Agrarian & Environmental Justice

Critical thinking, Real solutions

La Via Campesina - TNI

In July TNI participated and contributed to different moments that were part of the process towards the 7th international conference of La Via Campesina (LVC) in Bilbao Spain.

TNI’s Agrarian & Environmental Justice Programme brings together research and analysis on the collective struggles of movements and rural working people, to democratise access, ownership and control of land, water and other natural resources. TNI works closely with alliances of small-scale farmers, fisherfolk and marginalised rural working people, together with environmental and social organizations and unions. This work has embedded TNI within the major international networks of those at the forefront of pushing back on the influence of TNCs and private interests, fighting for food and territories sovereignty, and demanding people’s rights to use land and resources in locally defined and sustainable ways. TNI provides analysis on how corporate interests and the global trade and investment regime excludes them, and helps to formulate effective interventions.

TNI believes that to build sustainable and democratic food and energy systems, we need to properly identify the causes of dispossession, obstruct ineffective solutions promoted by corporate interests, and support real solutions led by organized farmers, fisherfolk and frontline communities.

In 2017, a special focus was directed towards the impact of trade and investment policies on struggles to defend territories, land and natural resources. These goals were furthered by increased embeddedness in communities of rural farmers and small scale fishers, as well as the generation of a wealth of knowledge through working together with academics from across the world.

Goals: To improve climate, energy and food sovereignty policies that would redirect trade and investment towards sustainable and inclusive food and energy systems, and would genuinely address climate change challenges.

Goals Outcomes in 2017 to which TNI contributed
Strengthen capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Colombia, Myanmar, Cambodia, The Philippines and Europe to resist mining-energy and agroindustry projects that undermine food and land sovereignty
  • TNI was recognized as an organization that provides reliable and trusted technical support on key issues to many local CSOs and local CSO networks, including, for example, many local CSOs in Myanmar working on ethnic land rights and on land and natural resource issues generally, including numerous ethnic armed groups (both those that have signed and those that have not signed a ceasefire agreement with the government).
  • The Hands on the Land campaign, with support from TNI, continued to build the movement for food sovereignty at the European level, with a focus on Eastern and Central European countries.
  • HoTL research and analysis raised awareness of land grabbing in Europe and resource grabbing in the Global South. Based on this research, HoTL advocated for improved policies at the local, national and regional level.
  • Through participation at WFFP and LVC events, TNI increased the capacity of organizations and/or communities of small-scale rural food producers, environmentalists and unions to organize and advocate for the recognition of their rights against the resource rush.
EU policies that favour land concentration and land grabbing are analysed and questioned. Much of TNI’s work in this area is done through our leadership in the Hands On the Land campaign, carried out with 16 partners whose official goal is to mobilize European support for sustainable management of natural resources and the human right to food.
  • TNI’s analysis on land grabbing and land concentration in Europe received stronger visibility and policy engagement. For example, the European Parliament accepted TNI’s report on access to land, land concentration, and land grabbing in Europe.
  • There was strong progress on the process towards the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas. The declaration entered the final draft stage after a six year process. The EU acknowledged the Right to Food at EU level, and increasingly acknowledged the link between human rights and food sovereignty.
TNI publications, and framing of issues such as our series on ‘flex crops’ are used by civil society organizations. (Flex crops seeks to unpack the complexity of globalized food regimes, where crops such as corn increasingly serve multiple uses and involve complex production chains. This understanding enables activists to mobilize effectively.)
  • TNI’s ‘flex crop’ terminology was cited 102 times in other academic papers during 2017, up from 86 times in 2016.
  • The ‘flex crop’ framing was presented and discussed by different scholars at venues such as the Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) colloquium, the Land and Territory conference, and the BRICS Initiative in Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS) conference.
The UN’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (VGSSF) are actively used by peasant and fishing communities to secure access to and control over land, water and other natural resources by communities in Cambodia, The Philippines, Myanmar, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali and South Africa.
  • TNI was called upon – by La Via Campesina and World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) – to provide analytical, political and technical support to communities seeking to use the VGGT and the VGSSF.
  • CSOs in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa explored use of the VGGT in natural resource struggles. TNI accompanied the Katosi community in Uganda.
  • CSOs in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa explored use of the VGGT in natural resource struggles, with technical support from TNI.
  • TNI’s toolkits on participatory action research and the use of the tenure guidelines added to the extensive list of resources that were jointly produced with scholars. These toolkits provide a valuable resource for social movement advocacy.


  • TNI, through participation at WFFP and LVC events, increased capacity of organizations and/or communities of small-scale rural food producers, environmentalists and unions to organize and advocate for the recognition of their rights against the resource rush.
  • TNI worked with communities and organizations in four African countries, three Southeast Asian countries, 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries and across 21 countries within the European Union, with a particular emphasis on Eastern Europe.
  • TNI helped to build bridges within academic and social movements through ICAS, which assists social movements understanding as well as consolidating a network of engaged academics.

“TNI... knows how to build relationships with academics, and to use their work effectively, to feed into social movements' campaigns. In this way, TNI is a highly effective interlocutor between sectors that can and need to work together, but often struggle to do so by themselves. Having TNI on board makes all the difference.”

– Prof. Ruth Hall, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Project in numbers

  • 11 Briefings and reports published
  • 104 conference papers produced through ICAS and ERPI
  • Co-led five international networks, collaborated with three major international social movements, and supported strategic partners in seven countries
  • Co-organized 26 seminars and workshops, reaching 4259 people

TNI: Embedded in movements

In 2017, TNI engaged in advocacy at different levels: from national and regional to international level, with UN institutions.

In Europe, TNI facilitated the Hands On the Land alliance (HoTL), which was built with more than 16 different civil society organizations and social movement actors across Europe. HoTL aimed to raise awareness on the use and governance of land, water and other natural resources and its effects on the realisation of the right to food and food sovereignty. While the project came to a close as a funded project in early 2018, the work done in 2017 continued to strengthen the network and laid the ground for future breakthroughs.

As a follow up to the work done in 2016, when HoTL engaged in co-organizing the 2nd Nyeleni Europe Forum for Food Sovereignty, in 2017 the Alliance continued working on movement building for Food Sovereignty at European level, with focus on Eastern and Central European countries. HoTL continued working on research and analysis of land grabbing practices in Europe, awareness raising on the resource grabs in the Global South, and advocacy at different levels.

Other key results included stronger visibility for and policy engagement by HOTL, including acceptance by the European Parliament of an own initiative report on access to land, land concentration, and land grabbing in Europe. This own-initiative report, which drew heavily on TNI research on land issues in Europe, was a vital moment for the European Parliament to face up to the reality of land grabbing and land concentration in Europe. TNI and the HOTL alliance played an important role in shepherding through the report towards its successful adoption through the production of various briefing papers, lobby notes and advocacy meetings with European parliamentarians.

There was strong progress on the process towards the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, which is now entering the final draft stage after a six year process. There was also acknowledgement of the Right to Food at EU level, accompanied by increased acknowledgement of the link between human rights and food sovereignty.

Building Core  Alliances

In July TNI participated and contributed to different moments that were part of the process towards the 7th international conference of La Via Campesina (LVC) in Bilbao Spain. LVC is an international movement that works to defend peasant agriculture for food sovereignty, build resilient agro-ecosystems, and promote social justice and dignity for peasants. TNI provided extensive support in the run-up to, during, and after the conference.

LVC organized a youth camp for young members of the movement to come together and exchange ideas on their political participation. This process helped to build solidarity, sharpen strategic planning, and engender mutual capacity building. Overall, TNI played a supporting role, coordinating more than 50 volunteers during the general assembly.


TNI works closely with the World Forum for Fisher Peoples (WFFP), which is a mass-based movement of small-scale fisher people from across the world that aims to fight the pressure being placed on small-scale fisheries, including habitat destruction, anthropogenic pollution, encroachment on small-scale fishing territories by the large scale fishing fleets, illegal fishing, overfishing and climate change.

During 2017, TNI worked with WFFP on analysis of different fisheries policies and the articulation of proposals for food sovereignty from the fisherfolks movements. In November, TNI played a supporting role at the WFFP General Assembly, which is the organization’s main moment for internal discussion, agreements and setting out of the strategic direction.  Research, visual material, analysis and workshops were organized and published by TNI together with WFFP or some of its members to help build mutual knowledge of global policy developments that affect WFFP members. TNI contributed to the interchange of knowledge between LVC and WFFP, both of which face very similar challenges, and could use similar interventions.

Bridging academia and social movements

TNI, particularly through TNI Fellow Jun Borras and close academic partners and allies, continued to participate in the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS), a community of like-minded critical scholars, development practitioners and movement activists from different parts of the world who are working on agrarian issues.  TNI, together with the Hands on the Land alliance, organized one panel and two workshops on the topics of public food policies and territorial markets at a colloquium in Vitoria Gasteiz Basque Spain, where social movements and academics discussed topics that were key to their agendas for food sovereignty and social and environmental justice. In total, a series of 98 conference papers was produced. TNI is also involved in BICAS, which is a similar collective, but only of largely BRICS-based or connected academic researchers concerned with understanding the BRICS countries and their implications for global agrarian transformations.

TNI contributed to building bridges between activists and scholars, supporting participation and dialogue in constructive ways. For instance, the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) produced a series of conference papers, focused on understanding the rise of 'authoritarian populism' in rural settings across the world, as well as the nascent forms of resistance and the alternatives being pursued. The series, which shared the same theme as the TNI fellows meeting, generated 85 abstracts submitted by academics (students and staff) from 71 countries. TNI gave six researchers  small grants to write up papers based on those abstracts, in addition to 28 given by ERPI. Ultimately, more than 300 people attended the conference held at the ISS in The Hague, where the research was presented. The conference pushed existing theoretical understandings of authoritarian populism and emancipatory politics in rural contexts, and opened up new ways of interacting with the subject matter.

TNI produced a report on EU policies and their impact on fisheries, and also provided technical support for advocacy by WFFP members towards the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Committee for Fisheries (COFI) and other international institutions. In addition, TNI contributed to additional dialogue and exchange of ideas between LVC and WFFP through sharing video documentaries of the LVC conference at WFFP Assembly. This helped to highlight the similarities in the different movements' struggles, and encouraged the sharing of  strategies and proposals.

2017 saw the denouement of a project where social movements and researchers in different African countries discussed the use of the FAO's Tenure Guidelines, and published reports on their respective national situations. Researchers and movements from Nigeria, Mali, South Africa and Uganda analyzed the use of tenure guidelines as a tool towards access and control of natural resources. In addition to this, TNI also published a toolkit on participatory action research and another on the use of the tenure guidelines. The  publications add to the extensive list of resources that were produced with scholars engaged with the work of the programme, and were made available as resources for social movement advocacy.

The Latin American connection

For many years, TNI has worked with social movements in Latin America to link up different struggles with climate and environmental justice debates. In 2017, TNI supported the process of the “Jornada Continental por la Democracia y contra el Neoliberalismo” (Hemispheric Action Days for Democracy and against Neoliberalism), a convergence of social movements and organizations, including the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, CLOC-Via Campesina, World March of Women, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean, Jubilee South Americas, ALBA Movimientos, among others.

The convergence defined 4 thematic axes on which to focus: Free Trade agreements, Transnational Corporations, Regional Integration and Democracy. In 2017, a special focus was directed towards trade and investment policies impact on struggles to defend territories, land and natural resources.

TNI contributed technical support and analysis to a series of debates with Trade Unions Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) about unions position and proposal for Energy Democracy. This included some internal meetings and documentation and a public seminar in Buenos Aires, co-organized with the Public Alternatives programme, with participation of different TNI allies, who helped to bring their visions and struggles on energy projects and for land and territorial sovereignty.


Lyda Fernanda Forero
Project Coordinator

Dr. Jennifer Franco
Senior Research Associate

Sylvia Kay
Hands On the Land Project Officer

Timothé Feodoroff
Research Associate

Alberto Alonso-Fradejas
Research Associate

Zoe Brent
Research Associate

Mads Barbesgaard
Research Associate

Dr. Jun Borras

Fellow, Professor at the Institute of Social Studies

Katie Sandwell
Programme Assistant


Alessandra Este

Key publications



  • La Via Campesina
  • FIAN International
  • World Forum of Fisher Peoples
  • IPC on Food Sovereignty
  • Friends of the Earth International


  • Hands On the Land Alliance: European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), FIAN Netherlands, FIAN Belgium, FIAN Germany, FIAN Austria, FIAN Sweden,  FDCL (Germany), IGO (Poland), EHNE-Bizkaia (Basque country),  Crocevia (Italy), Terra Nuova (Italy), Vedegylet (Hungary), Za  Zemiata (FOE Bulgaria), Eco Ruralis (Romania).
  • Institute of Social Studies (Netherlands)
  • University of Wageningen (Netherlands)
  • Afrika Kontakt (Denmark)
  • HEGOA, University of the Basque Country
  • Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia (OIDHACO)
  • Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL)
  • RE-Common
  • ATTAC France
  • FERN
  • Corporate Europe Observatory
  • IDS – Sussex (Ian Scoones)


  • Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University, Thailand
  • Paung Ku (PK), Myanmar
  • Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Myanmar
  • Land in Our Hands Network (LIOH), Myanmar
  • Land Core Group (LCG), Myanmar
  • Equitable Cambodia (EC), Cambodia
  • Community Peace-Building Network (CPN), Cambodia
  • RIGHTS, Philippines
  • Center for Environment and Community Assets Development, Vietnam
  • Russian National Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA)
  • China Agricultural University, China


  • Masifundise, South Africa
  • PLAAS, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Katosi Women’s Development Trust (KWDT), Uganda
  • Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Nigeria
  • Coordination  Nationale des Paysannes du Mali (CNOP), Mali
  • Convergence Malienne contre les accaparement des terres (CMAT), Mali


  • Land & Sovereignty in the Americas Activist Research Collective including IPC Latin America, Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC)/La Via Campesina Latin America
  • Food First (USA)
  • University of California Davis (Liza Grandia)
  • FIAN Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Brazil
  • Universidad de Zacatecas, Mexico (Raul Delgado-Wise and Henry Veltmeyer)
  • Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (Silvel Elias)
  • Universidad de Costa Rica (Andres Leon Araya)
  • Universidad del Externado de Colombia (Dario Fajardo and Vladimir Rodriguez)
  • Universidad Nacional de Brasilia (UNB) (Sergio Sauer)
  • Universidad Estadual de Sao Paolo (UNESP) (Bernardo Mancano Fernandes)
  • Comité de Unidad Campesina de Guatemala (CUC)/LvC Guatemala
  • Asociacion de Zonas de Reservas Campesinas de Colombia (ANZORC)
  • Movimiento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) (Rita Zanoto and Marina dos Santos)
  • Movimiento Nacional Campesino e Indigena de Argentina (MNCI/LvC Argentina)
  • Consejo Internacional de Tratados Indios (CITI)
  • Base Investigaciones Sociales, Paraguay
  • Guatemalan Institute of Agrarian and Rural Studies (IDEAR)
  • Fundacion Tierra Bolivia
  • Trade Union Confederation of the Americas
  • Jubilee South Americas
  • Grupo Carta de Belem
  • CENSAT Agua Viva, Amigos de la Tierra Colombia
  • Comisión intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
  • REDES Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay
  • CUT Brasil
  • CESTA Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador
  • World March of Women