France: Stop the criminalization of peasants who fight against water grabbing mega-basins

Solidarity Statement of La Via Campesina

La Via Campesina expresses the deep solidarity of our global peasant movement with the peasants in France who are fighting against the water grabbing and the imposition of mega-basins promoted by the government and the agribusiness lobbies.

In contrast to the small reservoirs traditionally built to store rainwater, whose function is both social and ecological, the mega-basins promoted by the French government pump groundwater into plastic craters, up to 18 hectares in size, drying out the soil, affecting the water cycle and the surrounding biodiversity. In addition, they accentuate the inequality in access to water, the depopulation of rural areas and the land grabbing by big companies that practice intensive agriculture.

For the past six years, the struggle against mega-basins has brought together environmentalist, trade union and peasant organizations, such as La Confédération Paysanne, one of the member organizations of LVC in France, in mobilizations alongside hundreds of activists for a fair distribution of this vital commons. Many of these demonstrators have been prosecuted in court proceedings aimed at scaring off the growing population that opposes these extractivist projects. Five of these mega-basins have been ruled illegal after a 14-year legal battle. These protests have resulted in suspended prison sentences and fines for farmers just for protesting. Similarly, the spokesperson for the Confédération Paysanne was prosecuted by water grabbers after a symbolic action involving the dismantling of a mega-basin pump.

In a context of climate change, the protection of water and land is a ethical imperative from which no one can ignore. Preserving these commons from agribusiness grabbing, as well as the livelihoods of those who feed most of the population and are on the front lines against the commodification of life, requires a collective effort of solidarity. This effort is in line with the defense of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (Undrop), which clearly states the right of peasants to access water, to resources necessary for food production and to participate in the management of these commons.

In opposition to the government’s will to pursue the construction of new mega-basins that are harmful to the environment and agricultural employment, a new large international demonstration will take place on March 24, 25 and 26 in the Poitou region, where the Confédération Paysanne and La Via Campesina will be present to demand from the French government to stop water grabbing projects (through a moratorium) as well as to revise policies regarding the management of the commons in order to guarantee projects that respond to a just agricultural transition and to the climatic challenges.

We also express our concern about the government’s refusal to dialogue, recently expressed by the banning of the next demonstration by order of the Deux-Sèvres prefecture. If the authorities do not listen to the voice of the peasants and all those who have demonstrated the absurdity of these projects, neglecting the democratic debate with the population directly affected by their measures, civil disobedience will prevail and we will globalize the struggle to globalize hope.

Cover photo : Mathieu Eisenger