International Day of Peasant Struggle

Farmers and trade unions protesting against the EU India free trade agreement

Peasants and small-scale farmers grow a substantial part of the world’s food. For a transition away from fossil dependence and biodiversity depletion they are absolutely indispensable. Their contribution, though, is far from being recognized.

For a long time free market policies have been in force to replace peasants' agriculture by large agribusiness corporations and international trade. Governments and corporations buy up farm land at home and abroad for food production and for profit. Leaving farmers without land and livelihood.

To counter this, peasants, landless people and family farmers have organized themselves to reclaim their right to protect their livelihoods, to defend small-scale agriculture and to have their voices heard at international level. The international farmers movement La Via Campesina was created in 1993, uniting national organizations and unions that had been active for years in their own countries and regions.

On Friday, April 17, it is the International Day of Peasant and Farmer Struggle - against Transnational Companies and Free Trade Agreements. A vast number of campaigns, mobilizations and actions will take place on this day.

Harvesting cauliflowers at a small-scale farm in India

Image: Harvesting cauliflowers in India. Small-scale farming is crucial for global food supply.

This is La Via Campesina's invitation to this global day of action:

We Struggle Against Transnational Companies and Free Trade Agreements

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(Harare, Zimbabwe, March 30, 2015)
La Via Campesina declared April 17th as the International Day of Peasant Struggle in order to highlight the struggle and to denounce the criminalization of protests. Peasant and farmers are persecuted and suffer violence on a daily basis as a result of the actions of agribusiness and the implementation of neoliberal policies in the countryside. For the International Peasant and Farmer Movement, it is urgent to speed up the approval of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people living in rural areas. The Declaration will be a tool to support the struggle for life and dignity in the countryside. 

This April 17th 2015, La Via Campesina will focus its mobilizations on the impacts of Transnational Corporations and Free Trade Agreements on peasant and small-scale agriculture and national food sovereignty. We are calling for the further strengthening of social struggle and of the world-wide organization of peoples, in order to demand a genuine agrarian reform and to assert the ancestral right to lands and territories, a central element of Peasant Agriculture and Peoples' Food Sovereignty.

Since 1996 – in honor of the 19 landless peasants massacred in Brazil – the International Peasant Movement has celebrated this global day of action and mobilization. It is a day to celebrate and strengthen people's solidarity and resistance, and to deepen the alliance between city and countryside in support of a societal project based on social justice and the dignity of peoples.

We, the women and men peasants and small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, and landless people of the world are struggling to build a model of production based on peasant and small-scale agriculture and food sovereignty. Free Trade Agreements run counter to this project; they further increase the displacement, expulsion, and disappearance of peasants by promoting a capitalist industrialized mode of production heavily reliant on agrochemicals. These agreements are negotiated under the influence, and for the interests, of a handful of transnational corporations; the voice of the people is excluded. 

For La Via Campesina, policies that aim to open up and deregulate markets only serve the interests of transnational corporations. These commercial and trade agreements – be they multi- or bi-lateral – basically seek to protect foreign companies by establishing a set of conditions, measures, and rules to protect their investments. Meanwhile, the liberalization of markets has severe social and economic impacts on peasants and farmers in the North and in the South. Free Trade Agreements put the rights of commerce over all other rights and concerns.  

To provide just one example, the European Union, the United States, and Canada are currently negotiating the most significant Free Trade Agreements in history. Those agreements will liberalize trade and investment markets. They will have a global impact and define, in a way that is favorable to business, the new rules by which transnational companies can operate. If passed, these agreements will provide corporations with the new tools that they need to manipulate regulations, norms, and public policies in order to increase their profits, namely the Investor-State Dispute Resolution and the Regulatory Cooperation Council. As a result, states, regions and communities will lose the power to protect their own citizens and environments.

In this context, we denounce the “arbitration” mechanism being used by these transnational companies to globalize, transnationalize, and privatize the world's judicial systems. Private corporations are being allowed to write the laws and to pursue a strategy aimed at weakening states and national sovereignty. Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is currently trying to re-invent itself and has launched a new offensive against national food production, distribution, and reserve systems, which is aimed at weakening the public systems that protect the people.

On this Global Day of Action, La Via Campesina calls on its member organizations, friends and allies to take action in their countries and regions to strengthen our international struggle. These actions can be mobilizations, land occupations, seed exchanges, food sovereignty fairs, forums, cultural events, etc.

Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!

Video: Hanny Van Geel, farmer from the Netherlands and member of La Via Campesina, explains how the implementation of TTIP will affect farmers and food production.

World map displaying campaigns, mobilizations and actions on April 17, 2015 

Image: Find campaigns, mobilizations and actions where you live.

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