Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, I’ve been watching and listening to a lot more political podcasts and documentaries and finding myself really inspired. I wanted to share with you an amazing film about La Via Campesina, which I am part of in a very small way.
There’s no better time than to introduce you to this organisation, which is a global movement of peasants, landworkers and small farmers. April 17th is the International Day of Peasant Struggle – a day to commemorate the 1996 massacre of landless peasants in Eldorado dos Carajás, Brazil while struggling for comprehensive agricultural reforms. During the protest, the Brazilian military police attacked members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) blockading a highway, killing 19 and injuring hundreds of peasants.
Peasants, small farmers and land-based rural peoples make up half of the world’s population and grow at least 70% of the world’s food. They suffer persecution, violence and grave crises of human rights and dignity on a daily basis, as big agribusiness, big dams, the global mining boom, and other mega-developments continue to put profits first and peasants last.
La Via Campesina was formed in 1993, and is a coalition of 182 local and national member organisations in 81 countries. As an allotment tenant myself, I’m a member of the UK section which is the Landworkers’ Alliance. I’m part of 4 different unions in total, and after watching this documentary I have to say that, with very stiff competition from ACORN, I think La Via Campesina is the one that I am proudest to be a member of.
If you come to my studio you will see the beautiful Landworkers’ Alliance calendar up on the wall. I’m an extremely novice veg farmer, but my medium term plans for Big Bag Training, in a future location, include sharing the skill of growing food together as a central part of the mix, along with physical strength and workplace/community organising.
As I explained to Sam Yang when I was recently interviewed on Southpaw podcast, my first learnings about politics came via punk fanzines. They covered the protests in the 90s that would follow summits of world leaders across the planet, and as you’ll see La Via Campesina were right at the heart of these.
La Via Campesina struggle for Food Sovereignty.
‘The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.’
In this film you’ll be amazed by the razor sharp focus and clarity of the protestors, in speech and action. I can’t remember the last movement I saw that seemed so truly, genuinely global in scope and scale.
The dignity and unity of these workers is nothing short of heroic… Whether paying a joyful tribute to a peasant comrade who only minutes earlier had immolated himself (set himself on fire as a protest), or tearing down metal barricades outside a meeting of politicians, to prove that they could, only to then hold an entirely peaceful political gathering.
What’s more, La Via Campesina are powerful – as a direct result of their efforts they have won the significant improvement to laws protecting land-based peoples’ rights.
The film also explains how women peasants organised to get gender parity (equality of representation) enshrined into the rules of La Via Campesina, and efforts by young farmers to also get organised within the movement to keep small farming and their demands alive.
Get ready to feel this one deep in your gut!