African peasants highlight struggles at global meeting | Sunday Observer

African peasants highlight struggles at global meeting

Peasants across Africa are intensifying their struggles against land grabs and other harmful policies that promote industrial agriculture. At a recent international conference organised by the world’s largest peasant movement, Via Campesina, African peasants had opportunities to share their experiences of struggle and to learn.

“It is amazing to see how linked our struggles are,” said Nicolette Cupido from the Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign (FSC) in South Africa, with a countenance showing enthusiasm and eagerness.

There are two main reasons for her excitement. It was the first time she had attended a global conference of peasants’ movements, held in July in Derio, in the outskirts of Bilbao, Basque Country.

Her movement was among the new organisations accepted into membership of Via Campesina, the international movement that unites groups across the world to fight for farmers’ rights, sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty.

A community organiser and FSC member, Cupido is involved in food production in South Africa. She grows a variety of vegetables to help contribute to building food sovereignty (the capacity for peoples to control their own food supply).

Along with Cupido, about 20 other African peasants representing movements from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Ghana attended the conference.

The conference took place at a time when Africa is undergoing a harsh moment, as indicated by Ibrahima Coulibaly from the National Coordination of Peasant Organisations (CNOP) in Mali. Almost everywhere in Africa, the elite and corporations are working to capture and control people’s basic means of production, such as land, mineral resources, seeds and water. These resources are increasingly being privatised due to the myriad of investment agreements and policies driven by new institutional approaches imposed on the continent by Western powers and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“Democracy is under attack”, said Coulibaly. “Repression of protests and murder of political leaders is escalating, but we have to continue to build alternatives.”

Elizabeth Mpofu, from the Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmers Forum, is a small-scale farmer who had access to land after she took part in the radical land occupations that resulted in the fasttrack land reform in the early 2000s. According to her, building alternatives is to take direct action.

“I was a landless woman,” she said. “Through our courage and determination we stood up and took action. Now I have land and I do agroecology farming.”

Relations between the state, corporate power and the peasantry have always been exploitative. This characterises the agrarian question in Africa. As some academics have argued, these relations have been coercive.

- Third World Network Features.