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More farmers, better food -What could small-farmers expect from the reformed CAP?

25 July 2013

The European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) welcomes the EU Lithuania Presidency and congratulates for the Meeting of the Chairpersons of the Committees on Rural Affairs on the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy held in Vilnius on the 21-22 of July.

At this meeting, ECVC was represented by a member of the Coordination Committee, Hanny Van Geel, who said: “ Thank you very much for the invitation; I am honored to be a keynote speaker in today’s meeting of the chairs of the national committees of rural affairs. Thank you very much for the kind hospitality I have experienced during the visit to the castle yesterday-evening and my stay in Vilnius” .

More farmers, better food

What could small-farmers expect from the reformed CAP?

Hanny Van Geel for ECVC – Key note speech

Being raised on a farm and living and working a big part of my life on a farm, also working in the middle of civil society, I am convinced that farming forms the backbone of our society.

Farming defines the way we eat, what we eat an how it is prepared. Farming has great influence on the environment and shapes the landscape we live in, and forms a great part of our relation with nature. Because of that farming is, a least partly, responsible for the way we live. Taking this into account we should rethink the direction Agriculture is heading. And rethink the strategy of our policies on agriculture.

The lately reformed CAP is a result of negotiations and negotiations. On some parts first steps have been set toward recognition of small-farmers: the greening, the plafond in the subsidies, the free first 15 hectares for support, the exclusion of support, for companies that are not real farmers, and support for young farmers. Quit a sum up, but still these reforms are just small gestures in a total frame-work that is supporting a system that is very unfriendly to small-scale farming. As a result of that a quarter of European farms have vanished since 2007.

Due to the wish to reach an agreement on the CAP reforms, further decisions and implementation of this CAP reform has been lied back into the hands of the national governments. This is an opportunity to more local adapted policies, but on the other hand it requires again a combat with other stakeholders. Stakeholders that have considerably more power, more money and more influence. It is again a struggle for those who are not in the power position.

Europe’s people are experiencing the structural adjustment policies which governments are imposing on their populations. This because governments think within an economical model. Society since the last age is build on this economical system. Economics should be a supporting for the life of people and the planet (the wealth of nations). In the current system not the people and planet benefit, they are exploited, to the benefit the happy few (private banks, investment groups and transnational corporations). In this model food systems have been reduced to a model of industrialized agriculture, con¬trolled by a few transnational food corporations, together with a small group of huge retailers. It is a model designed to generate profits. Therefore it completely fails to meet its obligations of being dedicated to the production of food which is healthy, affordable and benefits people. Instead of that it focuses increasingly on the production of raw materials such as agro fuels, animal feeds or commodity planta¬tions. This industrial model of production is dependent on finite fossil fuels and chemi¬cal inputs. It does not recognize the limitations of resources such as land or water; is responsible for drastic losses of biodiversity and soil fertility and contributes to cli¬mate change.

This also has caused the enormous loss of agricultural holdings and the people who make their living from those holdings. it forces thousands of people into jobs without recognition of their most fundamental rights; it causes forced migration. It is the cause of rural poverty and hunger for more than a billion people in the world. In addition while creating a surplus of industrial foods, which end up being wasted or dumped in markets both within and outside Europe, exported agricultural products are destroying farms and local production and livelihoods in all regions. And the processed food, promotes a diet which is harmful to health and which contains insufficient fruit, vegetables and cereals.

This situation is the result of food, financial, trade and energy policies, which our governments, the EU (especially through its Common Agricultural Policy), multi¬lateral and financial institutions as well as transnational corporations have been imposing.

They realize policies of deregulation, liberalization of ag¬ricultural markets and speculation on food.

This is happening in Europe and it is comparable with what is happening in Africa. I want to share a part of a testimony of a farmer from Mali, which is an example how farmers all over the world suffer from the same system.

The collapse of our economies and the growth of the public debt in the 1980’s led the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to subject our countries to structural adjustment. We were told that the state was inefficient and that we needed to make more room for the pri¬vate sector. […] We were told to cut all sup¬port to sustainable family farming, which was termed unsuccessful […].We were told to produce even more cash crops for export, such as cotton, coffee and peanuts, at very low prices that were set abroad. With these slogans we were told to buy rice from Asia, or flour and dried milk from Europe, all of which are now so volatile. The descent into hell had begun for farming families and for our over-indebted states that were incapable of paying. Then we were told to become competitive according to the criteria of inter¬national financial institutions, and also that our states were no longer authorized to pro¬tect us. Our customs tariffs were dismantled and our markets liberalized. Food products from elsewhere were unloaded onto our markets, making us even more vulnerable to price volatility. […] And yet none of these “solutions” imposed on us pulled us out of poverty. On the contrary, we became even more vulnerable. […] Today, we are sub-jected to new challenges: Climate change, financial speculation, unpredictable interna¬tional markets, new policies by developed countries that grab our land to produce fuels. […] In spite of all of this, and without any aid, sustainable family farming has not disappeared. Unfortunately we had to suf¬fer the current crisis for our governments to become once again aware of the necessity for food security based on food production at the national level.

To solve the problem of price volatility, we the sustainable family farmers, with the support of other actors in civil society, believe that it is necessary:

• To give priority to our local markets and regional integration[…].

• To halt all forms of competition between farmers and production modes with a very large disparity in productivity […]

• To stop the policies which are destabilizing our systems of sustainable family farming. In times of overproduction we suffer from dumping, in times of shortage we suffer from restrictions on the export of food we have been told to no longer produce.

• Our governments must aspire to policies that will support us so that we can invest to feed our populations.

• Instruments exist to stabilize prices: appro¬priate customs tariffs, strategic stocks at differ-ent levels, regulations against speculators,…

• Sustainable family farmers, women and vulnerable groups in rural areas must be granted real access to the funds mobilized in their name so they can finally begin to live with dignity from their work.

As sometimes it seems that the current system is an unchangeable reality, a law of nature, we must realize that it is a man-made system. And that we can change to another reality, another system, if we, the citizens and peasants choose to change it.

We are people who share values based on human rights. We want free movement of people, and not free circulation of capital and merchandise which contributes to the destruction of livelihoods and therefore forces many to migrate. Our aim is cooperation and solidarity as opposed to competition. We commit to reclaiming our democracy: all people should be involved in all issues of public interest and public policy making, deciding collectively how we organize our food systems.

Changing the direction of this dysfunctional food system will only be possible through a complete reorientation of food and agricultural policies and practices. It is vital to redesign the food system based on the principles of Food Sovereignty, the right of peoples to democratically define their own food and agricul¬tural systems without harming other people or the environment.

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food pro¬duced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. Food sover¬eignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets. It empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal-fishing, pastoralist-led grazing. It also empowers food pro¬duction, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sus¬tainability. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequal¬ity between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.

Numerous experiences and practices already exist here and now, at local, regional and European levels, which are based on Food Sovereignty and which demon¬strate how it can be applied. Peasants play a decisive role in feeding the world population, at national and international levels. We are convinced that Food Sovereignty is not only a step forward towards a change in our food and agricultural systems, but it is also a first step towards a broader change in our societies.

What do we want in Europe?

Changing how food is produced and consumed

We are working towards resilient food production systems, which provide healthy and safe food for all people in Europe. While also preserving biodiversity and natu¬ral resources and ensuring animal welfare. This requires ecological models of pro¬duction and fishing, and a multitude of smallholder farmers, gardeners and small-scale fishers who produce local food as the backbone of the food system. We recuperate a wide diversity of non-GM varieties of seeds and livestock breeds in these systems. We promote sustainable and diverse forms of food culture, in particular the consumption of high quality local and seasonal foods. This includes a lower consumption of meat and animal products, which should only be locally produced using local non-GM feed. We engage in re-embracing and promoting knowledge of farming, cooking and food processing through education and sharing of skills.

Changing how food is distributed

We work towards the decentralization of food chains, promoting diversified mar¬kets based on solidarity and fair prices. We develop short supply chains and intensified relations between producers and consumers in local food webs. We want to provide the building blocks for people to develop their own food distribution systems and allow farmers to produce and process food for their communities. This requires supportive food safety rules and local food infrastructure for smallholder farmers. And to counter the expansion and power of supermarkets. We also work to ensure that the food we produce reaches all people in society, including people with little or no income.

Valuing and improving work and social

conditions in food and agriculture systems

We struggle against the exploitation and the degradation of work¬ing and social conditions and for the rights of all women and men who provide food as well as those of seasonal and migrant workers. For us, this includes decent living wages. We aim to build broad alliances among all people who work in the food system.

Reclaiming the right to our Commons

We oppose and struggle against using our commons such as: land; farmers’, traditional and reproducible seeds; livestock breeds and fish stocks; trees and forests; water; the atmosphere; and knowledge, to use these conditions for life as commodities, for financial speculation, and patents. Access to these should not be determined by markets and mon¬ey. In using common resources, we must ensure the realization of human rights and gender equality, and that society as a whole benefits. We also acknowledge our responsibility to use our Commons sustainably, while respecting the rights of mother earth.

Changing public policies governing our food and agricultural systems

Our struggle includes changing public policies and governance structures that rule our food systems – from the local to the national, European and global levels – and to delegitimize corporate power. Public policies must be coher¬ent, complementary and promote and protect food systems and food cul¬tures. They must: be based on the right to food; eradicate hunger and pov¬erty; ensure the fulfillment of basic human needs; and contribute to climate justice – in Europe and globally. We need legal frameworks that: guarantee stable and fair prices for food producers; promote environmentally-friendly ag¬riculture; internalize external costs into food prices; and implement land reform.

These policies would result in more farmers in Europe. Public policies must be designed with the help of publicly accountable research to achieve the objec¬tives outlined above. They must ensure that speculation on food is banned and no harm is done to existing local or regional food systems and food cultures – either by dumping or by landgrabbing in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, or the Global South. We work towards new agriculture, food, seed, energy and trade policies for Food Sovereignty in Europe which are internationally sound. In par¬ticular these must include: a different Common Agriculture and Food Policy; the removal of the EU Biofuels Directive; and global governance of international agri¬cultural trade located in the FAO and not the WTO.

Food production is in the current system seen and counted as output per m2 of products, mostly raw material (plants and animals), to be used by processing industry. The more processing and transport, the more added value. The terms production and added value are used in an narrow economic way of speaking. Producing unhealthy products like processed food and for example cigarettes, might have quite a high added value (starting from the several parts of raw material transported all over the world and put unto a product somewhere that is transported to logistic centers and supermarkets, and then after consumption the added value continues in long healthcare actions, pharmaceutical industry, funeral business. Added value in this way has nothing to do with wellbeing and happiness.

Production should mean production of valuables like: healthy food, healthy environment with clean water, biodiversity of plants and animals and micro-organisms, healthy and fair paid employment, livelihood of rural areas, social coherence of rural and urban areas. This is a real added value in the basic meaning of the word.

We need a paradigm-shift towards a new system, that is holistic, inclusive and balanced. A food production, trade and consumption system that is balanced in giving and taking and therefore is able to feed, to last, to sustain, further generations. Not techniques, not economics, but life in the centre of our life’s.

When we have achieved this, I am sure that we will have more farmers and better food.


For more information on this event, please click on the link below: http://www.lrs.lt/intl/presidency.show?theme=221&lang=2&p_sp_reng_id=15

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