2024 | January Newswrap: Highlights from La Via Campesina Member Organizations Worldwide

La Via Campesina kicked off the year by participating in various mobilizations to defend peasant rights and denounce corporate food systems and Free Trade Agreements.

In Europe, sparked by peasants’ dissatisfaction over the elimination of subsidies for agricultural diesel and tax exemptions for agricultural vehicles in Germany, deeper political concerns have surfaced. AbL, a member of La Via Campesina in Germany, presented a 6-point agricultural policy plan with measures to quickly and effectively ease the burden on farms. In a new petition, they call on Chancellor Scholz and ministers Özdemir and Lindner to change the course of agricultural policy and reinforce farm diversity with effective measures.

In France, La Confédération Paysanne denounced the serious impact of neo-liberalism and agribusiness on peasant remuneration. Joining nationwide mobilizations, they called for a break with free trade agreements and demanded the effective application of the Unfair Trading Prices (UTP) directive and a ban on selling below production costs at European level, guaranteed prices, and real support for agroecological transition.

In Spain, COAG staged protests in Madrid, demanding fair prices and opposing the EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement. They also called for simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and implementing measures to support farmers, such as agricultural insurance and facilitating young peasant farmers’ access to land. They fought against land speculation and addressed environmental concerns, including droughts in agricultural lands and animal health.

In a united voice, European peasants gathered in Belgium on February 1, responding to the call from FUGEA and ECVC, participating in a massive protest against European agricultural policies. They demanded the cessation of negotiations for a trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur. Furthermore, they denounced market deregulation, the unfair distribution of subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy of Europe (CAP), deregulation of genetically modified seeds and carbon markets, and the lack of initiatives for agroecological transition amid the climate crisis.

Throughout January, La Via Campesina continued its solidarity campaign with Palestine, focusing on the critical situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In collaboration with the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a member of La Via Campesina in Palestine, support was provided to peasants to ensure food availability amid the genocide perpetrated by Israel.

In East Africa, concerns about food protection led to discussions on the role of youth in promoting agroecology during the 1st Agroecology Conference for journalists and communicators organized by ESAFF Uganda in Kampala on January 25. Representatives from five East African countries completed a 12-week course on agroecology.

In Senegal, on January 25, the National Council for Consultation and Cooperation of Rural Areas (CNCR) called for the mobilization of 2,000 peasants to create social conditions for improving financial governance, access to financing, professional integration of rural youth, and a review of the provisions of the Agro-Silvo-Pastoral Law.

At the end of January, CNOP-Mali provided a three-day training course for around 30 women from women’s cooperatives in the regions of Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou, and Mopti. The purpose was to train women engaged in the transformation of agricultural products in negotiation and marketing techniques.

In Togo, CTOP Togo hosted a promotional workshop focused on integrating pastoralism into Communal Development Plans and promoting peaceful management of natural resources. With the support of the Network of Peasant and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA), this event involved participants from Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. The main goal was to improve the safety of pastoral mobility and land tenure for agropastoralists and herders in the central corridor of West Africa.

On January 4, Mauritanian peasant women from the Union of Mauritanian Farmers held a second demonstration in Bassengdi, Brakna region, to express solidarity with peasants victims of a shooting by unknown assailants. During the protest, they demanded justice, punishment for those responsible, and greater protection for peasants and their properties, especially during the harvest season.

On January 25, in Rabat, the National Federation of the Agricultural Sector (FNSA) opened the 16th National Forum of Agronomist Engineers at the headquarters of the Moroccan Labor Union. The aim was to promote national engineering and improve conditions for engineers, recognizing their vital role in addressing drought and tackling water and food sovereignty challenges.

In news coming in from Latina America, in Haiti, protests against Prime Minister Ariel Henry have intensified due to public dissatisfaction with his lack of action to address the growing insecurity in Port-au-Prince and other areas affected by criminal gangs. In a joint statement, La Via Campesina organizations in Haiti demanded his resignation for a political transition to achieve social peace. Simultaneously, a judgment by the Court of Justice declared the Kenyan government-backed police mission in Haiti unconstitutional, also prohibiting the deployment of Kenyan police to any other country. A harsh setback for the Core Group led by the American embassy in Haiti, potentially affecting their plans in the country with the involvement of Kenya police.

In Panama, on January 18, the Panamanian Peasant Union (UCP) commemorated 16 years of advancing as a national peasant organization. In a statement, they highlighted the economic and social difficulties faced by peasants, especially in opposing harmful projects like First Quantum mining in Donoso, where they called for operations to be shut down. Despite the electoral year, they announced their active participation, committed to social struggle, and strengthening popular unity to build a just society.

Further south, in Argentina, on January 24, MNCI Somos Tierra participated in the national strike to protest against the DNU and the Omnibus Law promoted by the ultraliberal government of Javier Milei. These law contemplates the deregulation of economic sectors such as labor, trade, and health, privatization of public companies, and concession of natural resources, raising concerns about its impact on indigenous peasant families, national sovereignty and food production.

In Peru during January, La CNA rejected the amendment to the forestry law promoted by the Peruvian Congress. This law threatens forests, flora and fauna, and indigenous peoples. They called for shelving the norm and considering the popular will expressed in a statement with over 4,000 signatures. They urged the Executive to develop a comprehensive proposal and respect indigenous prior consultation. However, ignoring the requests, the President of Congress signed the bill on January 10, without respecting its reconsideration status on the institution’s website.

In Paraguay, the Organization for the Struggle for Land (OLT) denounced a violent attack suffered by the peasant community of Chorrito “Cerro Guy” in Carayao-Caaguazu. Civilians armed with uniforms of the National Police tried to evict the community, forcibly detaining two of its members. It is suspected that German businessmen may be behind this attempt, seeking to intimidate the community to usurp the land for industrial livestock farming. OLT urgently calls on public institutions and the international community to pay attention to this complaint. This episode reflects a shared reality that places Paraguay as the most unequal country in land distribution.

In Brazil and El Salvador, two historical organizations in the peasant movement celebrated anniversaries in January. The Landless Workers Movement of Brazil marked 40 years since its founding, when the first land occupations took place in Brazil; and Fecoracen celebrated 39 years, highlighting cooperativism and Peasant Agriculture as the only path to Food Sovereignty. LVC salutes the commitment and significant contributions that both organizations have made to the construction of the global peasant movement.

In Canada, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is strengthening its internationalist vision with two webinars. The first, held on February 7, addressed the genocide in Gaza and the West Bank, shared by Palestinian farmers. The second, on February 12, will present the agreements of the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina. An invitation to promote the global and local vision of the peasant movement for solidarity and food sovereignty.

In Asian news, in India, the Bhartiya Kisan Union informed of a national strike on February 16, addressing various issues, highlighting the non-implementation of a law guaranteeing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops. Additionally, farmer groups urge traders and transporters to support the cause by participating in a strike on that day.

On January 17, in Sri Lanka, MONLAR joined a demonstration with various civil society organizations calling for the rejection of the proposed Microfinance and Credit Regulatory Authority Act. Groups argue that the proposal does not align with the objectives for those affected by microfinance institutions or regulate their fraudulent activities, potentially worsening the economic situation of community organizations in rural areas.

The All Nepal Peasant Federation (ANPFA) continued its ongoing efforts to aid and rehabilitate communities affected by the devastating earthquake that hit the country last November. Blankets, utensils, and other aid materials were distributed to farmers affected by the natural disaster, where at least 153 people died, and over 400 were injured. The earthquakes caused widespread damage to infrastructure in Nepal, including roads, bridges, schools, agricultural fields, and hospitals. Over 67,000 families were displaced, and at least 35,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In Indonesia, the Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) warned of falling rice prices due to cheaper import policies. From November 2023 to January 2024, rice prices have dropped between 7% and 24% for farmers. On January 19, they protested, calling for the rejection of imports, the repeal of the Omnibus Law, and the restoration of provisions in favor of farmers, urging government rice reserves to come directly from local farmers and requesting an increase in the government’s purchase price for rice.

In South Korea, the KPL News, led by the Korean Peasants League, expressed concerns about an amendment to the Grain Management Act. Instead of promoting the distribution of locally produced rice and soybeans, the amendment favors the import of rice and beans. The article also highlights the significant reduction of tariffs by the government, claiming price stabilization, even for imported fruits, where there is no direct competition nationally. There are concerns that traditional fruit markets may collapse due to unfair competition from imported products.

Finally, in Thailand, the Assembly of the Poor reported a government-led fact-finding mission that included testimonies from over 500 people in fishing communities in Pak Muen. The investigation concluded that around 2000 community members would be directly affected by the construction of the Pak Muen dam in the Ubon Ratchathani province.

If there are any important updates that we have missed, please send the links to communications@viacampesina.org so that we can include them in the next edition. We only include updates from La Via Campesina members. For a comprehensive update on various initiatives from Janury 2024, please visit our website. You can also find the previous editions of our news wrap on our website. In addition, condensed versions of our newswraps are accessible as a podcast on Spotify.