The smallholder farmers of Colombia are on strike! For more than two weeks they have blocked major roads in the country and organized peaceful protest. They are coming to the streets with their casseroles to call for action regarding the demands of the small holder farmers:
1. the production of local producers instead of imports from overseas with the FTA
2. the demilitarization of the countryside
3. the respect for their territory
The government first publicly neglected that there even is a strike and used military force to “calm down” the situation in the rural areas – which lead to even more solidarity among wide parts of the populations: the truck drivers, the nurses and the students joined the protest. They wanted social justice and blocked major roads in the country and marched into to the towns like here to Cali, to give face to their cause… and get thousands of students and young people to march with them.
After more than 20 days of protest, also accounting for more than 660 human right violations, 12 deaths among the farmers and many injured (according to: article from “Semana”), but finally it seems that a diplomatic solution is possible and the government will ease the situation of the smallholder farmers regarding the outcome of the negotiations.
Colombia is facing a rough future if economic changes in the rural areas are not met with a certain foresight. A Country as rich in biodiversity, fertile soil and people experienced to work it could possibly become a provider of many agriculture products in the world market, this opportunity rises and falls with many factors. First of course it is a question of efficiency and production cost, but also the human factor. The people themselves who work in the fields and treat the crop with their hands, it´s them demanding more rights and more participation. They want to evolve, to grow, to create – but they need help and especially the help of their own government, who could be interested in a strong agricultural sector, which also secures the local food production. Instead economic policy making is leading towards an opening to the Free Market and thus the imports of highly industrialized and subsidized food imports. At times when consumers in the US and EU are turning back to local produced organic food, it seems just a right decision of the people in Colombia to back their smallholder farmers, who in the past decades of civil war have suffered de-placement, condemnation and oppression by various armed groups. The road they are taking is the one of self-organization, successful as it seems, speaking with one voice for the many. The same road can lead to more local organization production-wise, meaning to create democratic and economic cooperations to engage in local-led growth. My most favorite example is the Kuapa Kokoo farmer’s cooperative, who was established in Ghana in 1993 and was created for the social, economic and political well-being of their community members. Now the cooperative not only consist of cocoa farming but also co-owns a successful chocolate brand in the UK.