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Newsletter no 44 - Communicating for food sovereignty

In the spotlight

Sunday 13 June 2021, by Manu

In the spotlight -
The role of rural popular communications in the struggles of the peoples

Communication is a fundamental tool for all struggles, but it becomes absolutely essential for those that are territorially dispersed. The peasant struggle may have physical distances of thousands of miles between people, but it is a unified struggle. Popular communication in rural areas has several roles - to transmit knowledge, to resist corporate media, to recognize other communities, to reach where hegemonic media does not reach, to work from a position of solidarity, to contribute to popular education and to support the struggle.

We talked about popular and rural communication with a number of people - Viviana Catrileo, leader of The National Rural and Indigenous Women’s Association (ANAMURI) in Chile, which is part of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC-La Via Campesina); Elizabeth Mpofu, general coordinator of La Via Campesina, from Zimbabwe; Anuka De Silva, from the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) in Sri Lanka, member of the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina (ICC), and from the peasant-based media Visura Radio.

"Rural popular communications exist in many different forms and are based on our traditions as peasants and Indigenous People. These include peasant songs, mistica, paintings, art and dance, among other things," explains Elizabeth Mpofu about the role of communication within communities. These communications are key to intergenerational exchange with diverse objectives - "not only to affirm our identity and belonging, but also to perpetuate our harmony with mother earth, our source of life, our gratitude for our food sources, and to preserve dignity and respect for humanity".

Telling stories of struggle and resistance, passing on teachings and lessons learned about forms of organization and societies is essential. Especially, explains Viviana Catrileo, in times when "modernity and capitalist conceptions of development have been pulverizing the value of multidimensional life in our lands and their cultural and spiritual diversities, which is linked to the philosophy of ’kvme mogen’ or living well in its maximum expression".

For Anuka De Silva, popular media are necessary because communities do not have spaces in the mass media and often do not have access to them either. "We really need to build a solidarity group of strong media for the people’s struggle," she says.

Popular communication connects people, unites struggles, promotes solidarity, and crosses borders. From the experience of La Via Campesina, Mpofu recounts that the slogan of this immense worldwide movement, "Globalize the struggle, globalize hope," has been realised thanks to citizen and community based media that in her words "have created a network of global solidarity and built alliances." "Through the awareness created by alternative media, we have been able to grow and connect the dots of our struggles to build the movement for food sovereignty," adds Mpofu. From Sri Lanka, Visura Radio shares knowledge from farmers, problematises issues such as health and environmental impact, and tells stories that show the possibility and benefits of building a more liveable reality. This is their contribution to strengthening and building food sovereignty.

No initiative that challenges power is free of difficulties and risks. De Silva tells us: "we have a military government here, they are trying to control us, we have suffered some security threats". Catrileo also remarks: "To dream and communicate from the anti-hegemonic path is increasingly dangerous and more difficult when it is the impoverished and plundered peoples who intend to make our communication an alternative to the neoliberal model". "The criminalization of social protest also falls on the media and its popular communicators because at the same time it constitutes a threat to the established order", she adds.

In the same way, it is a great challenge to sustain economic independence and the lack of material resources. Time management and the insufficient number of people to take on tasks (often there are no resources for paid workers) are also issues that the popular media must overcome in order to continue their work.

Communication is part of a whole. In Mpofu’s words, it is one more ingredient in what will be the final dish. "La Via Campesina is like a pot that cooks and combines and mixes the different ingredients to become a good, tasty and healthy meal, where the diner can identify the individual ingredients while enjoying the meal as a whole. This is how La Via Campesina gives importance to popular rural communications: it embraces diversity to build a collective voice."

In this diversity we find the intersection of struggles, the need for popular, rural communication with a feminist perspective. "This feminism that seeks to vindicate women in the historical struggle of the peoples and their revolutions is an invitation to add the voices that have been anonymous and marginalized for centuries by patriarchal societies," says Catrileo. She also emphasises the cross over with the territorial. "The peasant and popular struggles in which we women are framed have clear expressions in the land, in the care and respect for mother earth and the defence of the biodiversity that sustains the balance of nature".

Rural popular communications are key in the struggle of the peoples. They accompany, build, disseminate and unite the struggles, at the same time that they teach how to live in other ways. Says Mpofu: "Every time we get together as La Via Campesina, we sing, dance, do mistica and exchange information in a way that does not promote competition among members, but rather complements them".