Talamh Beo Press Statement: 17th April, International Day of Peasant Struggle
¬ Opportunity to transform our food and agriculture systems
¬ Develop local food systems, regenerative farming and agroecology in Ireland
¬ Farming and citizen movement to build engagement on food and agriculture issues
The 17th of April is the International Day of Peasant Struggle, and across the world farmers and peasants continue their vital work in feeding people and communities. At the same time as much as half the world’s population finds their lives transformed as the seemingly unstoppable rush of capitalist growth rumbles to a halt, and nature has time to catch breath.
The threat of an impending collapse in biodiversity and ecosystems could not achieve this pause, nor the threat of climate change, nor wars, nor the myriad of daily deaths from preventable diseases or indeed starvation that occur on our planet daily.
For the first time in living memory the economy has been put in second place behind peoples’ lives – Covid 19 does not differentiate between us. All of a sudden we are remembering that we are all the same, and in our consumer society understanding again the real value of our basic needs. At the same time inequality is more visible than ever, as some suffer more hardship while others relax in luxury.
There are many lessons to be learned from what we see happening now, and many more to be learned from what the future brings. We, as farmers and citizens of Talamh Beo, can only say our piece and point to how we see in this moment of great trauma and transformation a remarkable opportunity to take a deep breath and emerge with the capacity to shape something better.
The most important lesson we have learned so far is that the greatest lie of all; “that’s just the way things are” now lies in tatters. That means that if we want local, agroecological food production, everyone on this island eating food grown and raised in dignity and with care for the planet, if we want to restore degraded ecosystems and regenerate habitats, farms and communities, if we want to be able to drink from every river and stream on the island, hear the song of birds in the fields that have not been heard in many years, watch native woodlands replace spruce plantations, we can. The better world we dreamed was possible is in fact possible.
We have heard much talk of a return to “normality” when the crisis abates - we do not want to return to “normality”. “Normality” is a heavily subsidized food system increasingly controlled by transnational corporations, which fails to provide local nutritious food for the majority of the population as it damages our environment and eradicates vulnerable ecosystems, all the while failing to ensure fair incomes for the most important people in that chain, the farmers themselves.
“Normality” is an Irish food and agriculture system run by a cabal of vested interests, whose only aim is profit at the expense of the land and people’s health. No government since independence and precious few of the current political parties acknowledge or are willing to challenge this control. “Normality” is an endless busy rush, where more and more time is spent fulfilling our basic needs and less time for the land, people and community. That is not a normality we wish to return to.
We want to create a new “normality” for our food and farming systems here in Ireland, a new paradigm for land use. We know that we can create land use systems that are biodiverse and centred on their ecosystems that allow farmers to work in dignity while regenerating our land, people and communities through the production of food, fuel and fibre. We have received a clear global message from nature herself – she needs more space.
That space is also in our minds. We need to recognize that the rhythms of our society were far out of sync with the rhythms of nature. We need to work with nature and nurture the environment through a completely different economic and social engagement with it. Human beings have the capacity to have a hugely positive impact on their environment and the natural world if they are given the time and space to do so. This is visible on many farms around Ireland that are living examples of how we can farm with nature using agriculture and ecology together.
At the same time Ireland imports food to provide for our own population – fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains that could be grown here if we developed diversified farm economies and more resilient, local and community organised food systems. These diversified farms provide more spaces for nature to flourish, and for more rural livelihoods to be built.
Diversity exists not just above ground but below it – the health of the soil will be reflected in the health of our communities and society, more important now than ever.
We need a new generation of farmers and people to return to the land – to move to the countryside and start to put their hands on the land, in the soil, and participate in the revival of the living world. We need this new generation to be helped by an older generation who sees the land emptying around them, and rows of sitka spruce or giant cattle sheds and dairy farms replacing their neighbours and friends.
The only way we can make change happen is by building a citizen led social movement which can create a counterweight to the vested interests and corporations which will also use this moment of change and crisis to consolidate their position, and ensure we tilt the balance of power towards a better future, and not a dystopian one.
¬ We need develop a strong organisation – we are Talamh Beo, farmers and citizens and we are calling on you to join us – become a member for only 30 euros a year and work with us to build a new food, agriculture, forestry, farming and land use system here in Ireland and around the world based on Food Sovereignty.
¬ We need to develop a multi-stakeholder platform between farming organizations, environmental groups and citizens, with the right to food and Food Sovereignty at the centre, in order to hold the government to account and demand change.
¬ We need to demand engagement from our government and politicians – Where are the policies to directly support local food systems in Ireland? Where are the supports for organic farming, for biodiversity enhancement? Why does every citizen not have access to the best quality, locally produced food available? Why do many farmers struggle to make a living even as their jobs are touted as vital and essential?