Agroecology in the 8th LVC International Conference: Reflections of the agrarian movements in Colombia

First published by CEALDES on January 31, 2024

From December 1st to the 8th, 2023, the 8th La Via Campesina (LVC) International Conference took place in Bogota, Colombia under the slogans “Facing the global crises, we build Food Sovereignty to ensure a future to the humanity!” and “Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!”. As part of the activities the Agroecological Fair Lee Kyung Hae was carried out, as a commemoration of the Korean peasant an militant who gave his life as a protest against the policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Different agroecological products around the world such as Colombian coffee, Chilean win, European tomato and arugula seeds and Ugandan peanut butter were exchanged there. This fair was organized as a small sample of the peasant agricultural diversity of the 185 organizations from the 83 countries that make up the organizational network of the LVC. With more than 30 years, this “movement of movements”, with anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal principles, this is, probably, the most vibrant political and agrarian internationalist movement in terms of the construction of alternatives of the current development model and the global food system. The alternatives proposed by the LVC include the food sovereignty, the agrarian reform and the peasant agroecology.

During the 8th Conference, Joao Pedro Stedile, Brazilian leader of the Movimiento de los Trabajadores Sin Tierra (MST) characterized the LVC as a “collective organic collective” of the peasantry and other rural working classes and he stated five political contributions as a historical balance: 1) the defense of the food sovereignty, 2) the life defense through the protection of the nature and the water, 3) the idea of the control of the peasants over the seeds and the use of agroecological methods as an alternative to the transgenic crops and agrochemicals, 4) la incorporation of the popular feminism as a life principle and guarantee of the women participation in the peasant organization, 5) the achievement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. These contributions are the foundations of the unity of the organizations of the LVC that have met personally in Bogota through their more than 400 representatives after near 6 years after the last Conference. On this occasion, the Colombian agrarian organizationsi were hostess of the 8th LVC Conference, the movement’s highest decision-making space and where the global action lines for the following years are established.

One line of action defined at the 8th LVC Conference, and mentioned in the Final Political Declaration, was “a radical change towards agroecology to face the challenge to produce enough healthy food and, at the same time, reactivate the biodiversity and cool the planet. The peasant agroecology is the only food production model that guarantees the continuity of life in the world”.ii The agroecology defined as science, practice and social movementiii is conceived as a promising alternative to the multiple crises of the food system; that is to say the set of social relations that determine what food is produced, how and for whom they are produced. The food system crisis is manifested in the global corporate control of the food production, with more than 828 million of malnourished people in the world,iv the widespread exploitation of the rural working classes and the rise of the global deforestation, the land degradation and biodiversity loss.v

As an alternative, the agroecology aims at moving towards an environmentally, sustainable and socially fair agriculture following the functional biodiversity principle, the recycling of nutrients, the use of local organic supplies and the equity between producers and The agroecological transformations range from the implementation of agroecological principles on the field and the landscape level, the link between producers and consumers through the food networks to the reconfiguration of food system completely.vii

La Via Campesina has adopted the agroecology as the productive model to realize the political principles of the food sovereignty, which is understood as the peoples’ right to decide on and control the food system.viii To Viviana Catrileo, Mapuche leader and member of the Asosciación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas (ANAMURI), the life and peasant identity are the foundations of the agroecological practices, because of that, they are a symbol of the LVC struggle: “The agroecology is part of the food sovereignty as a principle of the political struggle for the LVC. It is part of the plan of action in the different continents because it is the answer to the peasants’ need to promote their ancient model of production against the agribusiness that has moved forward fiercely, displacing and forcing the peasants, the communities and the indigenous peoples around the different territories of the world.” One of the LVC strategies to impulse the agroecology has been the “peasant to peasant” processes, a collaborative educational process where the rural workers co-produce “knowledge through the exchange of ideas, experiences and innovation in the agroecological productions”.ix Nowadays, the organizations belonging to the LVC have more than 60 educational courses in agroecology around the world. Especially, la Coordinadora Latino american de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC), one of the 10 regional organizations of the the LVC, has promoted the Institutos Agroecologicos Latinoamericanos (IALAS) since 2005, as a pedagogical tool to expand and realize the food sovereignty. Nowadays, there are 12 IALAS, among them IALA Maria Cano in Colombia, which is led by the Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENUSAGRO).

In spite of the energy invested by the LVC and its organizations to expand peasant agroecology, different challenges to achieve the “radical change towards agroecology” have been identifies during the 8th Conference. Among those challenges, Fausto Torres, from the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC) from Nicaragua, has underlined how necessary is that the agroecology goes beyond the family agriculture and produces more decent employment for the young peasants. He also proposed to bring back the experiences of the IALAS to officialize the agroecological education in other regional organizations of the LVC bearing in mind the climatic, ecological and cultural particularities of each region. Together with this proposal, Margaret Eberu Masudio from Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale farmer’s Forum (ESAFF) from Uganda, emphasized that unless the peasants are educated in agroecological educative processes, it is not possible to move towards the food sovereignty. On the other hand, Jaime Amorín and Joao Pedro Stedile from the MST, highlighted the importance of moving towards agroecological transformations beyond demonstration farms, integrating the agroecology with the agroindustrial processes of transformation managed by peasant cooperatives and to widen the exchange of agricultural products between the rural producers and the urban consumers.

Finally, Nury Martinez, the president of FENSUAGRO called to move forward to the comprehensive and popular rural reform to gain control over the access to the land as a necessary condition to massify the peasant agroecology. Within this look, the food sovereignty pillars, the agroecology and the agrarian reform are independent alternatives to achieve the transformations proposed by the LVC.

Despite the fact that, the lines of action of the LVC orientate the food system transformations globally, its realization requires to adapt it to the national and local scales. In the Colombian case, the political scene poses challenges and opportunities to massify the peasant agroecology. Gustavo Petro’s National Government has raised the agrarian reform symbols and the Zero Hunger policy hand in hand with the food sovereignty, in addition to expanding the recognition of peasant territories, as in the Zonas de Reserva Campesina (ZRC) – 6 out of 13 ZRC constituted in the country have been recognized during the current government. The ZRCs are fertile ground for the blossom of peasant agroecological alternatives due to the presence of practices and knowledge of the peasant agriculture, the strength of the political organization in these processes, the explicit objectives of sustainability in those territories and the “future projects” enshrined in the Planes de Desarrollo Sostenible (PDS). For example, the ZRC from the high part from Venencia (Cundimarca) and Güejar-Cafre (Puerto Rico, Meta) project in their PDS aspirations of agroecological transformations for their territories.

Pushing forward these agroecological transformations in the Colombian peasant territories should deal with the challenges and the projections identifies globally by the LVC: educative processes, trade, access to the land, job opportunities for the young peasants, cooperative work and agroindustrial transformation. That is why, it is of paramount importance the work of the peasant organizations of the ZRC, favour the exchange of experiences with international agrarian organizations, but also to guarantee the technical assistance and the funding of the PDS by the national government in the current political circumstances. That is way, the Colombian peasant territories will open paths towards the agroecological transformations to different scales of the food system and, like that, contribute to “Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!

This article was written by Daniel Ortiz Gallego.

Photo: La Via Campesina

i The organizations that belong to the LVC are: CNA, FENACOA, FENSUAGRO, ACVC, ASCOCAMPO, ANZORC, APEMECAFE, and PCN.


iii Wezel, A., Bellon, S., Doré, T., Francis, C., Vallod, D., & David, C. (2009). Agroecology as a science, a movement and a practice. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 503-515. doi:10.1051/agro/2009004

iv FAO. (2022). World Food and Agriculture Statistical Yearbook. Rome: FAO.

v Weis, T. (2010). The Accelerating Biophysical Contradictions of Industrial Capitalist  Agriculture. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10 (3), 315 341.

vi Rosset M and Altieri, M. (2017). Agroecology: Science and Politics. Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

vii Gliessman, S. (2015). Agroecology the Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. London: CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group.

viii Nyéléni Declaration on food sovereignty. (2007). In Food Sovereignty, ed. R. Patel. The Journal of Peasant Studies 36(3), 673–675.

ix Rosset et al. (2019). Agroecology and La Via Campesina I. The symbolic and material construction of agroecology through the dispositive of “peasant to peasant” processes. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 43(7 8), 872 894