La Via Campesina (SEA)

Gabriel FACAL (Centre Asie du Sud-Est)

The international organization La Via Campesina was founded in 1993. Its spokespersons say it is present in almost 80 countries, representing around 100 organizations and around 200 million farmers. Its headquarters were held between 2004 and 2013 in Indonesia and the international conference, four-yearly, took place in Jakarta in 2013. These experiences have increased the influence of La Via Campesina in the Archipelago, where some thirty organizations have joined the movement. At its beginnings, it led a reflection on the status of peasants vis-à-vis agro-food groups establishing above-ground production and it gradually broadened its actions around eight priority areas of work: food sovereignty (including the fight against world trade organization and against the grip of multinational agro-food companies); biodiversity, seeds and the fight against GMOs; peasant agriculture; respect for the human rights of trade union activists and rural communities; land reforms and equitable access to the means of production; recognition of the specific role of women in agriculture; the defense and organization of young peasants, migrant workers, and agricultural workers. Thus, where trade union networks often remain in sectorial struggles, La Via Campesina is committed well beyond peasant and indigenous demands to undertake a more systemic project, calling into question free trade, prioritizing ecology and living (with the key notion of biodiversity), leading a reflection on inequalities in general and on the global political-economic organization.

Its projects are based on citizen involvement in order to change the laws. For example, denouncing patents on living things, growth hormones in animal feed, or GMOs, it made an alliance with consumers and developed a charter on the right of peoples to food sovereignty. If La Via Campesina builds on existing institutions and aims to make them progress in the direction of the values ​​it defends, it also proposes the creation of new institutions to replace those it considers non-democratic, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. To do this, it stipulates that actions must be carried out at the local level (occupation of agricultural land, request for agrarian reform) but with the permanent awareness that it is global questions that cross each problem. The nodal point for these actions to succeed concerns social mobilization, which leads the organization to increase its media presence on social networks and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to distribute videos, podcasts, and photos to launch global campaigns aiming to sensitize the populations, to publish articles and books, to issue press releases, and to organize forums by inviting social movements, NGOs, donors, and researchers.

We are thus witnessing the expression of an attempt to translate an ethico-political order between the reciprocal interests of the different popular groups (working classes, peasant masses, employees in the service sector, sometimes in a participatory manner with experts and scientists) with a view to their organic articulation with an international popular movement. To understand the modalities of implementation and the impact of Via Campesina actions in Indonesia, I will focus on a particular case, that of the cooperative organization of the peasants of the network, in a national context marked by the quasi-monopoly of the Peasants Union of Indonesia (HKTI) on the choice of seeds, farm inputs, business opportunities and obtaining state subsidies. The first elements of the investigation indicate that these cooperative commitments are combined with many socio-political affiliations (customary hierarchical structures, sectoral professional solidarities, affiliations to political parties), involving the development by the peasants of changing strategies of alliance and negotiation.