Social Movements: Resistance and Regeneration

Module Progress:

In the last module, you learned about some of the global threats to traditional, smallholder famers. While they face huge challenges, across the globe, traditional farmers are organizing to defend themselves, their communities and their way of life. Broad groups of rural peoples, made up of peasants/ campesinos, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world have organized around these issues. As we’ve read, these expansive farmer-led agrarian (agricultural) social movements, like the Food Sovereignty Movement, have named agroecology as a means to achieve their goals. Agrarian social movements have allied together to protect traditional food production, and to resist against corporate food regimes and corporate consolidation of power in the food system.

In this module, you’ll get an introduction to agroecology and agrarian social movements, hear social movements from around the world, and how they use and co-create agroecological knowledge.


Article 1: Rural social movements and agroecology: context, theory, and process.

by Rosset, P. M., and M. E. Martínez-Torres | Ecology and Society, 2012


At the beginning of the 21st century, the rural areas of the world constitute spaces that are hotly contested by different actors with opposing interests. Organizations and social movements of rural peoples, i.e., peasants, family farmers, indigenous people, rural workers and the landless engaged in land occupations, rural women, and others, increasingly use agroecology (Wezel et al. 2009, LVC 2010a, Altieri and Toledo 2011, Rosset et al. 2011), based on diversified farming systems, as a tool in the contestation, defense, (re)configuration, and transformation of contested rural spaces into peasant territories in a process that has been termed re-peasantization (Fernandes 2009, van der Ploeg 2008, 2010). In contrast, financial capital, transnational corporations, and domestic private sectors are re-territorializing spaces that have abundant natural resources through mega-projects such as dams (Ferradas 2000, World Commission on Dams 2000), large-scale strip mining (Bebbington 2007, Holt-Giménez 2007), and monoculture plantations (Emanuelli et al. 2009). These corporate interests, aided by neoliberal economic policies and laws, have generated the growing land-grabbing problem in many southern countries (GRAIN 2009, Zoomers 2010, Hall 2011, Rosset 2011).

Here, we seek to provide a framework for understanding the increasing adoption of agroecological farming and diversified farming systems by rural social movements. We first paint the changing rural context in broad strokes and then provide a theoretical framework for understanding how this has translated into an increased emphasis on agroecology in both the practice and discourse of social movements as they seek greater autonomy and control over their territory and try to bring agroecology to scale. Finally, we illustrate this with examples from the farmer-to-farmer movement and from organizations belonging to the transnational peasant movement La Vía Campesina (LVC).

Rural Social Movements and Agroecology: Context, Theory and Process

Important Latin American Social Movements:

La Via Campesina

La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.

La Via Campesina comprises about 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.

Article 2:  5 Latin American Campesino Movements You Really Need to Know

Telesur, 2016

Voices from the Movements

Below are an assortment of videos about La Via Campesina and the MST in Brazil. Please choose one and watch it so you can use the information to interact in the forum.

Film option 1: History of Agriculture & MST in Brasil (Portuguese with Spanish subtitles- 20 minutes):

Film option 2: Brazil: Landless Worker’s Movement (English- 8 minutes):

Film option 3: Brazil Landless Movement & Agroecology (Portuguese with English subtitles- 1 hour 10 minutes):

Film option 4: MST & Agroecology (Portuguese with English subtitles- 1 hour 15 minutes):

Film option 5: History Did Not End: Brazilian Landless Worker’s Movement (English and Portuguese with English Subtitles- 30 minutes):

Film option 6: La Via Campesina (English over Spanish-7 minutes):

Film option 7: La Via Campesina en movimiento Por la Soberanía Alimentaria (Spanish and English, 20 minutes):