Argentina: Disappearing Farmers, Disappearing Food

Published on Global, by Marie Trigona, October 30, 2009.

Worldwide, industrial mono-culture farming has displaced traditional food production and farmers, wreaking havoc on food prices and food sovereignty. This is particularly true for the global south, where land has been concentrated for crops destined for biodiesel and animal feed. In response, peasants and small farmers organized actions in more than 53 countries on October 15 for International Food Day as an initiative of Via Campesina, one of the largest independent social movement organizations, representing nearly 150 million people globally.

The National Indigenous Campesino Movement of Argentina joined the protests taking place on around the world by organizing a march in Buenos Aires for International Food Day. Argentina has often been described as South America’s bread basket because it once produced grain and beef for much of the region. But with the transgenetic soy boom the nation has shifted to a mono culture production for export, displacing traditional food production and farmers. 

Hundreds of campesinos marked the day with protests against this agricultural model outside of Argentina’s Department of Agriculture. “For the government, the countryside [is made up of] the landholding organizations and the agro-businesses, we practically don’t exist,” says Javier from the campesino movement in Cordoba, an organization that includes more than 1,500 families who have depended on traditional agriculture for generations.  “We are also part of the countryside. We are the ones who live on the land and protect the land. We want to continue to live on our land, for future generations.”

Evicted Farmers: … //

… Police Repression:

In 2008 alone more than 35 campesinos were arrested and arrest warrants issued for 95 more, in Mendoza, Formosa and Santiago del Estero, in communities rejecting the agro-industrial model. Santiago del Estero is a province once rich in forest land and untouched by soy. This changed as the boom in soy prices has made these remote areas now profitable for soy growers.

This is a “witch hunt,” as the MNCI has described the situation for campesinos resisting land evictions, and defending traditional cultures.  Local police enforce eviction orders and meet any resistance with police force, clubs and many times bullets. “Campesinos resisting are suffering a violent political persecution. We demand that detained farmers are released, that officials, judges and police that violate human rights be investigated and that evictions are stopped,” declared the MNCI.

Agro Industry Creates Joblessness: … //

… Food Sovereignty:

Industrialization and the globalization of Argentina’s food system has led to spikes in food prices, and increasing rural poverty. This has become a global trend. “A billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements,” writes Vandana Shiva in the Nation Magazine.

Via Campesina does have an alternative to the agro industry, pushing for governments to promote local, traditional farming which provides communities with real food. “It’s time for all civil society to recognize the gravity of this situation, global capital should not control our food, nor make decisions behind closed doors. The future of our food, the protection of our resources and especially our seeds, are the right of the people,” said Dena Hoff, coordinator of Via Campesina North America.

Food sovereignty as defined by Via Campesina is the peoples’ right to define their agricultural and food policy, and the right of farmers and peasants to produce food. Worldwide communities are seeking an alternative to a model controlled by Cargill, Monsanto, General Foods, Nestle and Kraft foods. Starved by industrialization and concentration, citizens are now hungry for traditional production methods and diversity in the food system. (full text).

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