In February, La Via Campesina expressed profound sadness and anger over the tragic earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey. The peasant movement published a statement of solidarity on their website, pointing out that the majority of human losses and damage resulted from unplanned and unmonitored urbanization, which encroached upon once agricultural lands.
La Via Campesina convened a regional secretariat meeting in Turkey this month as part of their preparations for the 8th International Conference, scheduled to occur in Nicaragua later this year. At the regional gathering, the global peasant movement restated its solidarity with the people of Turkey, especially peasant families, who are mourning the loss of numerous lives and livelihoods after the earthquake.
In its call-to-action towards International Working Women’s Day (8th March), issued in February, LVC also calls for solidarity with the women’s organizations in Turkey who established a feminist solidarity group for disaster relief. The call-to-action, issued to all 181 members of La Via Campesina and our allies in the global peasant movement, condemns the patriarchal and racist dimensions of capitalism that oppress society, particularly women, children, and individuals who do not conform to binary gender identities.
In other news, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a coalition of Black farmers, landowners, cooperatives, and other low-income rural people in the United States, will partner with Alcorn State University’s Policy Research Center on research to determine the decreasing number of Black farmers in the U.S., Black land loss, and access to credit concerns.
Meanwhile, in the UK, The Jumping Fences Project, a collaborative research project between Land in Our Names, the Ecological Land Cooperative, and the Landworkers’ Alliance, presents the experiences of Black and People of Colour (BPOC) in the British farming and land-based sectors. The report records systemic or structural racialisation, overt and aggressive racism, for example on work exchange farms, or at agricultural university.
In Canada, the Union Paysanne activists from the Gaspé to the Outaouais wrote an op-ed in Le Devoir that addresses the question of animals in our food models. The letter reaffirms that the role of animals is complementary to that of plant production. The activists of the peasant union insist that it is essential to find agricultural models where the number of animals per herd is greatly reduced, which makes it possible to limit their environmental impact and to integrate them into diversified production, leading to an equally diversified diet.
This view is also echoed in a report published in February by the European Coordination La Via Campesina (ECVC) that listed recommendations to viably move away from industrialized livestock farming models and ensure that, in Europe, the number of animals reared does not exceed what each given territory is capable of sustaining.
From Tanzania, the National Network of Farmers’ Groups (MVIWATA) has provided an update that reemphasizes the importance of small-scale cattle rearing and farming. In a hamlet located in the Shinyanga region of the country, MVIWATA has established a dairy network consisting of almost 100 households that collectively own 15 calves. This initiative aims to enhance household income and improve nutrition. The system offers cattle owners the opportunity to distribute two newborn calves to a farmer’s group they belong to so that fellow members can also own cattle by nurturing and raising the calves they have acquired.
In the Western African region, several organizations, including Coordination Togolaise des Organisations Paysannes (CTOP), Conseil national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux – CNCR of Senegal, and Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes (CNOP) of Mali, gathered in Togo to review the work accomplished in 2022. CNCR also reported about advocacy activities in February in Dakar to promote the agroecological transition in the country.
In South Korea, the Korean Peasant Women’s Association (KWPA) organized a seed and harvest festival to reaffirm the link between agroecological transition and the centrality of peasant seed systems in enabling such a transition. Peasant women from across the country brought a wide variety of native seeds that included native sesame oil, native peppers, altari kimchi, gamalang, and sorghum kuyi to the fair organized by the KWPA.
However, free trade agreements and international seed treaties have often played a counter-productive role and marginalized peasant agriculture, peasant seed systems, and food sovereignty.
The Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC Via Campesina) and the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) condemned the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement in February, citing its undemocratic nature and violation of peasants’ rights and climate commitments. The statement comes as the European Commission and some EU Member States are pushing to find ways to adopt the FTA, with little regard for the democratic control of national parliaments or the real impact or implementation of so-called environmental measures.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – KMP, an LVC member in the Philippines, drew attention to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which the country ratified in February. KMP points out that agriculture is among the sectors that will be most affected by RCEP. 84% of the country’s agricultural tariff lines will have zero tariffs under RCEP, putting them at risk.
In Indonesia, the Serikat Petani Indonesia has protested against the decision of the National Food Agency (BAPANAS) to limit the purchase price of grain. SPI alleges that these decisions were taken without consulting the peasants’ unions and will only benefit large corporations.
Some of these protests that peasant movements lead are also met with repression, criminalization and even murder!
In February, La Via Campesina received the news of the assassination of Eduardo Mendua, a leader of CONAIE on Sunday, February 26th, with grief and outrage. His murder took place in the midst of the advance of oil extraction in the territories of the Amazonian Cofán region.
In South Korea, the Korean Peasant League and the Korean Peasant Women’s Association have deplored the illegal arrest of their General Secretary of KPL, Ko Chang-geon, who has been leading the struggle for better purchase prices and food sovereignty. La Via Campesina, taking note of this arrest, has also issued a statement demanding the South Korean government to immediately release Ko Chang-geon.
Moving onto other news, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, peasant members are protesting the rising cost of living and high inflation that has made lives incredibly difficult for all its citizens, but the peasantry and workers, in particular. In Lahore, early this month, peasant leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee held a protest against the increase in the prices of petroleum products and the sales tax rate on farm inputs, fearing it will enhance their cost of production.
In Europe, the ECVC launched a new report on the working and learning conditions of young agricultural workers, defined as people who labor in the fields, mountains and farms and also in the livestock or food processing units and who are younger than 40 years old. The report looks at a wide range of issues, including working hours, fees, contracts, negotiation power, food and housing, and gender discrimination, including with regard to intersectionality.
(Have we missed an important update? If so, you can email the links to firstname.lastname@example.org, which we will include in the next edition. Only updates from La Via Campesina members will be part of this news wrap. For a thorough update of different initiatives from Februrary 2023, visit our website.)
Did you miss the previous editions of our news wrap? Find it here