|Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008
Food Sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!?
are men and women of the earth, we are those who produce food for the
world. We have the right to continue being peasants and family
farmers, and to shoulder the responsibility of continuing to feed our
peoples. We care for seeds, which are life, and for us the act of
producing food is an act of love. Humanity depends on us, and we
refuse to disappear.
We, La Via Campesina, are a worldwide
movement of rural women, peasants and family farmers, farm workers,
indigenous peoples, rural youth and afro-descendents from Asia, Europe,
America and Africa, gathered together in Maputo, Mozambique from
October 19 to 22, 2008, for our V International Conference. We were
received in a warm and fraternal fashion by our hosts, the National
Union of Peasants (União Nacional de Camponeses/UNAC) of Mozambique.
We met to reaffirm our determination to defend peasant and family farm
agriculture, our cultures and our right to continue to exist as peoples
with our own identity. We are more than 550 people, including more
than 325 men and women delegates, from 57 countries, representing
hundreds of millions of farming families. We women represent more than
half of the people producing food in the world and here we celebrate
with energy and determination our Third Worldwide Assembly of Women.
We are also celebrating our Second Youth Assembly of La Via Campesina,
since only with the decisive participation of youth can a present and a
future for rural areas be guaranteed. In this V International
Conference we also ratified 41 organizations as new members of La Via
Campesina, and we have the participation of many organizations and
allied movements from all over the world, in our First Assembly with
the Allies of Via Campesina.
Four years of struggle and Victories
this V International Conference we have evaluated our main struggles,
actions and activities since the IV International Conference that took
place in Itaici, Brazil, in June of 2004. Among them we highlighted
the massive mobilizations against the WTO, against Free Trade
Agreements (FTAs) in different parts of the world, and against the G8
in Rostock and Hokkaido. In 2005 La Via Campesina was very present in
the days of struggle against the WTO Summit in Hong Kong, thus
participating in the most recent of the actions with which we social
movements have paralyzed the negotiations at WTO summits since Seattle
in 1999. We have also played central roles in other mobilizations
against the WTO over the last 4 years, from Geneva to India.
we organized, with our principal allies, the International Forum on
Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni, Mali. This was a crucial moment in the
building of a broad and global movement for Food Sovereignty. More
than 500 delegates from the most important social movements of the
planet participated, and we defined a strategic agenda for the coming
years. Both before and after Nyéléni we organized many national and
regional meetings on Food Sovereignty. In recent years we have been
able to get the concept sovereignty incorporated in national
constitutions and/or laws in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal,
Mali, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Through our Global Campaign for
Agrarian Reform, which is the expression of our struggles for land and
in defense of territory, we co-organized the World Forum for Agrarian
Reform in Valencia, Spain in 2004, and in 2006 we organized the
International Meeting of the Landless in Porto Alegre, Brazil, before
the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development
(ICARRD) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United
Nations (UN). There we participated in the Brazilian women’s
mobilizations against the ‘green deserts’ of Eucalyptus monocultures of
the TNC Aracruz, on March 8, and in the Parallel Forum, achieving
important advances in the positions of the governments. In 2007 in
Nepal we organized the International Conference on Food Sovereignty,
Agrarian Reform and Peasant Rights.
In 2004 we held an
international fair for exchange of local seed varieties, in the context
of our IV Conference in Brazil. In 2005 we organized the International
Conference on Seeds called “Liberate Diversity,” as part of our global
struggle in favor of peasant seeds and against GMOs and terminator
technology. Via Campesina Brazil organized powerful mobilizations
during the International Conference of the Convention on Biological
Diversity (COP-8) in March, 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil. We had major
activities on these same issues in Mysore, India that same year, and in
2008 in Bonn, Germany, and in France where our hunger strike was key to
achieving prohibition of Monsanto’s GMO maize. In Brazil in 2007,
Keno, a leader of the MST, was assassinated by a gunman hired by
Syngenta; but one year later we forced Syngenta to hand illegal areas
used for GMO experimentation over to the government.
Campesina, together with other social movements, organized the
“Solidarity Village” as a parallel event to the Conference on Climate
Change that the UN organized in Bali, Indonesia (2007), where we
advanced the argument that peasant agriculture cools the planet.
2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia, we organized an international conference
focused on our proposal for an International Declaration of Peasant
Rights. Prior to this international conference we held an Assembly of
Women on the Rights of Peasants.
The commitment to solidarity
of La Via Campesina was made evident in 2004 with our global efforts to
channel alternative aid to the victims of the Tsunami, in 2007 with
three delegations to meetings with the Zapatistas in Mexico, and every
year with important actions in solidarity with those who are being
victimized by the criminalization of social protest on all continents.
displacement of rural peoples as a result of the neo-liberal model is
provoking the mass movement of peoples, turning migration into a
critical issue for Via Campesina. Since 2004 we have been developing
strategies and actions on migration in our new International Working
Group on Migration and Rural Workers. We have undertaken major actions
against the ‘wall of shame’ being built in the United States.
town to town and country to country, we have taken up the struggles of
La Via Campesina. Our movement is present in almost every place on the
Earth, wherever neo-liberalism is being imposed on peasants and rural
The struggle of La Via Campesina inspires,
stimulates and generates resistance by social movements against
neo-liberal policies. The number of countries with progressive
governments is on the rise, gaining power as a result of years of
popular mobilizations. A good number of local and national governments
have accentuated their resistance, and their interest in the agenda of
Food Sovereignty, as a result of popular mobilizations and as a
response to the global crisis of the food prices.
The offensive of capital in the countryside, the multiple crises, and the displacement of peasant and indigenous peoples
the current global context we are confronting the convergence of the
food crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the financial
crisis. These crises have common origins in the capitalist system and
more recently in the unrestrained de-regulation in various spheres of
economic activity, as part of the neo-liberal model, which gives
priority to business and profit. In the rural zones of the world, we
have seen a ferocious offensive of capital and of transnational
corporations (TNCs) to take over land and natural assets (water,
forests, minerals, biodiversity, land, etc.), that translates into a
privatizing war to steal the territories and assets of peasants and
indigenous peoples. This war uses false pretexts and deliberately
erroneous arguments, for example to claim that agrofuels are a solution
for the climactic and energy crises, when the truth is exactly the
opposite. Whenever peoples exercise their rights and resist this
generalized pillage, or when they are obliged to join migrant flows,
the response is always more criminalization, more repression, more
political prisoners, more assassinations, more walls of shame and more
Declaration of Peasant Rights
see a future UN Declaration of Peasant Rights as a key tool in the
international legal system to strengthen our position and our rights as
peasants and family farmers. For this reason we are launching the
Global Campaign for a Declaration of Peasant Rights.
Food Sovereignty: the solution to the crisis, and for the life of peoples
the current situation of crisis is also an opportunity, because Food
Sovereignty offers the only real alternative both for the life of
peoples, as well as for reversing the current global crises. Food
Sovereignty responds to the food, climate and energy crises with local
food grown by peasants and family farmers, attacking two of the
principle sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the long distance
transportation of foods and industrialized agriculture. It also offers
relief to a particularly nefarious aspect of the financial crisis, by
prohibiting speculation in food futures contracts. While the dominant
model truly means crisis and death, Food Sovereignty means the life and
hope of the rural peoples and of consumers. Food Sovereignty requires
the protection and re-nationalization of national food markets, the
promotion of local circuits of production and consumption, the struggle
for land, the defense of the territories of indigenous peoples, and
comprehensive agrarian reform. It is also based on the transformation
the production model toward agro-ecological and sustainable farming,
without pesticides and without GMOs, based on the knowledge of
peasants, family farmers and indigenous peoples. As a general
principle, Food Sovereignty is built on the basis of our concrete local
experiences, in other words, from the local to the national.
crisis is causing incalculable suffering among our peoples and has
eroded the legitimacy of the neo-liberal model of “free trade,” such
that some progressive local, state and national governments have begun
to seek alternative solutions. In La Via Campesina we must be capable
of taking advantage of these opportunities.
We have to develop a
working methodology that includes critical and constructive dialog to
achieve successful cases of implementation of Food Sovereignty with
these governments. We also need to take advantage of international
spaces of “alternative integration,” such as ALBA and Petrocaribe, to
advance in this terrain. But we must not only bet on governments, but
rather build Food Sovereignty from below in the territories and other
spaces controlled by popular movements, indigenous peoples, etc. The
time has come for Food Sovereignty and we need to take the initiative
to make progress in all of our countries. We peasants and family
farmers of the world can and want to feed the world, our families and
our communities, with healthy and accessible foods.
Multinational corporations and free trade
reflections have made it clear to us that multinational corporations
and international finance capital are our most important common
enemies, and that as such, we have to bring our struggle to them more
directly. They are the ones behind the other enemies of peasants, like
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade
Organization (WTO), and the FTAs and EPAs, neoliberal governments, as
well as aggressive economic expansionism, imperialism and militarism.
Now is also the time to redouble our struggle against FTAs and EPAs,
and against the WTO, but this time more clearly indicating the central
role played by the TNCs.
The advance of women is the advance of La Via Campesina
issue was very clear in this V Conference, that all the forms of
violence that women face in our societies -among them physical,
economic, social, cultural and macho violence, and violence based on
differences of power – are also present in rural communities, and as a
result, in our organizations. This, in addition to being a principal
source of injustice, also limits the success of our struggles. We
recognize the intimate relationships between capitalism, patriarchy,
machismo and neo-liberalism, in detriment to the women peasants and
farmers of the world. All of us together, women and men of La Via
Campesina, make a responsible commitment to build new and better human
relationships among us, as a necessary part of the construction of the
new societies to which we aspire. For this reason during this V
Conference we decided to break the silence on these issues, and are
launching the World Campaign “For an End to Violence Against Women.”
We commit ourselves anew, with greater strength, to the goal of
achieving that complex but necessary true gender parity in all spaces
and organs of debate, discussion, analysis and decision-making in La
Via Campesina, and to strengthen the exchange, coordination and
solidarity among the women of our regions.
We recognize the
central role of women in agriculture for food self-sufficiency, and the
special relationship of women with the land, with life and with seeds.
In addition, we women have been and are a guiding part of the
construction of Via Campesina from its beginning. If we do not
eradicate violence towards women within our movement, we will not
advance in our struggles, and if we do not create new gender relations,
we will not be able to build a new society.
We are not alone: the building of alliances
ourselves, we peasants and family farmers cannot win our struggles for
dignity, for a just food and agrarian system, and for that other world
that is possible. We have to build and reinforce our organic and
strategic alliances with movements and organizations that share our
vision, and this is a special commitment of the V Conference.
Youth provide our hope for a better future
dominant model in rural areas does not offer any options to young
people. Youth are our base for the present and the future, so we commit
ourselves to the full integration and creative participation of young
people in all levels of our struggle.
Education to strengthen our movement
order to have greater success and victories in our struggles, we need
to dedicate ourselves to the internal strengthening of our movement, by
political formation to build our capacity to interpret and transform
our realties, by training, and by improving communication and
articulation among ourselves and with our allies.
Diversity and unity in the defense of peasant agriculture
an international social movement, we can say that one of our greatest
strengths is our ability to unite different cultures and ways of
thinking in one single movement. La Via Campesina represents a common
commitment to resist, and to struggle for life and for peasant and
family farm agriculture.
All the participants of the V Conference of
La Via Campesina are committed to the defense of food and of peasant
agriculture, the right to Food Sovereignty, to dignity and to life. We
are here, the peasants and rural peoples of the world, and we refuse to
Globalize Struggle! Globalize Hope!
|Open Letter from Maputo: V International Conference of La Vía Campesina
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Peasant Agriculture and Food Sovereignty are Solutions to the Global Crisis
Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008
entire world is in crisis, a crisis with multiple dimensions. There is
a food crisis, an energy crisis, a climate crisis and a financial
crisis. The solutions put forth by Power – more free trade, more GMOs,
etc. – purposefully ignore the fact that the crisis is a product of the
capitalist system and of neoliberalism, and they will only worsen its
impacts. To find real solutions we need to look toward Food
Sovereignty as put forth by La Via Campesina.
How did we get to this state of crisis?
recent decades we have witnessed the advance of finance capital and
transnational corporations (TNCs) across all aspects of agriculture and
the global food system. From the privatization of seeds and the sale
of pesticides, to buying the harvests, processing the food,
transporting and distributing it, all the way to retail sale to
consumers, everything is controlled by a handful of corporations. Food
has gone from being a right of all people, to being just another
commodity. Our diets are being homogenized, with food that is bad for
you, is priced out of the reach of most people, and makes us lose the
culinary traditions of our peoples.
At the same time we are witnessing an offensive of capital for
the control of natural resources, the likes of which we have not seen
since colonial times. The crisis of the rate of profit has led Capital
to launch a privatizing war for the eviction of our peoples, peasants
and the indigenous, the theft through privatization of our land,
territories, forests, biodiversity, water and mineral resources. It is
an aggression against both rural peoples and the environment. The
planting of large-scale agrofuel monocultures is an aspect of this war
of displacement. It is routinely justified with the false arguments
that agrofuels are the solution to the energy and climate crisis. But
the truth is that the current dependence on long distance transport of
goods, and individual transport of people in automobiles instead of
mass transportation, have more to do with these crises than anything
Now, with the food and financial crises, everything is
getting worse. The food crisis and the financial crisis are linked
through financial speculation on the prices of food crops and land, to
the detriment of people. Now as the crisis grows, finance capital is
more desperate every day, assaulting our government treasuries for
their bailouts, which will only force more budget cutting in our
countries, and make poverty and suffering even more widespread. Hunger
is continuing to grow in our world. Exploitation and all forms of
violence, especially directed at women, are on the rise. With the
economic recession in rich countries, xenophobia is spreading, with
more racism and repression, and the dominant economic model offers ever
fewer options to our rural youth.
In synthesis, things are
going from bad to worse. Nevertheless, we must recognize that like all
crises, this one also generates opportunities. Opportunities for
capitalism, which uses crises to reinvent itself and find new sources
of profits, but also opportunities for social movements. Among the
latter are the fact that the principal theses of neoliberalism are
being stripped of their legitimacy in public opinion, and the fact the
international financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) are proving
to be incapable of administering the crisis (in addition being among
the cause of the same crisis). This creates the opportunity to
eliminate them, and create new institutions to regulate the global
economy that serve public interests. It is clearer every day that the
TNCs are our real enemies behind these other enemies. It is clearer
every day that the neoliberal governments do not serve the interests of
their peoples. And it is clearer every day that the global corporate
food regime is not capable of feeding the great majority of people on
this planet, while Food Sovereignty based on peasant agriculture is
more needed than ever.
Facing this reality, what do we defend in La Via Campesina?
Food Sovereignty: getting speculative finance capital out of our food
system, and re-nationalizing food production and reserves offer us the
only real way out of the food crisis. Only peasant and family farm
agriculture feed people, while agribusiness grows export crops and
agrofuels to feed cars instead of human beings. Food Sovereignty based
on peasant and family farm agriculture offers us a way out of this
As solutions to the energy and climates crises: the
dissemination of local food systems, that are not based on
long-distance transport nor on industrial agriculture, could eliminate
as much as 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial agriculture
warms the planet, and peasant agriculture cools the planet. Changes in
patterns of transportation for people and patterns of consumption are
additional the steps needed to address the energy and climate crises.
Genuine integral agrarian reform and the defense of the territories of
indigenous peoples are essential steps to roll back the evictions and
displacement in the countryside, and to use our farm land to grow food
instead of exports and fuels.
Sustainable peasant and family
farm agriculture: only agroecological peasant and family farming can
de-link food prices from petroleum prices, recover degraded soils, and
produce healthy local food for our peoples.
The advance of
women is an advance for all: the end of all forms of violence against
women, including physical, social and other forms. Achieving true
gender parity in all internal spaces and organs of debate and
decision-making, are absolutely essential commitments to advance at
this time as social movements toward the transformation of society.
The right to seeds and water: seeds and water are sources of life, and
are the heritage of our peoples. We cannot permit their privatization,
nor the use of GMOs or of terminator technology.
No to the
criminalization of social protest, yes to the UN Declaration of Peasant
Rights, proposed by La Via Campesina. It will be a key tool in the
international legal system to strengthen our position and our rights as
peasants and family farmers.
Rural youth: We urgently need to
open ever more spaces in our movement for the incorporation of the
creativity and strength of our rural young people, in their struggle to
create their future in the countryside.
Finally, we are the women and men who produce and defend the food of all peoples.
the participants in the V Conference of La Via Campesina commit
ourselves to the defense of peasant and family farm agriculture, food
sovereignty, dignity and life. We offer real solutions the global
crisis we face today. We have the right to continue to exist as
peasants and farmers, and we have the responsibility to feed our
We are here, the peasants and family farmers of the world, and we refuse to disappear.
Food sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!
Globalize struggle! Globalize hope!