(17 october 2008) Among the goals of the II International Youth Assembly of the Via Campesina are to reaffirm the struggle, to analyze the present political juncture of each region and to come to agreements and commitments for the next four years. This Thursday in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the analysis of the delegates from the different regions of the world pointed out that emigration, unemployment, and lack of political participation and education are among the salient characteristics of the current moment.
For the African region agriculture constitutes an important part of the economy of its people, yet there is no support for youth to go into agriculture due to political problems and agricultural policies that do not favor family farming. Other problems raised by a youth delegate from Africa pointed to the lack of sources of employment for youth and the high level of illiteracy.
The North American delegate referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying this only benefited the large agribusinesses and has resulted in the emigration from the countryside of many small-scale Mexican producers.
The Movement of Young North American members of the Via Campesina is developing small networks of producers to provide training and alliances to strengthen organic agriculture. The female youth delegate from North America emphasized the fact that bilateral agreements are responsible for the fact that currently there are no policies to support youth in agriculture.
In South America where organizations are seeking benefits for local farmers, comprehensive agrarian reform is a key issue. Events have been undertaken there focusing on marketing, exchange of experiences and youth have been part of the process of change in the region’s development.
According to a delegate, the youth of the Caribbean region have led a struggle for the defense of land in the control of family farmers, in order to avoid the loss of those lands to the government and their transferal to large landholders or transnational corporations for the production of African Palm trees. Youth members of the region help provide Caribbean youth technical and legal support to the farmers suffering evictions from their lands.
“There is no future for agriculture,” according to a youth delegate from the European region, stating how difficult it is to make a living in agriculture and referring to the existence of two agricultural models in the region: the subsistence and basic survival family farm model and the model of large monocultures.
According to statistics used in the Caribbean, 6% of the total European population work in agriculture and each year about 50,000 farmers retire from that work without being replaced by young people. For that reason a family culture in agriculture needs to be re-established for rural development.
From Central America, a delegate states that youth are not recognized by the governments in terms of access to land to cultivate, if the youth does not have children and is therefore not considered the “responsible adult” of the family. The region has also been affected by a recent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and by an agreement of association with the European Union (ADA). The Central American youth delegate added that the region has been negatively impacted by Plan Puebla Panama and the new Economic Partnership Agreements. There is a high percentage of youth migration out of the rural areas to other countries due to a lack of favorable policies by Central American governments to provide sufficient sources of work for people.
From each region there was an emphasis on the importance of globalizing the struggle and seeking new strategies to combat neo-liberal policies being implemented in the different countries, policies that threaten food sovereignty and the rights of the majority of the people.
On Friday they will define their agreements, themes of work and commitments of the Youth of the Via Campesina for the next four years and make known their common strategies to facilitate the permanence of agricultural communities and the return of youth to the countryside, in order to consolidate family farm agriculture.
Reporting from Maputo Mozambique
Rocizela Pèrez Gòmez, Via Campesina Journalist from Guatemala