Policies promoting large-scale, capital and energy intensive, and extractive forms of resource appropriation are everywhere disrupting locally adapted, culturally appropriate, mostly small-scale, and labour-intensive food production with profound social and environmental consequences.
TNI’s Agrarian & Environmental Justice programme supports small-scale food producers, trade unions and environmental organizations in their advocacy for more sustainable and inclusive food and energy systems, and greater convergence of their respective positions and agendas.
TNI continues to provide materials for its allies that explain the problem with the extractive model. In 2019, this included a report on the history of Dutch land struggles by local small-scale agro-ecological farmers. This was complemented by another on how EU policies enable land grabs elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, TNI sponsored a school in Tunisia attended by farmers and activists from 6 countries in the region. A well-received report on extractivism in the region was launched there, marking the start of TNI’s new focus on the region.
With our fisher allies, we continued to unpack the Blue Growth agenda. This purports to respond to contemporary challenges by promising to conserve the seas, provide more protein as food, and promote renewable energy. Closer analysis belies these promises. TNI works with small-scale fisher organisations to develop critical responses, and to defend the principles won in the Small-scale Fisheries (SSF) Guidelines. In 2019, we worked with affiliates in Indonesia and Mauritius, both with sizeable small-scale fishing communities, to document the impacts of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). This is a zoning process which ostensibly minimizes conflicts over access to land and sea. Again, it is clear that in practice small-scale fishers are not sufficiently considered stakeholders, much less rights holders. Instead, corporate interests are privileged, including ongoing mining, oil and gas extraction. We helped organize the Ocean Peoples’ Conference in Oslo as a counter to the official Blue Growth conference, and have provided support while allies deliberated on strategy within the working group on fisheries of the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty (IPC). The IPC has been a key platform from which Guidelines on Land Tenure and Small-scale Fisher Rights have been won, as well as the recently approved UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.
Promoting food sovereignty is the second major focus for TNI and a vision developed by the global small-scale food producer organizations with which TNI works most closely. It is also the vision of two new projects in which TNI is involved on the European front. One concerns ‘community-supported fisheries’ and the other concerns ‘community-supported agro-ecological farmers’. Partners in both advocate public policies to support direct producer-consumer relations at local level. They argue this as a sustainable alternative to the prevailing imperative towards ever larger and more intensive agriculture geared for export, which has become a major environmental threat and contributor to climate change. This kind of ‘fish/farm to fork’ idea, supported by local governments, was also put on the agenda at TNI’s Future is Public Conference (see Public Alternatives).
The third focus for TNI is just transitions. In a year marked by acute environmental disasters and massive protests, climate was firmly top of the agenda in 2019. TNI has participated in various collective efforts to develop a common vision between small-scale food producers and environmentalists. We also participated in deliberations between trade unions and environmentalists in South Africa, Nigeria and the Americas, as well as broader intersectional meetings preparing for the UN Climate Summit. One exciting outcome was an emerging common vision of just transitions.
Meanwhile, TNI continued its cooperation with the international academic network of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, and other related research projects coordinated by the Institute for Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. These are linked to the Journal of Peasant Studies, edited by TNI Fellow, Jun Borras. The network provides intellectual resources useful to the movements.
The key results to which TNI contributed significantly in 2019 include:
- A strong, intersectional and common vision emerges on just transitions.
- The Ocean Peoples’ Conference uses TNI’s critique of Blue Economy, and puts the issue on agendas of Norwegian and South Pacific trade campaigners.
- Indonesian fisher organization, KNTI, uses TNI’s report on Marine Spatial Planning to expand alliances and in advocacy towards policy-makers.
- The North African Food Sovereignty Network grows by 6 members, and expands to 5 countries.
- The Dutch Federation of Agroecology Farmers (Federatie van Agro-ecologische Boeren) is born, conceived at a TNI co-convened conference the year before. It was able to provide an alternative voice on sustainable farming during the agri-business-organised protests against state efforts to reduce nitrogen emissions.