La Via Campesina: Call to Durban

Peasant and indigenous people have thousands of solutions to confront climate change!

La Via Campesina calls on social movements and all people to mobilize around the world

The international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina and its South African member the Landless Peoples Movement are mobilizing for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

Caravans of African farmers from Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other countries will reach Durban to join other farmers and social movements from all parts of the world to demand climate justice.

African women farmers, members of La Via Campesina, will participate in the 2nd Southern Africa Rural Women Assembly, from November 30 to December 2, in Durban (co-organized by la Via Campesina Africa 1, TCOE, Women on Farms Project, Lamosa, ESAFF, UNAC, Namibian National Farmers Union, among others).

La Via Campesina will also take part in the Global Day of Action on December 3, with thousands of other activists to demand climate justice.

La Via Campesina and other African food and farmers groups in Africa are also inviting all movements, allies and activists to a special Mobilization Day for Agroecology and Food sovereignty on December 5 in Durban and around the world. (co-organised by ESAFF regional, ESAFF Uganda, ESAFF Zimbabwe, ROPPA, TCOE, Surplus People Project, etc.)

Climate negotiations are turned into a market place

At COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, most of the world’s governments, with the notable exception of Bolivia, met not to seriously address climate, but rather do business with transnational corporations that traffic in false solutions to climate change like REDD and other carbon market mechanisms, agrofuels and GMOs. They have turned the climate negotiations into a huge market place.

Our governments accepted a “business as usual” framework that condemns Africa and South Asia to virtual incineration, in which the very first victims are the farmers of these two continents, as rising temperatures create an even more hostile environment for crops, livestock and human beings. Most governments ignored the Cochabamba Principles, which provide a clear framework for seriously addressing global warming and protecting the Earth.

Under the UNFCCC, Developed Countries and polluting corporations, historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, are allowed all possible tricks to avoid reducing their own emissions. For example, the carbon market and carbon offset mechanisms allow countries and companies to continue polluting and consuming as usual, while paying small amounts of money to help poor people in developing countries reduce their emissions. What actually occurs is that companies profit doubly: by continuing to contaminate and by selling false solutions. Meanwhile, under REDD, poor people are stripped of many of their multiple rights to use communal forest lands, even as new land-grabbers emerge to consolidate large tracts by evicting farmers in order to traffic in carbon credits.

We know that the keys sources of climate-altering emissions are the globalized corporate food system based on industrial agriculture for export and for agrofuels, a transportation system based on private automobiles instead of public transport, and the polluting industries of transnational corporations. Without real and enforceable commitments to transform this, , there is no hope to prevent the virtual incineration of our farm lands and ability to feed the world.

We are peasants, small holders and family farmers, who today produce the vast majority of food consumed on this planet. We, and the food we produce, are being placed in danger, as temperatures rise, planting dates become unpredictable and there are ever more severe droughts, hurricanes and monsoons. Yet we also offer the most important, clear and scientifically-proven solutions to climate change through localized agroecological production of food by small holder farmers under the Food Sovereignty paradigm.

The global food system currently generates at least 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions, through long-distance transport of food that could easily have been grown locally, by excessive use of petroleum and petroleum-based agrochemical inputs, by monoculture, and by forest clearing for the industrial plantations we call “green deserts.”

We can drastically reduce or even eliminate these emissions by transforming the food system based on food sovereignty, i.e. producing locally for local consumption, a diverse production based on peasant families and communities, with sustainable practices

Agroecology is Not for Sale!

We reject any attempt to extend the carbon market and offset mechanisms of REDD to soil carbon, even when this comes dressed up by the World Bank as support for small farmer agroecology or “Climate Smart Agriculture,” because:

  • Just as in the case of REDD for forests, the carbon in our soil will essentially become the property of polluting corporations in the North. This amounts to the sale and privatization of our carbon. “Our Carbon in Not for Sale”!
  • The voluntary soil carbon market will be just another space for financial speculation, and while farmers receive pennies, speculators will make any real profits.
  • This is just another way for polluting industries and countries to evade real reductions in emissions.
  • It is also a way to divert attention from the massive carbon emissions produced by industrial farming and agribusiness, especially in the North, and place the burden of reducing emissions on peasants in the South, while nothing is done about carbon emissions from industrial agriculture.
  • If we as farmers sign a soil carbon agreement we lose autonomy and control over our farming systems. Some bureaucrat on the other side of the world, who knows nothing about our soil, rainfall, slope, local food systems, family economy, etc., will decide what practices we should use or not use.
  • Agroecology provides a wealth of benefits to the environment and farmer livelihoods, but by reducing the value of agroecology practices to the value of the carbon sequestered, not only are these other benefits devalued, but it can create perverse incentives to alter the agroecological practices (and opens the door to technologies like GMOs) to only maximize carbon rather than provide all the other benefits of agroecology.
  • It is inseparable from the neoliberal trend to convert absolutely everything (land, air, biodiversity, culture, genes, carbon, etc.) into capital, which in turn can be placed in some kind of speculative market.
  • If the currently low value of soil carbon were to rise on the speculative market, this could generate new land grabbing to charge soil carbon credits, as land consolidation is a prerequisite for making soil carbon credits profitable.

How peasant’s agriculture Should be Supported by Public Policy

  • Support farmer-to-farmer training programs administered by farmer organizations
  • Support the agroecology training schools of farmer organizations
  • End all open and hidden subsidies to industrial farming
  • Ban GMOs and dangerous farm chemicals
  • Offer production credit to small farmers who produce agroecologically
  • Direct government food procurement for hospitals, schools, etc., toward buying ecological food at fair prices from peasant farmers
  • Support ecological farmer’s markets for direct sale to consumers
  • Transform agronomy curricula to emphasize agroecology and farmer-to-farmer methodology
  • Create fair price incentives for locally produced ecological food
  • Etc.

Commitments of La Via Campesina

While we make many legitimate and urgent demands on our governments to seriously address climate change, we pledge to continue to build agroecology and Food Sovereignty from below.  We pledge to take the following practical steps:

  1. We continue to strengthen the movement of agroecology in the grassroots level to adapt to changing climate patterns.
  2. We will work to “keep carbon in the ground and in trees” in the areas under our control, by promoting agroforestry, tree planting, agroecology, energy conservation, and by fighting land grabs for mining and industrial plantations.
  3. We will engage and pressure governments at all levels to adopt food sovereignty as the solution to the climate change.
  4. We will fight the inclusion of peasant agriculture in carbon financing mechanisms.
  5. We will continue our struggle for agrarian reform to distribute land to family farmers and to oppose all forms of land grabbing.
  6. We will build a powerful smallholder farmer and peasant voice to be present with other sectors of civil society at COP-17 in Durban, and at Rio +20 in Brazil, with the message that we oppose false solutions to climate change and demand the adoption of the Cochabamba Principles. We will insist on Small Holder Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty as the most important true solutions to climate change.

No to Climate Land Grabbing!

Our Carbon is Not for Sale!

Peasant agriculture is Not for Sale!

Agroecological Production by Small Farmers Cools the Planet!

Globalize the Struggle!  Globalize Hope!