Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

Documenting successful cases for horizontal learning

Peter Rosset , La Via Campesina

The “academy” is no longer the epicenter of knowledge production– if indeed it ever was. In today’s world, much of the important new knowledge, and even theory, on alternatives to conventional, exclusionary development, is being generated by social movements.

I had the opportunity to participate in one of the self-study processes of La Via Campesina (LVC). In this case the object of analysis was the campesino-to-campesino (farmer-to-farmer) agroecology movement of the National Association of Small Farmers of Cuba (ANAP-Via Campesina), one of the most important cases of successfully bringing peasant agroecology to scale as part of food sovereignty. By consciously using a social process methodology, ANAP was able, in a bit more than a decade, to build an ecological farming social movement inside a national farmer organization – a movement that has come to embrace 50% of all the peasant families in Cuba. They use few or no off-farm inputs, farm agroecologically, and have dramatically raised the total and relative contribution of the peasant sector to national food production, thus boosting food sovereignty.

LVC and ANAP wanted the peasants to re-construct their own history, and do their own analysis of the keys to success. And they wanted the result of this process to be presented in a format that would both help ANAP with it’s internal process, and also help organizations in other countries learn useful lessons from it. A small team traveled the length of the island, facilitating workshops at peasant cooperatives, where the participants of the movement themselves, re-created their history and collectively drew their own lessons. The team was then responsible for organizing this information into a book for use in LVC’s training schools, and to support campaign work.

Other teams in LVC are now engaged in similar processes to analyze other cases. One of these is the experience of the Zero Budget Natural Farming Movement in southern India, in which more than million Indian peasants have stopped their use of purchased chemicals and raised production though autonomous, ecological practices.

Voices from the field 2

Food Sovereignty in the Andes

Maruja Salas

Here are the life stories of some of the community-based persons in the food sovereignty process who have been thinking with the power of nature and defending their individual and collective rights to eat healthy food. Their language is peaceful, yet allusive – even sometimes enigmatic. They personify their communal knowledge with varying degrees of coherence. Yet, when they speak about their lives of nurturing, farming, fishing and herding, they do so with a joy embodying a world-view which harmonises celebration and work. There is also a deep spiritual sense to their attentiveness to signs from nature, particularly towards the Altiplano’s sacred mountains and Mother Earth. These men and women are fully attuned to interpreting dream symbolism to guide seed selection, cooking, or food storage, constantly replenishing the traditional rules for familial well-being. More information about their work can be found at the website of the Andean Program for Food Sovereignty.

Lucía Paucara
Lucia is from Vilurcuni, where she has spent much of her 54 years working in her fields and storing potatoes to feed her extended family. For her potatoes are like daughters and she celebrates all the phases of their growth. Since her fields are near the lake, she has many varieties that she uses for cooking special local dishes like patasca, chayro, and watia. She and her extended family who are living in Lima or Tacna will never go hungry because she produces enough potatoes for all of them.

Presentación Velásquez
Presentación learned from her grandmother to cultivate Andean crops in the Aynoqas system (rotational sector agriculture) as well as chase away hail by mobilising the community. She has promised her granddaughters to continue to work in her fields until the end of her life, so that all the family will have plenty of Andean tubers and grains to eat without having to buy them in the market.

Domitila Taquila
Domitila lives in Aychullo and she was not born with much ‘knowledge’, she says, but learned from working in the fields alongside her grandmother. Her mother taught her how to weave and cook. Her ability to read the natural indicators was revealed in dreams. Today, she demonstrates to her children the advantages of eating from the fields and avoiding contaminated food from the market.