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  • La Via Campesina is urging governments to “invest in peasant agriculture and support local peasant markets.”

    La Via Campesina is urging governments to “invest in peasant agriculture and support local peasant markets.” | Photo: EFE

Published 19 April 2020
Opinion

On International Day of Peasant Struggle, Campesino organizations around the world recall that time has come to 'globally, structurally, and profoundly”' reform agri-food systems.

International peasants organization La Via Campesina (The Campesino Way) marked Friday the International Day of Peasant Struggle, a particularly important commemoration against the backdrop of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. 

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“This April 17 (the International Day of Peasant Struggle) was of vital importance because we put on the table the issue of the food situation in the context of a pandemic,” Political Coordinator of La Via Campesina Nury Martinez told teleSUR. 

“The pandemic has revealed the importance of having diverse, agro-ecological food systems that guarantee healthy food for everyone at fair prices and that are sustainable with the environment.” 

The activist added that with their allies they are “trying to denounce the agribusiness model, which is a model that poisons, that is based on monoculture, that is not sustainable and that does not work.”

La Via Campesina stated on the occasion of this celebration that time has come to “globally, structurally, and profoundly” reform the agri-food systems.

“States must ensure their populations’ access to healthy, appropriate food and prevent shortages,” the organization stated in a release on its website. “They must act now to end all forms of commodity speculation practiced by transnational agribusiness monopolies.”

While the economic and health crisis affecting almost the entire world has led millions of people to unemployment, exacerbating thus a hunger crisis due -among other reasons- to the neglect of peasant farming in dozens of countries, La Via Campesina urged governments to “invest in peasant agriculture and support local peasant markets.” 

On Friday, the Campesino movement whose organizations are present on every continent, urged its members and allies “to stay at home but not silent,” and to denounce the multiple killings, evictions, mass layoffs, along with the economic sanctions imposed on a number of countries hampering their response to the spread of the virus.

La Via Campesina also called on activists and communities to voice and expose the continued criminalization of peasants, and to point out the precarious conditions of rural economies. 

It warned that in many countries, the “fascist, patriarchal and military practices,” against people have worsened in these times of pandemic, stressing that this ongoing crisis must be the occasion to rethink an imposed economic system people have to cope with, often at the cost of their lives.

“This crisis shows us once again; the need to enact a profound change in the capitalist system. It is a system that is untenable and incompatible with nature and life.”

As an organization that has the task to help people on their way towards food sovereignty and food security, members and activists in La Via Campesina deeply understand that the production of healthy food is the most effective way to counter epidemics like the one triggered by the new coronavirus.

The international Campesino movement urged for the reopening of local peasant markets and fairs to supply cities and prevent hunger.

“During this crisis, States must ensure the public procurement of food produced by small-scale farmers. We must adopt principles of agroecology and feed our communities with nutritious, healthy food to improve our immunity, something that supermarkets and fast food chains cannot do,” the organization said.

La Via Campesina also denounced the blockades and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Israel on a number of countries including Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine, and Iran. 

“(We) denounce the brutal economic blockade and military interference of the imperialistic U.S., which endangers the lives of large populations for lack of medical supplies,” the group said, adding “The rejection of a loan request from Venezuela signals how IMF (International Monetary Fund) fails rural people and workers,” contrasting with responses provided by nations like Cuba that sent doctors and nurses worldwide, setting an example of what international solidarity should look like.

Among other demands, organizations comprising La Via Campesina urged governments especially in the Global South, to refuse to pay the external debt and invest instead in public services such as Health, Education, and the rural sectors.

It has also demanded the rejection of the neoliberal policies of the IMF and World Bank that have been dominating the world for the past 50 years, ruining countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

“It is crucial to understand the far-reaching impact of public policies in people’s lives. It is essential to defend education, health and the right to better living conditions for the working class in urban and rural areas. We have the task of recovering privatized public services. The governments that dismantled the public systems are now facing the consequences of their grave mistakes,” the organization concluded.

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