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Our vision for fairer and more sustainable agricultural systems can be summarised into three core concepts: food sovereignty, agroecology, and peasants’ rights. These three concepts are complementary and together represent the essence of our political vision.
Our movement is made up of farmers and farm worker organisations. Through our everyday experiences and coordinated action, we are best placed to bring about the systemic change needed to improve the European agricultural model and ensure farmers can feed populations with local healthy food, whilst working in dignified conditions.
In Europe the lack of institutional support for family and peasant farming continues to cause thousands of farms to disappear each day. By 2040, Europe may only have 3.9 million farms left, down from 15 million in 2003. As part of its efforts to improve the condition of farmers and farm workers in Europe and reverse this trend, we work to incorporate food sovereignty, agroecology and respect of peasants’ rights into regional and international agricultural policy processes.
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of agricultural and food systems and public policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
It offers people and societies direct, democratic control over how they feed and nourish themselves, how they use and maintain land, water, and other resources for the benefit of current and future generations, and how they interact with other groups, peoples and cultures based on international solidarity. It opposes the stranglehold of multinational corporate interests on agricultural and food governance.
Food sovereignty is opposed to neo-liberal policies that push states to dismantle their agricultural and food policies and put food production and distribution in the hands of the “free market” and multinational corporations. In particular, food sovereignty is not compatible with the World Trade Organisation agreements or with bilateral free trade agreements.
Food sovereignty requires agricultural and food policies that regulate the market, so that farmers can sell their produce at stable prices and receive a decent income and to guarantee a secure and accessible food supply for the whole population. In light of this, we demand a profound change of course for the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Despite the increasingly common and dangerous tendency of other actors to hijack the term to further their own political vision, food sovereignty was conceptualised by La Via Campesina in 1996 and defined in the Nyéléni declaration in 2007 by a global movement composed of organisations fighting for food sovereignty. The right to food sovereignty is recognised in Article 15 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP).
We understand that to achieve sustainable food production, we must rebuild Europe’s food sovereignty through a shift towards agroecology, ensuring the rights of peasants are respected, i.e., the right to fair income, and access to land, seeds, markets, and resources for small- and medium-scale farmers.
These concepts go hand in hand. None can be achieved in a vacuum, or through isolated measures or practices. Each requires coherent and cross-cutting public policies and systemic change. As a peasant-led organisation representing small- and medium-scale farmers across Europe, we aim to use our holistic vision to inform, advocate and fight for such policies in order to achieve food sovereignty.
Latest activity: Food sovereignty
We see peasant agroecology as a way of life. It offers solutions to the major environmental, social, economic, and political challenges we are currently facing as a society. It is a living practice, as well as a scientific and socio-political movement, built and fostered by people over thousands of years. For aeons it has proven to be the most just and sustainable way of supporting (human) life on planet Earth.
Agroecology uses methods which work in collaboration with nature in a circular production model. These methods strengthen peasant farmers’ autonomy by enabling us to remain independent from external inputs. This type of production respects local resources and protects the environment and biodiversity via the application of specific peasant knowledge. Agroecological methods, if supported by appropriate public policies, provide the basis for a transition away from the conventional farming model to a different agricultural model, by phasing out synthetic pesticides and chemical fertiliser and applying alternative techniques in the production process. Agroecology entails promoting transparency in production, processing, and sale of products.
Peasant agroecology also looks to bring about a transformation of our society, built upon collective rights, customs, and laws acknowledging the right of farmers and communities to self-determination and autonomy.
From an ecological point of view, this means working together with nature, not against it. This vision is rooted in traditional farmer knowledge and relies on farmer-to-farmer, intergenerational, and experiential learning processes. Since the beginning of agricultural practices, peasant agroecology has contributed to a better understanding of the relationship between food production and the surrounding ecosystems, taking into account the environmental, social, and cultural dimension.
From an economic point of view, we promote economies that are truly beneficial for communities: solidarity, circular and regional economies, abiding by ecological principles. Economic activities thus respect the limits set by the environment and are driven by local conditions and needs rather than capitalist interests and growth at all costs. Most importantly, in peasant agroecology, small-scale food producers are respected for playing a leading role in the economy and are fairly rewarded for their work.
From a political point of view, we make the rights of small and medium scale food producers a priority on the agenda and we work as a movement towards equality and social justice for all people worldwide. Our vision constantly challenges power structures in society and looks to move away from a model based on domination towards leadership by those who care for the good of society as a whole.
Peasant agroecology differs from context to context, according to the needs and realities of each community or society. However, the common principles of agroecology can be summarised into the following points:
- Fluid in application across territories
- Ecological and low-input
- Political, social, and determined by communities
- Collective rights and access to the commons
- Horizontality and diversity of learning
- Spiritual and non-commodified connection to the land
- Solidarity and collective action
- Autonomous and fair, based upon a solidarity economy
- Challenging and transforming global power structures
- Equal power and remuneration across genders
Latest activity: Agroecology
Peasants, rural families, and other workers in rural areas face immeasurable and systematic violation of their rights on a global level and across Europe. The livelihood and subsistence of these groups depend on access to land, forests, rivers and oceans, and markets, among other factors, yet structural injustices and discrimination in access to these resources are rife. In many cases, the situation is made worse by national agricultural policies, which favour small elite groups with concentrated amounts of power and resources.
In this context, after an 18-year peasant struggle involving legal processes, mobilisations, advocacy work and cooperation on an international level, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas was adopted in 2018. The success of this struggle, spearheaded by La Via Campesina, enshrines the collective rights of peasants and farmers to fight for collective and individual access to land, seeds, water, biodiversity, and national resources, as well as social security, proper medical attention, and safe working conditions.
The UN Declaration is thus a strategic instrument that recognises peasants’ rights as human rights, which must be used to guide legislation and public policies at every institutional level for the benefit of those who feed the world.
The declaration is particularly important for us as European farmers, as in Europe alone the number of farms fell from 15 million to 10 million between 2003 and 2016, and could fall to just 3.9 million by 2040. Most of the farms lost were small-scale farms. Farmer’s income is also 50% lower than that of the average European citizen. Despite these challenges, and the fact that we only use 30–50% of all arable land, as small and medium-scale farmers we continue to feed the people of Europe, preserve biodiversity, and maintain the cultural and social heritage of the populations.
This is why one of our key focuses is incorporating the declaration into all areas of European legislation and policy and creating binding tools and mechanisms to enshrine and protect peasants’ rights at European and global level.
Latest activity: Peasants’ rights