Nowadays, no one can deny that there is a global crisis affecting agricultural and small farmers as the result of neoliberal policies. The aggressive market liberalization of the food and agricultural products is the main cause of this global crisis. That is one of the conclusions that came out from a public debate that held by COAG Andalucía with the Counselor of the Presidency of Andalucía, Gasar Zarrías, and some farmer leaders from India, Chile, USA, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain.
When he opened the debate, the Agriculture Councerlor of Andalucía said that the Doha Round had created conflicts between rich and poor countries and had led to imbalances in the world trade system. Globalization has increased technological advances, but it has inflicted suffering on millions of peoples. It has increased rural poverty and migrations. In agriculture, multinational corporations control seeds, which destroy local varities.
India with its 700 million farmers is a concrete evidence of the impacts of neoliberal policies: no less than 100 thousand farmers committed suicide in the last 13 years (5 farmers averyday!) because of the difficult livelihood in rural areas. Yudvir Sigh, leader of the BKU farmers movement, said that most of those who committed to suicide are coming from the areas where genetic modified seeds, especially Bt cotton, is grown.
Florencia Arostica from ANAMURI, a women pesant organisation from Chili emphasized that women are the first victims of neo-liberal policies in the agriculture. On the land issue for instance, women do a lot of work in the field but the landtitle is on the men’s name.
Migrations from rural areas is another big problem for peasants’ families. Farmers have to migrate because they lose their income due to the surge of imports of cheap food products. Miguel Colunga from Mexico explained that the flow of agricultural products is increasing very sharply. It creates dependency within the national food system, because other countres dictate food policies for the whole world.
Eduardo Lopez from COAG, shared his concern about the difficulties that the cotton farmers in Andalucia have to face. Cotton farmers are now going bankrupt because of the new European Union policies that forces them to reduce their production. Cotton is now produced by large industrial plantations in other countries, where small peasants are also marginalised. This shows how the current agriculture system is only working in favour of the big agribusiness companies and not not for family farmers.
Egidio Bruneto, a leader of MST- the Landless Peasants Movement of Brazil said that in response to the worldwide crisis in agriculture sector and the severe livelihood crisis in the rural areas due to the imposed neo-liberal policies, La Via Campesina had been working not only to protest against the institutions promoting the neoliberal model, but also to build alternatives at local and national level.
Very often, the only opportunity left to farmers in order to improve their livelihood is to conduct direct actions to stop neoliberal policies on the ground. This is what Yudvir Singh explained about what his organization is doing. “Peasants organised actions against Bt cotton and many times the government stoped us from doing that, but we continue to do it, because it is to defent farmer’s livelihood.”
On the international stage, it seems that there is a battle between developed and developing countries on agricultural issues, like what has been taking place in the WTO negotiations. However, even in the developed countries family farmers are facing a difficult situation because of the liberalization of agriculture. The farm bill in the USA benefits to large agribusiness corporations, and meanwhile, the peasants families are desapearing every day.
As part of the struggle to solve the worldwide agricultural problem as well as the family farmers crisis in USA, Denna Hoff from the National Family Farms Coalition (NFFC), explained that her organization was proposing a new farm bill, where US agricultural policies are designed to support family farmers and not agribusiness. Moreover, she explained that the struggle for alternatives should also happen on the on the ground: we should not buy the food produced by trans-national corporations or go shopping to the large commercial centers. She emphasized that globalizing the struggle actually starts from kitchen to kitchen and garden to garden.
The global crisis of the agriculture sector is an evidence that neo-liberal policies have failed. It is therefore very urgent that we build an new alternative system. Eduardo Lopez from COAG Andalucía said that the change in the global agricultural system can only be made based on peasant’s and farmer’s struggle and it should be part of a movement involving as many other sectors as possible.
Andalucía 13 December 2006