Globalizing the struggle - and globalizing the hope - for food sovereignty

How do we scale up agroecology as a movement? How do we link local peasant and farmworker struggles to strengthen the international fight for land and food sovereignty? Two Nicaragua-based representatives of La Via Campesina and Friends of the ATC addressed these and many more questions at a recent talk at UC Santa Cruz. Delegates Marlen Sánchez and Nils McCune visited the campus as part of their “Peasant Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth” speaking tour currently underway across the West Coast. La Via Campesina, an increasingly known force in the call for international changes in agriculture, defines itself as:

An international social movement made up of peasants, agricultural workers, women farmers, fishermen and women, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and migrants around the world that coined the term food sovereignty, or the right of all peoples to define their own local, culturally appropriate food systems. Agroecology, a form of low-input, politicized, context-specific sustainable agriculture, is seen as a key pillar to constructing food sovereignty.

Sánchez and McCune discussed how agroecology is a multifaceted tool to fight climate change, to create gender equity, to resist neoliberal capitalism, and to facilitate re-peasantization. They highlighted the work of Via Campesina to build the educational capacity and technical skills of peasants and farmworkers in Latin America through the establishment of farming schools for agroecology and youth training programs. Particularly, the Instituto Agroecológico Latinoamericano (IALA) Mesoamérica, or the Latin American Institute of Agroecology of Mesoamerica in Santo Tomás, Nicaragua will be the first regional, agroecology peasant university of its kind for Central America. This agroecological training is unique in its two pronged approach: it provides technical skills (i.e., learning skills in agroecological production) and policy training in order for students to become leaders in the movement. This approach is key to a sustainable and realistic “scaling up” process.

A resonating message from this talk was the call to globalize the struggle, and to globalize hope. Struggles for land and resource access, and struggles to define your own food system are not localized to Latin America or to Beach Flats in Santa Cruz. These struggles are clearly linked, and are a product of international processes of capital expansion, land dispossession, and policies that do not protect small-scale producers and farmworkers. Agroecology – as a practice and a philosophy – can offer a hopeful solution to the current unjust food regime.

To learn more about La Via Campesina and Friends of the ATC, as well as the recent US speaking tour, check out these resources:

Group photo with the speakers

Group photo with the speakers

Visit to the Campus Farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. 

Visit to the Campus Farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.