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After the decision by the 5th International Conference of La Via Campesina held in Maputo in 2008 of moving the movement’s international headquarters from Jakarta, Indonesia to Africa in 2013, there has been a process to identify a specific location. After consultations in Africa, the African members of La Via Campesina submitted a proposal that its international coordination be hosted by ZIMBSOFF, in Zimbabwe. This proposal was taken on and ratified at the 6th International Conference of La Via Campesina held in Jakarta.
The formal change will take effect in 2013 and in the next six months ZIMSOFF will take the necessary steps to ensure a gradual transition.
ZIMSOFF is a national organization of small farmers that aims to improve the livelihood of small-scale producers to empower them to defend their rights and promote agroecology and peasant agriculture. ZIMSOFF is made up by 19,000 families organized according in 4 different regions.
The International Coordination of La Via Campesina visited Zimbabwe several times and studies the realities of peasant families on the ground. La Via Campesina concluded, based on several field trips and the research available, that there have been positive changes in Zimbabwe in the recent years thanks to a process of agrarian reform.
Since the country’s iIndependence in 1980, there have been several reforms including one amendment to the Constitution. However, this has not been able to take the control of agriculture off the hands of a small minority of predominantly white farmers. Besides, the Structural Adjustment Programs have had devastating effects on agriculture, such as the elimination of food reserves as well as of basic prices for staples and the introduction of agriculture products from other countries in the domestic market.
In 2000, amid a terrible economic context and after the stagnation of the agrarian reform, the peasants began occupying lands in an attempt to accomplish the redistribution of land.
Ever since then, 175,000 families have gained access to land and there are nearly 700,000 new jobs for agriculture workers. Food production has increased significantly because the lands are used intensively, compared to the agriculture model inherited from the British colonial era.
However, the peasants, not only in Zimbabwe but in all Africa, still have big challenges ahead. La Via Campesina has a clear view of what policies the governments should implement in order to achieve food sovereignty and to support the livelihood of peasants and their communities.
These should integrate agroecology, peasant and small-scale farming in their main agricultural policies:
* The Government should introduce services that enable farmers to train other farmers
* Farmers should be allowed to produce and save their own seeds; there should be active support for the training of farmers by farmers on this issue and to prevent seed corporations to take control of peasant seeds.
ZIMSOFF and other peasant organizations in Africa are already working in the promotion of these policies, but it is a huge task. Besides the difficult political and economic situation of many members of LVC, Africa is being affected by a wave of land grabbing and many regions in the continent will suffer the harsh effects of climate change.
La Via Campesina is committed with the defense and support of its member groups in Africa, as well as of all peasant and small farmers organizations and of those that defend the rights of small farmers and food sovereignty.
The decision of moving LVC’s international coordination to Zimbabwe proves our commitment with the struggles of our fellow African farmers and it is a big chance to strengthen the struggle and solidarity networks.
Since the foundation of La Via Campesina in 1993, the movement’s headquarters have been in three regions: Europe (Basque Country and Brussels) between 1993 and 1996); Central America (Tegucigalpa, Honduras) from 1997 to 2004; and Southeast Asia (Jakarta, Indonesia) from 2005 to 2013. A regular rotation of its headquarters helps strengthen its operation by working in a decentralized way and sharing responsibilities between continents and regions.
* Produced by La Vía Campesina.
Photo: Vía Campesina
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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