The Small Farmers Movement

It was a real pleasure to have Marvin Lopez Garcia (Guatemala), Jeronimo van Engelen (Mexico), Dominique and James Solkin (Montreal) join us in Nova Scotia a few weeks ago to discuss the international launch of the Small Producers Symbol initiative developed by CLAC and FUNDEPPO.  We spent long days debating and reflecting on how the seal can be introduced successfully into consumer markets. The work that producer organizations have done over the last several years to design a certification system that reflects their vision for the evolution of ethical international trade is impressive. There are many standards, policies and details that make up the system. Still, the most important concept to understand is that this initiative is driven by and will be governed by democratic producer groups that have organized by community, region and product. They are focused on representing the collective interests of small-holder farmers in areas of political, social and economic development priorities. This is the next important step in Fair Trade. Other international social responsibility trade certification bodies tend to be governed primarily by consumer countries, with more and more influence being gained by large corporations as they begin to sell more certified products.

This seal is part of a movement. It is part of a long process towards the restoration of dignity and rights for the indigenous peoples and peasant farmers of Latin-America and the Caribbean. Pre-Columbus, these regions had very advanced cities, agrarian communities and hunter-gatherer societies that had existed for thousands of years. After contact with European Conquistadors and settlers, the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and other civilizations and cultures were devastated by newly introduced diseases. Many of those that survived were displaced from their lands or forced to work in tragic conditions in mines or plantations that helped fuel European royal and elite wealth, as well as the factories of the industrial revolution.  Others were taken from continents like Africa and enslaved in the ‘New World’. This trend continued for hundreds of years as humans and natural resources have been exploited to produce inexpensive commodity exports, mostly for the benefit of European and North American industrial development and consumerism. In recent times, indigenous peoples and peasants have organized to fight for their rights and to resist the next wave of exploitation from modern multi-national corporations and corrupt governments , the new inheritance  of old colonialism. This has led to many militia revolutions catalyzed by socialist-oriented activist groups, many of which were organized peasant farmers that were desperate for agrarian reform and social justice after many years of oppression. There are numerous examples like guerrilla-led revolutions in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Today there is renewed hope for peaceful and progressive initiatives where the people can organize and take back the destiny of their families and communities and escape the strangling grip of globalization. We are now seeing indigenous leaders in presidential positions in Latin-American countries and strong producer co-ops and organizations challenging the establishment and investing in the social fabric of future generations.

When we say that we want to put people and the planet before profits, one of the things that we reference is our co-op’s involvement in this movement. The small farmers’ strength through democratic organization may work against global economic liberalism, free-trade and the supply chain strategy of multi-national commodity corporations, but it is time to do business differently in the world. Let’s stay involved in driving this change, go against the current and do what we can to support the efforts and desires of small farmers to create a dignified life. A life that we can all celebrate together.

For more information on the small producers symbol visit: http://www.tusimbolo.org

About the CLAC visit: http://www.clac-pequenosproductores.org

On the international peasant movement visit: http://viacampesina.org