France : Peasant Struggle to preserve and share the water will always be legitimate

Bagnolet, 06 January 2022: The court of Niort has just condemned 4 of the 5 persons prosecuted for having participated in a mobilization at the construction site of the mega-basin of Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon, on September 22, 2021. The sentences, very severe, range from 2 to 6 months of suspended prison, with bans on appearing in Sainte-Soline, Mauzé or in the Deux-Sèvres. On Thursday (05 January), the correctional court of La Rochelle requested against 2 demonstrators equally severe sentences ranging from 5 to 6 months of suspended prison and 500,000 euros damages! The judgment has been postponed to March 2nd.

Since the mobilization of Sainte-Soline, the legal proceedings are multiplying, blindly. Justice is instrumentalized to criminalize, discredit and intimidate a mobilization that keeps growing and expanding. For all that, our determination to work for the protection and the sharing of water remains intact. The demonstration of March 25 in which we will take all our part will demonstrate this.

Mobilized on Thursday in La Rochelle, the Confédération paysanne recalled the legitimacy of the action of November 6 at the Cram-Chaban mega-basin, in which we took on the dismantling of a water pump pipe. A dismantling which cost the spokesman of the Confédération paysanne a suspended sentence, with compensation for moral damages reduced to a symbolic one euro. On May 17, the Bordeaux Administrative Court of Appeal confirmed the illegality of the Cram-Chaban reservoir and of the four others in the Mignon sector.

Today’s judgment in Niort involved five persons, including three peasants. For us it was the occasion of a day of “peasant resistance”. We demonstrated once again the legitimacy of our actions of civil disobedience. Each time, we act in the interest of the peasants. Against Mc-Donalds, the WTO, the 1000-cow factory farm, the GMOs… Our struggle against mega-basins is part of this “tradition”: to defend a common good, water, to defend peasants against the industrialization of agriculture, to fight for their autonomy and against the monopolization of natural resources for the benefit of private interests.

The debate has been blocked for months due to a lack of response from the public authorities. Our requests for an audience with the Prime Minister, in charge of the ecological transition, initially remained dead letter. After the success of the mobilization of Sainte-Soline, a first meeting has been proposed. It will take place on January 16 with the cabinet of Elisabeth Borne.

We will emphasize the urgency of protecting water resources in order to ensure the sustainability of agriculture and its ability to feed locally. Priorities for the use of water within agriculture must be defined: farms that produce relocalized food must have access to water.

We will ask for the implementation of irrigation caps on farms, based on the number of people working on the farm, on the production and the local character of its commercialization, and on the useful agricultural surface.

Public money cannot be wasted on irrigation works and agricultural practices that monopolize the resource and destroy the soil and our environment. Especially since 90% of the useful agricultural surface is not irrigated.

The government cannot hide behind an authoritarian response. We have a solution: a moratorium.

(This Press release was first published on January 6, 2022 on the website of our member organization in France, the Confédération Paysanne. )