La Vía Campesina started spreading the word about sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty in 1993. The movement emerged in the context of the globalization of agricultural policies and out of the need for small-scale farmers to be heard. Today, this grassroots movement represents 70 countries in the fight for fairer agricultural practices. It has organized and participated in campaigns against the World Trade Organization and neoliberal policies, and has advocated for the rights of poor peasants at local and global levels.
By incorporating technologies into their fight, the movement shows a whole new side. Most recently, they published a documentary on Vimeo about the movement that has been subtitled in four languages, showing, once again, the globalization of the story. In the video, people who speak French, Spanish, English, and Portuguese explain what Vía Campesina does, while also showing what they do. They protest, they participate in forums, and they farm.
On their website you can see that they truly are all over the world. Their movements and actions span the globe, and even occur in Italy, Japan, and Indonesia. Most recently, on October 16, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations celebrated the 37th session of the Committee on World Food Security. During this event, la Vía Campesina, along with 44 other civil society organizations, nation-states and one private sector organization, worked on a draft for the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. This document seeks to “improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests… with the goals of food security, poverty alleviation, sustainable livelihoods, social stability, housing security, rural development, environmental protection and economic growth.” Through a YouTube channel, representatives of the Italian sector of the movement informed people on what exactly was happening at the committee session held in Rome.
In a time when there are serious food shortages in some parts of the world, the rise of civil society in the international decision making context could not be more desirable. And with the aid of the internet they are trying to reach far and wide. They’re raising awareness in places that might otherwise be ignorant of the world’s hunger problem, and involving more people in action.
(The photo is by Ian MacKenzie of Vancouver, Canada via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see one of La Via Campesina’s videos please check below.)