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Small-scale Danish and African farmers reject free trade

14 June 2018

Representatives of South and East Africa, together with small-scale Danish farmers, agree that the free trade of farm products primarily benefits transnational corporations and furthers agricultural industrialisation at the expense of local food production.

On Tuesday 12th June, Mateus Costa Santos, La Via Campesina South and East Africa (LVC SEAf) Secretariat, and David Calleb Otieno, Kenyan Peasants League (a member of LVC SEAf) met with the representatives of Danish small-scale farmers from Frie Bønder – Levende Land /La Via Campesina Denmark (FBLL- LVC DK) in Copenhagan. La Via Campesina is a global organisation of small-scale farmers. More than 200 million small-scale farm workers, landless people, indigenous populations, young people and women from rural and urban areas are members. Afrika Kontakt organised the meeting, during which discussions about issues of common interest and future collaboration took place.


In Africa, most food is produced and consumed locally, and African farmers would like their food systems to stay local. However, sustainable farming and local production and consumption are under threat from climate change and for-profit endeavours and initiatives. These initiatives include a strong push for the industrialisation of African farming and food systems. This leads to loss of land for the farmers and the destruction of rural communities.


“Danish and African small-scale farmers share a strong interest in mitigating climate change and preventing the dumping of European (and North American) farm products into the food markets of countries from the Global South,” say Ole K. Davidsen and Ole Faergeman of FBLL. They add that investors in Danish pension funds could help African people and the climate by refusing to invest in funds that finance coal mining activities, which destroy great tracts of land in South Africa.


”In Africa, we need genuine democratic control of the decisions that determine the evolution of food systems so that we can avoid the mistakes made in Europe, i.e. farming policies that have resulted in mass migration from the countryside to cities and contributed to catastrophic climate change,” says Mateus Santos. David Otieno agrees and adds that “in Kenya, land is classified as public, private or community land. Huge chunks of land are community land, most of which has not been demarcated. As a result, it is held in trust by county governments. It is crucial that farmers have access to community land.”


Danish and African small-scale farmers share the belief that “globalisation” should lead to an exchange of ideas rather than exchange of money and the transport of food across great distances. Years ago, La Via Campesina launched the concept of “Food Sovereignty.” Today, several countries have enshrined this concept their constitutions, and it continues to evolve in the general debate about the future of farming.


In a communiqué from the meeting in Copenhagen, the small-scale farming organisations stated that “we want to inspire and support each other in the struggle – based on fundamental democratic principles – to maintain and develop farming that is truly sustainable and truly local for the benefit of the people in Africa as well as in Northern Europe”