Voices from the field

Voices from the COP23

Manuel Pereira Araujo, MOKATIL – East Timor:
We believe that the Earth is our body, water our blood and sunlight our energy.

Marthin Hadiwinata, Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (Traditional Fisherfolk Union of Indonesia) – Indonesia:
The United Nations is promoting ‘blue carbon’ as a solution to climate change. Blue carbon refers to the carbon that is stored in coastal ecosystems, including mangroves. The mangroves can absorb ten times more carbon than a pristine forest. However, the so-called blue carbon schemes are similar to Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). The problem is that these schemes exclude people who have relied on the costal ecosystems for generations as a source of food and medicine. The blue carbon schemes are also leading to the criminalization of fisherfolk. Under coastal law in Indonesia, people who try to gain access to these ‘protected’ mangroves can be arrested and charged. Blue carbon further endangers people by privatizing their means of subsistence.

Katia Avilés-Vásquez, Organization Boricuá for Agroecology – Puerto Rico:
In Puerto Rico, after the hurricanes of September 2017, the forces of nature quickly turned into disastrous social problems created by the men in power. Those most affected were women. In almost every work brigade that was organized to get people resources, the major emergency was getting women to safety because the conditions that were abusive before had become literally life or death. In one instance, in Vieques, we used a big luggage that was brought in with food to help a woman escape violence. Women bear the brunt of the damage when a disaster happens. But then we also have the biggest role in the recovery.
Most of those who are organizing in the work brigades are women. However, the spokespeople and decision makers still tend to be mostly men because the characteristics associated with those who pick up the microphone and stand up are mostly masculine characteristics. We are taught to refuse the feminine. In talking about a just transition in the Caribbean, it is very important to challenge this notion of what we consider to be strong, what we consider to be leadership, and what we consider to be success.
Mother Earth is feminine. The powerful feminine sent us a hurricane to shake us up and remind us that these men need to stop their addiction to oil and fossil fuels.

Massa Koné, Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles – Mali:
It was important for us to show our resistance by being at COP23. First, I think that out of the many actions we did at COP23, the Ende Gelände (‘Here and No Further’) direct action against the massive German coal mine was very symbolic. Germany should not have held the COP23 while they have a big open pit mine. It is like they were laughing at us. Second, I think that the capitalist system is finishing off the Earth. It is going to drown it. Therefore, we need to converge together to come up with concrete proposals to get out from where we are.
What we need to do is to bring together the interests of all the different streams: the peasants, fisherfolk, pastoralists—everyone together. We cannot develop an answer for just one stream, but for all of them. All of them get their answers through concrete solutions that we call agroecology and food sovereignty. This proposal includes the acknowledgement of common rights, the autonomy of seeds, and autonomy for everyone involved in food production. At some point, as we grow, we will be a large mass going against the system. This mass will amplify our struggle. We will get results one day when a whole mass of people stand up and go against the system.

Fanny Métrat, Confédération Paysanne – France :
The solutions being proposed by governments at COP23 benefit multinationals. Governments never speak about reducing reliance on fossil fuels or reducing consumption and waste. They speak instead about carbon markets. Carbon markets give corporations who have the most money the ability to pay, in order to continue polluting. Carbon markets are a false solution because they promote corporate profits. Governments and corporations ask peasants to accept new genetically modified organisms and all the latest technologies while continuing at the same time to promote big factory farms.
It is important to recognize that false solutions are rooted in patriarchy. We see only men at the negotiating tables and in corporate board rooms. It is the men at COP23 who decide which false solutions they will put in place. In contrast, in La Via Campesina the feminist fight is very strong. We understand the importance of feminist revolution. And with more and more gender parity in La Via Campesina, we will succeed at being a structure that speaks the voice of feminism with force.