Anticolonial struggles in the Global South: A peasant perspective


On Thursday March 14, 2024, a conference “Anticolonial struggles in the Global South: A Peasant Perspective” organized by CETIM, La Via Campesina (LVC), Uniterre, Le Silure, FIAN International/FIAN Switzerland and the Movement for Peasant and Citizen Agriculture (MAPC), was held in Geneva. This conference was organised on the occasion of the visit of an LVC delegation to the UN, as part of various advocacy activities for the promotion and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

The objective of this event was to discuss the impact of the neoliberal political and economic system, with its racist and (neo)colonial character, on the peasantry and rural communities, and how peasants’ organisations conceive the fight against this oppressive system. Six panelists, members of La Via Campesina from countries of the south (Niger, Colombia, Haiti, Palestine) and from the north (Switzerland and France) presented their visions and experiences.

“Capitalism and colonialism are two sides of the same coin,” recalled Raffaele Morgantini of CETIM, opening the discussion with a reminder of the impact of the current capitalist and neocolonial system on the people of the Global South, in particular peasants. Thus, “the anti-capitalist struggle necessarily involves the anti-colonial struggle, two struggles in which the rural world is on the front line.”


Joana Pinzón representing the Asociación Nacional Campesina José Antonio Galán Zorro (ASONALCA) and the Coordinador Nacional Agrario, one of LVC’s member organisations in Colombia, began by discussing the international division of labor which relegates Colombia to the impoverishing role of producer of raw materials, in this case from the mining industry, which causes damage both to the environment and to peasant and indigenous populations.These populations are also entrenched in extremely hostile territories with the majority of
land monopolized by rich landowners. For this reason in particular, integral and popular agrarian reform is necessary but has never been implemented because it goes against the capitalist interests of the dominant elites. Control of land is the country’s central issue and it is because of this that the armed conflict emerged, the first victims of which are rural and indigenous communities. A dirty war is being waged against them by both private and public actors. Indeed, opposing land grabbing and destructive economic projects means putting one’s life
in danger; communities and social movements are persecuted, threatened with death, imprisoned, forcibly displaced, exiled, assassinated. “When people talk to me about “development”, what I hear is the word “death”. Because in the name of development, private companies have destroyed a lot. »

“Another world is possible” claimed Joana, emphasizing the importance of social mobilization and giving examples of community-run schools, public health projects, local businesses and other public services set up in the Northeast of the country (Regions of Santander and Casanare). “If we want change, we must make it ourselves,” she concluded.


The representative of the Plateforme paysanne du Niger, member of LVC, recalled the numerous abuses that the African continent has suffered and the fact that, despite the independence won 60 years ago, Africa remains in a situation of dependence. “We have been freed from our chains but we continue to be held differently. Today a wind of sovereignty is blowing in the minds of all Africans who have understood that we must fight for it, in particular for food sovereignty.” The obstacles to the development of Nigerien agriculture are many and complex: double standards do not allow small producers to compete with agribusiness. Chemical fertilizers manufactured in Europe impoverish the soil, making it dependent on those very products, and further weakening peasant organizations. The international division of labour also relegates Africa to the role of supplier of raw materials exported and transformed in the West to be resold at a higher price. “We are not given the means to access the processing of products and when in turn, we want to export processed products we come up against so-called European quality standards. This reinforces the poverty of our farms. Our producers sell at a low price the same product sold more expensively elsewhere,” stated the Nigerien representative. Furthermore, as there is no food sovereignty without economic sovereignty, “we spend a lot to access a little (…). This economy keeps us in poverty,” he stated. In addition, every state order for agricultural equipment, seeds and fertilizer has to go through the Bank of France.

Another problem is that of the next generation of farmers. “Young people are leaving family farms, taking boats and dying at sea for the European dream. They think that Europe is an El Dorado, that success comes down to higher education, an office, a tie. We must return to our African values. »

Insecurity due to armed groups like Boko Haram also harms Nigerien farmers confronted by their violence. “Ten years ago we were poor, but at least we were at peace.” Finally, following the coup d’état of July 26, 2023, Niger was the victim of unilateral coercive measures which seriously impacted the country. Its farmers saw their products blocked at the border, they had to sell them at a loss and had to draw on food stocks which were already insufficient.


Yasmeen El-Hasan of the Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC, Palestine), also member of LVC, testified via video. She made a horrifying assessment of the situation in Gaza, declaring that Palestinians who did not die from the bombs would die because of starvation, lack of water and healthcare. She denounced the use of famine as a weapon in the ongoing genocide. “Israel has engineered a starvation operation by destroying Palestinian food systems in Gaza and the West Bank. » However, national food sovereignty is intrinsic to the right to self-determination. “Our relationship with our land is not just symbolic but symbiotic. It is not just about what we get from it, but what we give to it. We are the natives of this land, we are its guardians” recalled Yasmeen. She considers that a return to the colonialist status quo is not possible and that we must work together to dismantle it to create a fair system for all.

For more information, see CETIM’s article “CETIM’s article “Palestine: no food sovereignty without national sovereignty”.


Micherline Islanda Aduel, representing Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen, an LVC member in Haiti, was due to join the peasants’ delegation in Geneva but was unable to leave the island because of the state of emergency declared following the violent criminal gangs’ takeover of the country’s social and institutional fabric. She therefore also spoke by video message. She denounced the current situation: “Local production is undermined by oligarchs who import North American products and protect transnational companies. Local gangs and collaborators have created chaos, the Haitian people live in a state of insecurity, targeted political assassinations, assumed government banditry and planned kidnapping. It is urgent to end the support that the United States, Canada and France offer to criminal governments that are not supported by the people. » The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Haiti are undermined by the Core-Group, that is to say the intergovernmental group created by the United Nations Security Council in 2004 including in particular the United States, Canada, England, Germany and France. Supported by the so-called “Core Group”, the current provisional government, led by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Henry, de facto governs Haiti against the will of its people.

In view of the above, combating the food crisis and reviving agricultural production by implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas is a priority for Haiti’s farmers.

For more information on the situation on the island, see the report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by CETIM and Haitian peasant organisations.


Alberto Silva, representative of UNITERRE, Swiss member of LVC, denounced the role of his country in imperialist and neocolonial mechanisms and structures although unlike France, Switzerland does not have a colonial past. “Geneva is a real hub for trading in raw materials. Everything is negotiated here, speculation is important and this has an impact on prices in Switzerland and elsewhere in the world. » The method is as follows: buy at the lowest price, store it and wait for prices to rise in order to sell at a high price, as high as possible even. In this way, many people are making profits from the war in Ukraine and the genocide in Palestine. Speculation takes place at the expense of vulnerable populations and causes agricultural markets to malfunction. Banks and transnational corporations are increasingly orienting themselves towards food production and are therefore monopolizing arable land in the countries of the South. This creates additional pressure on local populations practicing subsistence farming and increases dependence on imported foreign food. Switzerland therefore actively participates in neo-colonialism, in the oppression of the countries of the Global South via its banks, its companies, its traders… The current economic system of generalized competition of peasants in the world contributes to the disappearance of the peasantry at the local level and generates catastrophic social crises. The WTO Agreements contribute to this generalized deregulation. In the face of all this, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas is an extremely important instrument. “The development of our food sovereignty must not be to the detriment of that of other countries” concluded Alberto.


Pierre Maison representing La Confédération Paysanne, member of LVC in France, declared that French imperialism, France-Africa still exist. “France denounces coups d’état at the same time as it supports sham democracies and even authoritarian regimes. The objective is to keep control of the wealth of these countries ». African food systems are being undermined by Europe. A glaring example is that of powdered milk sold in Africa: “It is, in reality, a skimmed milk powder to which palm oil has been added because it is cheaper. We posed the question to the European Commission and demonstrated against speculation and the dumping of this stored milk. Our surpluses are destroying their agriculture,” he said.

Likewise, competition between different kinds of agriculture that do not have the same rules seriously harms African family farmers who are made to compete, in particular with their European counterparts who are subsidized by the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). “The global market is based only on profit and enriches big companies which export without conditions and make so-called developing countries dependent. To protect themselves, these countries should have the freedom to impose customs duties. However, this is no longer the case with free trade agreements. In Europe we hear the proponents of productivism declare that Europe must feed the world. But why? And who? In addition, the seed industry is controlled by a few transnational companies which impose sterile seeds and GMOs in African countries to make them dependent because these seeds work with pesticides and fertilizers that must be repurchased every year. This whole system is imposed by force while African peasant seeds are perfectly adapted to their territory. In Europe, there are practically no more peasant seeds. And yet, it is these seeds that can adapt to territories and global warming. Another scourge is that of the carbon credit system: “Companies from Northern countries buy up arable land in Africa with the complicity of States, expel farmers to plant forests so that we can continue to pollute in Europe and so that companies can claim to be neutral, which is completely false. » concluded Pierre.

These testimonies were followed by a rich discussion with the audience, then a buffet of local farmers’ products.

Categories Campaigns Conferences Rights of peasants
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