A social movement is a form of group action. In most cases, social movements tend to be informal and large. The groupings of organizations or individuals have a tendency to focus on a given social or political issue. Because of this, they are essentially tasked with undoing, carrying out or resisting social change. The social movements of the modern times are as a result of education. They are also facilitated by the mobility of labor that has increased because of the urbanization and industrialization of the societies in the 19th century. There are several social movements in the world, in which Social Movement Organization is a part of them. A social movement, in most cases, contains several social movement organizations. The social movement organizations are defined as organizations that are formal in nature, sharing the goals of the movement. In essence, in social movements, social movement organizations tend to have coordinating roles. Despite this fact, they do not direct or employ the participants. The organizations perform the tasks that are essential for the survival of the movement and its success (Burstein, 2002, p. 65).
Via Campesina is a Spanish term that loosely translates to ‘the peasants’ way. Via Campesina is an international movement whose core intention is to coordinate the organizations of peasants who range between the middle scale and small-scale producers. The organization is operational in several parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe and America. Unlike many organizations of this nature, Via Campesina represents a coalition consisting over 148 organizations. Largely, the organization advocates for sustainable agriculture that is family-farm-based. It is through this group that the term ‘food sovereignty’ was coined referring to the practice of producing food within individual territories. The organization has managed to carry out a number of campaigns that are geared towards raising public awareness on issues to deal with food sovereignty. Such campaigns have seen the organization defend the farmers over the seeds, campaigns against violence that is directed at women and the campaign in promotion of the recognition of the peasants’ rights. On the global scene, the organization has managed to stage a campaign in favor of the agrarian reforms. In essence, Via Campesina has played its role effectively among other organizations in the social movements (J.R, 2008, p..34).
Like in all social movements, Via Campesina has a number of goals that it seeks to achieve. As already argued above, this is a movement of the people that strives to promote their food system. The organization, in most cases, values aspects such as food security and sovereignty, ensuring farmers have access to land, ensuring that the farmers have an access to important information as regards to farming which is of unbiased nature, helping the farmers to have means to acquire seeds of various biodiversity among many more other aims. The organization puts in much effort with the aim of achieving a radical change in the sector of food system, with a key target to making it peasant-driven. Major steps have been carried out by the organization in order to ensure these objectives are met. Promoting unity among the peasants and the local farmers and globalizing the food sovereignty is the organization’s major goal. The organization ensures this through making sure that the peasants are accorded the basic rights to enable them manage the lands, seeds, waters, territories and the livestock. Such goals of the organization have seen it receive international recognition for their efforts to make the world a better way to be through food sovereignty. If these goals are achieved by the organization, then it is wise to argue that positive peace will be attained in the world. Most conflicts in the world are often caused by poverty, which threatens the livelihood and survival of humans. By promoting the food sovereignty, most people will meet the necessities to life and as such, peace will prevail in the world.
Via Campesina was constituted in the year 1993, April in Mons, Belgium. This was a few months prior to the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The tariff would go on to incorporate agricultural negotiations for the first time in its history. The meeting played a crucial role in shifting food production from a national controlled system to a market-driven economy. Most of the farmers from the North and South faced serious threats by then. Their way of living, their livelihoods and their mechanisms of existence were in a way, threatened. Because of the urge to protect the farmers and their means of production, there was a need for them to be protected. This is what prompted the organization to be formed in order to cater for the needs of the peasants and ensure that they were not exploited in their bid to embrace food production.
In order to carry out its tasks effectively, Via Campesina has employed a number of tactics and strategies. Most of them have proved to be successful over the long run. One of the strategies is that of mobilization. The unity that the members of this organization have seen it command respect and argue for their case when need arises. For instance, the rural organizations originating from the South and the North have managed to stage peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Geneva and Paris, among many more others, to raise their points. By putting such pressure to bodies such as World Trade Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, they manage to influence decision making to favor the members. Another significant strategy they have used is that of building alliances with other organizations with similar demands to insist on the strength of their claims. Some of the resources that Via Campesina mobilizes in favor of their support include social and economic ones. By staging some of the demonstrations, they manage to sway decisions to their way. In framing their relevant issues, however, the organization has representatives in major world bodies, through which they make their demands. The fact that the organization has membership from most parts of the world makes its claims to be considered and action on them is always taken. Most nations also tend to support such requests, giving the organization an upper hand in their pursuit to be considered. The larger part of the movement stakeholders consists of people that can be referred to as normal people or average people pursuing goals reasonable goals that will lead to an improvement of their lives.. These people realize that pursuing their goals through individual means is implausible and hence, they tend to national means. This is what researchers in the 1960’s and the 1970’s referred to as resource mobilization theory where normal people formed social organizations to agitate for social reforms on a national platform.
Via Campesina, as an organization, has achieved success in many fields. However, to the same extent, it has faced in a number of occasions. One of the major successes of the organization is as pertains to the constitutionalization of the fundamental rights. Food sovereignty was considered as one of the essential rights that human beings ought to be accorded. The constitution of Nepal, in its third part, inducts food sovereignty as a fundamental human right (Martínez-Torres, 2010. P.23). Through this, the Nepalese people are encouraged to increase their production because they are protected by the constitution. The organization, to a certain extent, succeeded in building a movement of the international peasants. This is very crucial in that the sentiments and grievances of the movement can effectively be voiced, giving them an opportunity to make relevant complains whenever they feel that they have been aggrieved.
One major challenge that the organization has consistently faced relates to operation problems. This is because of the lack of relevant legislative acts. Despite the fact that the constitution was supposed to oversee the implementation of the food sovereignty, the Constituent Assembly never finished drafting federal constitutions to implement it. This has always led to major loopholes in the regulations that guide food security. This challenge has seen the organization lack a proper basis for its arguments, making it difficult for them to run their business effectively.
Via Campesina, just like in many other social movement organizations, faces many internal conflicts. One such core conflict is as pertains to the leadership of the organizations. In general, movements tend to be split because of their preference of some leaders in their pursuit to run them (Ryan, 2003. p.22). Whenever such splits happen in the movement, it becomes difficult to mobilize the members to fight for the common course. This effectively weakens their mettle, meaning that they lack the common voice that has proved to be crucial when they are agitating for their rights. The selfish interests from some of the leaders also make it difficult for the movements to be successful in their goals.
In addition, there are some who are of the opinion that the social movement organization constitutes the mad crowd theory. This is the social movement is viewed as an irrational and irregular aberration of a country’s political process. The Via Campesina has been viewed as subject to a violent crowd mentality that is simply motivated but panics, irrationality and panics. Consequently, it has not been well embarked in some countries and some countries have even put in policies that prevent citizens from participating in the social movement.
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JR, S. M. (2008). La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform. Journal of Agrarian Change.
Martínez-Torres, M. E., & Rosset, P. M. (2010). La Vía Campesina: the birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. Journal of Peasant Studies.
Ryan, S. (2003). Peace and conflict studies today. Ethnopolitics.
Zald, M. N., & Ash, R. (2000). Social Movement Organizations: Growth, Decay and Change.