Land reform

Via Campesina III Int. Conference

The struggle for agrarian reform and social changes in the rural areas

The historical reality
1. During the past century, severeal countries undertook agrarian reform programs. These programs were aimed at confronting the large landed properties and at democratizing access to land for poor peasants. It can be said generally that the experience of land reform was driven by two important motivations: a) There were capitalist agrarian reforms that, above all, sought to create an internal market for the national development of industry, and to transform the landless peasants into small autonomous producers and b) also socialist agrarian reforms that distributed the land to the peasants, but these reforms involved deeper processes of changing the modes of capitalist production, and for this reason they also included other mechanisms like the collectivization of means of production and production itself, and the nationalization of land.

Each agrarian reform had its unique characteristics, depending on the historical development of the country and the level of organisation among the rural population. In spite of polemics and differences in strategies, there was a process of democratisation of land and a reduction of rural poverty and inequality.

2. In the countries of the Third World, with rare exceptions, it cannot be said that there were true agrarian reforms that helped peasants to get out of poverty. Even though it is there that the majority of poor peasants live, and where the weight of rural population is the most significant. In some countries they even represent the majority. The absence of agrarian reforms is basically due to two factors: a) The existence of a dependent, colonial capitalist model that developed the large properties with the exportation of primary products. b) The political power of rural oligarchies, large landowners, united with the local and foreign bourgeoisie.

The agrarian problem
3. In all the countries of the Third World where agrarian reform has not been implemented, grave agrarian problems persist, manifested in the continuing existence of large landed properties, the high concentration of land in the hands of a minority, and the use of the land only for exploitation and profit. The last yeras also arable land has been bought in order to construct second houses for leisure, for the weekend. These problems are the cause of the high levels of poverty, the enormous social inequality, the worst conditions of life for the rural population, the chronic and economically dependent underdevelopment, and the general lack of perspectives for workers in general.

4. Furthermore, this situation became worse during the last 10 years with the adoption, by the majority of governments, of neoliberal economic policies. These only responded to the interest of capital, especially to the interests of transnational companies, which came to control agricultural markets and the production. These policies subordinated the agricultural economies that are fundamental for rural development, as well as agricultural research, technical assistance, and price policies, credit, and insurance. This caused an increase in landless peasants and the desperation of small and medium sized farmers who cannot depend anymore on agriculture as a viable economic alternative for the economic and social progress of their families and communities. In the last years there has been an accelerated process of destruction of small ownership and family farm agriculture, increasing even more the concentration of landownership and production, and causing a forced increase in the rural exodus, particularly of youth.

5. In sight of the history of exploitation to which rural peripheral economies are submitted, the worsening of social inequality caused by this capitalist model, and the increase of exploitation of small farmers even in the developed world, the peasant organisations are defending, now more than ever, the necessity for a broad policy of agrarian reform as an instrument to eliminate poverty and social differences, and to promote the harmonies development of our communities.

The nature of agrarian reform
6. Agrarian reform has to start with a broad process of distribution of land ownership. In addition, considering the extent of development of capitalism and the exploitation of local economies, it needs to be undertaken in conjunction with changes in the economic, social, and political model.

7. Ownership of land has to be submitted to the criteria that only those that work the land, depend on it and live there with their families, have the right to land. Land is a good of nature that needs to be used for the welfare of all. Land is not, and cannot, be a marketable good that can be obtained in whatever quantity by those that have the financial means. We defend the principle of the maximum size of the social ownership of the land per family in relation to the reality in each country.

8. Access to the land by peasants has to be understood as a guarantee for survival and the valorisation of their culture, the autonomy of their communities and a new vision on the preservation of natural resources for humanity and future generations. The land is patrimonium of the family and land titles only in the name of men have to be avoided.

9. We defend the principle of the social ownership of the land. So that families have the right to use it for the survival and in a beneficial way for society. They cannot use it for commercial purposes. There should be no speculation and it should be prohibited that capitalist enterprises (industries, traders, financial institutions) can obtain large amounts of land.

10. Agrarian reform means, beside the distribution of land, that governments need to adopt policies with remunerative prices and means that guarantee the democratisation of the means of production and control of trade, that stimulate family farming and co-operative agriculture through credits, insurance (effective accomplishment of adequate payments in case of loss of production because of natural disasters).

11. In the current world, facing the oligopolization of the control by agro industry and the rapidity of technological processes, it is fundamental that peasants and workers in enterprises be guaranteed the control of the agroindustrial complex, which is today transforming agricultural products into food.

12. The right to education is as important as land for the democratisation of society and in order to guarantee a better future for our children, for the youth, for the women that live in the rural areas. We defend free access to formal education for all peasants at all levels as well as social security as indispensable element in case of illness and elderliness.

13. Agrarian reform needs to be united with a policy of food sovereignty, the latter understood as the right of all peoples to plan their agriculture so as to first satisfy with priority all it’s national population, with abundant, cheap food of good quality, throughout the year.

14. It is necessary to develop technological models that are opportune for the increase of production and productivity of labour without harming the health of peasants and the population in general, and that also preserve natural resources. They have to be public, with free access and new technologies should be under control of all farmers. It is necessary to create a Seed Bank in order to guarantee subsidies by the state. Producers will control the Seed Bank.

15. Today more than ever, the access and control of water is part of those that live in the rural areas. Because of it’s scarcity, the pressure by capitalist firms to privatise and increase the control of drinking water is increasing. We have to link to the process of agrarian reform the defence of the sources as well as its public and democratic use.

16. Any agrarian reform should include:
a) A policy of infrastructure: irrigation, rural roads, electricity, etc. b) A policy to organise land use that defines agricultural zones, rural zones and urban zones. c) A catalogue of activities that avoid occupation of rural areas by urban entities. d) Organisation of crops in order to avoid the imposition of crops that are not traditional or appropriate for certain regions in the world.

17. This agrarian reform has to prohibit the commercialisation of the right to produce and realise a control of production that limits production, especially if for export and that guarantees food sovereignty for it’s respective populations.

Principles and engagements
18. All families that want to live, inhabit and work the land have the right to love and preserve the land and all nature beings in everybody’s benefit.

19. To produce essentially food, to eliminate humanity’s hunger and to improve life conditions and nourishment.

20. To preserve the existing forests and reforest the degraded areas.

21. We pronounce a "No" to the payment of interests of the external debt so that these sums will be destined to cover the debts of farmers, especially those of the social sector, have with the Bank of Commerce and Development included in the "Cartera Vencida".

22. To protect water, its sources, rivers, dikes and lakes and to fight against the privatisation and marketing of water.

23. To avoid predatory monoculture and the use of poisons and agro toxics and to treat appropriately our waste and to fight any practise of pollution and environmental aggression.

24. To struggle against landlords and to reject the policies in relation to agrarian reform implemented by the World Bank and the TNCs , companies monopolising technologies, the agro industry that exploits us and international bodies as IMF, WTO, the World Bank, G-7 that only articulate themselves in function of the interest of capital.

25. To improve our knowledge about nature and agriculture and transmit them to the younger, inspiring them to continue in rural area.

26. To practice solidarity and get angry against any injustice, aggression and exploitation exerted against any person, community and nature, anywhere in the world.

27. To fight and defend the equality between men and women and to fight against all kinds of racial and sexual discrimination. To create effective opportunities so nobody is discriminated and excluded due to gender and race.

28. To beautify our communities, taking care, planting trees, flowers, medicinal herbs and vegetables.

29. Never sell conquered land. The land is a supreme good and has to warrant the survival of future generations.

30. To put a break the indiscriminate use of the land for other purposes such as houses for leisure, golf courts, etc.

31. To reject the policy of importation as a substitute to the activity of production, and as an attempt against the food
sovereignty of our peoples.

Ways to struggle and the social transformation (strategies)
32. The struggle for the implementation of land reform cannot be cloaked as a peasants’ exclusive need or banner, but as a social solution for the whole of society’s problems. From this perspective, it would become viable if it were inserted as a claim, a struggle platform for wide popular sectors in our countries. We, as peasants alone, will not conquer land reform and rural changes.

33. We have to propose changes in agriculture, in the land ownership and in rural development processes, as part of a wide popular project for our peoples, where there would be a new economic, social and political order.

34. The concrete force of the farmers and the peoples in general, lays in its capacity to organise the biggest possible number of people, from the communities, mobilising it around a common strategic objective. Therefore it is essential to engage the whole family, especially women and young members of the family, in this process of awareness and social mobilisation. It is necessary to generate willingness for a permanent struggle for our rights, be it through direct action or through large mass mobilisations.

35. We have to create new forms of organisation, associations and co-operatives, of peasants and of people living in rural areas around the management of the economy, of production, of financial systems, and of rural development, in agreement with the cultural and organisational traditions of our peoples and based on the principals of mutual support and agricultural co-operation. Agricultural co-operation in work and the social accumulation of capital is a natural process of the development of productive forces. But we have to adjust it and be creative on the different forms adjusting them, adequate to the reality of each region. And put its benefits to serve the improvement of the living conditions of the workers in the rural areas.

36. In this moment in the history of humanity, where international financial capital wideness its domination and exploitation by the means of an excluding globalisation, it is essential that the peoples of the 3rd World, the workers in general, and specially the peasants articulated in Via Campesina get organised and also developing ways of communication, exchange and international struggles to face the common enemy.

Plan of action
This chapter was part of the discussion during the III Conference based on the question/challenge: what should we do in our countries to guarantee the application of our principles and to bring forward our strategy to become a reality? Based on this analysis we put following forward:

  • To articulate our regional struggles taking the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform as a starting point, stimulating a permanent struggle, taking into account three fundamental dates: a) 10th of December as the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN RIGHTS b) 12th of October CONTINENTAL DAY OF THE EXCLUDED c) 17th of April INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FARMERS’ STRUGGLE FOR LAND AND AGAINST REPRESSION – to fight against the re-concentration of land
  • To fight against the policies of the World Bank
  • To fight for of the disappearance of the private military forces, para-military and police groups, for the recuperation of land against violence in the rural areas and against repression.
  • To fight for the immediate release of political prisoners that struggle for land.
  • To urge on a network of information and communication as a transcendental activity in the development and the strengthening of our struggles.
  • To urge on an international conference for Agrarian Reform and Food Sovereignty with FIAN and Via Campesina.

Special pronouncements
The III Conference of Via Campesina 

  • To urge onactions in favour of the people of Colombia and against the• intervention of the Government of the United States, 
  • To launch a consistent campaign of Via Campesina in sending food,• medicines and medical staff as humanitarian aid to the Colombian people,  We speak out in favour of immediate liberty for political prisoners• of our farmer friends of the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST) in Brazil,  International support to the farmers of India against the expulsion• from their land, 
  • To urge on taking influence in international fora with proposals of• the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform.

Bangalore, India – October 2000