Activism can be a noble act to support a cause that does not concretely or fundamentally affect our everyday life. By some it may even be used as a lifestyle choice or “image”. In open and democratic societies and with access to social media, it can be comparatively easy to take a public stand. Activism in the south often happens under very different circumstances with significantly more limited resources.
Peasant’s movements in Latin America, pleading for land redistribution and agrarian reform trying to counteract land grabbing are an example. Peasant movements have historically generally occurred in feudal or feudal-like societies where the peasant population is revolting against any oppressive institution, such as the state or the unjust power of some landowners in general. The peasant movements along with agricultural development have been central elements of the revolutions and modernization of most industrialized countries in the 19th and 20th century.
In Sweden, for example, peasants have subsequently reorganized themselves through the commercialization of agriculture and by establishing peasant organizations and lobby groups, the biggest being LRF, the federation of Swedish farmers. The significance of these movements can still today be found in the degree of the peasant’s -despite their numerical minority- influence on contemporary policies in Western Europe and North America.
The new generation of peasant’s movements in the global south seek to build alternatives to the neoliberal agriculture through the concept of food sovereignty, ecological protection and a communal control of land and resources. Peasant insurgencies are often silenced by rulers, which causes them to rarely receive the attention and support of the outside world. Broad peasant movements are found in for example Brazil, Honduras, Cuba, Argentina and Paraguay. They usually address a variety of developmental issues but their main concern constitutes the extremely concentrated land ownership on the Latin American continent destroying nature and habitat of people and animals.
Paraguay, for example, is facing one of the most unequal land distribution in Latin America. The Paraguayan movement “Federación Nacional Campesina” is a joint movement established by various local organizations and raises its voice against experienced political wrongdoings and antidemocratic institutions in Paraguay. The movement has for over two decades struggled for land access, agrarian reform and a structural change, such as exporting the foreign agricultural model responsible for expanding soy monocultures. Additionally to fighting big agricultural enterprises, the FNC faces an autocratic government shutting down and silencing critique.
While it for industrialized countries was enough to cooperate and work for democratic change, due to neocolonialism from Europeans and their clients and monopolization of land ownership, many of today’s movements have felt the need of using methods such as physical land occupation and demanding an ambitious land reform through redistribution of land from landowner to peasants.
Peasant movements have long had a global connection through the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, IFAP, established in 1943. The IFAP however encountered financial and political problems and was liquidated by the French Tribunal de Grande Instance in 2010. Via Campesina, another international peasant organisation, has since 1993 grown bigger and provided global support to its local partner organizations.
Find out about the peasants movement’s communication and communication obstacles in my next post!