Slow Food Heroes: #SOScampesinado – Slow Food International

The crisis triggered by COVID-19 has led to the strengthening of traditional and hegemonic powers and ways of doing things, but a variety of spontaneous processes of self-organization, mutual support and articulation between social movements and citizens have also emerged to respond to a critical socioeconomic reality. In the case of agroecological movements, one of these responses was the #SOSCampesinado campaign, from which we shared reflections and lessons learned thanks to the words of Patricia Dopazo Gallego, journalist for Soberania Alimentaria.

Spain was one of the countries hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Their lockdown began on March 14, 2020 and was one of the strictest in Europe. In this context, the pandemic highlighted the urgency of recovering the importance of those activities that have become more essential than ever, despite their usual invisibility in a market-centered society.

The production, distribution and marketing of food was soon declared an essential activity, but which one responds to which model?

While in Spain the entire Horeca channel (hotels, restaurants and catering) and direct sales spaces (consumer groups, producer markets, milk vending machines, etc.), the visible face of the sector was a minister saying that there was no supply problem because the large distribution chains were still operating. What alternatives were offered to guarantee the operation of short marketing circuits and the survival of small production? None. This is the paradoxical and dichotomous reality of a discourse and measures that consider large-scale distribution – which plunders the peasantry – as the only means of access to food.

Faced with this scenario, many of us rebel against the need to defend what is really essential: the activities that guarantee the sustenance of lives beyond business.

So, we decided to denounce the situation to them and create awareness in the political sphere and also among citizens. The campaign forced politicians in some regions to look for solutions and a few weeks later street markets were reopened in some regions such as Barcelona and Euskadi.

A spontaneous action of an informal space

The #SOScampesinado initiative is born from an informal network of around 40 women from different parts of Spain who have been united for several years by the need to approach agroecology and food sovereignty from a feminist perspective. Among us are ranchers, pastoralists, communicators, trade unionists, agroecological activists, researchers and environmental activists, and when confinement arrived, we shared what we were like and how we supported ourselves, and a sense of urgency was activated in the group.

Based on the firm conviction that agroecology is essential to guarantee the right to adequate food and nutrition, we feel that the decisions of public institutions were not oriented towards guaranteeing these rights. We firmly believe that in these situations the processes of collective organization, resistance, mutual support and vindication are central.

From an agile exchange of experiences and strategies (through emails, calls and messages), we decided to organize ourselves and start a state mobilization fueled by the various territorial initiatives with which we were connected. Our demands were made public on March 30 in a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture signed by over 100 organizations. In it, we ask, among other things, for the reopening of local markets and the lifting of the ban on the use of self-consumption gardens, as well as economic and fiscal measures to mitigate the enormous economic impact that this crisis is having. on rural economies. We also emphasize the need for inter-administrative coordination (inter-ministerial, inter-regional and local) to avoid disturbances, dispersion and inefficiencies in the adoption of measures. In short, we ask public administrations to support and recognize the essential importance of local production and self-sufficiency areas as food providers for our communities.

In just a few days, thanks to the press and virtual, interpersonal and inter-organizational social networks, the letter was signed by over 600 organizations and, above all, managed to make known the reality of small-scale agri-food production and processing and its short marketing circuits. In addition, this action had its replicas and alliances with other campaigns in the territories, reflecting the potential and synergies of the struggles for peasant and social rights.

Another related action that went viral on digital social networks and supported by our campaign was #Yocomodelahuerta (something like “I eat from my garden”), created by people who have a vegetable garden for self-sufficiency and were affected by the restrictions because it was not allowed to go out to take care of this type of garden.

A format to use for free

The entire action, in a second moment, was adapted and replicated on a local or regional scale, led by different people (not just women). It was something of a Creative Commons action and we are happy that anyone can transform it and use it for free. In any case, it was able to indirectly motivate the dissemination of many more initiatives on a smaller scale (cities, regions), and some of them included direct actions with producers, such as this one in Catalonia: a directory map about each small agroecological producer, which was a great idea to promote them and increase direct contact with consumers.

What is a feminist process like?

A learning that we consider central to this campaign is in the process itself. With the urgency of this action in mind, we were able to adapt it to our availability, not the other way around. We saw this in the distribution and retransmission of tasks and in the different rhythms that the campaign had during its two months, because there were moments of enthusiasm and motivation; but, of course, also moments of fatigue and doubts. We incorporate different languages, balanced visions and blurred leadership, sharing resources, experiences and relationships in the collective construction. Adherence to the charter was based on solidary awareness and respect for territorial, cultural and identity differences. For all these reasons, we believe that it was a radically feminist process: horizontal, diverse and in dialogue, which recognizes the debates, theoretical work and political practice that have been built over many decades by the hand of peasant and feminist women and agroecological collectives. .

In fact, we who have been part of this network for years have been fighting for agroecology in our territories and, after this experience, we realize once again that it is the work of the territories that nourishes the content of initiatives and state mobilization when it becomes necessary and urgent. Our articulation, based on trust and mutual support, has been a meeting point where local mobilizations can be shared and reinforced without the need for a formal structure or a classic organizational model. Thus, faced with the eternal question of whether we need more complex or formal organizational structures, our experience has clearly shown that, if territories are well articulated with alliances and cooperation between them, there is no need for a structured state organization with dynamics that often end up being ineffective and exhausting.

The fight is in the streets

Another lesson worth mentioning is the enormous boost and visibility that virtual social networks can give to material struggles in territories. We are not experts in these tools; in fact, we have needed the help of organizational communication managers, collective technicians in charge of digital media and creators of visual resources such as infographics.

Virtual social networks cannot and should not replace our struggles, but they are fundamental complementary mobilizations in neighborhoods and villages, where we can see and touch each other, embrace struggle and hope. However, in this hyper-technological society and in the particular context in which we live, with our limited mobility, they constitute an indisputable space to generate and defend discourses, disseminate practices and articulate social pressures.

Feminist agroecology in practice

If we had to risk an evaluation of this whole process, we would say today that it did not have all the positive results we would have liked. At an institutional level, we were able to meet with the Ministry of Consumption, which listened to our messages and committed to transmitting them to other ministries, albeit with very limited results. Producer markets and self-consumption gardens were opened in some regions, but there was no general change at the state level until the de-escalation phase officially started. Many remain closed and need pressure from the neighborhood to force their reinstatement and compliance with safety regulations. We know that our message and our demands reached the institutions, but we also saw that most of them have prioritized other interests.

This campaign managed to make visible and bring together in a collective message many agroecological experiences that until then had not found spaces where they could feel identified, recognized or accompanied in their demands. We believe that having built the campaign collectively, horizontally, with mutual care, without logos or letterheads, for everyone in the plural and for no one in particular, facilitated this appropriation.

In short, beyond this moment of crisis, we are now on the way, having incorporated a lot of consciousness and, above all, feminist practice for the advancement of agroecology through an unprecedented campaign that strengthens our conviction that agroecology will be feminist, or it will not be. .

Parts of the story are taken from the article published here

Slow Food Heroes is a project funded by the European Cultural Foundation, with the contribution of the CRC Foundation.
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