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View from the Goodnoe Hills near the Columbia River Gorge, Washington. A small settlement with a school once existed below the abandoned farm house. Photo: gary via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

An abandoned homestead in the Goodnoe Hills near the Columbia River Gorge, Washington. A small settlement with a school once existed below the farm house. Photo: gary via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

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Agroecology and the people's struggle for land and freedom

Blain Snipstal

23rd April 2015

Everyone in this society is caught up in the battle between two models of agriculture, writes Blain Snipsta - industrial agribusiness for profit, control and domination; and small-scale agroecological farming for good food, health, people and planet.

What will be the future of our land? Will it be occupied by the industrial model of agribusiness - profit and exploitation? Or will it be for small-scale agroecology - feeding people and for collective and social forms of ownership and organization?

You can develop resources without destroying the planet and the people, and with agroecology, we prove it.

It is the superior model. It is not adequately supported or fueled, but there is enough research out there to show that this model is superior.

It is also historically determined. The industrial model is only 80 years old. GMOs are only 18 years old. Agroecology is and has been feeding the world forever.

I'm speaking from the position of the marginalized - that is, the position where food sovereignty and agroecology come from. So, when you are talking about agroecology or food sovereignty within the context of communities of color in the US, we have to start from a place of history and dig into the classist and racist systems that have (and continue) to oppress and marginalize us.

Agroecology is a new codification of our historical struggle given the current onslaught of industrial agriculture on people and the planet. Given this, we have to recognize that agroecology is part of our history and heritage as people.

It's about so much more than just farming!

The fact that agroecology is so dependent on the local context creates the space for communities to define their own needs and determine their own agenda. Agroecology is a process for social and ecological transformation. It is a methodology for advancing the peasant struggle, from within a movement framework.

So it's not just about increasing organic matter in the soil. It is also a social and political project and methodology enacted at the base in rural communities for, amongst other things, building infrastructure and power.

Agroecology is also an organizing process. Some of the tools used by the 'Campesino a Campesino' movement are used for expansion and production of knowledge among the peasantry - farmers are sharing technologies, but they are also sharing organizing processes, which are fundamental to spreading technical knowledge.

It is one thing to be trained in a practice, but how do you spread that practice and spread that knowledge? How is knowledge produced and communicated?

Passing knowledge down through the generations

Another important feature within the context of the US is the fact that there are so few small-scale farmers and peasants who have continuously farmed, from generation to generation.

In the US, industrial agriculture has interrupted the transfer of peasant knowledge and for people of color there has been a disruption with regards to our connection to the land.

At its core, agroecology is the accumulation of ancestral and cultural peasant knowledge. The knowledge that most families had from, say, 1950 or earlier is disappearing and in some cases, gone. Knowledge that used to be passed down from generation to generation just doesn't exist, as it once did.

We need to think and talk about how we will transfer this knowledge to the next generation and how this knowledge will continue to evolve in perpetuity - this is the conversation around agroecology and youth - how will agroecology evolve, to be in harmony with nature and people?

As young people in urban and rural areas, we have to ask ourselves: "Are we going to succumb to the American discourse of individualism, isolationism and self-preservation, or are we going to choose more collective and cooperative forms of community?"

It's about harnessing initiative and creativity to solve problems, and that is particularly a challenge for youth who are resettling in the countryside, because there will always be challenges to accessing land, credit, capital and seeds.

A moment of opportunity!

We are facing a profound political moment and opportunity in the transformation of the agrarian dynamics in this society. We have 400 million acres of land up for transition in the next 20 years. What will be the future of that land?

Will it be occupied by the industrial model of agribusiness - profit and exploitation - or will it be for small-scale agroecology - feeding people and for collective and social forms of ownership and organization?

Agroecology is ultimately a people's struggle. As a peasant farmer connected to the global movement, I want to show people in the United States that agroecology is their struggle and that their struggle is a class struggle.



Blain Snipstal is a farmer in Maryland, USA and a member of Southeastern African American Farmers' Organic Network (SAAFON). Blain talks about how important agroecology is to solve the world's multiple crises, how it is more than just a way to grow food, but is actually a way to organize and a way to live and build movements. He also talks about the special role that youth have, as the new generation responsible for ensuring agroecology is not forgotten as agribusiness dominates the planet.

This article originally appeared in WhyHunger's Agroecology: Putting Food Sovereignty Into Action publication. To learn more and read different agroecology perspectives from other grassroots leaders download it for free today. Available in English and Spanish.



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