Farmer’s Forum: Producing food for our communities

Henry Saragih speech at the opening of the IFAD – Farmer’s Forum, Rome 15 February 2010

Distinguished President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development

Distinguished Excutive Board of IFAD an all IFAD staff

Dear Participants to Farmers Forum,

I’m here today in the name of La Via Campesina as a representative of smallscale farmers, indigenous people, landless people, women and rural workers from 9 regions of the world.

The Farmers Forum of this year takes place in a crucial moment for humanity, The big failure in food, climate and financial crises our people have been facing for years has aggravated during the last two years. More farmers have been displaced, more people are suffering hunger, more rural communities are in ruins. We have now more landlessness, women and youth are unable to access land, the number of people who leave their communities is growing. At the same time we see the expansion of agrofuels and monoculture projects and the power of corporate transnationals over food systems is growing around the world. It’s not acceptable that during the current crisis, the price of food continues to increase, more people are unable to afford food and the corporations continue to make excessive profits.

Therefore, the presence of La Via Campesina at this forum is vital.

We’re here to represent the people who make up the majority of the more than 1 billion hungry people in the world. We also represent an international movement of people struggling to solve hunger. I’m bringing their voice to share our vision of an alternative to this crisis and to reaffirm our comitment to solve, with all of you, the crucial issue of poverty and climate change.

La Via Campesina really believes that the future of our food production is in the hands of our women and children. In this regard, we welcome the IFAD position on the involment of women and young people in the promotion of sustainable agroecological agriculture.

Let me reaffirm our political concept of what kind of model of agriculture we need to achieve. I’m refering to a model contrary to the current model of industrial commercial agriculture that only benefits corporate greed. In our model human beings work the land to produce food to satisty the needs of local communities and at the same time protect our common goods like land, water, native seeds, and also our local culture and our history.

Our model is one of sustainable agriculture and agroecological systems as a solution to the global crisis whereby more people are being pushed into extreme poverty.

Our model is also a response to climate change. If we really want to tackle the climate change crisis, the only way we have to go forward is to stop industrial agriculture. Agribusiness has not only highly contributed to the climate crisis, creating irreparable damages to our rural communities but has also massacred the small farmers of the world.

Let’s not forget that the corporate offensive against sustainable agriculture and rural communities, along with climate change has also created a crisis of migration. Millions of people can not longer survive in their own land and are forced to migrate. La Via Campesina believes that our model of food production can alleviate this problem of displacement. Therefore, we demand the respect of the rights of all migrants workers and their families.

We want to stress the importance for IFAD to stenghen its direct support to small scale family farmer organisations, helping to maintain the existing family farms and increase their capacity to take part in agriculture and rural development. To increase the capacity and the resources needed by the peasant Organisations to train and educate their members – men, women , young and landless people – is essential

To make sure IFAD’s support really goes to small farmers’ grassroot organizations, IFAD should change the way it works with us at national and regional level. We suggest that it could develop a protocol applicable at regional and national level to ensure that each organisation can maintain its autonomy and IFAD funds really reach the poorest people.

Everbody should support La Via Campesina initiative for getting an International Charter on Peasnt Rights and its struggle for the need of public policies to protect small scale sustanaible farming.

Thank you for your attention. We respectfully ask you to consider our key concerns and the proposals that we will present during the dialogue the next two days.


Henry Saragih, General coordinator of La Via Campesina