Reafirmando la lucha por la tierra

José Chic
Friday, October 30, 2015

This is the second post in the blog series ‘We Feed the Planet’. Young people from around the world, including members of the Coalition, came together in Milan from 3-6 October to bring the voices of young farmers, fishers, producers and food professionals to Expo 2015

I currently play an active part in the various activities of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA). The CCDA is a social organisation fighting for the rights of indigenous people and small farmers that was born on 2 March 1982 out of a protest movement to defend human rights in the highlands of Guatemala.  Food is an important topic for the CCDA, as is exchanging experiences, and what better way to do that than by meeting young people from around the world.  From them we can understand the perspectives of different continents on rural areas and food production, which is why it was important for CCDA to go to Milan.

In Guatemala land distribution is unequal, as is access to means of production and the correct investment of government resources intended for rural areas.   Every day institutions in charge of incentivising food production are being weakened while the amount of attention directed at rural areas in Guatemala is also decreasing.

An international experience such as 'We Feed the Planet' gives us a panorama of the global view on food rights but it also reinforces the importance of land to all producers and small farmers, be they from Guatemala or from Burundi in Africa.

The experience has helped us to reaffirm the need to fight for land. So why is land so important? Because it can either be a platform for development or exploitation and because it is a resource for which multinational companies and conservative landowners - such as the ones in Guatemala - are competing. Both of them are currently adopting land-grabbing policies, which are driving many people into poverty and causing hunger. Until just a few years ago, the land was used for planting corn, beans, rice, and wild herbs, products which provide the food and nutritional basis for the population, particularly in rural areas; however the land is now used for the production of sugarcane, palm oil and rubber, which only generates wealth for the Guatemalan elite and multinational corporations.

We need to fight for the needs of young people who require access to these means of production.  Young people need to be seen as part of development, as a fundamental part of what is called the ‘New Rurality’. There is already a stance on women, indigenous people and children – I am not criticising this, it is important to keep raising awareness of these groups, and to promote their demands, but we also need to make young people more visible. We should not just think about the present, but also plan for those who will play a role in the future, and these young people will be the adults of the future.  The worst of it is that we can just go on accumulating thousands of problems; young people’s needs that are going to be unmet in the near future. It is really positive that 'We Feed the Planet' has created a space for exchanging ideas that connect people with different experiences and allows them to explore alternatives for development at the level of organisations, youth and producers, not only to support food production but also to promote the care of Mother Earth, or as Pope Francis says, our common home.