At the beginning of March, over 50 people, representing 18 organisations from over a dozen European countries, met by a frozen river, in the snow-bound Norwegian town of Evenstad, to develop plans for the European arm of La Via Campesina (LVC), the international peasants’ movement.
LVC, possibly the world’s largest union, with over 200 million members in its constituent organisations, defends the rights of small, peasant, family farmers against the depredations of capitalist agribusiness. It is an amazing example of a grassroots organisation with members who speak different languages, have different cultures – and eat different foods – but who manage to meet together and tackle the realities of global capitalism, and try to secure food sovereignty.
European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) had two days of meetings, and a day-long discussion on agroecology (a whole-systems approach to agriculture based on traditional knowledge, local circumstances and ecological principles). In such a large and multi-cultural organisation, a fair amount of time is spent on just working out how to communicate together, and ECVC has also recently suffered a serious loss of funding. But beyond the process issues, various working groups met to discuss migrant worker rights, youth access to land, control over seeds, and so on.
At the end, we had a seven-point declaration, defending the rights of land workers and peasants. Notably, it calls on the EU to cease negotiations on the potentially disastrous new TTIP trade deal with USA, for control of seed knowledge and resources, and to implement short food supply chains. The final point of the declaration demanded ‘equal rights for women with regards to access to land, financing, and all the resources required for peasant work.’
More than just the words, the meeting gave all of us a renewed commitment to fighting together for food sovereignty: to defend land and food and farmers in a way that benefits society and not just corporations.
Keep buying your food from local, independent producers and independent outlets, wherever possible!