Member's report on World Forum on Access to Land

Sjoerd Wartena for Groupe de Bruges. Published April 2014

From 31 March to 2 April 2016, the World Forum on Access to Land was held in Valencia (Spain). Some 400 representatives from all over the world participated in an intense program of exchange, information and strategy propositions. 

The final report has now been published and can be found here

In words of Sjoerd Wartena: 

"The title of the forum could have been a little bit longer, because it was clear from the beginning that for the great majority of the participants talked about access to land for sustainable peasant/smallholder/family farming in opposition to the industrial, strongly technological and robotized agriculture. The moving opening speeches from Alberto Broch, president of the Bresilian Landworkers Confederation (CONTAG), Ramesh Chandra Sharma from Ektaparishad, India and Mamadou Cissokho, honorary president of the West African farmers and producers organisation (ROPPA) were without any doubt on those particular issues!

There were some very convincing presentation from researchers, such as Hubert Cochet, prof.AgroParisTech (France), Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, prof. on Rural Sociology, University Wageningen (Netherlands) and Henri Rouillé d'Orfeuil from the French Academy of Agriculture, on the advantages of smallholder, sustainable, multifunctional, etc. peasant agriculture for the world food production, land and biodiversity preservation and employment.

That governments all over the world don't see this; they don't listen to the peasant organisations and stubbornly support first of all the industrial agriculture, as it is seen as the prominent place in the world's food production of peasant farming, which is a riddle to solve. Nevertheless, there are some hesitating signs of progress in this matter, as the representative of the FAO, Javier Molina Cruz explained in his report the FAO's interventions in several countries. 

Interventions on request of several governments (Guatemala, Madagascar, Senegal a.o.) contributing to the study of how to implement  the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of tenure of land fisheries and forests in the contexte of national food security (VG), formulated by the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This seems to be a first “soft” and not very effective step, seen the “Voluntary” aspect of the Guidelines, but anyhow it can be a possibility to start reform. The presence of a strong  peasant and civil society platform in regions and countries is an absolute condition to succeed this evolutionary process from “soft” towards “hard” law. Legislation that reinforces existing laws or install new ones guaranteeing the existence of the smallholder farm.

 The FAO /CFS plans to deliver a first overview of these interventions in October 2016.

It became again clear during the Forum that, despite a bulk of nice initiatives, for the moment this coalition landscape is chaotic and too diversified. An overview of this “landscape” should be very useful and is necessary. For the moment it is clear that the official neglect of world peasantry and indigenous agriculture is a fact. Everybody agreed in Valencia  that the time for manifests and declarations is over. Budgets has to be organized to create a real stronghold, capable of communication and legislation proposals on a national and global scale. It is the most urgent but rarely mentioned issue, without which all change becomes an illusion."

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