HOME‎ > ‎

Via Campesina News

Participating in the END-WTO Week of Action Bali Dec 1-6 2013

posted Feb 27, 2014, 5:44 PM by Scott John

Food Connect Farmer Network member and Granite Belt mixed farmer Samantha Palmer and Reciprocity's Scott John recently attended the END-WTO Week of Action in Bali (Dec 1-6) as a part of the La Via Campesina Delegation. The week of action was organised by the Social Movements for an Alternative Asia in a bid to bring an end to the destructive actions of the World Trade Organisation.

Basque Farmer Malu and Mikel

posted Feb 27, 2014, 5:43 PM by Scott John

 Basque farmers Malu and Mikel have established an amazing agroecological project in the small community of Zeanuri in the province of Biskaia. 
    Over the last 8 years Malu has brought Zeanuri back from the edge by creating Sagarna, a community cooperative that includes a restaurant, bakery, and butchery. Sagarna is run by community members and all the produce for Sagarna is provided by an associated local farmers' group
    Malu sees this as just the beginning of a sustainable community project run and fully financed by community members. Check out these pics and video to follow!

New Interns Join Reciprocity!

posted Jan 13, 2014, 6:24 PM by Romy Listo

Reciprocity is excited to welcome two new interns for 2014, David Skitmore and Romy Listo!

David is a third year Creative Arts student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. David is particularly interested in developing his understandings of small-scale farming (the politics and practice), and building relationships with small-scale farmers across the world.

Romy is a recent graduate from the University of Queensland, having just completed her undergraduate thesis on La Via Campesina. Romy is hoping to develop her skills in communications, relationship and partnership building and her knowledge of small-scale farming, while supporting the work of La Via Campesina and the campaign for food sovereignty.

We're looking forward to David and Romy working with us on our projects this year and know that they are going to be a great asset to our work!

Insights and Images from Basque Farming Cooperative Biskaigana

posted Dec 10, 2013, 7:43 PM by Scott John   [ updated Dec 10, 2013, 7:45 PM ]

This small-scale, mixed-farming cooperative in the Basque province of Biskaia is an incredible example of food sovereignty understanding, application and practice. Under the guidance of 25 year cooperative veterans Xabier and John, Biskaigana is a wonderfully successful demonstration of how famers from all ages and backgrounds can work in close partnership to build a genuinely reciprocal farming community. Check out this great interview with the team discussing why they formed a cooperative and how it functions on a day-to-day basis.


Insights and images from Basque Agroecological farmers Mikel & Marie Jo

posted Oct 16, 2013, 2:41 PM by Scott John

Basque Agroecological Farmers Mikel & Marie Jo have used traditional basque farming methods, growing berries for jams, deintensification and farmer to farmer networking as a means of changing a isolated, and struggling dairy farm into an integrated, diverse and sustainable farming life. 

Insights and Images from Basque Organic Dairy Farmers Helen and Cézar

posted Oct 1, 2013, 1:07 AM by Scott John

Basque Farmers, César, Helen and family of Vista Alegre Baserria an amazingly innovative small scale, dairy farm where sustainability, on-farm value adding, partnerships, farmer networks and customer education are their core survival tools in a hostile European Union policy environment 

Insights and images from Basque Farmer and LVC Legend Paul Nicholson

posted Sep 15, 2013, 6:39 AM by Dianne James   [ updated Sep 24, 2013, 11:02 AM by Scott John ]

La Via Campesina, Jakarta 2013: Reflections by Aussie Farmer Samantha Palmer

posted Aug 29, 2013, 7:15 AM by Scott John

Samantha Palmer is a small scale family farmer who, with her husband, Ray and two children run Symara Farm. All the produce grown on the farm is sold directly to local families through a ‘box scheme’ and a farmers market. Samantha was recently part of an Australian farmer delegation at the 6th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in June 2013

It was one of those moments where you are so filled with emotion you get goose bumps all over your body, your heart fills with pride and hope and what you are hearing resonates with all that you believe. ‘Yes!’ you think, that’s it, that is what we need to do!

This happened to me as I was listening to the culmination of three days work by family farmers across the globe in outlining who they were, what they stood for, what they would fight against and what they wanted to achieve over the next four years.

Not exactly a normal reaction to feel when you hear or read an organisation’s strategic plan - but this is the kind of raw emotion that being part of a La Via Campesina gathering can bring out in you.

Myself and four other Aussie Farmers were given the opportunity to attend the 6th International Conference of La Via Campesina in Jakarta, Indonesia in June 2013.

We joined 600 other family farmers from 88 different countries to share issues and struggles, celebrate successes and to set the strategic direction for the organisation for the next four years.

What is ‘La Via Campesina’?

La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.

La Via Campesina comprises about 150 local and national organizations in 80 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.

La Via Campesina is widely considered to be the world’s most important and perhaps largest social movement.

What it meant to me

This was the first time that Australia had ever been invited to attend a La Via Campesina International Conference.

To have the opportunity to connect with so many other family farmers from so many other countries was exhilarating.

Like most other farmers, I love connecting with fellow farmers and sharing ideas and different ways to farm. On our own farm, any major changes we have made have always been a result of visiting other farmers and seeing how they do things. You can imagine the thrill of possibly talking to 600 other farmers over 10 days - kind of like speed dating except your collecting farming ideas, not phone numbers.

It was eye opening and heart wrenching to hear the stories of struggles, violence and oppression that some of these farmers faced daily. Loss of land to transnational corporations, death for standing up for your rights, migration away from rural areas, loss of culturally significant seeds and suicides.

Yet La Via Campesina is not about glorifying the issues and struggles of farmers. It was refreshing to hear clearly articulated solutions that are about building hope for the future through alternatives. They advocate that Food Sovereignty*, Agroecology** and true Agrarian Reform are the solutions to so many of the issues facing family farmers today.

I also felt hope as I heard about the successes. Like the Korean woman who has successfully fought off the government twice from taking her land for development and the Taiwanese girl who after going to university wanted to become a farmer, her farming family would not accept this, so she found a farmer who would teach her and she is now happily farming in secret.

It was humbling to be surrounded by farmers with such passion, vision and hope. You could feel the strength that they had and hear the conviction with which they talked about fighting for their fundamental right to farm, despite any language barriers there may have been.

I felt a kinship and connection with these farmers. We were all family farmers and we were more alike then we were different. We are all facing similar problems and united we have the power to be the solution.

As farmers it is easy to feel completely isolated and alone with our problems, especially in Australia with the tyranny of distance, so it was heartening to know that there are millions of other family farmers out there and we are all in it together.

It also cemented more firmly in my mind that family farming IS the way of the future and IS what is needed to solve many of the current environmental, social and economic crisis that we as a civilization are facing. Family farmers can and are making a difference.

What benefits could there be to other Australian farmers

Agriculture in Australia is facing numerous crisis. Land and resource grabbing, aging farmers, economic viability and climate change to name a few.

If we are to survive, Australian family farmers can no longer remain isolated from the knowledge, experience and global solidarity that comes from meaningful engagement with the global family farming community that is La Via Campesina.

If we don’t fight together we will loose together. There is strength in numbers and together we can creatively and collectively find solutions.

What next?

From this interaction with La Via Campesina there is support from those who went to the conference, other family farmers who know of La Via Campesina’s work and the organizers and supporters that got us to the conference, to now start working on what a family farming organisation might look like for Australia.

To have an organisation that enables family farmers to connect, share ideas, solve problems together and to support the concepts of Food Sovereignty and Agroecology, despite the tyranny of distance would be of such great benefit to so many family farmers.

To then have that organisation tap into the knowledge, experience and strength of La Via Campesina and other family farming organisations across the globe would take it to new levels and add to the power of La Via Campesinas’ international campaigns.

So why isn’t La Via Campesina more widely known in Australia?

At present, there is no farming organisation in Australia that is affiliated with La Via Campesina. La Via Campesina has very strong policies not compatible with our mainstream farming organisations such as being against Free Trade, asserting that unrestricted trade is bad for farmers.

Also, being very strict about where funding comes from (no corporate sponsorship here!) the whole organisation runs on less then a shoestring, leaving advertising out of the budget.

A unique fundraising idea

Funding for us to get to Jakarta came through crowdfunding, which is a new and exciting way to access funding beyond ‘official’ channels. You pitch your project, advertise it using social media and connect directly to switched-on consumers, fans, peers & like minded strangers who pledge money to support your project. We were able to raise $12,000 in 21days using the ‘Pozible’ crowdfunding platform (a great big THANK YOU to all those that did pledge money to make this trip happen)

The delegation

There were five Aussie farmers, being: Garry Fetherston, Featherview Farm, Mullumbimby, NSW; Chris & Lee-Anne Geri, Rawganix Farm, Tansey, Qld; Michael Croft, Mountain Creek Farm, ACT and myself, Samantha Palmer, Symara Farm, The Summit Qld.

There was also two supporters being: Luke Sbeghen, Food Connect, connecting family farmers with consumers and Dianne James, Reciprocity, supporting La Via Campesina and its relationship with Australian Family Farmers.

The organizers and supporters

Like a lot of other female farmers I am busy with with raising kids, helping run the business, trying to keep the books up to date and the house in order. Opportunities like this don’t happen without a lot of organization in the background. It is only because of the hard work of Reciprocity and Food Connect that we were able to get away from our farms and have this amazing experience.

Food Connect has played a foundational role in the evolution of multiple alternative food systems, structures, policies and practices in Australia and plays a pivotal role in sharing La Via Campesina’s Food Sovereignty campaign throughout Australia.

Reciprocity has been a key contributor to the initiation and maintenance of long-term relationships among members of La Via Campesina and Australian family farmers.


*"Food sovereignty", a term coined by members of La Via Campesina in 1996, asserts the right of people to define their own food systems. Advocates of food sovereignty put the individuals who produce, distribute and consume food at the center of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system.

**“Agroecology” seeks to create a truly sustainable food system, environmentally, economically, socially, politically and culturally.

La Via Campesina, Jakarta 2013: Reflections by Aussie Farmers Cris and Lee-Anne Geri

posted Jul 22, 2013, 5:51 PM by Scott John

We were honoured to be present at the La Via Campesina Conference in Jakarta recently and met numerous interesting and dedicated family farmers who are endeavouring to make a difference nationally and globally by continuing or adopting agroecological techniques largely based on peasant agriculture. Some who had been educated in cities chose to return to the land hoping to create a healthy future for their families, their countries and the environment. They shared their challenges, victories, failures and goals. Most we met were not interested in froth and bubble and peripheral diversionary issues. They wanted action on issues that hindered achievement of truly sustainable family farming: ending free trade agreements, hobbling transnational corporations and stopping bureaucratic interference.

Man! We thought….this is us. Liberty for the little people!

When we realised that how we operated our farm was agro-ecological we were even more excited.

Sadly, in our opinion, the voice of the farmer was not heard. It seemed that the decisions were already made:

·      Feminism was more important. When the leading African, a well tanned articulate bilingual woman, proposed that the “F” statement should be limited to “No discrimination based on gender”, apparently the scribes were asleep.

·      Free trade was complained about by all and sundry. Fair trade not free trade was the adopted slogan…but where was the plan to end the rot? Some African farmers rightly murmured that the ordeal was a talkfest. Pity the non-farmers that appeared in control did not seek out the counsel of Africans.

·      Transnational corporate cannibalism was very well understood and articulated. When we suggested that the Dual Taxation Agreements that empower the TNCs were the problem… and embarrassment of governments by public disclosure and a demand for at least equal taxation of those entities on that point might be of value, again there appeared a communication problem between scribes and steerage.


It also became apparent that the LVC is happily travelling down the “science is settled”, CO2 causes adverse climate change road. Again, a few intelligent peasants were interested to hear of the volumes of contrary evidence. The Delphi principle of propaganda sans discussion was perfectly applied by steerage in this instance. Naturally those that think that they will profit from the transfer of wealth from Australia to polluting areas will not look a carbon gift horse in the mouth.


Our Conclusion: Whilst peasants believe that governments will solve their problems they will forever remain in their “struggle”. LVC was initiated by farmers and, in our opinion, has to again separate itself from corporate (government, UN, NGO, New World Order) interference and input.

Farmers can survive without government, but government cannot survive without farmers!


There were magnificent unheard people at the Jakarta conference and we hope that they will be heard when Africa holds the LVC banner high in 2017. 

The Future of Farming is NOW! Get Aussie Farmers to Jakarta on time!

posted May 2, 2013, 10:21 PM by Dianne James

Media Release 


Wednesday, 8th May 6pm at The Burrow, West End 

For the first time ever Australian family farmers have been invited to attend the
6th International Conference of La Via Campesina in June. It's a once in a generation opportunity for our farmers to connect with 58 other countries and become part of the global family farming movement. Food Connect and Reciprocity have joined together in an Australian crowdfunding frst to get 4 family farmers and 2 supporters to the June conference in Jakarta. We're already halfway there but we still need your help! 

One of the delegates Garry Fetherston, a banana
farmer from Mullumbimby, says ‘This conference provides an incredible opportunity for our Australian voices and views to connect with these La Via Campesina farmers to work to build our contribution 
to the struggle in ending the globalisation of hunger and making a better world possible’. 

La Via Campesina is the global family farming movement. Spread over 70 countries
and made up of more than 170 organisations they make up over 200 million small and medium scale food producers. Collectively, they are fighting to put the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume at the heart of food policy in order to protect them from the demands and interests of corporations. 

The crowdfunding event will be held at The Burrow, West End on Wednesday 8th
May from 6pm. You can grab a meal for $20 or just head down and enjoy a beer or cider and be part of the fun. Garry and of some of the other delegates will be attending giving guests the opportunity to meet some very local growers. Hope to see you there! 


Dianne James, Reciprocity
0413 339 821 

Robert Pekin, Food Connect 
0404 777 491 

1-10 of 55