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  • Grassroots activists participate in a massive La Via Campesina march in 2010.

    Grassroots activists participate in a massive La Via Campesina march in 2010. | Photo: Creative Commons / Ian MacKenzie

Published 6 June 2015

“We don’t speak of land ownership, but land access, crucial to ensure the right to food,” said activist Alejandra Serrato Delgado.

The world's largest social movement, La Via Campesina, launched a pan-European campaign for peoples' control of land, seeds, and water on Friday with a call for addressing “incoherent” European policies that have impacts on small agricultural producers both in the continent and in the global south.

The campaign “Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty” calls for building alternatives to combat the corporate control of the food system that threatens the livelihoods of small farmers and fails to respond to the growing challenges that climate change poses to feeding the world.

While the European Union has declared 2015 the Year of Development, calling it an “unparalleled opportunity to showcase Europe's commitment to eradicating poverty worldwide,” La Via Campesina activists behind the new campaign are critical.

“The EU development framework, through such things as public-private partnerships and export-orientated agriculture, makes farmers dependent on globalized food chains, rather than treating them as investors in their own right, to be supported by public policies and investments,” said Hanny van Geel, member of the European Coordination of Via Campesina.

“The result is that, in the name of food security, EU development policy is destroying small food producers across the north and south that sustainably feed the world, while privileging large agro-industry,” van Geel added.

RELATED: Civil Society Groups Say G8 Food Initiative in Africa Will Increase Hunger and Hurt Farmers

The new campaign will focus on continuing to support the work of social movements fighting for land and resource access and decision-making authority for small farmers, fishers, and other food producers putting critical alternatives to a corporate-dominated global food system in action. The campaign will also include education and training, policy advocacy, research, movement building, and more.

“The Hands on the Land campaign puts the people that actually produce most of the world’s food and care for the land, including peasants, pastoralists, fisher-folk, at the heart of solutions to the food and climate crises,” said Via Campesina in a statement.

Food sovereignty, a term popularized and advocated by La Via Campesina, focuses on reclaiming the global food system from corporate control to ensure that land, seeds, and agricultural resources are in the hands the millions of small farmers that produce and distribute food for the world.

RELATED: Latin America's Future Tied to Sustainable, Subsistence Farming

La Via Campesina launched the campaign at the civil society alternative People's Expo taking place in Milan, Italy parallel to the Expo Milano 2015, a global event bringing together countries, organizations, and corporations such as Coca-Cola around the theme of food and energy.

The People's Expo, aiming to “fill the gaps” of the official Expo 2015 by bringing together small producers and indigenous people, concluded Friday with a manifesto calling for strong public policy to protect biodiversity, an end to corporate land and water grabs and agricultural speculation, and a freeze on trade agreements that undermine farmers' rights and global food security.

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