Written By: Laetitia Nourry, Eco Ruralis Intern
‘Instead of a gloomy future based on free trade and big business, La Via Campesina believes the time has come for an economy based on equity that will restore the balance between humanity and nature.’ Here is the thought that gathered thousands of people all around the world last Friday to celebrate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggles and voice their opposition to transnational companies and free trade agreements.
April 17th is a day of action that has existed now for 9 years. It is as relevant as ever because it has clearly demonstrated through many activities from a wide variety of global actors how free trade agreements (FTA) like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA), Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will negatively impact peasants and consumers. The TTIP is currently being negotiated between the European Union, United States and Canada behind closed doors. These meetings should be publicly broadcasted for all to see and should include the voice of civil society and the European public. Sadly, that is not the case.
GMO crop cultivation, pesticide agriculture, land grabbing and the empowerment of companies over states would occur on a larger scale if the TTIP were to be approved. The TTIP is a sword of Damocles hanging over peasant heads. More than ever, the peasant world needs to rise up against these types of FTA’s which will step by step destroy traditional agriculture and local food supplies by dumping cheap imports into markets. April 17th was a day of struggle to say no to this ultra capitalistic and industrial vision of farming. But above all, it was a day to promote food sovereignty and celebrate the work of all the peasants who are feeding the world, surviving and fighting every day against their diminished access to land, traditional seeds and local markets.
Traditional seed distributions, concerts, lectures, videos, photo stunts, forums and workshops on farming occurred in every corner of the planet last Friday. During many of these events, peasants were present to share their knowledge and the story of their struggle. To celebrate this day of mobilization, Eco Ruralis (a member organization of European Coordination Via Campesina) decided to pay a visit to a peasant member’s farm in Chesau, a small village in the commune of Mociu in Transylvania. Thanks to their work and passion, the Haidu family is actually feeding more than 80 families living in the nearby city of Cluj-Napoca as part of an alternative food network called Cutia Taranului (The Peasant Box). What a good example of how a local food chain can work! This visit was an important exchange of knowledge about planting, growing and watering vegetables as well as farm planning and management. Eco Ruralis’ team learned a lot that can now be used to enhance their seed garden. More than ever, it is important to not forget what peasant farming looks like and means. Citizens should go visit a farm, meet peasants, discover their way of life, enjoy the countryside and learn about where their food comes from with the actual people who produce it.
On Saturday April 18th, thousands of people demonstrated all across Europe to say no to the TTIP, CETA, TiSA, and APE free trade agreements. The Alliance D19-20 initiated “People And the Planet Before Profits: Global Call to Action to Defeat Free Trade and Investment Treaties.” Alliance D19-20 says “We, civil society organizations, trade unions, farmers, youth, women, indigenous movements and grassroots activists from across the world, are calling for a Global Day of Action on 18 April 2015 to stop free trade and investment deals and promote an economy that works for people and the planet. For the last decades, secret trade and investment agreements have been pushed by corporations and governments, damaging our rights and the environment. For the last decades, we have been fighting for food sovereignty, for the commons, to defend our jobs, our lands, internet freedom and to reclaim democracy.” Last Saturday, European citizens regained their voice and went to the streets. More than 2000 people in Brussels, 15000 in Munich, 1000 in Helsinki, and 300 in Warsaw protested FTA’s. Currently, 15 farmers are still occupying the building of DG Agriculture in Brussels.
On April 17th, Eco Ruralis also published a photo project to celebrate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggles and the start of a new international alliance of 16 civil society organizations around Europe of which they are also a part of called ‘Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty’ (HOTL 4 FS). European Coordination Via Campesina is part of the alliance too. The photos represent messages from Eco Ruralis members which support peasants’ rights for fair access to land, traditional seeds and local markets. A number of other messages also demand ‘STOP TTIP!‘ These are some of the main issues that the HOTL 4 FS alliance will address in the next 3 years. Let’s globalize hope, let’s globalize the struggle for peasant rights!
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