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Home > Newsletters Nyéléni in English > Newsletter no 17 - Youth and Agriculture > Newsletter no 17 - Voices from the field

Voices from the field

Newsletter no 17 - Voices from the field

Wednesday 2 April 2014, by Manu


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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.