Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
“We are La Via Campesina,” a short 15-minute video about the international peasants organization, offers a range of insights from the movement’s representatives as they speak about their struggles for food sovereignty and for social, economic, and climate justice.
A movement of small farmers around the world is probably far from the everyday concerns of Western Buddhists, whose interests are usually focused on meditation, Buddhist doctrine, and the application of mindfulness to their daily lives. But if the Buddhist principle that all things are connected is indeed correct, then our own fate and the destiny of the world may be intimately bound up with the fate of peasants working the land in Subsaharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. The Buddha says that all beings subsist by nutriment, and for a billion people, the system of food production we adopt determines whether they will eat or go hungry. Even more critical, our choice may determine whether we manage to put a lid on climate change or push the earth’s biosphere beyond its viable limits.
The weight of the world, it might be said, rests upon agriculture, and here is where we face the need to decide our future, to choose between industrial models of food production and humbler, more environmentally benign approaches. The industrial model of agriculture was supposed to solve the problem of global hunger, yet despite an impressive beginning, its results have been a mixed bag. While it has led to increased productivity, over the long term it has had harmful consequences for both people and the planet. For the planet, it has been a prolific source of carbon emissions; some estimates are that it contributes up to 32% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. For small-scale farmers and peasants toiling on their small plots of land, it has brought waves of landgrabs, massive debts, and the uprooting of their traditional cultures.
But the peasants are fighting back, and the umbrella under which they have gathered is the international movement called La Via Campesina. La Via Campesina is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural alliance, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. It comprises about 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, representing about 200 million farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.