2023 | April News Wrap: Highlights from La Via Campesina Members Worldwide

The April edition of the news wrap brings you updates and alerts from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This includes a feminist encounter in Central America, a forum on land struggles in Mali, a forestry and agroforestry workshop in Scotland, and much more.

Several members of La Via Campesina in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia commemorated the International Day of Peasant Struggles this April through solidarity marches, fairs, public statements, and more. La Via Campesina commemorates the International Day of Peasant Struggles every year on 17 April to remember the Eldorado do Carajás massacre in 1996. The State machinery, in cahoots with Brazilian agribusiness interests, murdered 19 peasants who were defending their right to land.

27 years after this painful episode, the MST denounced in April new ‘bolsonarista militias’ of landowners who seek to prevent peasant land seizures. Under the argument of defending ownership, the militias dismantled shacks and set fire to mattresses of families in Jacobina, in the state of Bahia, who with the occupation were denouncing the illegality of the landowners: the constitutional non-compliance with the social function of the territory. Not giving up the struggle for their rights, 200 MST peasant families occupied 4,000 hectares of unproductive land in Salitre, also in Bahia, facing the latifundio to achieve the agrarian reform. Their courage continues to inspire the actions carried out by all members of La Via Campesina around April 17, which reached more than 70 this year. A detailed report of these solidarity actions will soon appear on the official website of LVC.

Meanwhile, in other news:

In Guatemala, the Comité de unidad campesina (CUC) hosted the 2nd Central American Encounter on Popular Peasant Feminism from the 20-24th of April. Peasant and Indigenous women from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, organised under the CLOC region of La Via Campesina, attended this forum where they collectively analysed the political, social, and economic context of the realities of rural women in the region.

In the neighbouring Caribbean region, Haiti is going through one of the most difficult, tragic, and uncertain moments in its history, plunged into a situation of chaos caused by the oligarchy, successive anti-popular governments, including the current one, and the interference of international organizations at the service of the interests of colonial powers. On March 29th, members of La Via Campesina, organised under the CLOC-Via Campesina, were signatories to an open letter that was sent to the Diplomatic Representation of Haiti in the Dominican Republic. In that letter, the organisations warned that the current de facto government is requesting a new military occupation, the objective of which is to use it against the population and organize controlled elections.

In Ecuador, The National Federation of Peasants, Indigenous, and Black Organizations FENOCIN, expresses its deep solidarity with the people of Alausi who suffered severe loss of life and livelihoods after a landslide that left 16 dead, 16 injured people, 7 missing, 163 homes affected, 500 people affected, among others lost.

In Brasil, two years after the brutal murder of our comrade Lindolfo Kosmaski, a young gay man and peasant militant of the MST, the judicial system condemned the crime of homophobia with a sentence of 19 years and 6 months to the perpetrator.

In other news, Peru’s peasant and indigenous movement received a breath of relief from the international organization “Human Rights Watch”, which published in April its report on abuses by the security forces and the democratic crisis in Perú, concluding that the government of Dina Boluarte did not take measures to stop the deaths of demonstrators and, instead, tried to diminish the seriousness of the abuses or divert attention with theories without evidence. It also noted the disproportionality of the force used by the military, alleging that the deaths could constitute extrajudicial or arbitrary executions.

Further to the North, in Canada, the National Farmers Union, NFU, announced a free, year-long training program at the Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI), especially intended for young small-scale farmers in the region. Over the course of nine months, the Institute will provide four hands-on training sessions and gain practical skills to overcome any hurdles they may face, including business planning, accounting, insurance, and labor management.

In last March’s edition, we had informed of a report by the National Family Farm Coalition in the United States that tracked Speculative Farmland Ownership in the country. Since the 2008 financial crisis, insurance companies, hedge fund managers, increasingly saw agricultural land as a stable investment with high returns and started buying farmland at prices the average farmer couldn’t compete with. While responding to The Guardian, The Federation of Southern Cooperatives alerted that investors may not consider how their ownership will affect communities or the environment, with serious implications for food sovereignty and vitality of rural economies.

In Europe, several members of La Via Campesina continued to extend solidarity to French social movements agitating against mega-water basins. This struggle was raised by the Confédération paysanne at its biennial congress in late April, among other issues such as the market regulation to protect peasants from free trade and the social security of food.

In the Basque Country, Ehnebizkaia for its part held its XII Congress and also released a video with peasant testimonials about the way of life in the countryside.

In the UK, the Land Workers’ Alliance (LWA) with over 2,000 members celebrated its 10th anniversary. On the 25th of April, in Scotland, the LWA held a forum on the changes to forestry funding and policy, in particular in the context of the Scottish Government’s ongoing consultation on the future of forestry grants. They worked together to develop some key demands to improve the forestry and agroforestry sectors in Scotland.

In Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees organized a solidarity event in the east of Khan Younis Governorate to commemorate Eternal Palestinian Land Day. Agricultural committees and farmers participated, planting olive seedlings in the Absan region and near the restricted area, which is continuously destroyed and violated by occupying forces.

In Africa, Togolese Coordination of Peasants and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations took part in a study that would help rural women and youth engage in non-farm rural livelihood programs. This included market opportunities for women’s handicraft and other income-generating activities, including identification of chain carriers for handicraft and non-wooden forest products, and opportunities for youth located in key ecosystems of the maritime region of Lake Togo.

On the 19th of April, in Mali, CNOP organized a discussion forum on a Decree that determines the forms and conditions of allocation of land to private entities. Land grabbing in Mali is mainly the result of activities led by agribusiness operators, along with local authorities and government policies that promote large-scale agro-industrial projects and facilitate land acquisitions by private investors. Several estimations indicate that more than 800,000 hectares of land have been grabbed in Mali, negatively impacting the local peasant communities that depend on access to land and natural resources for their livelihoods.

In Senegal, the Le Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCR) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Among its significant advances, CNCR counts the establishment of several seed cooperatives across the country that help save traditional varieties. The CNCR also announced a series of initiatives to give a new impetus to family farming. In a meeting held in early April, CNCR proposed several ideas to strengthen food sovereignty of the region that included water control and good land management.

In Asia, in Pakistan, farmers in the Lahore region pledged to launch a province-wide movement against the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) for robbing them of their agricultural lands.

In Nepal, the All Nepal Peasants Federation held a national congress in April, which ended with a manifesto from organized peasantry calling for strengthening food sovereignty in the country.

The Bhartiya Kisan Union in India held a village meeting in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh regarding the Delhi-Dehradun Economic Corridor and its impact on local farmers. They also raised the issue of minimum support price, financialization of agricultural land, and amendment to electricity charges. This comes after an agitation in the district of Meerut on issues related to the payment of arrears of sugarcane to farmers, stray animals destroying farm crops, and more.

In Indonesia, the President of the Republic visited the Food Sovereignty Areas in Senori Village, Tuban Regency, East Java – maintained by the Indonesian Peasants Union – SPI. The Union demonstrated the use of organic fertilizers in the region and also the linkages they have created with the traditional markets in East Java and Central Java.

Significant parts of Asia have experienced a severe and extensive heat wave for the past two weeks, which has broken long-standing temperature records. Countries such as India, Thailand, and Myanmar have recorded temperatures as high as 45°C, while Bangladesh, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, and China have recorded temperatures ranging from 42 to 43°C. Global warming is the cause of the heat wave, according to scientists. Last year, extreme heat resulted in some countries banning food exports, resulting in supply chain shocks and affecting food prices. La Via Campesina’s call to strengthen food sovereignty is particularly relevant, given that the crises of war, climate, and pandemic have exposed the limitations of global chains. The movement’s Asian members are alert to this situation and its impact on peasant communities.

As we conclude this month’s edition, we would like to draw your attention to the various publications released in April 2023;

  1. The Journal of Peasant Studies is commemorating the 30th anniversary of La Via Campesina by compiling a remarkable series of interviews with prominent leaders of the movement. The collection is now available for free.
  2. On the International Day of Peasant Struggles, – LVC Southern and Eastern Africa launched the UNDROP booklet in eight African languages to ensure that the African peasants have access to and use the UN peasant rights declaration to defend their rights.

(Have we missed an important update? If so, you can email the links to communications@viacampesina.org, which we will include in the next edition. Only updates from La Via Campesina members will be part of this news wrap. For a thorough update of different initiatives from April 2023, visit our website)

Did you miss the previous editions of our news wrap? Find it here

An abridged version of our April News Wrap will also be available shortly as Podcast on Anchor FM and Spotify.