A message from Jyoti and Adam, who are at the 6th international conference of La Via Campesina in Jakarta:
Yesterday was the official opening of the conference: The 500 delegates from La Via Campesina were joined in the ‘peasants victory’ stadium by 2-3000 members of the indonesian peasant union SPI for an opening ceremony and the launch of the agro-ecology village which has been built in the car park outside.
The spread of organisations here is really encouraging; there are 28 from Europe and over 80 in total. All of them building on a strong common vision of the benefits that small scale production brings to society, and a common commitment to defend the rights and interests
of peasants in solidarity with one another.
This morning we heard moving tributes to activists in the movement who have been killed in the past year and representatives of the regions presented their analyses of the situations, threats and opportunities that they face. It was really moving to hear a steam of personal stories from so many different countries that share a great resonance with one another. Both in terms of peoples commitment to and love of the land, and in the obstacles that governments and corporations present.
Alongside this we have been involved in a lot of regional discussions building the strategic plan for the movement in the next few years. More of this soon, but it is looking good with commitments to take action on a lot of the issues that will be coming through the EU and internationally such as the Plant Reproductive Materials law and the G8’s new alliance on food security and nurtition.
The systems of communication here are undeniable grassroots and accessible, which makes it all the more incredible that people from such a diversity of cultural traditions can come to a consensus on such a radical and comprehensive plan of action to tackle the root causes of the problems that farmers face. Just watching the way that people from the rooms of any background- provided that the are peasants- can come to the microphone and give impassioned speeches, stories of struggles or personal stories of their farms is inspiring in itself.
We will send out the action plan when it is approved- don’t quite know at this point how they will be able to integrate all of the comments- can you imagine having to edit a document with suggestions from 500 delegates? And the interpreter team from a radical collective who volunteer their services over 16 hour days!
As a final note for today we found an inspiring definition of ‘peasant’ that was proposed by la via campesina and adopted by the UN human rights commission who are now proposing that the UN makes a formal
declaration of peasant rights:
“A peasant is a man or woman of the land, who has a direct and special relationship with the land and nature through the production of food and/or other agricultural products. Peasants work the land themselves, relying above all on family labor and other small scale forms of organising labor. peasants are traditionally embedded in their local communities and they take care of local landscapes and of agro-
The term peasant can apply to any person engaged in agriculture, cattle-raising, pastoralism, handicrafts-related to agriculture or a related occupation in rural areas. this includes indigenous people working on the land.
the term peasant also applies to landless. according ti the UN food and agriculture organisation (FAO 1984) definition, the following categories of people are considered to be landless and are likely to face difficulties in ensuring their livelihood:
1. agricultural labourers households with little or no land.
2. non-agricultural households in rural areas, with little or no land, whose members are engaged in various activities such as fishing, making crafts for the local market, or providing services.
3. other rural households of pastoralists, nomads, peasants practicing shifting cultivation, hunters and gatherers, and people with similar livelihoods”
We really like this definition because it highlights so well the how our livelihoods unite us in a common experience or working and caring for the land. As people here keep highlighting, our unity lies in our diversity.