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Peasants of Wallonia in action!

On December 1st, Maria Vasile attended the annual meeting of Wallonia’s Mouvement d’Action Paysanne (MAP) (Peasant Action Movement). The members of the MAP gather on this particular day to celebrate St. Eloi, who is recognized as the saint patron of farmers and of the working class, more generally. This is an occasion for MAP farmers to get together, share impressions and discuss about the achievements, challenges and ways forward for the movement. In this article she will share her experience.

Mouvement d’Action Paysanne[1]

The MAP was created in 1998 to defend peasant agriculture and develop an alternative union to the Fédération Wallone de l’Agriculture (FWA) (Wallonia Federation of Agriculture). It defines itself as “a peasants and other agricultural workers’ assembly; an elected governing body, applying gender equity; an independent school [the Ecole Paysanne Indépendante of Wallonia (EPI) (Independent Peasant School)]; a newspaper (the MAP letter) and a secretariat” (MAP website, translation is my own). The MAP and its members advocate and work for the promotion of ecologically and socially sustainable peasant agriculture; the advancement of agroecology as a scientific discipline, a movement and a practice; and food sovereignty. The MAP is part of the European Coordination of La Via Campesina[2].

Charte des Communes Paysannes

During the meeting, I was introduced to their main ideas as peasant farmers, which include the ones of resistance and autonomy, the importance of working together and develop partnerships, and an understanding of the farm as something to be sustainably transmitted. “Beyond the fact of being peasants, we are also citizens”, explained Catherine Tellier, the secretary of MAP executive committee, while introducing the Charte des Communes Paysannes (Charter of the Peasant Communes) to the group. This charter was developed in 2017 in order to foster dialogue with local governments: a tool for making the ideas of the movement known. Over the past year, several farmers had presented the charter in their municipalities and had tried, with little success, to have it signed by local politicians. They see this work as a long term process and invited the other farmers present at the meeting to use the charter in their struggle[3].

The charter is organized around 4 main themes: autonomy and resilience of the agricultural system; access to land, setting up and agroecological training; food and ways of consuming; the Politique Agricole et Alimentaire Commune (PAAC) (Common Agricultural and Food Policy) as an alternative to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). During the event, discussion groups were organized along the same lines, in order for participants to talk about related questions and proposing ways forward. I partook to the discussion group on food and ways of consuming and found particularly interesting discussions around questions such as “How to re-appropriate ourselves of our food as peasants?”; “Our food procurement models ask people for their time and participation. How can we spread these models? With what time of communication?”.

Linking local actions to global struggles

More participatory exercises occurred during the afternoon. The participants contemplated together on to the organization of the movement around Wallonia and on farmers’ wishes for the future of the movement. As explained by Catherine Tellier, the St. Eloi meeting is important to reinforce the local governance of MAP and thinking together about the development of MAP “Locales”. These local offices are key to feed the movement from the bottom up, give a collective meaning to actions of solidarity and connect the local activities of peasants to global struggles (also thanks to the linkages with La Via Campesina).

 

[1] More information on the program of the event can be found at http://lemap.be/st-eloi.

[2] More information on the structure and mission of the map can be found at http://lemap.be/Nos-structures; http://lemap.be/Nos-fondements.

 

[3] More information on the Charter can be found at http://chartecommunepaysanne.lemap.be/La-Charte-Commune-Paysanne#!

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