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Long-Term Partnership Toward Food Sovereignty

#News and Press Releases#Photo Essays#Food Sovereignty
February 2024

Grassroots International

Snapshots from the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina

“The experience of participating in La Via Campesina’s international conference made me reflect on our long walk with La Via Campesina, and our path of reciprocity… I saw concrete examples of how work we have accompanied over the years has evolved in powerful ways.” — Jovanna Garcia Soto, Program Director

Among the many struggles Grassroots International has accompanied through the years, few have shaped the trajectory of our work as the global movement for food sovereignty, galvanized by our partner La Via Campesina (LVC). LVC was born in the 1990s in the context of an increasingly corporate-controlled global food system. In response, peasants and other small-scale food producers united across borders and offered up the powerful framework of food sovereignty, asserting the right of people, not corporations or financial institutions, to shape their own food and agriculture systems. 

We are proud to have accompanied LVC since it first launched food sovereignty onto the global stage in 1996, with our relationship deepening and blossoming on multiple fronts in the decades since. This close partnership has made us privy to internal movement spaces and dialogues in an ally capacity. Most recently, several Grassroots International staff members participated in the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina attended by more than 400 delegates in Bogota, Colombia in December 2023. The following are some snapshots of that experience.

Solidarity with Palestine at a Critical Moment 

Two months into the intensifying campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people of Gaza, solidarity with Palestine was very much in the hearts and minds of participants. This theme was woven throughout the conference from start to finish, and even before the start, in a large rally for an end to the genocide in Palestine attended by many. These events coincided with the official recognition of the Arab Region and North Africa (ArNa) as the tenth LVC region, with member organizations in Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan, and Egypt – a development long in the making celebrated at the conference. 

Confronting Patriarchy; Uplifting Feminisms and Gender/Sexual Diversities

As a funding partner and political ally of LVC, it has been powerful to witness the evolution of its work on gender issues, from the launch of its Global Campaign to End Violence Against Women at its 5th International Conference in Maputo to its more recent articulation of peasant popular feminism and its affirmation of gender and sexual diversities as vital components of a socially diverse movement. This year, along with its 6th Women’s Assembly, the conference featured its first Men Against Patriarchy meeting as well as its first Meeting of Diversities, each gathering monumental for the processes it represents.

“This new space was inspired by long-term struggle and work that was accumulated by women in La Via Campesina… [They are] embracing as their working theory the concept of peasant and popular feminism.” — Boaventura Monjane

Youth Rising

Another important thread running through the conference was youth power. In addition to a powerful 5th Youth Assembly, youth leadership was much more visibly front and center in the conference as a whole than ever before, particularly that of female and LGBTQIA+ youth. Relatedly, among the many conference outcomes was the decision to open additional space for representation on LVC’s International Coordination Committee (ICC) in order for each region to have at least one youth representative in the movement’s international coordinating body.

“The work done by women in the movement to claim more space and power over time has paved the way for youth and diversities to have their own space to incorporate demands and take decisions as a critical part of the movement … We’re seeing the result of this powerful evolution in this next stage of La Via Campesina.” — Jovanna Garcia Soto

The Power of Mística

As with nearly all LVC gatherings, activities called místicas were infused throughout the conference, enabling participants to connect on a deeper level with both each other and the Earth. From beautiful visual displays of seeds to creative storytelling through performance art, and so much more, místicas provide an essential grounding for LVC to practice the “unity in diversity” core to its functioning.

The Road Ahead

The theme of the conference, “Faced w/ global crises, we build food sovereignty to ensure a future for humanity,” spoke both to the absolutely dire conditions of the present and the powerful proposal represented in food sovereignty, which LVC and a growing number of other movements have been steadily advancing, from policy to practice. Along with what has already been shared above, the conference generated further momentum toward the Global Nyéléni Forum in 2025, an inspiring process of global articulation around food sovereignty that we are honored to accompany. It was also an opportunity for collective strategy on next steps toward the full implementation of the hard won UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, and on engagement in other international and regional spaces and processes of strategic importance to the global struggle for food sovereignty.

“There were moments of pain, moments of joy, dancing, collective learning… They were intense, long days, but this space and the momentum from it are moving things forward towards transformation. They provide me with more hope in these difficult times. And the clarity and the energy, I felt that in my body.” — Jovanna Garcia Soto

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