Climate Justice Requires Peasant Agroecology – Not the Extractivist Model

By Jean Fallow, AGRA Watch Intern

This is a summary of Peasant Agroecology Achieves Climate Justice, a 38-page primer that appears in La Via Campesina’s May 2018 e-newsletter. The primer was produced by the Building Climate Justice Advocacy project, a partnership between Afrika Kontakt and La Via Campesina in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Peasant Agroecology Achieves Climate Justice makes the case that the movements for food justice, climate justice, human rights and women’s rights are inextricably linked. It argues that more than technical or scientific fixes are required to address the climate crisis; instead, the world must move from a capitalist, patriarchal, and extractivist model based on the profit motive to a “Peasant Agroecology” model prioritizing the earth and human needs.

The 38-page primer cites “global profit-driven industrialization” as the main contributor to climate change and critiques “false solutions” offered by agribusiness, such as Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), Blue Carbon, and the Reduction of Forest Degradation and Destruction (REDD). Such initiatives, it argues, “accelerate the commodification of nature while promoting the false claims that privatization and industrial agriculture technologies are the only means to fight climate change.” So-called “Green Revolution” production techniques favor large-scale monocrop plantations heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, including seeds that last only one season and must be repurchased every year. Promoted as tools for combating world hunger and poverty, these programs, often funded by multinational organizations and international financial institutions like the G20 and World Bank, in actuality trap farmers in a cycle of debt and dependency on corporate chemicals and seeds. In addition, monocropping and soil degradation from chemical fertilizers make farmers more vulnerable to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events resulting from climate change.

An example is Mozambique’s vast “green deserts,” including monocrop eucalyptus forests run by the Portuguese-owned Navigator Company. These plantations have displaced small-scale peasant farmers, who tend to grow a variety of crops and use traditional, locally-based farming methods that protect soil and biodiversity. Knowing that that many Mozambiquan peasants working the land have no official title to it, large agricultural corporations claim that the land is “degraded” and “unused,” and buy title to it from the government. This official documentation in hand, they evict the peasants, installing massive monocrop plantations in their place and displacing the local flora and fauna.

Peasant Agroecology offers a radical alternative to the profit-driven agribusiness model by placing human needs, women’s rights, and preservation of the earth front and center. The primer describes it as “a model for the food system, built on solidarity among affected communities whose voices have been silenced in the fight against climate change.” Peasant Agroecology promotes the production of a variety of crops that can be locally sold and stored (rather than fossil fuel-intensive exporting); preserves trees and grasses that conserve water and protect soil; recycles nutrients through the use of manure and compost rather than chemical fertilizers; encourages the sharing of seeds and agricultural knowledge; and promotes solidarity instead of competition.

Photo Credit: Camillo Springborg & Jon Nelson, Peasant Agroecology Primer

The primer also draws attention to the critical role played by women in worldwide agricultural production and seed guardianship, arguing that empowering women and combating patriarchy are essential components of food justice: “Due to the low cost of practicing Peasant Agroecology women can more fully participate and benefit from higher yields and diversified cropping. … The decreased dependence of women on men in Peasant Agroecology has the potential to alter power dynamics.… Climate justice goes hand in hand with confronting gender-based power relations.”

Ultimately, the primer concludes, “The only way for the food system to reduce emissions and to cope with current climate change is complete and total transformation. And for that we must look to those peasant communities, those rural women, those at the very margins of society, that already live the alternative.”

Download a copy of the primer here.

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