"Feeding the world and cooling the planet": La Vía Campesina's Fifth International Conference

By Luis Hernández Navarro and Annette Aurélie Desmarais

Briarpatch Magazine, January/February 2009

They numbered almost 650, from 86 countries and five continents, when they arrived in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. They were delegates, support teams and special guests of the Fifth International Conference of La Vía Campesina, which took place from October 16 to 23, 2008. To reach Maputo, most of the delegates had made a considerable economic and human effort. Maputo is not a city you get to easily. At a moment when the world economy had yet to come up for air, in which the credit, environmental, food, trade and finance crises were colliding against one another and shaking the international economic architecture, farm leaders from many regions of the planet gathered together to collectively analyze the global food crisis and its relation to the financial crisis, and to show the world why food sovereignty - the democratization of the global food system - is a viable and necessary alternative.

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A Glimpse of the Peasant and Small Farmer

Association Movement in Mozambique
Being in a field in southern Niassa province, in Mozambique, listening to a group of women and men members of a peasant and small farmers’ association sing a cappella while they wield their hoes is both thrilling and supremely humbling. Particularly when you realize that the song is being improvised and that they are singing about their association movement and thanking you for dropping by.

I was in Mozambique because I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Fifth International Conference of La Via Campesina in Matola, a suburb of the capital city Maputo. La Via Campesina is an organization of organizations, a powerful aspect of the growing movement of peasants, family farmers, indigenous and landless people of the world. My goals were to help record the conference by interviewing some of the delegates and to learn more about the campesin@ way of life and how that way is crystallized in a call for and a practice of food sovereignty. In particular, I wanted to learn what that means to the peasants and small farmers of Mozambique.

Members of the First of December farmers' association, which works with the national organization UNAC (União Nacional de Camponeses / National Peasants' Union) in the Sanga district, near Lichinga, in the Niassa province of Mozambique. Photo by
Nic Paget-Clarke.

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Jihye Lee's address to the Vth Conference

The daughter of the Korean farmer sacrificed in Cancun

Good evening, I am Jihye Lee

Let me begin with my gratitude for giving me this honorable opportunity to speak to you.

It’s a great honor for me to speak to a lot of peasant movement’s leaders. I’m grateful to you for inviting me with a humble heart because I’m still young an inexperienced compared to you. So I’m a little bit nervous and shy to think that I’m in front of you, who deserve to be respected.

Read more: Jihye Lee's address to the Vth Conference

Letter of Evo Morales to the Vth Conference

October 17, 2008
La Paz, Bolivia

Sisters and Brothers
International Conference of the Via Campesina      
Maputo, Mozambique

Sisters and brothers:  The innumerable activities that I now have as President of Bolivia prevent me from being with you, as is my constant desire.  Whenever I am informed about your activities, meetings, workshops and conferences I am filled with nostalgia because as a founder of Via Campesina I would like to be with you debating the problems that we have as a sector.

Read more: Letter of Evo Morales to the Vth Conference

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