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 !