197A Smuts RoadProspect, Waterfalls
Prospect, Waterfalls
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights


Via Campesina

July 17, 2022 Nina Sartor
November 11, 2018 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
November 17, 2017 PRODEP
May 26, 2016 PRODEP
197A Smuts RoadProspect, Waterfalls
Prospect, Waterfalls
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights

Mission and Purpose

Peasants, small and medium rural producers, countryside workers, people without land, indigenous and afro-descendantsi of 73 countries gather in Via Campesina, an international movement created to focus on global policies relating to agriculture - that affect small producers and tend to be developed without effective consultation to these populations. Currently, the 164 organizations that are part of the Via Campesina project themselves in discussions about global food production and nourishment of populations with critical discourse to multinational companies and agribusiness. They defend agrarian reforms in several countries, they propose that peasants and small farmers prioritize the agroecological agriculture, rejecting the use of agrochemicals and genetically modified seeds. For the Via Campesina, its farmers are guardians of diversity of seeds on the planet.

Since 1996, La Via Campesina defends the concept of food sovereignty in opposition to food security, employed by governments and international organizations. Ever since, the idea of food sovereignty has spread over social movements around the globe. It has even been included in the reformed constitutions of countries such as Nepal and Bolivia.

Currently (2015), this transnational organization is organized in nine regions: Africa 1 (countries in the South of the continent), Africa 2 (North West African), North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean, Europe, South Asia, Southwest and East Asiaiv. Each region holds periodical assemblies where regional representatives are chosen. Together, those regional representatives form the International Coordinating Commission. Activists from all nine regions meet every four years in the global assemblies to define political priorities and strategies. Prior to the general assemblies, there are woman’s assemblies (since 2000) and youth assemblies (since 2004)..

Keep Meeting groups of origins, socioeconomic profiles and different policy orientations is one of the major challenges to Via Campesina. The meetings of its members - at national, regional and global levels, at meetings in protest and in international meetings of which participate - are critical moments to advance in the understanding of the different realities and build unity, what is needed to reach agreements on priorities and strategies for common actionv. By aggregating actors and actresses are so diverse, Via Campesina has reformulated the concept of peasantry and contributing to its international projection as a category of political action. By aggregating actors and actresses are so diverse, Via Campesina has reformulated the concept of peasantry and contributing to its international projection as a category of political action.

Origins and Development

Rural movements build international coalitions since the end of the 19th century, connected either to communist internationalism, pacifism or by feminism. In the Americas and Europe, since the 1960s there were strong links through networks of solidarity and resistance to dictatorships of the period, with exchanges between rural activists.

Transnationals actions intensified since the mid 1980s, when supranational institutions have gained strength and agriculture was included in discussions about agreements of free trade. In the early 1990s, one of the major themes was the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which defines tariffs, subsides and rules for foreign trade). In South America, campaigns - such as marked the 500 years of indigenous, black and peasant resistance - were also reasons for joint 

Via Campesina was born in 1993, questioning the redefinitions of agricultural policies and national legislation that were in progress, promoted by national governments and international institutions.vii

Three years after its foundation, the Via Campesina was already a relevant political actor in the World Food Summit (CMA) promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1996. Shortly after, the activists of caps, t-shirts and green flags of Via Campesina gave volume to the marches against neoliberal globalization, performed in parallel with meetings of governments in the cities of Geneva (1998), Seattle (1999), Cancun (2003) e Hong Kong (2005), among others. Since the beginning of the 2000s, Via Campesina and its member organizations were part of the Social Forums In The World (FSM).viii 

One of its main slogans, "Globalize the struggle, globalize hope", is directly connected to the 'another world is possible' principles of the World Social Forum. Among its victories include the return of the debate on agrarian reform in forums such as the FAO conference in 1995 and the global agenda (p.207), the damage in the rounds of Uruguay and the Millennium on trade, restrictions on trade in genetically modified seeds in some countries.ix

In the 21st century, the speech and the actions of Via Campesina turned to criticism of global crises - food, energy, ethical, social, economic and financial, climate, - placing them as a product of the capitalism system and neoliberalism. Gained strength also debates about the climate. For both, the food sovereignty continues to be considered as part of the possible solutions and necessary for the various crises.

Via Campesina claims and actualizes the left internationalist tradition, in opposition to the expansion of the capitalist economy for agriculture. For some researchers, the Via builds an "alternative project of society which raises questions about the model of production, in particular in rural areas”.x

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

Resources for Via Campesina come from its affiliated organizations, from international cooperation projects and from individual supporters.  

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Among the actions of Via Campesina, there are protests, marches, direct actions, but also the participation and incidence in forums and international institutions, activities to promote solidarity and international cooperation. Sometimes such strategies are used together; Other times, are employed separately.

The activities of solidarity and cooperation include international projects and exchanges among farmers about forms of agricultural work and political organization. It has also created a network of solidarity capable of giving answers to violent acts by means of the international projection of debates and problems, and to give visibility to local struggles that develop around the world, connecting them into a global movement.

The alternation between protest actions and participation in discussions - in meetings, councils, conferences - has already been the subject of some research on the Via Campesina. Participation, for the group, there is not a term related only to the dialog and changes in the ways of acting of international organizations, but also to attempts to co-opt, of the manufacture of consensus and the legitimacy of the actors.

Besides, when LVC does not identify real chances to interfere on debates, they prefer to express their ideas outside the meetings instead of sitting in negotiation tables that could endorse actors whose legitimacy LVC questions.
This is what happens with the discussions of the World Trade Organization. Because it does not recognize the legitimacy of the OMC to address the issue, it chooses to stay out of the negotiations.xi More than that, the Via Campesina argues that the subject of agriculture is withdrawn from discussions of this organization, and makes criticism of the lack of transparency and rendering of accounts, considering their practices, including, antidemocratic.xii In general, international financial institutions are "considered [by Via Campesina] key elements of neoliberalism and the destruction of peasant agriculture". xiii

In relation to other international organizations linked to the UN system, however, the stance may be different, since the group consider possible advance negotiations internally - even in these cases, the group does not dispense from criticism and even actions of mobilization, giving strength to criticism as one who, in the face of the World Summit about Food, in 1996, said that it would not be possible to solve world hunger without the participation of those who cultivate the land. xiv Almost ten years after, in 2004, LVC denounced FAO's reports that supported genetically modified and terminator seeds as alternatives for the needs of the rural poor. By that time, FAO was called “guardian of the capitalism”. xv

In the UN Human Rights Council, Via Campesina has discussed the proposal for a "Declaration of the rights of peasants and other people working in the rural environment" and an "International Convention of the Rights Farmers", which may deal with issues such as the right to land, the identity and culture and, unlike other international instruments already conquered, have binding for States that sign it. xvi

Major Projects and Events 

The concept of food sovereignty is part of the discourse of Via Campesina since their second meeting, held in Tlaxcala, Mexico (1996). With the passing of the years, the concept gained space between the movements connected to Via nd beyond them. In the Declaration of the Assembly of Jakarta, Indonesia, 2013, Food Sovereignty was defined as:

“a key part of the fight for social justice bringing together many sectors from the countryside and the city. Food sovereignty is the fundamental right of all peoples, nations and states to control food and agricultural systems and policies, ensuring every one has adequate, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. This requires the right to define and control our methods of production, transformation, distribution both at the local and international levels.”

Some of the main themes discussed by La Via Campesina - and summarised in the letters of their six meetings, between 1993 and 2013, are:

- the defense of the importance of peasant agriculture to eliminate poverty, hunger, unemployment and marginalization, whose development can even help to "cool the planet", contributing to the fight against climate crisis (SP). The farmers feed humanity and take care of nature.

- critique of capitalism, to neoliberalism, into aggressive speculative capital and finance in agriculture, configuring a industrial agriculture that takes away the peasants from the land. For the group, speculative capital should not be able to focus on the production of food. Via Campesina rejects the Green Economy and transnational corporations that, in its understanding, acting in collusion with national governments and international institutions.

- Protection of seed and concern with the appropriation of their genetic resources by multinational companies.

- the women of Via Campesina are organized since the first years of the group and held their first meeting in Bangalore, in the year 2000. At the 2008 assembly, they proposed gender parity as a goal for the movement. The 3rd Assembly of Women in 2013 emphasized the need to overcome violence against women in its various forms: physical, economic, social, sexist, power and cultural differences. They affirm that there is "an intimate relationship between capitalism, patriarchy, sexism and neoliberalism". Rural communities and organizations are not free from these problems, which have been brought to the movement and need to be overcome. The Declaration of Jakarta (2013 Assembly) argues "a world without violence and discrimination against women."

- The youth of Via Campesina held their 1st World Assembly in 2004. The movement has been discussing the incorporation of peasant youth in their activities and alternatives for staying in youth in the countryside.

Many events mark the route of the Via Campesina. The group was gathered in his second assembly in Mexico when it received news of the murder of 23 Brazilian peasants, known as the Eldorado dos Carajás (Pará) massacre, on April 17, 1996. The date has passed, then, to be considered "International Day of Peasant struggles". Every September 10, the group carries out activities of the "International Day of protest to the World Trade Organization", recalling the day on which the Korean Lee Kyuong-Hae committed suicide (sacrificed, in terms of Via Campesina) with the phrase "WTO(OMC) kills peasants" during a protest in Cancun, Mexico. Other important moments are the realization of the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform and the implementation of the World Forum for Agrarian Reform in Valencia, Spain, in 2004. In 2007, Mali received the International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni, with intense participation of women.

The years from 2006 to 2008 were marked by activities of direct action questioning transnational corporations. In France, a hunger strike contributed to Monsanto's prohibition on planting transgenic maize, while in Brazil protests against transnational company Syngenta led to the tragical murder of an MST activist named Keno. Shortly after, the same company had to close an area used for experiments with genetically modified organisms.xvii  

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Want to contribute an analysis of this organization? Help us complete this section!


Newsletter -

Experiences in agroecology-

Breaking the silence! No to violence against women! - 

See Also 



{C}{C}{C}[3]{C}{C}{C} Sobre o tema, ver também Luis Hernández Navarro y Annette Aurélie Desmarais Crisis y soberanía alimentaria: Vía Campesina y el tiempo de una idea. Publicado el Jueves, 14 Mayo 2009 11:32


{C}{C}{C}[5]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais, Annette Aurélie. 2008. “The Power of Peasants: Reflections on the Meanings of La Vía Campesina.” Journal of Rural Studies 24(2): 138–49., p.144.

{C}{C}{C}[6]{C}{C}{C} Edelman, Marc. 2003. “Transnational Peasant and Farmer Movements and Networks.” In Civil Society Yearbook 2003, eds. Mary Kaldor, Helmut Anheier, and Marlies Glasius. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 185–220, p. 304. 

{C}{C}{C}[7]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais, Annette Aurélie. 2002. “The Vía Campesina: Consolidating an International Peasant and Farm Movement.” Journal of Peasant Studies 29(2): 91–124, p.91

{C}{C}{C}[8]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais, Annette Aurélie. 2013. A Via Campesina. São Paulo: Cultura Acadêmica; Expressão Popular, p.6. English edition: Desmarais, Annette Aurélie. 2007. La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of the Peasants. Halifax and Winnipeg, Canadá: Fernwood Publishing.

{C}{C}{C}[9]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais 2013, p.214.

{C}{C}{C}[10]{C}{C}{C} Vieira, Flávia Braga. 2012. “Lutas Camponesas Na Escala Internacional: Um Estudo Sobre a Via Campesina.” Nera 20 (15): 58–82.

{C}{C}{C}[11]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais, 2013, p.160

{C}{C}{C}[12]{C}{C}{C} Desmarais, 2013, p.22

{C}{C}{C}[13]{C}{C}{C} Vieira, Flavia Braga. 2008. “Dos Proletários Unidos à Globalização da Esperança: Um Estudo Sobre Articulações Internacionais de Trabalhadores.” Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

{C}{C}{C}[14]{C}{C}{C} Via Campesina. Declaração da Assembleia de Tlaxcala, México, 1996. 

{C}{C}{C}[15]{C}{C}{C} Via Campesina. Declaração da Assembleia de São Paulo/Itaici, Brasil, 2004.

{C}{C}{C}[16]{C}{C}{C} Http:// Ver também Edelman, M. 2012. “Linking the Rights of Peasants to the Right to Food in the United Nations.” Law, Culture and the Humanities 10(2): 196–211.

{C}{C}{C}[17]{C}{C}{C} Via Campesina. Declaração da Assembleia de Maputo, Moçambique, 2008.

Desmarais, Anette Aurélie. La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of the Peasants. Halifax and Winnipeg, Canadá: Fernwood Publishing.

Borras, Saturnino M., Marc Edelman, and Cristóbal Kay. 2008. “Transnational Agrarian Movements: Origins and Politics, Campaigns and Impact.” Journal of Agrarian Change 8(2-3): 169–204. 

External Links

Página da Via Campesina (em Inglês, Francês ou Espanhol): Página da CLOC (Espanhol):; 


These groups were listed by La Via Campesina in its Declaration of the Assembly of Maputo, in Mozambique, 2008. The term peasant is employed by the organization, in a general manner, to refer to all those groups.