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New Rural Social Movements and Agroecology

Eduardo Sevilla Guzmán and Joan Martinez-Alier

There are new movements emerging in the world THE RISE IN LATIN AMERICA OF
in defence of agricultural policies favourable to THE RURAL ARTICULATION OF
traditional agroecological methods. The agroeco- DISSIDENCE AGAINST
logical antagonism to neo-liberal globalization
is described here mainly with reference to net-
works in Latin America (because of our own
direct knowledge and participation in them), The usual explanation for the disappearance of
but it is a worldwide phenomenon, as shown by the active agricultural population in the process
movements in India also described here. These of economic development is that, as agricul-
movements have been born out of local resis- tural productivity increases, production cannot
tance to seed multinationals, the degradation of increase pari passu because of a low demand for
ecosystems and the threats to livelihoods because agricultural produce as a whole. Therefore, the
of agricultural modernization. They also oppose active agricultural population decreases not only
subsidized exports of agricultural surpluses. in relative but also in absolute terms, and indeed
These movements are based on ancient knowl- this has been the path of development – in
edge of farming systems and also on the innova- Britain even before the First World War, in Spain
tions of low input agriculture. The main actors since the 1960s, not yet in India. Now, however,
are not neo-rural postmodern organic farmers (as agricultural productivity is not well calculated:
they might exist in the United States and Europe) nothing is deducted from the value of production
but spokesmen for large rural populations, some- on account of chemical pollution and genetic
times peasants, sometimes landless labourers (as erosion, and the inputs are valued too cheaply
the MST in Brazil). Such movements are inter- because fossil energy is too cheap, and because
preted in this chapter in the wider context of a unsustainable use is made of soils and some
world movement of dissidence formed by a net- fertilizers. What the ecologically correct prices
work of networks. By ‘agroecology’ we refer should be is unknown; the important point is
here to a collective practice of agriculture which that the ecological critique of the economics of
explicitly considers not only economic and agriculture opens up a large space for neo-
social aspects (income, employment) but also Narodnik argument, a space that is being
environmental and ecological aspects (pollution, increasingly taken up around the world. Issues
soil conservation, cycles of nutrients, energy such as biodiversity conservation, threats from
flow). Therefore there is a link between agroecol- pesticides and energy saving are transformed
ogy as a practice and the science of agroecology into local arguments for improvements in the
(Altieri, 1987; Gliessman, 1998). Agroecology in conditions of life and for cultural survival of
our view promotes the endogenous potential of peasants. Such arguments have become wide-
agriculture, relying on traditional peasant knowl- spread in new networks such as the Via
edge, though being also open to innovations Campesina (the Peasant Way), which has insti-
that help sustainability (Sevilla Guzmán and tuted an international Peasant’s Day, the
Woodgate, 1997). 17th April, the anniversary of the massacre of
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19 members of the Movement of the Landless convoked by the MST of Brazil in 1985 and by
(MST) in 1996 in El Dorado, Parà, Brazil. the FENOCI of Ecuador in 1986. In Ecuador in
The convergence of those that, at the begin- 1987 the First Andean Exchange Workshop of
ning of the 1980s, were called ‘revolutionary peas- Peasant Indigenous Organizations was held. In
ant unions’, took place in Managua in December Central America, in 1987, the COCENTRA was
1981 during the ‘Continental Conference of created and, in 1989, ASOCODE. In October of
Agrarian Reform and Peasant Movements’. There that same year indigenous and peasant organiza-
an interaction was initiated which would lead to tions of the Andean region and the MST of Brazil
the birth of the Continental Peasants Movement named their continental campaign ‘500 years of
in Latin America. The different Latin American indigenous, black and popular resistance’ in
organizations (with a small European representa- Bogota, Colombia. Three continental conferences
tion) thus became aware of the similarities in were held, as well as several meetings coordi-
both their means of struggle and their ideological nated by different Latin American countries, with
evolution. Such is the case of the Andalucian the assistance of European rural (or so-called
SOC – Sindicato de Obreros del Campo1 (land peasant) organizations.
labourers union) – and the Brazilian MST, legal-
ized in 1984, but at work in an embryonic state in
Rio Grande do Sul since 1978 (cf. Navarro,
1996; De Medeiros, 1999; Mançano Fernández, THE ZAPATISTA MOVEMENT
2000; Wizniewsky, 2001). This process of con- AS ONE CREATOR OF THE
vergence between indigenous and peasant orga- ANTAGONISTIC RURAL DISCOURSE
nizations became more consolidated on the
South American continent through the formal
organization of the Latin American Congress of The key social actor, along with the MST, in the
Peasant Organizations (CLOC) in 1994 in Peru. configuration of antagonistic rural praxis and
We would point out here that there was an inter- discourse was the Neo-Zapatista Movement of
action between the MST (as a proto-organiza- Chiapas. Mexican peasant agriculture was and is
tion) and other groups in the first half of the under increasing threat because of food imports
1980s, which became more intense in the 1990s. from the United States, which increased under
These first interactions involved productive the NAFTA free trade treaty between the US,
experiments of an agroecological nature (Sevilla Canada and Mexico. Eco-Zapatism was overdue
Guzmán, 1999) and the creation of the first in Mexico. In the early 1990s, Guillermo Bonfil
European committees in support of the Mexican had published his deeply moving account of
Neo-Zapatism and the MST and then those that vanishing indigenous Mexico (Bonfil Batalla,
developed around the SOC. 1998). It has now become general knowledge in
Probably the next step in this process of con- Mexico that indigenous cultures and biodiversity
fluence of independent peasant organizations go together (Toledo, 1996, 2000). Biodiversity is
took place on 14/15 November 1984, with the valuable even when it has no market. The Chiapas
Latin American Conference of Independent rebellion came into the open against the NAFTA
Peasant Organizations, organized in Mexico by on the day it became operative (1 January 1994),
the Coordinadora Nacional Plan de Ayala. Here helping to make indigenous peasantry a political
the Peasant Confederation of Peru, the National subject.
Federation of Peasant Organizations of Ecuador, Neo-Zapatism came to signify, in 1994, a reac-
the Independent Peasant Movement of the tion against the attacks on Mexican peasant
Dominican Republic, the National Confederation agriculture and a real incentive towards the con-
of Peasant Workers Union of France, the Union of vergence and coordination of the movements
Rural Workers and the recently founded MST of that question economic globalization and neo-
Brazil exchanged experiences. liberalism at world level, as well as the progressive
The MST started in the south of Brazil and has consolidation of a new antagonistic discourse. In
spread to the whole country. It has withstood fact, the Zapatista movement made possible the
violent armed repression in Paranà, Parà and other introduction of socio-cultural diversity into the
states. Its tactics consist in occupation, settle- worldwide anti-neo-liberal movement’s discourse
ment and immediate cultivation of large proper- (when this was in its gestation period); that is to
ties. Some of the MST leaders also belong to the say, the enormous diversity of subjects, territo-
Workers’ party, though the MST is more to the ries, resources, traditions and realities that the
left. Other spaces of confluence in the dissidence world was made up of at the end of the twentieth
process include the international exchange events century.
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In an attempt to come up with a synthesis, the anti-globalization social movements, holding
characteristics of Neo-Zapatism, an age-old and debates which took place in the context of the
at the same time new social movement, are the campaign of ‘50 years are enough’, against the
following: half-century of existence of global financial insti-
tutions (the International Monetary Fund, the
1 The acceptance of a historical continuance World Bank). Demonstrations took place in dif-
between its processes of collective social ferent places throughout the world, culminating
action and those developed by those ethnic in the alternative forum ‘The Other Voices of
groups which through multiple processes the Planet’ which developed in Madrid in the
throughout 500 years have put up resistance autumn of 1994. Continuing with its dynamics of
to colonization and oppression generated by resistance and informational struggle, the EZLN
the expansion of the European socio-cultural called, in Spain in the summer of 1997, the
identity. Second Intergalactic Conference against Neo-
2 The attribution to economic globalization and liberalism and for Humanity, by means of an itin-
neo-liberalism in present times, of the histori- erant celebration throughout various towns and
cal oppression suffered by the indigenous cities that had as its driving force local Zapatista
communities. Specifically the foreseeable committees. In Andalucia the militant members
impact of the NAFTA on the indigenous com- of the SOC played a central role in the organiza-
munities of Chiapas, which added to their tional infrastructure of the congress, especially in
resistance to the eviction of their communities the closing acts which took place in El Indiano, a
and to the subordination to the interests of the large farm which was acquired after many years
timber companies and landowners. of struggle involving occupations and imprison-
3 This struggle against exclusion does not end ments. This was one of the agroecological expe-
with their confrontation with the moderniz- riences that the cooperatives of the SOC carried
ing socio-economic system. They are also out as a ‘place for reflection and sociopolitical
fighting for the recognition of the Native and productive practice’ (Sevilla Guzmán, 1999;
Indians in the Mexican constitution. The Guzmán Casado et al., 2000).
diversity of the ethnic groups which make up
their movement has led them to defend the
recognition of differences: ‘We want a world THE IMPACT OF THE FTAA
where all worlds fit in’.
4 They demand a democracy unadulterated by
external or internal mismanagement, corrup- The biggest and most devastating impact that, in
tion and distortion of the true participation of the short term, the economic globalization process
people. To this effect, they are Mexican patriots is having on peasant and family-run agriculture is
who oppose the ‘foreign domination of North caused by the policies of the freeing of interna-
American imperialism’. Moreover, they aim to tional agricultural trade (Rosset, 1999) coupled
make a true democratic change to the political with the subsidies to exports in the United States
organization so that ‘those that are in charge (and the EU). In this sense, the NAFTA must be
also have to obey’. contemplated within a global strategy that intends
to configurate a ‘Free Trade Area in America’
From the depths of the Lacandona forest, the (FTAA). It intended to deregulate the market,
EZLN and Subcomandante Marcos developed an services and investments throughout both American
‘informational strategy’ to fulfil the establish- continents in such a way that the multinationals
ment of an ‘autonomous communication’ to had the right to use natural resources indiscrimi-
reach public opinion and to generate a process of nately. Dorval Brunelle (2001) illustrated the
confluence with all the groups that are excluded repercussions of this deregulation with a Mexican
from the modernizing socio-economic system. example: ‘The Mexican government had to pay
With this, they not only developed a way of 16.7 million dollars to the Californian firm
defending themselves with the spoken word (‘We Metalclad Corp., because a Mexican municipality
only take up arms to make a statement’), but they would not authorize the installation of a hazardous
have also aimed to generate networks of dissi- waste dump against which the local population
dence to the socio-economic and cultural oppres- had been mobilized.’ The approval of the FTAA
sion which they suffer. meant the gradual elimination of any type of tariff.
This was how the Zapatista movement, Therefore, products coming from the United
through its ‘autonomous communication’ made States and Canada had free access and were
contact with the, then incipient, economic exempt from custom and non-custom restrictions.
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Likewise the FTAA would mean unrestricted of alternatives to global neo-liberalism,
access to bidding and contracts for public sector ‘Alternatives for America: towards an agreement
supply. Local companies were left in the hands of between the people of the continent’. In this
the multinational market to carry out activities document it was established that:
linked to water and energy provision in the urban
Trade and investments should not be an end in them-
economies of Latin American countries. The third
selves but a means capable of guiding us towards a fair
requirement of this amplification of trade centred and long-lasting development. It is fundamental that
on the patents over life and intellectual property, citizens exercise their rights in the formulation and eval-
leaving in the hands of the multinational corpora- uation of the social and economic policies of the conti-
tions the provision of seeds, as well as the techno- nent. The central objectives of such policies should be
logical packets linked to the agriculture that the promotion of economic sovereignty, the collective
industrialized farming, introduced throughout the well-being and the reduction of inequalities on all levels.
Latin American area, requires.
Thus an antagonism towards the FTAA emerged The fact that the Latin American Congress of
and it is still mounting. It appeared in the form of Peasant Organizations (CLOC) was involved
antagonism towards the FTAA from the American with this dynamic, representing of the Peasant
trade union movement and the social movements Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean,
crystallizing in the appearance of a Continental is relevant to our line of argument.
Social Alliance (CSA). In fact, this process began Antagonism towards globalization in the
in the ministerial meeting in Denver in 1995. The American continent should be analysed in the
trade union movement of the 35 countries of much wider context of global dissidence. Here
the Americas, including Cuba, with the support the Movement against Maastricht and Economic
of the Pan-American Regional Employment Globalization (MAM) and the confluence against
Organization (PREO) – the continental wing of the the Multi-lateral Investment Agreement (MIA)
International Confederation of Free Unions – developed parallel and confluent dynamics. In
organized a parallel conference to express their mis- effect, from 1990 to 1995 multiple European
trust of the FTAA. The following year, the American social movements joined forces by incorporating
Union Movement assembled in the Colombian city in to their ideas and debates calls for a struggle
of Cartagena to elaborate a document reflecting against the rapidly developing ‘Europe of
on this subject and to put pressure on government Capital’. Hence, feminist, ecological, pacifist
representatives. The process continued that same and Third World groups and all the collectives
year in Brazil. During the meeting of the presidents committed to the fight against poverty, with ethical
of the member countries of Mercosur, where ‘both and solidarity ideals, joined together, consolidat-
the first central trade union of the USA, the ing the MAM. On the other hand, the conflu-
AFL–CIO and the ORIT sent representatives to ence against the MIA acquired special relevance
offer support to their South American counterparts in Canada, France, the United States, central
who had reached an agreement to celebrate an Scandinavian countries and several countries from
international day of struggle for the workers of the periphery such as Malaysia, the Philippines,
Mercosur’. However, it was in Belo Horizonte in India and Brazil. Friends of the Earth and Le
1987 that the first convergence between the Monde Diplomatique conducted vigorous cam-
American trade union movement and the civic orga- paigns against the MIA. The joining together of
nizations against free trade occurred. These have these two fronts of economic anti-globalization
since worked together on an alternative project to began to interfere with the plans of global neo-
the FTAA, The decision was taken to create a liberalism. This forced a delay in the signing of
Continental Social Alliance (CSA) which would the MIA, at the heart of the OECD, in Paris in
face up to the FTAA, elaborating, in a participative October 1998, through the configuration of Global
way, concrete and viable alternatives. Action of the People.
In 1998, the five existing national coalitions
against free trade2 called for the first Summit of
the American People. This took place in Santiago THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE
de Chile from the 14th to the 17th of April, par- ANTAGONIST NETWORK AGAINST
allel to the ‘second summit’ of the leaders of the NEO-LIBERAL GLOBALIZATION:
‘American States’. Environmental and feminist GLOBAL ACTION OF THE PEOPLE
associations as well as several associations of
alternative American social movements responded
to that call. There a programmatic document was Since the First Intergalactic Conference against
produced of great relevance to the configuration Neo-liberalism and for Humanity, which took
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place in the Lacandona forest in the summer of can only be answered in the context of the
1996, and the Second Intergalactic Conference, debates that the different groups have carried out
which took place in Spain, the processes of con- in order to identify the nature of globalization,
fluence have quickened, leading to the creation subject to the command of the profit logic of
of Global Action of the People (AGP) against multinational companies. The transnational join-
free trade. This group was the first coordinator, ing of states, in the form of their international
on a world level, against economic globalization institutions – fundamentally the IMF, World
and neo-liberalism. In Geneva, at the beginning Bank and World Trade Organization, is coac-
of 1998, the very first meeting of the AGP was tively imposing economic policies that openly
attended by some three hundred activists from all impact negatively on both human work and nat-
over the world. ural resources. The large multinational corpora-
tions have been studied since the early 1990s by
There were representatives from the Southern periphery,
different social collectives and networks that
of the indigenous people that inhabit the most recondite
places on the planet, that suffer a threat to their habitats
have witnessed how pacifist, feminist and eco-
and territories as a result of the unstoppable expansion logical claims have been seemingly incorporated
of globalization (the Maoris of New Zealand, the into sales campaigns as slogans. At the same time
CONAIE of Ecuador, the Mayan indians, the Ogonis of these very same transnationals use the workforce
Nigeria …); also the peasant movements of those places from the periphery through the relationships they
on the planet where there still exist important contin- maintain with their production lines and affili-
gents of population living in the traditional rural world ated suppliers. They exploit precariousness and
(Nepal, India …), as well as new peasant movements child labour, impose a total absence of social
that are fighting for access to community ownership of benefits and a union prohibition, amongst other
land (MST of Brazil). There were also representatives human rights transgressions, as well as paying
of those metropolitan movements fighting against the wages so low that workers are unable to feed
consequences of the so-called plans structural adjust- their families.
ment of the [International Monetary Fund] and the In a similar way, the dissidence against eco-
[World Bank] that urban populations are suffering (eg. nomic globalization came to the conclusion that
the teachers’ movement in Buenos Aires, or the move- neo-liberal politics mean a growing degradation
ments from the slums of Mexico City). Also represented of natural resources, revealing the commercial,
were the new workers’ organizations (many of them financial and speculative mechanisms which pull
clandestine due to repression) of the maquila industries
down thousands of hectares of forest, transforming
in Central American countries, and even organizations
this land for the growth of crop or tree plantations,
representing people with specific problems as such is
forcing indigenous groups, whose livelihood
the case with certain Afro-American communities in
Caribbean countries. (Fernandez Durán and Sevilla
depended on the forest, to move. The uprooting
Guzmán, 1999: 365) of mangroves around the Tropics to the benefit of
shrimp exports became an international scandal.
The dissident groups from countries of the centre Also, attention started to be drawn to the human
of the system were also diversely represented: and environmental damage caused by the obliga-
In Geneva the French unemployed movement, as well tion to pay external debts (emphasized by the
as certain organizations on the European network Jubilee 2000 campaigns).
against unemployment, precariousness and social
exclusion, attended. North American organizations that
work with the homeless, also Food Not Bombs. New
organizations in defence of part-time workers or those THE EMERGENCE OF
threatened by privatization processes. The squatter AGROECOLOGY FROM THE
movement and the self-managed social centres from dif- ANTAGONISM PROCESSES
ferent European countries. In fact the meeting in Geneva TOWARDS NEO-LIBERALISM
was organised thanks to the active participation of the
squatter movement of the city. Some direct action orga-
nizations from the ecological environment, amongst
which the movement Reclaim the Street from Great In the past few decades there have been various
Britain stood out. As well as the different groups and productive experiences that show the emergence
networks that attempt to unveil the consequences that
of a new management model of natural resources,
the Maastricht treaty had on the population of the
based on local knowledge and its merging with
European Union countries. (1999: 366)
modern technologies. Many of these recreate, in
Why is it that such diverse social groups join some aspects, historical forms of socio-economic
forces to fight against free trade? This question organization linked to socio-cultural identity.
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Conventional agricultural science would not Agricultural biopiracy is a topic which the
hesitate in labelling such experiences as a new Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
paradigm of anti-modern rural development. Such Nations (FAO) has been discussing for some
experiences are dispersed world-wide (Pretty, twenty years under the name of Farmers’ Rights.
1995). They are born from processes of resistance Even some governments say that
in the interstices of agricultural modernization and
they offer a list of productive and social strategies. if a company takes a seed from a farmer’s field, adds a
There are two social spaces where such ‘pro- gene and patents the resulting seed for sale at a profit
ductive dissidence’ towards agricultural modern- [or otherwise ‘improves’ the seed by traditional meth-
ization can be found, according to Victor Manuel ods of crossing, and then protects it under the UPOV
rules], there is no reason the initial seed should be free.
Toledo. They are ‘focal points of civilizatory
They also say patents ignore the contributions by
resistance’. The first, which he refers to as ‘post-
indigenous peoples, who often are the true discoverers
modern’, is made up of ‘a polychrome range of
of useful plants and animals, or of farmers who improve
social and countercultural movements’. The plants over the generations. The negotiation run by the
second social space is located on certain ‘islands Food and Agriculture Organization [on Farmers’
of pre-modernity or pre-industriality’, Rights] is weighing whether to compensate traditional
those enclaves of the planet where western civilization farmers for work on improving crops and maintaining
did not or still has not managed to impose its values, different varieties. (Pollack, 1999)
practices, corporations and modern actions. They are
predominantly, although not exclusively, rural, in coun- But, then, who wants the Third World farmers to
tries such as India, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Peru or continue growing and locally freely sharing or
Mexico, where the presence of various indigenous selling their own low-yielding, low-input seeds?
populations (made up of peasants, fishermen, shepherds From the point of view of international capital-
and craftsmen) confirm the presence of civilizatory ism, replacing their seeds by commercial seeds
models different to those originated in Europe. These do would be more conducive to economic growth.
not constitute immaculate archaisms, but contemporary Should not traditional seeds be forbidden on
syntheses or forms of resistance born from the encoun- grounds of lack of sanitary or yield guarantees?
ters that have taken place in the last few centuries There is then a growing alarm in southern
between the expansive force of western civilization and countries which are centres of agricultural biodi-
the ever present forces of the ‘peoples without history’. versity, or close neighbours to them, because of
(Toledo, 2000: 53) the disappearance of traditional farming. This
new awareness, which goes totally against the
grain of development economics, is helped
THE EXPERIENCE OF INDIA by the social and cultural distance between the
seed companies (often multinationals) and the
local peasants and farmers. While conservation
Elements in the movement for agroecology in of ‘wild’ biodiversity in ‘national parks’ is seen
the south are the collective defence of agro- often as a ‘northern’ idea imposed on the south
biodiversity, food security and the in situ conser- (as to some extent is really the case), the conser-
vation or co-evolution of plant genetic resources. vation of in situ agricultural biodiversity was for
Thus in Mexico, beyond the neo-Zapatism born many years left aside by the large wilderness
in Chiapas, a wider movement has risen since northern organizations. It was pushed instead by
2002 called ‘En Defensa del Maíz’, against maize specific NGOs such as RAFI and GRAIN, also
imports from the United States. In India, as by southern scientists and by southern groups
Kothari puts it (1998: 51), a single species of rice who developed pro-peasant ideologies.
(Oryza sativa) collected from the wild some time There are deliberate attempts in India by groups
in the distant past, has diversified into approxi- and individual farmers to revive agricultural
mately 50,000 varieties as a result of a combina- diversity. In the Hemval Ghati of the Garhwal
tion of evolutionary/habitat influences and the Himalaya, some farmers under the banner of the
innovative skills of farmers. This contribution to Beej Bachao Andolan (Save the Seed Movement)
genetic diversity is a fact that the modern seed have been travelling in the region collecting
industry conveniently sidesteps, and that the con- seeds of a large diversity of crops. Many farmers
sumers of industrialized countries have ignored grow high-input high-yield varieties for the
until recently. Mexican peasants never thought of market but also other varieties for their own fam-
patenting or instituting other types of intellectual ilies. An important issue is to promote not only
property rights on the varieties of maize that have the survival of many varieties of the main crops
been used by the commercial seed industry. (wheat and rice) but also to keep alive other
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food crops that have been not subject to ‘Green and Monsanto are combined in India with
Revolution’ seed substitution – like bajra, ramdana movements for subsidized industrial fertilizers.
and jowar, and also pulses in general. In the south However, who would have thought twenty years
of the country, the somewhat grandly named ago that praise for organic agriculture would be
‘seed satyagraha’ of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha expressed not by professional ethnoecologists or
Sangha (KRRS), became well known in the early agroecologists or by northern neo-rural environ-
1990s.3 mentalists but by real farmers from India in inter-
Monsanto has used the loopholes in legislation national trade meetings? This is not homespun
or in effective regulation to introduce transgenic oriental wisdom combating northern agricultural
crops outside the United States. Thus, there is a technology, it is not identity politics only. On the
debate in some parts of India against the intro- contrary, it must be interpreted as part of an inter-
duction of Bt cotton (that is, cotton seeds into national worldwide trend with solid foundations
which the bacillus thurigiensis has been geneti- in agroecology.
cally engineered to act as an insecticide). In Should there be a rush in southern countries to
Andhra Pradesh, the farmers’ movement APRS impose intellectual property rights on crop vari-
uprooted and burned two crop sites in 1998, and eties, animal races and medicinal knowledge? In
alerted the state parliament and government to India, Anil Gupta has long confronted this ques-
ban further field sites, while in Karnataka the tion with a pioneering large-scale ground-level
leader of the farmers’ movement KRRS transpar- effort to document the local communities’
ently called on the company to reveal the exact knowledge regarding old and innovative resource
locations of its field tests of transgenic Bt cotton. uses in the form of local registers. The objectives
Monsanto has been more successful elsewhere. are manifold: the exchange of ideas between
There was little opposition in Argentina to trans- communities, the revitalization of local knowl-
genic soybeans (Pengue, 2000). edge systems and the building up of local pride in
In India, on 30 November 1999, the first day of such systems, and the protection against intellec-
the WTO conference in Seattle, several thousand tual ‘piracy’ by outsiders (Kothari, 1998: 105).
farmers gathered in Bangalore at the Mahatma The protection arises because prior registration
Gandhi statue in the park. They issued a ‘Quit and publication would stop patenting. As Anil
India’ notice to Monsanto, and they warned Gupta (1996) has said repeatedly, if somebody is
the prestigious Indian Institute of Science not to to patent some properties of neem, why not our-
collaborate with Monsanto in research. The selves, Indian farmers and scientists? The main
company was urged to leave the country or face thrust of his work, however, has been to enhance
non-violent direct action against its activities and local pride in the existing processes of conserva-
installations. Agribusiness had already been tion and innovation, and to stop outside advan-
warned with the destruction of Cargill facilities in tage being taken gratis from this work.
one district back in 1993. The KRRS leaders have
travelled around the world, being much involved
in the anti-neo-liberal dissidence against the WTO TOWARDS A LATIN AMERICAN
because the new regulations on international trade AGROECOLOGICAL MOVEMENT
bring in their wake the enforcement of property
rights on commercial seeds, which unjustly do not
recognize the original raw material and knowl- There is no space here (and we lack sufficient
edge, while preventing farmers’ local gifts or sale knowledge) for a review of other similar move-
of such commercial seeds. In 2001 the KRRS was ments in countries in Asia and Africa. We shall
still trying to prevent the wholesale introduction of now very briefly review some Latin American
transgenic Bt cotton in India. agroecological movements. In South America pro-
Also in India, Navdanya is a large network of ductive dissidence to agricultural modernization
farmers, environmentalists, scientists and con- can be found in the south of Brazil, in the states of
cerned individuals which is working in different Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul and
parts of the country to collect and store crop vari- extending through Misiones up to the historical
eties, evaluate and select those with good perfor- region of Gran Chaco, from the north of Argentina
mance, and encourage their reuse in the fields and Paraguay as far up as the south of Bolivia.
(Kothari, 1998: 60–61), certainly a more partici- In Argentina, probably the most relevant
patory strategy than that of ex situ cold storage. agroecological experience that has so far emerged
What other name but ‘ecological neo-Narodnism’ takes place in the province of Misiones.4 Here, a
can be given to such initiatives? Reality is peasant agroecological movement has brought
contradictory, and movements against Cargill together a range of productive experiences based
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on the ‘improvement of the traditional, productive judiciary in Rio Grande do Sul against transgenic
diversification, specialization in some sectors crops would finally fail because of federal over-
and the strengthening of production for family ruling, it has served to propel the MST in an eco-
consumption’. Such experiences emphasize the logical direction. The transgenic issue has sparked
transformation of production and the search for off a general discussion on agricultural technology
new markets in ferias francas de Misiones (fairs). inside the MST.
With reference to the creation of one of these The rural–urban link of the Brazilian experi-
fairs, one of the organizers said, ‘We didn’t ences of Rio Grande do Sul is especially relevant
invent Ferias Francas, we are recreating an age- in Porto Alegre, where a few days a week entire
old experience …’. In this province, 27 fairs take streets fill up with market stalls, where many
place every week of the year, in which more than cooperatives establish ‘agroecological socializa-
2,000 farmers take part in order to sell their pro- tion links’ with consumers (Caporal, 1998;
duce directly to customers (Carballo, 2000). Costabeber, 1998; Caporal and Costabeber, 2001).
Probably the most beneficial work, agroecologi- However, the Brazilian agroecological phenome-
cally speaking, that is carried out in Misiones non is much more widespread, as hundreds of pro-
is that of the Organic Farming Network of ductive agroecological experiences can be found
Misiones. throughout the country (Canuto, 1997).
Experiences with agroecological initiatives Similarly, in the states of Jalisco (Morales
can also be found in north Santafesino,5 and in all Hernández, 1999) and Michoacan (Toledo, 1991)
of Gran Chaco. In the past few years a network in Mexico, there exist several experiences that
of farmers and NGOs has taken shape, exchang- through social collective action organize their
ing experiences (some with more than 20 years production and marketing to face up to conven-
of experience, as is the case of INCUPO) and tional markets. Likewise, in Chile, the excellent
coordinating actions generating training courses work of CET (previously in Santiago, now in
for technicians and producers in agroecology. Temuco), with its ramifications throughout the
In the north of the province of Santa Fe an country and even throughout the rest of Latin
‘agroecological week of the Santa Fe province’ America through CLADES (with its magazine
has been developed. Since 1998, in the city of ‘Agroecology and Development’), provide good
Rosario, there have existed ‘urban communitarian examples of agroecological experiences, and
ecological food gardens’ on villas miseria, which which acquire special significance in the
provide ‘local health centres’ with medicinal Mapuche territory. Also, in Colombia, a Red de
plants rescued from Toba knowledge (Martinez Custodios de Semillas (seed wardens) exists
Sarasola, 1992: 441–476). which is composed of farmers who exchange
If the agroecological movement is significant experiences, reinforcing a recuperation of local
in the north of Argentina it is more so in Brazil, peasant knowledge. Quite a few such alternative
especially in the states of Paraná (with the funda- management proposals also have a strong indige-
mental action of AS-PTA), Santa Catarina (with nous content.
the official support of EPAGRI) and, above all, in In the land reforms of the past 50 years, the
Rio Grande do Sul where EMATER (the state highland peasantries of the central Andes fought
organism for agricultural extension) adopted against the modernization of the haciendas,
agroecology as its official policy (until 2002), which sought to get rid of them; they stayed put,
declaring that the state is ‘free of transgenics’. and increased their holdings. There are more
There is in Brazil today the strongest movement established communities and more community
in the world for land reform, the MST (the (pasture) land in the Andes now than 30 or 40
Movement of the Landless), whose social ori- years ago. This bothers the neo-liberals. The
gins are in Rio Grande do Sul. In 1999 the MST peasantry has not yet decreased in numbers,
declared itself against transgenic crops, and in despite migration, but now the birth rate is coming
January 2001 the MST, together with Rafael down. Will Quechua and Aymara communities
Alegria and other leaders of Via Campesina, and survive as such? Only 40 years ago, integration
with José Bové of the French Confederation and acculturation was the destiny traced for them
Paysanne, became the media stars of the Porto by local modernizers (such as Galo Plaza in
Alegre World Social Forum when they symboli- Ecuador) and by the US political-anthropological
cally destroyed some Monsanto experimental establishment. Their resistance today would be
fields in the village of Nao-metoques. The context helped by improvement in the terms of trade for
was the prohibition of transgenic soybeans their production, if subsidized imports of agricul-
in Rio Grande do Sul by the state government. tural products from the United States and Europe
Even if the valiant attitude of the government and were stopped, if they could get subsidies (in
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the form of payments for Farmer’s Rights, for civil resistance and the creation of alternatives
instance, and subsidies for the use of solar in the use and conservation of local varieties’
energy), and if they could exercise organized (MAELA, 2000). They also expressed their
political pressure for this purpose. We see explic- ‘solidarity with the MST of Brazil, the peasant
itly for the first time in the Andes and also in movements of Bolivia, the Mapuches of Chile,
Mesoamerica an agroecological pride which pro- the indigenous peasants of Chiapas’, amongst
vides a foundation for an alternative development other groups, as an example of international
or, as Arturo Escobar would put it, for an alter- peasantry.
native to development. If not this, what then?
Should Andean peasants, with low-yielding agri-
culture, give up farming and livestock raising as A BRIEF CONCLUSION
the economy grows, give up their communities
and their languages? Should then some of their
grandchildren, as the economy grows still more, In this chapter we have reviewed several move-
come back in small numbers as subsidized ments in countries of the south based on an
mountain caretakers, making music and dancing explicit agroecological awareness. These move-
as Indians for the tourists? In the final analysis, ments are very different from the small neo-rural
in situ agricultural biodiversity and local food postmodern organic farming movements of the
security could be assured as part of a movement United States and Europe. We are still far from
which would put a much higher value also on the being able to provide a complete taxonomy of
preservation of cultural diversity. This is what such movements in the south, and in fact nobody
PRATEC in Peru, founded by the dissident seems yet able to provide a whole picture. So,
agronomist Eduardo Grillo, tried to do, building this chapter gives some detailed information on
upon the work by agronomists from remote some cases but only a very brief (superficial, and
provinces, such as Oscar Blanco who long second-hand) view of other cases. However,
defended cultivated species such as quinua and there are some undoubted developments a new
many tubers (the ‘lost crops of the Incas’) against network such as Via Campesina has arisen; many
the onslaught of imported subsidized wheat. agronomists now write theses and books on
PRATEC is romantic and extremist, but the sub- agroecology based on peasant knowledge; the
ject it puts on the table is realistic and down-to- debates on Farmers’ Rights, biopiracy, in situ
earth. It is not their fault that it is not considered coevolution of agricultural biodiversity reach
worth the attention of multilateral banks or even public opinion. The agricultural policies of the
of universities (Apffel-Marglin and PRATEC, United States and the European Union (protec-
1998). In the University of San Simón de tionism against some imports, large export subsi-
Cochabamba in Bolivia there is an Agricultural dies for many other products undermining world
Institute (AGRUCO) which is reviving Andean peasant agriculture) are under attack. There is a
peasantry agroecology (Delgado, 2002; Tapia confluence of views from peasants groups in the
Ponce, 1999; likewise Stephan Rist, 2001 in the south and from some circles in the European
University of Berne: all of these published in Union against such policies. In Europe this is
AGRUCO, 2002). characterized as the Agrarwende, against subsi-
Farmers and peasants from the movements dized exports but in favour of subsidies to farmers
and experiences discussed in this chapter, from based on the multifunctionality of agriculture. In
in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Chile and the south, subsidies to agroecological peasants
Colombia, met in December 1998 in Pereira, would be even more justified on grounds of in
Colombia, and established a declaration of situ biodiversity conservation and coevolution,
principles, as members of the Agroecological energy efficiency, food security, cultural conser-
Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean vation. Such a policy of subsidies would require
(MAELA). In this declaration they expressed an international agreement, perhaps based on a
their ‘opposition to the neo-liberal model … for notion of paying back an ecological debt from
its degradation of nature and society’. At the north to south for so many cases of biopiracy.
same time they established, as a right of their Under the discussion on agroecology lurks a
local organizations, the ‘management and control large question that is still outside the political and
of natural resources … without dependence on economic agenda. Has the march of agriculture
external input (agrochemical and transgenic), for in the past 150 years in Western countries been
the biological reproduction of their cultures’, wrong? What is the agronomic advice that should
underlining its ‘support of the promotion, be given not only in Peru or Mexico, but even
exchange and diffusion of local experiences of more in India, in China? Should they preserve
34-Cloke New-3295.qxd 7/29/2005 1:33 PM Page 477


their peasantries or should they get rid of them in disagreeing with some of its styles of farming. The
the process of modernization, development and aspect which they most dislike is the emphasis on
urbanization? Compared to 100 years ago, and healthy eating and the commercial interest which
because of population growth, the number of organic farming shows, in contrast to the social
peasants in the world has increased considerably; aspects.
therefore such questions are indeed relevant. In its fight for land the SOC had had access to land
on several farms. Some of these lands were obtained
In summary, agricultural policy should
through continuous occupations and evictions which
balance environmental, economic, social, cul-
led to frequent imprisonments, and others through
tural values at different geographical and time
renting or purchase. There was always union pressure
scales. In some interpretations, modern agricul- and support from the more progressive sectors of the
ture is characterized by lower energy efficiency, church and the university, as well as some socio-
genetic and soil erosion, ground and water economic and cultural institutions. This meant that, in
pollution. From another point of view, in the the first half of the 1980s, the SOC was accompanied
language of economics, modern agriculture by different non-peasant groups in their many actions.
achieves increased productivity. Another, non- These ranged from peaceful demonstrations and
equivalent, description of agricultural develop- marches looking for support from the villages and
ment will emphasize loss of indigenous cultures cities on their itineraries to ‘symbolic’ occupations of
and knowledge. There is here a clash of scientific land or other more problematic temporary take-overs
perspectives, also a clash of values. How to inte- of local government buildings, airports or even the
grate the different points of view? How to decide Andalusian Parliament building. The ISEC of the
on an agricultural policy in the presence of such University of Cordoba has collaborated with SOC
opposite, legitimate points of view? The role of since it was founded in 1978.
the rural social scientist that we have adopted is 2 The Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) of the
to study experiences of peasant agroecological United States; Common Frontiers of Canada; the Red
movements and extract theoretical principles for Mexicana de Acción contra el Libre Cambio
two purposes: first, to help design participatory (RMALC); the Quebec network for Continental
Integration; the Red Chilena por la Iniciativa de los
strategies of local development, second, to inter-
Pueblos (RCHIP, which is presently called the Alianza
vene in the policy discussions at higher levels on
Chilena por la Iniciativa de los Pueblos, ALCIR).
the role of agriculture in today’s world. The
3 Cf. the letter from M.D. Nanjundaswamy, ‘Farmers
worldwide peasant agroecological movement is and Dunkel Draft’, Economic and Political Weekly, 26
now an actor in these debates, as seen very June 1993, and the emailed newsletter of the KRRS.
clearly in the World Social Forums of Porto Also, Akhil Gupta (1998), esp. last chapters, for a
Alegre both in 2001 and 2002. The wider scene description of the KRRS up to the mid-1990s.
is the worldwide movement against neo-liberal 4 Our knowledge of this experience is due to our unfor-
globalization in all its aspects (financial, trade, gettable friend ‘el coya Cametti’, with whom we
environment, politics), a network of networks, in shared an enriching experience in the Maestria del
which agrarian movements are just one actor. ISEC in la Rábida.
Perhaps an unexpected one. 5 In spite of the grave social situation, disturbances,
environmental degradation and the progressive depop-
ulation of North Santafesino, there exists a wide
NOTES nucleus of institutions and independent technicians
which, for some years now, have made great efforts in
1 This land labourers union (SOC) was, in fact, the the search for an alternative development. Many pro-
expression in the 1980s of the final stage of a peasant ducers of the region share these ideals and some years
movement led by the land labourers or peasants with- ago started to make changes using agroecological
out land who demonstrated a huge potential and capa- practices. There now exists an inter-institutional artic-
city for struggle in Southern Spain for more than 100 ulation whose first success was the excellent diagnosis
years. In the 1980s there was discontent with almost of the Chaco Argentino (1999) which was carried
total mechanization of work: coinciding with a grave out by the Chaco Argentina Agroforestal Network
industrial crisis, this meant that land labourers had little financed by the Secretary of Natural Resources of the
or no opportunities of alternative work. With their Argentinian central government. Incupo and Fundapaz
wish to look for new alternatives which would surpass participated in this diagnosis, thus potentiating the
the traditional claim to land, the SOC moved towards constitution of a Santafesina Agroforestal Board. This
new social movements in general, and towards the eco- group developed many experiences in North
logical movement in particular. From the interaction of Santafesino, including: (a) rotative pasture trials
their activism with their productive experience, there on forested low-lands in Vera, where FundaPaz,
emerged a clear approach of ecological management INTA, MAGIC Vera participated from 1994 to 1997;
of natural resources, similar to organic farming but (b) forestry and pasture management experiences with
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developed by FundaPaz from 1992 to 2000; (c) devel- Washington: Estados Unidos quiere un mercado hemis-
opment of means of protection against overpasturing férico bajo su control en Le Monde Diplomatique’.
of cattle, with the participation of CATIE of Costa Abril, Argentina: Edicción Cono Sur.
Rica; (d) experiences with forestal plantations by Caporal, F.R. (1998) ‘La extensión agraria del sector
means of intercalating the cultivation of local tree público ante los desafíos del desarrollo sostenible’.
species by FundaPaz in 1995 and 1996; (e) recupera- Doctoral thesis, ISEC, University of Cordoba, Spain.
tion of soil and impoverished natural pastures with Caporal, F.R. and Costabeber, J.A. (2001) Sustentabilidade
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