Via Campesina

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This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

Via Campesina (La Via Campesina) is an international peasant movement. Their members are in 56 countries located in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. It was formed in 1993 in Mons, Belgium and is headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia. [1]

Founding

Some trace the roots of La Vía Campesina to a meeting in Managua, Nicaragua in April 1992.[2] Eight farm organizations from Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and the USA held discussions the second congress of the Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos (UNAG). The outcome was the "Managua Declaration," a call for peasants to work together to advocate for their rights.

The true founding, however, did not take place until one year later, in Mons, Belgium. The 1993 meeting was held by the Dutch NGO, Paolo Freire Stichting (PFS), which hoped to bring a number of organizations representing poor to middle peasants into the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), an organization representing the interests of wealthy farmers around the world. Agrarian leaders at the meeting chose instead to form their own organization, named La Via Campesina (LVC).[3]

The meeting took place in the context of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations (1986-1994), over which these farmers groups outside of IFAP clashed with those within it.[4] PFS hoped that the organizations that would ultimately form LVC would join the right-leaning IFAP and use their position from within that organization to reform, rather than reject, the WTO.[5] Rejection of neoliberal globalizations, including the WTO, has been at the core of LVC's principles from its inception.

"The Vía Campesina emerged in explicit rejection of neo-liberal agricultural policies and as a direct response to the fact that the concerns, needs and interests of people who actually work the land and produce the world’s food were completely excluded in the GATT negotiations on agriculture. Peasants and small-scale farmers in the North and South were determined to work together on the urgent task of developing alternatives to neo-liberalism and to make their voices heard in future deliberations on agriculture and food."[6]

Objective

Their objective is to develop solidary among small farmer organizations in order to promote gender equality and social justice. They are concerned with the preservation of land, water, seeds, and food sovereignty. [1]

Positions

They support the World Social Forum and oppose the World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Free trade. [7]

Food Sovereignty

Via Campesina coined the term "Food Sovereignty" in 1996,[8] defined as the "right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to market forces."[9]

The Seven Principles Of Food Sovereignty are:

1. Food: A Basic Human Right
Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
2. Agrarian Reform
A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people — especially women — ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
3. Protecting Natural Resources
Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
4. Reorganizing Food Trade
Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger
Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
6. Social Peace
Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
7. Democratic control
Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decisionmaking on food and rural issues.[9]

Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform

In 1999-2000, LVC initiated its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform (GCAR) as a response to the neoliberal "market-led agrarian reform" (MLAR).[10]

"In undertaking this campaign, Vía Campesina has had to refine its initial take on the land issue, while developing and consolidating a ‘human rights-based approach’ to land. Indeed, the global framework of Vía Campesina’s position on land has been evolving over the years, with the 2006 joint declaration with the IPC for Food Sovereignty being the most comprehensive and systematic version. During the first few years of GCAR, the main call was a demand to drop MLAR."[11]

Members Include [1]

Contact details

Jl. Mampang Prapatan XIV No. 5
Jakarta Selatan
DKI Jakarta
Indonesia
12790
Phone: +62-21-7991890
Fax: +62-21-7993426
Web: http://viacampesina.org

Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Organization page, Via Campesina, accessed November 2007.
  2. Desmarais, A.-A. (2002). PEASANTS SPEAK - The Vía Campesina: Consolidating an International Peasant and Farm Movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 29(2), 91–124.
  3. Edelman, M. and Borras, S. M. (2016). Political Dynamics of Transnational Agrarian Movements. Fernwood Publishing. p. 48.
  4. Edelman, M. and Borras, S. M. (2016). Political Dynamics of Transnational Agrarian Movements. Fernwood Publishing. p. 63.
  5. Edelman, M. and Borras, S. M. (2016). Political Dynamics of Transnational Agrarian Movements. Fernwood Publishing. p. 113.
  6. Desmarais, A.-A. (2002). PEASANTS SPEAK - The Vía Campesina: Consolidating an International Peasant and Farm Movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 29(2), p. 96.
  7. Actions and Events, Via Campesina, accessed November 2007.
  8. Food First, "Global Small-Scale Farmers' Movement Developing New Trade Regimes," Food First News & Views, organizational newsletter, Volume 28, Number 97 Spring/Summer 2005, p.2.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Via Campesina, Food Sovereignty, Family Farm Defenders website, accessed September 20, 2011
  10. Borras Jr, S. M. (2008). La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform. Journal of Agrarian Change, 8(2–3), p. 261.
  11. Borras Jr, S. M. (2008). La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform. Journal of Agrarian Change, 8(2–3), p. 261.

External articles

External resources