Since May 2022, when we celebrated the 30 years of our peasant movement’s achievement in Nicaragua in 1992, with various activities also organized by the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations – CLOC , we have been honoring and valuing the importance of La Via Campesina. Now, in Mons, Belgium, we gathered together with the European Coordination Via Campesina – ECVC to commemorate its 30 years of foundation. This meeting, which took place on May 15th, not only marked a significant milestone, but also provided us with the opportunity to further strengthen the movement, shed light on recent triumphs, and address the forthcoming hurdles.
Among these achievements is the pivotal role played by La Via Campesina in the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) in 2018. The UNDROP is a crucial step towards recognizing and safeguarding the rights of those who feed the world. Moreover, the movement has been instrumental in popularizing the concept of Food Sovereignty, which asserts the right of communities to determine their agricultural and food policies, promoting ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate methods of farming to ensure wholesome nourishment for all.
As the world grapples with a multidimensional crises, including the pressing challenges of climate crisis, food crisis and wars, the peasantry has emerged as a source of viable solutions. La Via Campesina has been at the forefront of advocating for agroecological approaches that prioritize sustainability, resilience, and social justice in food production systems. The commemorative event held in Mons provided a platform to highlight these recent victories and underscore the vital role played by the peasant movement in addressing global challenges.
Over the past 30 years, La Vía Campesina has organized 8 international conferences. The first one took place in Mons, Belgium, in 1993, followed by conferences in Mexico in 1996, India in 2000, Brazil in 2004, Mozambique in 2008, Indonesia in 2013, and Derio in 2017. These gatherings have been crucial in advancing and uniting peasants worldwide in a project of unity and solidarity. The main objective has been to strengthen the peasant movement globally, in pursuit of justice and dignity for rural communities.
Mons in the memory of the peasant movement
The commemorative event kicked off on May 15th at 11 a.m. at the Mons Town Hall (Belgium), where leaders of the movement gathered, including Morgan Ody, General Coordinator of LVC; Paul Nicholson, the first General Coordinator of LVC; Wim Moayaert, from the Belgian member organization Boerenforum; members of the technical team present during the birth of the movement, and other invited guests to revisit the place where it all began.
In the company of representatives from the town hall, a dialogue and a toast were held in honor of the movement as a whole. After this memorable moment, the delegation of leaders headed to Brussels to join the afternoon celebration, which was attended by over 60 people from across Belgium and some European countries. The celebration was hosted by peasant leader Federico Pacheco from SOC – SAT – Union of Rural Workers (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Campo), a member organization of ECVC – European Coordination Via Campesina.
At the event, there was a special moment when the Declaration of Mons was read. This declaration was a significant milestone that established and organized La Via Campesina. Various leaders from LVC who were present at the event took part in the reading, and there were also videos sent by other leaders who couldn’t attend. LVC member organizations in Belgium, Boerenforum, FUGEA, and MAP, were also present with welcoming speeches, and a snippet of the documentary “Globalize hope” was shared.
Another emotional moment of the celebration was when leaders and activists involved in the founding of the movement 30 years ago, such as Paul Nicholson, Pancha Rodriguez and Edgardo Garcia, shared their experiences of that historic moment. The ceremonial video filmed at the Mons Town Hall that morning was screened, allowing everyone present to relive the excitement experienced by the delegation as they recognized the meeting venue where the movement was formally found.
After 30 years, our triumph lies in our unwavering unity and collective comprehension that the battle remains against the neoliberal model, with each of us participating in this shared struggle.Paul Nicholson
We stand as a pioneering organization that acknowledges the multifaceted contributions of women, not just in agriculture but also in the realms of struggle and organization, embodying strength, integrity, and unwavering commitment.Pancha Rodriguez
Moreover, prominent figures from the movement’s history, including former LVC general coordinators Henry Saragih and Elizabeth Mpofu, along with current International Coordinating Committee members Hortense Doleres Kikodila, Anuka Desilva, and Morgan Ody spoke about the role of the movement, its achievements and the the challenges.
Following our struggles for peasant rights, agroecology, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, LVC becomes an alternative to the global crises of hunger, rural poverty and injustice.Henry Saragih
Through the presence of LVC in Africa, we have witnessed increased peasant visibility, strengthened our self-assurance, forged regional alliances, and come to the realization that we are not alone in our struggles for rights, land, and food sovereignty.Elizabeth Mpofu
Live music was provided by Flamboyant, a Belgian duo who filled the atmosphere with activist lyrics in support of peasant struggles. Educational Material, Food and drinks were available for all attendees, completing the day of commemoration and creating spaces for interaction and camaraderie among people of all generations gathered to celebrate the world’s largest peasant movement.
The celebration also took place in preparation for the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, which will be held in Colombia in December of this year. At this conference, peasants from around the world will highlight the fundamental role of peasant agroecology, peasant and popular feminism and peasant rights in the global struggle for peace, climate justice, equity and food sovereignty.
Through the presence of LVC in Africa, we have witnessed increased peasant visibility, strengthened our self-assurance, forged regional alliances, and come to the realization that we are not alone in our struggles for rights, land, and food sovereignty.Morgan Ody
By continuing to amplify the voices of peasants worldwide and fostering solidarity among diverse communities, La Via Campesina continues to inspire hope and advocate for just and inclusive food systems. The commemoration in Mons marked not only a milestone in the movement’s history but also a renewed call to action, as it confronts the future challenges with unwavering determination and unwavering spirit.
Towards the VIII International Conference of La Via Campesina, Bogota, Colombia 2023
Faced with the global crises, we build food sovereignty to ensure a future for humanity !