“From the voices of peoples' organisations: their fight for land rights as part of a bigger network” Learning Lab series is a space for peer-to-peer exchanges among peoples’ organisations of ILC. It seeks to understand how these organisations engage with the ILC network, their expectations, institutional challenges, and strengths. Over 100 ILC member organisations represent over fifty-six thousand communities and more than seventy-one million people around the globe. These peoples’ organisations directly represent and are accountable to people depending upon the land, whether at the local level as grassroots organisations or on a larger scale as regional federations.
Myline Macabuhay is the coordinator of the young farmers and land rights agenda of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), a coalition of small-scale family farmers’ organisation in Asia. Myline moderated the roundtable discussions, with panellists from Indonesia, Guatemala, Italy, and Senegal discussing the challenges and good practices of young farmers.
More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas as the world increasingly urbanises— the rural-to-urban migration results in an ageing population of farmers with an average age of around 60 years. However, young farmers can contribute to food security, nurture the earth, and fight against social and environmental degradation. As such, young people need land.
Youth from all over the world face a common challenge
Rural to urban migration in Indonesia
Siti is a young Indonesian farmer and is part of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) in Indonesia. KPA fights for a fair agrarian system that guarantees equal access to agricultural resources.
Rural-to-urban migration in Indonesia seems to be a solution for young farmers looking for better employment and educational opportunities. First, the lack of social safety nets in urban areas inspires the belief that the cities offer better options. Secondly, the lack of government benefits for young farmers makes it difficult for them to rely on farming for their livelihoods and income. The government has limited agricultural empowerment policies, and the ones that exist are often not implemented in rural areas. Consequently, young farmers invest capital in starting farming without guaranteed profitability.
Although young people are interested in farming, lack of access to land is a barrier. Youth often access land from their families; however, the size of the land influences their migration decisions. Inheriting sizable land increases the likelihood of youth employment in agriculture. Further, growing up in farming families in the forest areas inspires young people to protect the forest ecosystems.
Young people want to earn incomes from their land; thus, they engage in various initiatives such as organic compost production. This initiative inspires other young farmers to join KPA . However, young farmers still face challenges such as the lack of capacity and motivating incentives to manage their farmlands.
Indigenous youth for mother earth in Guatemala
Edvin Sánchez Cabrera is a human rights defender working for CODECA in Guatemala.
Rural youth in Guatemala often hold menial and informal jobs with meagre incomes. Limited economic opportunities, the lack of access to land, territories, social services and credit drive the youth to migrate to urban areas. As a result, most youth seek employment in the cities or abroad to broaden their employment opportunities. However, measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 caused job losses for the youth, revealing their vulnerability to economic shocks.
To address this challenge, CODECA promotes the importance of youth land rights, agricultural activities, and access to markets in migration-prone areas. Specifically, CODECA is working with the youth, encouraging the uptake of farm and land-related employment opportunities in agriculture to ensure rural development and decent employment opportunities. However, the land is more than a productive resource to the indigenous youth: they are stewards of nature and the environment. To this end, CODECA works with young rural farmers to produce herbs and medicines using traditional farming methods.
(Photo credits: IFAD/Santiago Albert Pons)
Little steps towards small scale farming in Italy
Donato De Marco is the president of Lentamente, a social agriculture initiative in Italy.
In the European Union (EU), the average age of farmers is 60 years old; only 8% of farmers are below the age of 40 years. Italy faces the challenge of ageing farmers in rural areas. The prohibitive costs associated with acquiring land and farming cause young people to shy away.
However, there is hope on the horizon as Lentamente, and similar organisations work to make agriculture attractive to young people. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Lentamente connected young farmers through digital platforms to attract them to farming.
(Photo credits: Silvia Forno)
“Our cooperative is called Lentamente, which means slowly in Italian. Our goal is to make slow changes in rural areas, as it is not possible to start a revolution at the moment. We plant the seeds of change and hope that they will grow” Donato De Marco, Italy.
Youth as an essential stakeholder in Senegal
Alioune Gueye is an agro-pastoralist and the president of the Conseil National De Concertation et De Coopération des Ruraux (CNCR), a youth college in Senegal.
CNCR is a peasant platform working on developing peasant agriculture and ensuring sustainable socio-economic livelihoods for small-holder farmers and rural communities. CNCR works to strengthen inclusive-decision making, consensus-based solutions and dialogue with and among various actors. To do this, CNCR monitors discussions on proposed policies and programs and encourages political dialogue with stakeholders.
CNCR set up a youth college to enable peasant youth to become more involved in the network and participate in advocacy activities. CNCR works with rural youth to advocate for stronger family farming systems in economic and social development policies. The college is a space for young people to strategise and advocate for generational renewal and youth inclusion in farming.
(Photo credits: Israel Bionyi)
Power in Numbers: The Value of being part of a network
“Farmer’s organisations advocate for land reform as young people want to own land, yet there is a capacity gap among the youth. KPA and ILC networks give young people platforms to learn from and with fellow young farmers. As such, ILC presents a platform to connect civil society organisations to advocate for agrarian reform” Siti, Indonesia.
The Guatemalan state’s bias towards market access to land makes it difficult for young people to partake in farming. It further leaves local communities vulnerable to evictions. With evictions in San Marcos, ILC stood with CODECA, spotlighting the farmers’ struggle to protect their lands and territories. Although there was no political will to resolve land conflicts and evictions at the national level, ILC took a stance supporting CODECA’s efforts and reporting all the evictions. Also, ILC champions women’s land rights and provides CODECA with a learning network of colleagues and farmers, all contributing to the fight for land rights. CODECA has an opportunity to engage in learning exchanges with other ILC members on entrepreneurship and communication to give visibility to certain agricultural products.
“The young farmers of Senegal look to benefit from ILC’s advocacy and lobbying capacities as rural communities face mounting pressure from multinational companies. CNCR benefits from ILC’s platforms by sharing experiences and practices on youth access to land” Alioune Gueye, Senegal.
ILC allows Lentamente to ‘think global and act local’. As Lentamente specialises in social agriculture, ILC provides a platform to share and promote social agriculture within the network. Likewise, Lentamente learns from the work of other organisations. In future, ILC can assist in mobilising funds from the EU to achieve knowledge exchanges.
Thought Propels Action: Contributions from the Audience
Widella, Indonesia: We advocate for land rights and economic justice for young farmers. We are building a credit union providing loans to young farmers. However, we still face challenges. First, our geographic location is remote with limited infrastructure. Second, it is difficult for us to access information from the government or other farmer organisations.
“We hope that by speaking in international events like this, we can increase support for grassroots organisations and rally support for agrarian reform in Indonesia” Widella, Indonesia.
KPA, Indonesia: many farmers’ unions and young representatives can join international discussions from remote areas. ILC discussion platforms need to accommodate the language needs and internet connectivity challenges of peoples’ organisations to strengthen grassroots organisations and their contributions.
Sylvere, an indigenous person from Burundi: The indigenous peoples of Burundi have no access to land. As an indigenous peoples’ organisation, we look to the ILC and other international organisations to lobby our governments to access land.
Myline, Philippines: AFA serves as the regional focal point for the Land Matrix Initiative (LMI), an online database on large scale land acquisitions throughout the world. It gives us an idea of how investments impact the lives of local communities and farmers in terms of their right to control and access land. The LMI data can then be used for policy advocacy.
What kind of support can ILC offer to better respond to the needs of young people?
- Advocacy and campaigning – 43%
- Support participation of young farmers in relevant processes – 43%
- Joint funding for joint initiative –64%
- Capacity building and training – 50%
- Connection with other organisations – 43%
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