Aspiring Peasants Stake Claim to Climate Debate
Event poster image via Reclaim the Fields.
Calling themselves "peasants, landless peasants, and prospective peasants," a group of young Europeans is headed to the hills at the end of the month to organize their action plan to take back the continent's food production and agricultural land. But why would anyone aspire to be a poorly educated laborer?The Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 event, titled Reclaim the Fields, seems meant also to reclaim the word "peasant" from its negative connotations and return it to its original meaning of "one from the countryside" -- a countryside that, in the modern envisioning, can include anything from an urban backyard garden to a rural farm.
Fighting for Indigenous RightsThe group behind it, part of the European branch of La Via Campesina, an international movement fighting for the rights of indigenous people and agricultural workers, defines peasants as "people who produce food on a small scale, using it for themselves or for the community, and possibly selling a part of it." Members take a two-pronged approach to promoting eco-friendly food sovereignty that entails supporting people who are already working the land and helping them make a better living at it, while encouraging young people, urban dwellers, and others to start growing their own food too.
A Via Campesina youth camp in Malmö, Sweden, last fall. Photo via Reclaim the Fields.
While camping out at Cravirola, or Le Maquis, a collective farm in the south of France, participants will engage in discussions and workshops about gaining access to land and other resources needed to start engaging in agricultural activity; technical training available for young farmers; creating a network of people wiling to help work each others' land; composting, permaculture, and agroecology; urban agriculture and producer-consumer cooperatives; European farm subsidies and global agrarian reform; preserving traditional seeds; and the role of so-called "peasant agriculture" in combating climate change.
Activism at the COP 15 Climate SummitThough they may be advocating going back to the land, these folks haven't given up on the rest of the world. Members and their allies plan to be among the activists trying to influence the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen this December, where world leaders will gather to craft the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Unlike industrial agriculture, which relies on artificial fertilizers and fossil fuels, contributing approximately 17 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, they say, small-scale farming can be part of the solution:
Creating a collective garden in Liège, Belgium, and cooking dinner at the Malmö camp. Photos via Reclaim the Fields.
"Sustainable local food production uses less energy, eliminates dependence on imported animal feed-stuffs, and retains carbon in the soil while increasing biodiversity. Native seeds are more adaptable to the changes in climate that are already affecting us," the organizers of La Via Campesina write in their call to mobilize for a cool planet. "Family farming does not only contribute positively to the carbon balance of the planet, it also gives employment to 2.8 billion people around the world... If small farmers are given access to land, water, education and health and are supported by food sovereignty policies they will keep feeding the world and protecting the planet."
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