The seventh International Conference of La Via Campesina (LVC), one of the world’s largest grassroots movements advocating for food sovereignty, will be held in July in Basque Country, Spain. Held every four years, representatives from more than 160 member organizations of peasants, small and medium-sized producers, landless people, indigenous people, migrants, and agricultural workers will gather from around the world to decide common strategies for the growing global movement. Approximately 500 representatives will convene to discuss key issues, positions, and policy orientations of LVC, leading to the design of a collective action plan for the next four years.
“The international conferences of LVC are very special, powerful moments for us. To have this amazing opportunity to get together once every four years is important to empower ourselves, and to refresh and reaffirm our political agenda. Each region has its own particularities, [yet] if you compare one with another, you see so, so many similarities. Based on these similarities, we can develop our common agenda and strategy, and this we can only do when we are all together,” says Paula Gioia, member of LVC International Coordination Committee.
The international conference will include themed group discussions on priority issues, encompassing local experiences as well as international processes, such as the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. Plenaries and cultural celebrations will bring together the diverse experiences and viewpoints of farmers from around the world, ranging from organizational matters to concrete issues in food production such as seed saving and responding to climate change. The seventh International Conference will place particular focus on issues such as the impact of free trade agreements on food sovereignty, corporate patenting of seeds, peasant solutions to climate change, and promoting agroecology.
“For LVC, agroecology is the peasant way to produce food, the peasant contribution to help develop food sovereignty. It is important to consider that peasants and small-scale farmers are producing 70 percent of the world’s food, using just 30 percent of all agrarian land. It shows how effective this peasant way of producing food is,” says Gioia.
LVC launched the idea of food sovereignty at the World Food Summit in 1996, defining it as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” It promotes and develops a model of small-scale sustainable production that benefits communities and their environment by placing the livelihoods of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies.
The different regions of LVC will present their localized struggles, such as the European region’s struggle for a new Common Agricultural Policy; the struggle in Africa for seed sovereignty; the campaigns of the Asian regions against free trade agreements; and the impacts of climate change on small-scale farmers around the world. Representatives will re-affirm the commitment of member organizations to build a common path towards food sovereignty.
“We want to look to the future in order to keep feeding the world population with culturally adapted and nutritious food. And for this, it is essential to practice an agriculture which is based on fair and just relations among human beings, but also a way of producing food that preserves Mother Earth and our climate,” says Gioia.
There will be events open to the public scheduled for the opening of the Conference and a march from Derio to the Plaza Nueva in Bilbao, where a public political event will be held. More information can be found on La Via Campesina’s website.