LandWorkers’ Alliance reflects on farmers’ day at COP26

November 4, 2021

Yesterday was Farmers Day at COP26 – and yet again, the voices of agroecological small-scale farmers and peasants have been sidelined in favour of bug business and the private sector.

For all the talk of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘multi-stakeholder participation’ on Farmers Day, as well as a general recognition of the vital role that small-scale farmers across the globe play in feeding the world’s population – the voices of small-scale farmers and peasants were mysteriously amiss at official Side-Event discussions, panels and sessions.

A small group of the LWA Campaigns Team were in the official Blue Zone all day; we were prepared to join in with discussions, to hold government and business representatives to account, and to advocate for agroecology and food sovereignty – but the day proved to be frustratingly inaccessible.

Here’s what LWA’s Cymru/Wales Policy Officer Holly Tomlinson had to say:

“Sadly, “Farmers’ Day” at COP 26 was a disappointment. In part because of the content: very little was actually about farming, but largely due to the chaotic nature of the event’s logistics. We had planned to start the day with a Farmers’ Constituency meeting, but the huge queues to enter the conference venue – queues in which we were crammed together with no possibility of distancing – meant that very few people were able to make it. Later events that we had hoped to attend in person, were only available online, and the poor WiFi made them very difficult to watch. Other events were full when we arrived. Events I was able to access invited audience questions and then then made no attempt to respond, restricted as they were by time. So much for an inclusive COP 26.

I ended the day observing the ministerial plenary on climate finance. Ministers from Nepal, Grenada, Bangladesh, the Maldives and other vulnerable nations spoke of the dire situations their countries faced and their frustration that previous commitments by wealthy countries to provide $100b in funds for climate mitigation and adaptation, a pitiful sum compared to what is needed, had not been met. Two thirds of this commitment was via loans, meaning already indebted countries would need to take on more debt to respond to a crisis for which the wealthy lenders, not the borrowers, are responsible. To say that this is unjust is an understatement. Across the world farmers are at the front line of the climate crisis with crop failures becoming increasingly common. “Farmers’ Day” only served as a reminder that the fight to protect all our futures, cannot end at this climate conference.”

Dee Woods, LWA’s Food Justice Coordinator expressed similar sentiments:

“With great anticipation fuelled by hope and the sentiment that as farmers we can offer solutions to mitigate climate change and biodiversity I embarked on farmers day at COP26. Session after session did not dash that hope but rather left me angry and disappointed. Farmers are seen as both victims and perpetrators of climate change and we know that we should be at the centre of food system and climate solutions.

However the voices who were platformed at Farmers Day – who claim to speak for ‘all farmers’ – did not speak for the millions of agroecological farmers, peasants, pastoralists and agroforestry workers. The space and processes are not truly inclusive or participatory. The rhetoric was one of technological fixes, digitisation, private finance and carbon markets so called game changing solutions. FALSE SOLUTIONS!

Agroecology should be at the centre of agriculture solutions. It was not mentioned in any session. The COP26 process is not inclusive and is allowing the cooption by philanthrocapitalists, private sector, big corporations and organisations with agendas to maintain the status quo. My action today was to sow the seeds of hope by ensuring agroecology was at the centre of a word cloud generated by audience participation. It was my word that would describe best the agriculture millions want as a solution for climate change.”

Our Head of Policy and Campaigns, Jyoti Fernandes, added:

“It’s outrageous that so little time at COP 26 has been devoted to agroecological farmers. Yesterday was supposed to be “ Farmers Day” – a thematic day which they shoved in at the very last minute, without asking any of us in the UNFCCC Farmers Constituency what should be in the programme.

Most of the sessions were closed for entry in-person, and only accessible online, and organisers had also notably left organisations like ourselves – who represent small regenerative farms and the millions of peasant farmers around the world practicing Agroecology – out of the programme.”

Though this day in the official COP26 spaces was disappointing, it has only fuelled our determination to turn up the pressure and shout our voices from the outside.

We will be marching as the Farmers, Foresters and Landworkers Bloc at the Global Day of Action in Glasgow this Saturday the 6th – and we will make our voices heard. Viva la via Campesina!

Join the Facebook event page for more info on the march: