernambuco, Brazil.

30 years ago, young people with a belief that the land struggle should go beyond their local territory, put their bagpacks on and set out to build a National Movement of Landless Rural Workers, fighting not only for land but also for agrarian reform and for social transformation projects. It was young people who created the Movement of Landless Workers (MST). After these 30 years, the challenges faced by these young rural workers has changed. There is an increased concentration of land and the enemy has become stronger through agribusiness partnerships. At the same time, the courts criminalize movements and prevent Agrarian Reform and the apparatus of international finance capital speculates on life. But young rural workers – organized in social movements – are to build what we call Popular Agrarian Reform. This February, during the Sixth Congress of the MST, the Third Assembly of Landless Youth took place with over two thousand young people present. There we committed to act on the problems we face in our reality: we promised to build farms without pesticides and to strengthen the development of our lands through Agroecology as a model for the relationship between human beings and nature. We undertook to organize a collective Youth and build new social, cultural and gender relations, as well as to participate in the struggles of young people in the cities and make internationalism and international solidarity part of our daily practice.
The youth is at the historical forefront of these workers’ struggle and will continue to lead it, until we achieve the people’s victory, an end to exploitation and oppression, and human emancipation.

Voices from the field 2

The struggle against landgrabbing

Julia Bar-Tal, Farmer of Bienenwerder, 45 km from Berlin and member of “Bündnis junge Landwirtschaft – Confederation of young farming” and AbL, Via Campesina Germany.

Young farming in East Germany within the struggle of creating food sovereignty is strongly challenged by the process of land grabbing we are witnessing today. As a young farmer starting to build a farm the struggle against the investors and big agribusinesses grabbing the land under our feet has defined much of our daily struggle. Due to the socialist history most lands are in the property of the state, which now in its neoliberal policies is following the path of privatization through big investors and not aimed at creating a food production for and with those living here. In the past two years we have managed to create a movement effectively confronting this process. As a young farmer from our own farm the very personal struggle for the lands of this home has been the most practical example of what is happening to all of us hit by the danger of losing the ground we stand upon. As initiators and members of the “Confederation of young farmers” in east Germany we have put this struggle into a common context, we have protested and fought as farmers, with our friends from the cities, leading our struggle into the path of these commons –understanding the process of displacement as our collective pain and putting the reclaiming of our sovereignty against it.

Voices from the field 3

Youth in action!

Norman Chibememe, Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmer Forum (ZIMSOFF).

Most of the youth from school age – both male and female – are fully engaged in farming activities in Zimbabwe. Youth are taking in farming through organic methods and sustainable agroecological systems. The majority of the rural farming communities are involved in seed multiplication for the sustainability of seeds production and for ensuring the quality, quantity and reliability of crops. The communities are eradicating hunger in many areas through self banking ‘fushai’ small grain, which is the most suitable grain to be produced in low yield regions where climate change affects severely agriculture production. Together with the production of traditional and local seeds, youth are also practicing water harvesting techniques and conservation farming (crop rotation, management of the top soil…). They are actively involved in the family businesses, especially in the shaping of the business and marketing plans. Youth education and formation is really important, young farmers are taking courses to improve their farming practices such as the record keeping seeds multiplication course or contract farming. Agriculture policy documents have been also handed to them and their communities to better understand and be aware of the national and international context.

Voices from the field 4

A well-considered installation programme for young people in agriculture

Papa Bakary Coly, called “papis”, is president of the youth section of the National Council for Rural Consultation and Cooperation (CNCR), Senegal.

Considering the challenge of unemployment, particularly amongst the youth, African agriculture, like all other sectors, must mobilise to create all sorts of employment. However, you can see that there is an enormous lack of means for installation in some African countries. If we take the example of Senegal, there is no policy to set up young people in agriculture. There are just some initiatives — programmes and projects — that are part of the existing structures responsible for agricultural employment. This kind of approach has many inconsistencies and limits the achievements.
These inconsistencies are evident in the kind of installations proposed and in the targets. Instead of accompanied self-installation, it’s mainly state welfare programmes that focus on a small number of people, with poorly defined targets (often the young people have no experience of agriculture or they have abandoned agriculture as a result of the rural exodus) and with exorbitant investments. The return on investment in terms of job-creation or capital generated is often very weak due to the low rate of commitment of the young settlers.
This is what motivated us, in the youth college of the CNCR, to think about an installation programme that takes into consideration the youth in agriculture. Our reflections brought us to the conclusion that “the projects to install new arrivals in the agricultural sector are good, as such, but it is even better if these projects try, first of all, to look after those who are already there, because it is the success and the well being of these people that provides the motivation for self-installation of the others.”

Voices from the field 5

Sharing experiences

Dan Kretschmar, National Farmers Union – La Via Campesina, Canada. Young family farmer and part of the North American Youth Collective of LVC, Canada.

I help run my family farm in Ontario, Canada that produces organic vegetables and livestock. I have just returned as a youth delegate for the National Farmers Union from La Via Campesina regional meeting in Florida. After spending 5 days with comrades from the US and Mexico I feel energized, outraged and empowered all at the same time. The experience was overwhelming. Hearing the stories from undocumented migrant/immigrant farm workers about their working conditions and struggles for rights made the situation we all hear about at home that much more real. There is a very apparent class system in place. Farm workers are unable to take a day off sick, because they would be fired. Many workers who harvest citrus fruits have serious skin conditions from pesticide exposure, and pregnant women are required to work basically until they go into labour. I am saddened that this is what the industrial model of agriculture has become. The migrant worker issue is one of many our region faces. I felt like I was among family from the moment I arrived at the LVC meeting. The plights of all small scale farmers are mirrored across the region. I am motivated to fight for change. We must all continue to fight for peasant and farmer rights and help develop a change in consciousness among the people. It all starts with consuming oppression-free food. When the government throws us crumbs in an attempt to quiet us down, we must not be fooled by these tactics. The only option is to take the crumbs, throw them back at them and shout even louder “that is not good enough!” Backing down is not an option.

In the spotlight

Young people in action: struggles and visions for food sovereignty

Peasant villages which resist, feed the fertile soil where the youth grow to join their
hands together in a creation of the future. The youth which is the people, the youth which is the earth.
Poem of Javier García Fernandez, young activist of the SOC-SAT. Original version in Spanish.

Young people in the rural areas of the world are facing one of the greatest challenges in all history: gathering the testimonies of the farmers’ struggle and at the same time facing the new challenges for the construction of a radically different world.

All over the world, the neoliberal capitalist system has imposed a political and economic model of industrial agriculture, intensive monoculture and of land grabbing driven by transnational corporations with the approval of national and local governments. This model –which promotes the privatization of all natural resources including land, forests, water and planted seeds – destroys livelihoods and rural cultural heritage, and exhausts Mother Earth.

Fighting against…

Throughout the world, young people are standing up to the capitalist neoliberal system. In the streets and in the countryside, they are fighting to build new pathways for our society and planet to follow.
The industrialisation and mercantilization of agriculture creates a system in which very few people hold power over nature and over all the different phases of the food distribution system (from its production to its distribution). This system puts a barrier on access to natural resources and to the land which farmers need in order to produce healthy food, and it also denies access to local markets where they could get a fair price for their products without having to compete with prices which are below the cost of production of imported and subsidised foods.

Above all, this system strips the farmers of their role in society and the youth is fighting to safeguard this role. They are fighting for the right to produce food for their communities and for the right to have sovereignty over their lands, their seeds and their traditional knowledge…and they are doing so in new ways and by new means.
From the youth’s point of view, the theme of access to land is a key element of the fight, especially now that land grabbing and the system of large landed estates is more and more prominent all over the world. For this reason in cities and in the countryside, young farmers are occupying land and territories to produce local food, and to challenge the neoliberal capitalist model which allows corporations and other private interests to grab, exploit and destroy land and by doing so to destroy the way of life of communities all over the world.

The current industrial food system is not able to offer a future to humanity. The earth is a resource which is shared amongst all of us, it belongs to all of us and we all belong to it. The only alternative proposal capable of recovering the life and dignity of these people and of encompassing our shared struggles, and standing against the current capitalist financial system is Food Sovereignty. And young people represent the future of Food Sovereignty in the world.

Fighting for…

Young people’s struggles are the product of over 500 years of resistance to colonialism and are fed by the inviolable right to imagine and build a way of life from the land around them in balance with nature and its ecosystems (the Pachamama, Mother Earth is the highest divinity of the Andean people).
The young people of Via Campesina integrated in more than 160 organisations in over 70 countries have taken over the legacy of this long history and of the farmer’s struggle waged by the people of Via Campesina. Young people of all continents are showing us that another world is possible.

On the one hand, through the participation of the youth in demonstrations of struggle and resistance for Food Sovereignty worldwide. Examples of this are the MST cooperatives in Brazil, land occupations in Andalusia, the fight against GM maize in South Africa, or the struggles against Monsanto led by farmers in India.
On the other hand, through the work of their organizations in promoting self-management, participatory decision-making, greater recognition of the key role of youth and of the creation and use of new forms of organization and of action. On the streets of many countries, we are seeing the beginnings of movements such as the Occupy movement, the Indignados, and the Arab Spring – driven by many of these young people who are building new ways of organizing society from the bottom up.

The youth are fighting for land rights, for comprehensive agrarian reform and to ensure the rights of people working the land. Young people are fighting for another way of producing food, using agroecology and its principles as a basis to build local food systems that work with nature and not against it, and which claim rights over seeds – this is our heritage and it works at the service of humanity.

They develop markets and processing systems as well as local distribution systems in order to find an alternative to the market that oppresses them. Agroecology and its principles meet the vision of a local, ecological and economic model which is also cultural and political and which young people want for their present and their future.

Young people are fighting for gender equality and against the patriarchal system. They are fighting for the rights of young women farmers and for the right of access to quality sexual and reproductive medicine. The youth of today are fighting to ensure dignified conditions for all, they are fighting for a future in rural areas.

In order to carry out their struggles, young people know the importance of education and training, as more and more states, as well as national and local governments do not address their educational needs. Therefore there has been an increasing tendency for self-training, new training initiatives and popular education at the heart of peasant resistance groups as well as the practice of agroecology. An education to live, to think and to find new ways to organize oneself. An education that helps us to decolonize our hearts, thoughts, words
and actions. These are the paths that the youth are taking right now.

We are the present

Our first step is local: we work the land or attempt to work the land. Each of us tries to live according to the agricultural model and the model of society that we claim to follow. We see our struggles reflected in the struggle of others in the field, in cities and in any other places where people are fighting against the neoliberal capitalist financial system.

Therefore, the second step we undertake is union work: this is seen through the militancy that we express in every debate in which our movement takes part or supports through our efforts. In this way we build networks of militant alliances with students, urban activists, farm workers, consumers, migrants. If young people do not defend themselves and if they don’t work together, then no one will do it for them!
We are not the future, we are the present!

¡Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina, la juventud en lucha de la Vía Campesina !

Newsletter no 17 – Editorial

Youth and agriculture

There will be no future for Food Sovereignty without the participation of young people – young people that are committed to the historical struggle for the liberation of our peoples and the transformation of our reality.
As the Youth of La Vía Campesina (LVC), we must recognize the dignity and value in the work we do to maintain our struggles. During the 3rd International Assembly of the Youth of La Via Campesina, we identified the major areas
of struggle as – Agroecology, Climate Change and Energy, Migration, Food Sovereignty, Territory and Commons; and Health.

Through a process that started in 2004, we have debated these topics and developed our strategic direction in order to further our agrarian visions, as part of our contribution to the building of a radically new society. As rural-peasants, migrant and indigenous youths, we recognize that we cannot confront the systems of oppression that inflict destruction on our peoples and the Earth without calling to every other youth in our society to mobilize
alongside us.

And so we the Youth of La Via Campesina present this edition as our call to the youth of world – to educate, mobilize and organize for Food Sovereignty Now!

The International Youth Articulation of La Via Campesina