Two of our members travelled to Norway to attend the European Coordination Via Campesina General Assembly in early March. Here is a report of the event.
We met beside a frozen river, surrounded by snowy hills and forests full (supposedly) of Moose. Indeed the meal on the first night was minced moose stew which was a delight or a shock depending on your level of vegetarianism. Farmers in Norway seem to do a lot of hunting, as their animals are indoors for much of the year due to the weather.. and its not a big vegetable growing country!
The 2 day meeting was attended by representatives from Norway down to Spain and from Portugal east to Bulgaria, counting for most of the 18 member organisations. The general aim of day 1 was to decide on issues and activities for the coming year. Day 2 was about internal communication and efficiency of ECVC.
The big news for LWA is that we got accepted as the newest members of ECVC, and everyone seemed pleased to have us. It was unanimous! . After that we got our scrap of paper with LWA written on it, so we could vote. And we happily voted for 3 members of the committee to be re-elected. A fair amount of time was spent discussing the loss of funding that ECVC has experienced over the last year and the impact this has on capacity due to the much reduced staff levels in the office in Brussels. It is clear that just keeping communication up to date, given the huge amount of issues for agriculture and farmers in Europe, plus the need for continual translation in a very multi cultural organisation, is a big task just in itself.. let alone actual campaigning work.
There was debate on how to better reach out to Eastern Europe , and working groups met on access to land, womens issues, migrant worker rights and so on. The privatisation of seed resources and the threat posed by the illusive and feared new trade deal between Europe and USA called TTIP were recurring themes…
There was not just the official meeting. We also had a day long workshop on Agroecology and some visiting of Norwegian farms. In this we were ably hosted by NBS, the small farmers union there. It was fascinating to see the entirely different context they are working in… Not only is their land use different, with snow on the ground for many farmers for most of the year, but the political climate is a little surprising coming from the UK. The NSB get to negotiate with the government each year on the deal farmers will get, but only after theyve reached a compromise position with the big farmers union, on what theyre asking for. Together they take this position to the government. What they currently get can be indicated by the fact that a small farm of 10 acres, plus some mountain pasture, making cheese from 5 cows, got 20,000 Euros subsidy last year. ! But Norway is a rich country, from all that oil.
The Agroecology dayschool reached an agreed declaration on how ECVC understands it, with an emphasis on it being more about strengthening autonomy than a catalogue of techniques. Although it was possibly more memorable for the president of NBS offering her earrings for us to smell, as they were made of reindeer excretement!
More seriously, it is an honour for LWA to join Via Campesina, and join the Scottish Crofters as the UK members. For twenty years Via Campesina have pioneered a globalisation from below that wants to represent and protect small farmers whilst understanding the need to deal with the intricacies of international trade policy and bureaucratic mazes such as the CAP at a high level. That is not an easy task and one they deserve every help with. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration.