LVC Press Release | 15 April 2020
(Harare) On 17 April 2020 – the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle – La Via Campesina will keep alive the memory of #EldoradoDosCarajás in Brazil and our continued fight against Corporate and State impunity. The COVID-19 crisis shows us that now is the moment to demand structural reforms of the agri-food systems at a global level.
States must ensure their populations’ access to healthy, culturally appropriate food and prevent shortages. They must act now to end all forms of commodity speculation practised by transnational agribusiness monopolies. In this fight against hunger, there is an urgent need to invest in peasant agriculture and support local peasant markets, while complying with the necessary health measures. Now is the time to uphold the food sovereignty of our communities and to guarantee the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. It is now essential to promote Public Policies that benefit the majority of the population, that prioritise care for the most vulnerable sectors, such as rural workers, women, migrants and the working class of the cities.
While calling to mobilise around 17 April 2020, La Via Campesina has urged its members and allies to stay home but not silent and denounce the multiple killings, evictions and economic blockades. It has asked its communities to highlight and expose the continued criminalisation of peasant struggles, and highlight the precarious conditions of rural economies. It is essential to call out the States’ negligence and its fascist, patriarchal and military practices against its people – that has worsened in times of the pandemic. This crisis shows us once again; the need to enact a profound change in the capitalist system. It is a system that is untenable and incompatible with nature and life. It is time to introduce structural transformations in the agri-food systems, and not just push for more aid programs. In many countries, hunger will rise. The quarantine and the historical neglect of peasant agriculture can have serious consequences that can aggravate the problem of hunger worldwide.
Our task as La Via Campesina is to feed the people, and we want to continue doing so. We understand that the production of healthy food cannot cease and that it is the first line of defence against COVID-19. However, this requires providing safe and dignified living conditions for peasants, during and after the crisis. As La Via Campesina on this #17Abril2020 – International Day of Peasant Struggle – we commit ourselves to continue working collectively in every corner of the world, upholding solidarity and internationalism. Today, we call upon society to think of transformative and progressive ideas. We urge you to till – in search of answers to address this emergency; to sow – alliances and solidarity; and to harvest – in times of economic recession, our collective rights as peasants and workers. The resistance continues!
Till, in search of answers!
We need to learn from our history. It is essential to work in collectives as has been the practice for several thousand years. Civil society, organised people and States must work together in favour of the vast majorities for justice and dignity:
Public Policies – it is crucial to understand the far-reaching impact of public policies in people’s lives. It is essential to defend education, health and the right to better living conditions for the working class in urban and rural areas. We have the task of recovering privatised public services. The governments that dismantled the public systems are now facing the consequences of their grave mistakes.
Food Sovereignty is vital to feed the population healthily and sustainably. Local Peasant Markets and Local Fairs must open again urgently to supply cities and prevent hunger. During this crisis, States must ensure the public procurement of food produced by small-scale farmers. We must adopt principles of agroecology and feed our communities nutritious, healthy food to improve our immunity, something that supermarkets and fast food chains cannot do.
States must guarantee and invest in Quality Public Health Care. In the context of the COVID19 crisis, it is urgent to ensure access to free testing and full treatment, in urban and rural areas, free of discrimination, with a firm commitment in defence of life. We denounce all attempts to take advantage of this crisis to privatise services or to generate a profit.
We condemn abusive practices of private and transnational companies, mass layoffs, agricultural workers subjected to slave labour, with extended hours and no security, direct fumigation, and wage reductions of up to 60%. Governments must step in to guarantee public policies in favour of workers, and defend the interests of the vast majority. It is essential to act quickly, decisively and in a coordinated manner. Taking correct and urgent measures could make the difference between survival and collapse.
Human Rights / Peasant Rights – in this climate of war, militarisation and death, even under lock-down, we must stand in defence of Human Rights, Peace and the lives of the men and women who protect their territories. Stop violence, death and impunity in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Palestine, the Philippines and the world!
It is essential to guarantee Peasant Rights, as stated in the UN Declaration adopted in 2018. We need to ensure access to land, seeds and all the conditions required to feed the populations safely. In this sense, improving the infrastructure of the countryside increases the availability of food. In this crisis, we need to increase the cultivated areas and increase productivity through Popular Agrarian Reform and Peasant Agriculture in harmony with nature, providing healthy food to the populations and cooling the planet.
Sow, alliances and solidarity!
This crisis is also an opportunity to spread seeds of change. We must prepare the land for a different model of society and of agri-food systems. This task demands the creation of alliances that may blossom. Solidarity and internationalism must be the driving values of this re-construction of our societies:
Rural/Urban Alliance – We must promote robust alliances that connect the rights of the working class in the countryside and the cities, and join forces against the worsening of the quality of life, the loss of rights, mass layoffs and evictions.
Producers/ Consumers – We must resist speculation and commodification of agriculture. Instead, we must promote our local networks for trade, by strengthening local peasant markets and innovating in other systems based on fair trade, barter or other solidarity forms of exchange.
Vulnerable Sectors – With the firm commitment in defence of life and respecting diversity, Uphold the rights of the most vulnerable populations and impoverished sectors, LGBTIQ groups, disabled people, the elderly, women and terminally ill patients.
Against Blockades and Interference: We must show solidarity to countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine and Iran, and denounce the brutal economic blockade and military interference of the imperialistic US, which endangers the lives of large populations for lack of medical supplies. The rejection of a loan request from Venezuela signals how IMF fails rural people and workers. However, Cuba sets an example for the world of tangible solidarity by sending “Medical Brigades” to hundreds of countries, offering their services and experience without any discrimination #CubaSavesLives.
Harvest, our collective rights as peasants and workers!
Amid an economic downturn, like the one we will face after COVID-19, it is urgent to harvest good fruits for the working class, peasants and the vast majority: the time is now!
We demand of the States:
to tax the wealthy corporations and elites and bring an end to tax evasion and money laundering by cracking down on tax havens
Non-payment of foreign debts and reinvestment in public policies for Health, Education, Labor and the rural, as a priority.
Reject the neoliberal recipe of the IMF and World Bank that has dominated the world for the last 50 years. The IMF has actively enabled the depletion of natural resources in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as in the demolition of democratic institutions in country after country.
Demand non-exclusive rights and equal access to medication to fight against COVID-19.
Declare a universal basic income as the right of all citizens, which should at least cover vital needs, providing real support for millions of unemployed families, part of the informal workforce, working in precarious conditions or on their own.
The time is now, to farm, sow and harvest!
Globalise the Struggle, Globalise Hope