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La Via Campesina and Agroecology

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In the contemporary world rural areas are contested spaces. Within the last decades we have witnessed the implementation of policies oriented towards free-trade, open markets, deregulation and privatization aimed at favouring transnational corporations. Even more after the global financial crisis of 2008, financial capitalists and transnational corporations have had the need to find new spaces for investment so they started looking at the South and towards investments in natural resources. There has been a boom in export crops, agrofuel, mining and industrial monoculture. These investments have been backed by international organizations and governments. Their pattern of production is of centralized, decontextualized production, de-linked from specifities of the local system and production and consumption are de-linked in time and space. Several actors contribute to the decontextualized chain: input suppliers, processors, traders, super market chains and finance banks. Social movements have emerged to contrast and contest these trends and to defend, reconfigure or transform contest areas into peasant territories: among these, la via campesina is the most important one, comprising around 200 million families around the world. Social movements have promoted the notion of agroecology, characterized by patterns of short, decentralized strains of production and consumption, with a strong link between food production and local and regional ecosystems and society. A conflict over territories thus emerges, with agribusinesses on one hand exploiting natural resources and peasantry and rural peoples on the other defending a different mode of production. The conflict among these two macro-actors is on modes of development and life and they both try to reterritorialize spaces and reconfigure them to favour their interests. When there are contested territories, the conflict have an economic, social, cultural, political, theoretical and ideological dimension. The notion of material and immaterial territories in useful to understand it: the dispute over material territories is a struggle to access, control, use and shape or configure land and physical territory, consisting of communities, infrastructures, soil, water, biodiversity, mountains, valleys, plains, rivers and coasts. Immaterial territories are the realm of ideas and theoretical constructs where part of the battle is conducted. Dispute over material territories is always associated with immaterial territories, where the contestation is characterised by formulation and defence of concepts, theories and paradigms. As transnational corporations are global and have global links, also the social movements have had to build, strengthen and foster transnational networks and linkages. Notions of re-peasantization and de-peasantization are also helpful, where with re-peasantization there is a renewed connection with nature, a reduction on dependency, a transformation from entrepreneurial farmers to peasants and a conquest of land and territory from agribusinesses and other large owners. The process by which peasants are instead drawn into a cycle of dependency, market relations, debt cycle is called de-peasantization. In this process a big role is played by states as well in the dispossession of lands and displacement of peasants from their lands. Counteracting the corporations’ approach to agriculture, and in order to win the battle for dispute territories, the via Campesina has developed several tools. It has established leadership training academies and opened schools to prepare peasants to put pressure on intergovernmental and governmental organisations and entities, it has promoted the exchange among the members of the via Campesina, especially to exchange practices and notions, such as that of thinking in terms of territory instead of land derived from the indigenous people. It has also been relevant for the progression of agricultural innovations. A system proved to be very effective is the campesino à campesino methodology, started in Guatemala but then implemented throughout the world, a horizontal communication methodology where peasants exchange innovative solutions or restored traditional practices to common problems. Effective use of the methodology examples: Southern India, Cuba, Zimbabwe.  

Final Review Date: 
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Publication Year: 
Book Title: 
La Via Campesina's Open Book: Celebrating 20 years of Struggle and Hope