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Thousands and thousands of people demanding climate justice – That is our Task

June 2011

Grassroots International met with leaders of the Via Campesina from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the United States in New York City last week during the Grantmakers without Borders (GwoB) conference – a space for progressive international funders to come together and share strategies. Several Via leaders presented their experiences and reflections on global social movements – including the importance of women’s leadership; the connections between peasants, family farmers and farmworkers in the Global North and South; and the connections that must happen to address the root causes of the economic and ecological crises.

The Via Campesina, a Grassroots International partner, is a global social movement representing more than 250 million small producers from five continents. Its member groups work locally in their countries as well as with other Via members at the regional and international levels, putting into practice viable and sustainable alternatives grounded in the concept of food sovereignty.

Alberto Gomez Flores, regional co-coordinator of the Via Campesina North America, analyzed the root causes of the economic and ecological crises during the closing plenary of the conference. A Mexican campesino leader from the Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA, a Grassroots partner), Alberto plays a critical role in the Via Campesina’s climate justice efforts on a local, national, and international level.

A short clip of his talk is available here:

Alberto offered a vision for real solutions: “We are the ones who are being the most impacted by these connected crises, and the effects of this war declared by capital and corporations – it’s our land, our territory that is being impacted…Our scientist friends have begun to conduct studies to document the very affirmation that we have maintained – that industrial agriculture of monocultures with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and this corporate-based food system is producing more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions that provoke global warming. But even now, the peasants of the Via Campesina and many others – we continue to feed humanity. More than 50 percent of food in the world is produced by small farmers.   Sustainable peasant-based agriculture can cool down the planet.”

Indeed, even the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter released a report a few months ago documenting scientific evidence for the fact that small-scale, agroecological farming both increases food production and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And this is echoed by the IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) Report – written by nearly 400 scientists, agronomists and other experts from around the world.

While global agribusiness corporations are one of the major causes of the climate crisis, they are also trying to profit from the crisis by presenting their high-input technologies as a “solution” to climate impacts such as drought. These same corporations are likely to push their positions during the upcoming UN climate talks in Durban this December, especially since agriculture is such a large part of African economies. By connecting food sovereignty to climate justice, the Via continues to offer critical solutions and their leadership is vital, not just for government negotiations, but quite literally for the future of Mother Earth.

Looking forward, Alberto explained the need to work toward the next Global Day of Action for climate justice this December, toward next year’s 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit (“Rio+20), and beyond: “We do have alternatives, we have proposals. And we believe that it is very necessary – it is urgent – to build a movement that is broad, with multiple sectors. We cannot find ourselves being in the same place as we were in Bali [COP14] and in Cancun [COP16]. That is not a large enough force. We need thousands of people who are mobilized in parallel events – thousands of Durbans, thousands of Rio+20s, thousands and thousands of people everywhere demanding climate justice – that’s our task.”

Grassroots looks forward to accompanying the Via Campesina and these movements toward this goal!

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