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Youth Platform 2011

25 July 2011

European Coordination Via Campesina Youth Platform (YECVC-2011) The dominant agricultural model is in crisis; subjected to the laws of the market, small farmers have almost disappeared. The capitalist model destroys, amongst other things, peasant farming, social life in the countryside and the possibility of producing quality and non-polluting food. Thus, young people involved in agriculture today lack perspectives. Problems young people face: Access to land: the evolution of agriculture since 1960, with the European Common Agricultural Policy, has led to land being concentrated in the hands of an ever smaller number of farmers (enlargement of agricultural holdings, mechanization of production, business world take-over...). These larger farms are far too expensive to be sold to young people wishing to go into agricultural production. The problem is compounded by growing urbanization that destroys much land around cities and villages and frantic land speculation. Thus, land is often diverted from agriculture when it can be sold for construction. This is all very worrying, when we bear in mind that there are no proposals to stop this process. Training: agricultural training courses are not suitable to the needs of peasant agriculture. Young people are trained to practice production-oriented, industrial-scale agriculture which is split from its primary function: to feed populations in a healthy manner. They are trained to becomes managers of profitable companies, not farmers. They are turned into simple links in the production chain. The important role of farmers in animating rural social life, transmitting know-how and building links of solidarity, is not taught. There is a huge need to rethink agricultural training courses in view of adapting them to newcomers wishing to acquire/take over a farm and their needs. Financing: sociologically, it's a fact that fewer and fewer farms are being taken over by the children of farmers; increasingly, candidates are not from the farming world. For those unable to take over their parents' land, and who don't have rented land, buying a farm is too expensive or entails getting into excessive debt. Public aid is insufficient and particularity badly distributed. It's becoming urgent to change the allocation rules for agricultural financing. Administrations: in every European country, there are real administrative hurdles for those wishing to take up farming. It seems that everything is being done to discourage such initiatives, even though the farming world needs new blood. Legal information is either non-existent or hard to come by, and dominant professional bodies tend to block out information about land purchase opportunities. Setting up as a farmer is a real ordeal. We can no longer do without a real change in the administrations so that they can effectively help young people set themselves up as farmers. The image of agriculture: the collective image of farming is a negative one (farmers often lack respect, they don't enjoy social recognition and their income is low) despite the fact that their role in producing healthy food is vital for everyone and should be recognized and remunerated. Working conditions are often difficult and take up most time in a farmer's life. The work of farmers should be remunerated by society rather than being dependent on market fluctuations! Fortunately, awareness is growing about the limits of this system (food crisis, health crisis, pollution due to means of mass transport, food speculation...). New initiatives link producers and consumers and many people are together trying to find solutions to deal with these difficult issues: setting up small co-operatives, common land purchase (for example Terre de liens), alternative training courses... Our demands … towards societal change! We demand: free training courses adapted to the needs of young farmers: training has to be based on agro-ecological farming methods; farmers need to be taught their history and be given the means to defend themselves politically. Training courses must emphasize the rediscovery of knowledge and tools of solidarity must be created. We demand a Complete Land Reform: i.e., a public policy of land redistribution that will enable all farmers to cultivate land under good conditions, as well as the creation of public bodies that will guarantee everyone in rural areas access to education, health and culture. We demand that alternative forms of farming are recognized, different to the current structure of farm holding management and family farm (collective farming, subsistence farming, urban gardens, etc). This entails legislative changes to take account of these “atypical” set-ups, of which there are an increasing number. This could also lead to mutual recognition by farmers, whatever type of farming they practice. We demand an end to the financing of profit-based industrial food production (companies that exploit human beings and natural resources for the sole aim of making money). Continued financing of production-oriented agriculture is a major hurdle in repopulating rural areas and in ensuring a farming revival. We aspire to a more egalitarian society and, beyond equal gender representation, we have to break with the hetero-patriarchal model of society to, i.a., encourage and facilitate the entry of women into rural environments and farming and to ensure that their work is recognized. We encourage all of those who are already taking concrete action in their own way and at their level locally. Yet, it seems that cumulating alternative initiatives is not enough to reach our ends. We must thus structure our struggle so as to break the dominant ideology that claims that all kinds of farming methods can co-exist. Young people entering farming today, and who believe in the ideas of La Via Campesina, have to get organized collectively. We have the responsibility to defend our opinions and to express these to as many people as possible. We have to coordinate our efforts to help those following into our footsteps. The future is ours. Down with industrial farming which is polluting and enslaving! For a fairer society, built around a large, solidarity-based, farming community. Long live the struggle!

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