Via Campesina Bulletin 1
In a vibrant ceremony, the international movement, Via Campesina, opened its IV Conference on the night of 14 June, with more than 500 delegates, from most of the world’s countries. The conference is taking place in Itaicí, São Paulo, and will finish on Saturday, 19 June. At the IV Conference, Via Campesina will debate and define strategies to help family and peasant agriculture confont the challenges posed by neoliberalism. There are three main points on the agenda: food sovereignty, seeds and land reform. These issues were highlighted in opening speeches by Egídio Brunetto, a leader of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Francisca Rodríguez, a leader of the Chilean Association of Indigenous and Rural Women (ANAMURI).
The MST leader reflected on the importance of peasants for the future of humanity. "Human beings need food, which is produced from the land, water and oxygen. Food production depends mainly on peasants and so if peasants disappear, humanity will disappear", he said.
To accept the challenge of defending food sovereignty, seeds and land reform, he said, is a historic commitment and we will have to be "very united, very organised and very democratic" to achieve it. That is why this conference is so important. We will also continue to defend our cultural identity, our banners and our symbols. So many developments have shown Via Campesina that peasants throughout the world face the same problems and we should face them together."
Francisca Rodríguez summarised Via Campesina’s 12 years of struggle to globalise its values: "The land has united the struggles of peasants and indigenous peoples; it has made us go forward together, recognise each other, and advance along the path of organisation and struggle", said the Chilean leader. She went on to say that previous events have determined the key areas of struggle and the need for equality between rural women and men. The aim of the IV Conference is to call on the world to take up the challenge of achieving food sovereignty. "This challenge forms part of the very spirit of the peasants who sow the field of the world with seeds to produce food", she said.
Rodríguez also emphasised the importance of the assemblies of young and women peasants that took place in São Paulo on 12 and 13 June. Delegates at these assemblies reiterated their commitment to strengthen their organisations and to fight for equality in rural areas, food sovereignty and land reform.
The II International Rural Women’s Assembly was attended by 123 delegates from 47 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Oceania. They declared that they are united "through strong links of solidarity and are determined to struggle against imperialism and patriarchy, both of which affect the lives of women, especially in rural areas".
"Rural women know that another world is possible. We will defend and strengthen our organisations and movements; continue to struggle against the neoliberal model and free trade; promote food sovereignty and land reform; for the defence of our seeds as heritage of our peoples, for the independence of women and gender equality", concludes the Final Declaration.
The I Via Campesina Youth Assembly was a space of solidarity and exchange with more than 100 delegates from 37 countries, who observed that they face many of the same problems. These problems include "the monopolisation and the lack of access to natural resources, land, seeds, water, etc., the privatisation of basic needs, such as food, health, education; the imposition of neoliberal policies on to the agricultural production in our countries; the lack of effective incentives for youth to stay in rural areas, because of the lack of social services, political education forces them to migrate to the big cities in search of a better quality of life. This increases the loss of historical and cultural identity and causes militarisation and repression, which are used by imperialist interests in alliance with our governments, and destroy social and peasant movements.
Faced with this situation, the Youth Assembly has decided to ratify its "commitment to struggle and act against the neoliberal model and strengthen Via Campesina", build the organisation at all levels, encourage an exchange of experiences of resistance and struggle between our organisations, amongst other commitments.