The world is paralyzed. A pandemic never seen before leaves the people shaken and exposes a savage capitalism which privatized public services. This is a class virus that attacks millions of rich and poor families.
The problem belongs to all of us and it is urgent to recover solidarity. Governments must seek urgent solutions to stop the advance of the health crisis and create a new economic and social order that is more humane and capable of generating solidarity to further mitigate the strong effect of the pandemic.
Doctors, nurses, health workers and an organized population are on the first front of the fight. Only where there is community healthcare and the support of the state can improvements be seen before, during and after the pandemic.
The most dramatic elements of the crisis are: the decrease in international trade, we observe a sharp fall in the prices of raw materials, exports and imports; the shutdown of production chains; tourism is the most affected; famine is looming in many countries due to quarantine, and the lack of investment in food production.
It is time to move on to our urgent tasks in the midst of the quarantine and the existing state of calamity. It is now up to us to promote family farming.
Returning to the countryside is an urgent task in the face of the shortage of healthy food, and this is only possible with the promotion of peasant and indigenous family agriculture; a concept that encompasses all family-based agricultural activities, such as the way agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing, aquaculture and grazing are organized, managed and operated by a family, and which depends on family labor.
There is an urgent need to improve infrastructure, facilitate access to rural financial services such as credit and financing, enable investment in agroecological farming by promoting increased land and labor productivity; we need to expand the surface area planted with crops in harmony with nature.
Latin America has a privileged capacity to respond to the food needs of its people. Let us unite the public and private efforts of the American granary. This must be the most urgent task of this moment, after maintaining discipline, in the face of the most contagious pandemic in history.
Urgent problems: recovering privatized public services
The privatization of basic services was the great proposal of the dominant classes and their neoliberal innovation. In the end, Latin American countries have private health systems. They are businesses that played with the health problems of the most poor and never promoted universal access to health. This fracture is very difficult to resolve in these moments of pandemic.
Thousands of men and women are unemployed and those who still have jobs must have their problems of minimum income and social protection resolved while the post-pandemic effect lasts. In addition, we must guarantee job stability and wages for workers through public policies that guarantee employment and minimum income for workers, whether in formal or informal conditions, including social security.
How to deal with telecommuting: in order to guarantee employment and salary stability, telecommuting has been implemented as a response to the economic paralysis. However, in the region most of our countries do not have telecommuting mechanisms and it is insufficiently regulated. It is fundamental that this modality does not make labor relations more precarious and flexible; on the contrary, it should have as a premise the guarantee of employment in accordance with ILO standards.
There are problems in the migrant population; it is urgent to ensure access to information without falling into panic and false news; food, hygiene and housing for people at risk, the provision of homes for the elderly or chronically ill is, ensuring access to hygiene materials for all, distribution of individual kits of food, water and heating, are urgent.
In addition, domestic violence must not take place, especially gender-based violence which increases in situations of self-isolation and quarantine. Am increased precariousness of work, decreased income and putting lots of pressure on social protection systems must be avoided.
Peasant and indigenous agriculture versus industrial agriculture
The recovery of an agriculture that recovers ancestral knowledge prior to the Green Revolution is very important, because it is the correct expression of peasant and indigenous family agriculture, whose purpose is to produce healthy food versus the food produced by conventional chemical agriculture that destroys the ecosystem. Agroecology has a theoretical approach that seeks to increase agricultural sustainability from ecological, social and economic perspectives. According to the FAO, it is the family farmers and local small-scale farmers, because of their knowledge and wisdom, who possess the necessary tools to put healthy food production into practice.
Industrial and chemical agriculture uses 75 percent of the world’s agricultural land to mainly grow fodder for massive animal production systems.
According to the FAO, worldwide, the expansion of the agricultural frontier is responsible for 70 percent of deforestation, but in countries like Brazil, the expansion of the agricultural frontier is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation.
The link between industrial agriculture and the emergence of viruses throughout history, the so-called zoonotic diseases, will always be a subject of debate.
We see that confined, overcrowded and immunosuppressed animal production allows the virus to mutate more quickly, and the animals also consume antibiotics and antiviral medicines from birth to slaughter before being eaten by humans.
A related note: as shown by GRAIN, the agro-industrial food system is responsible for about half of the greenhouse gases that produce climate change, a change that also causes species to migrate, including mosquitoes that can also transmit some viruses. Intensive animal husbandry in particular is responsible for most of these emissions. (Grain, 2017)
The search for a vaccine is not the total solution to the pandemic. It is necessary to analyze the causes because they perpetuate the problem, because other very dangerous strains are developing.
Recent studies indicate that it is peasant, indigenous and small-scale, even urban, production that feeds 70 percent of humanity. It is agribusiness that gives us junk food full of agro-toxins, which make us sick and weak in the face of pandemics, while they continue to monopolize peasant lands and natural areas. (ETC, 2017).
Position of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC).
It is time to place in the center of the debate a return to the countryside to promote Food Sovereignty with an agrarian reform and agroecological production.
The neoliberal model does not succeed in solving health or food needs. In the neoliberal system, health becomes a commodity and there are no protections for human life and local markets.
The peasant’s task is to produce food in an agroecological way. Food production cannot stop and is part of the first defense. We have to continue fighting for land, a popular and comprehensive agrarian reform
The challenges in each of our countries and in the region
- In each country we must guarantee the promotion of the agricultural sector through the implementation of food sovereignty, grow for self-consumption and local markets, export only when the population’s needs are met; exporting is a lower priority task in this moment; we must first meet the demands of local supply and raw materials.
- Credits, sharing native seeds, breeding stock, work material, inputs to recover the peasant agriculture and health food production are needed; this is an agriculture that cools the planet, that improves the quality of life for families who are returning to the countryside.
- Distribute land that is optimal for food production.
- Suspend trade laws and treaties that are harmful to peasant production.
- Promote public purchases of local food, school meals, and backyard gardens for the popular sectors.
- Control that patents on vaccines are not used for the monopolies of pharmaceutical companies and capitalist countries.
- Subsidies to producers, guaranteed prices for basic grains and improved systems of collection, transport and marketing are needed.
- Cancel farmer debt.
- Increase the production density of basic grains, coffee, bananas, vegetables, roots and tubers, as well as citrus and fruit trees.
- In each country, strengthen the first and second grade peasant organization, based on the experience of peasant to peasant.
- In each country, expand programs for the countryside that reach farmers and use of resources for promoting agriculture.
- Improve rural infrastructure for irrigation, roads, silos.
- Promote fairs and farmer’s markets to bring the producer closer to the consumer.
- Request support from cooperation agencies for food production.
- Work on management systems for crops and livestock.
- Animal production, including dairy products.
- Recover ancestral production without the use of chemicals to have a healthy and responsible production.
- Strengthen training centers for young farmers to improve their productive capacity, recovering agroecological peasant production, water harvesting, short-season crops and small and large animal husbandry.
- Create study and research centers to improve the quality of agroecological production, natural medicine and peasant-to-farmer exchanges.
- Guarantee a more proactive role of the United Nations organizations that relate to the general public; FAO, ILO and WHO.
- Create a platform with peasant, indigenous, and workers’ organizations; NGO allies; governments; multilateral agencies; and the FAO so that we all return to the countryside.
CLOC – Via Campesina Secretary.
April 9, 2020