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Eviction intent in “El Duraznal”

Date interview: December 2 2015
Name interviewer: Josefina Moreira
Name interviewee: Eduardo Bellelli
Position interviewee: Founding Member of APENOC.

Social movements Social-spatial relations Social-economic relations Re-orientation Radicalization Other initiatives Motivation Dilemma Challenging institutions Adapting

This is a CTP of initiative: La Via Campesina/APENOC (Argentina)

This CTP started when members of the movement began to consider explicitly the land as a right. Until that time, the association had worried about other problems as productive issues, health and infrastructure. Between 2000 and 2001, in the community of El Duraznal (one of the precursors of APENOC) ocurred the first attempted eviction of peasant families from their land.The eviction order driven by the judiciary highlighted the problem of land tenure. The affected families had no legal documentation of ownership or lease. During the conflict, families lost possession of part of the land, but managed to avoid eviction, and even today live there and exploit the land. The resistance to eviction was achieved through the peasent organization. The CTP allowed: "Overcoming the fear of justice, of police, rejecting the idea that we were the bad guys, was a very important moment for everyone. From that moment several spaces of struggle arose, the existing conflicts became visible: they wanted to take us away from the land,the business sector moved over our area mostly withcattle, which did not fit in soybean area. We, as an organization, increased the conflictivity, but the problem already existed." From that moment, the peasant movement began to be perceived in some sectors as "illegal" and "troublemaker" because the peasants did demonstrations, not only in the field but also in the city. Several peasants marched and camped in front of the courts of the city of Cordoba. It is considered a CTP because from this point the peasants began a process of struggle and active resistance against the advance of the great entrepreneurs of the field and a series of claims related to land rights. Some of the participants of these actions were prosecuted for resist the eviction order. Finally, seven charged people were found innocent by the justice. It is considered a CTP because from this moment the peasants began a process of struggle and active resistance against the advance of agribusiness over their lands. From this moment, they incorporate claims on land tenure.


The CTP has different levels of co-production. The conflict over land tenure faced by El Duraznal families is the product of a transformation process of agricultural production in Argentina during the 1990s. The advance of the agribusiness linked to incorporation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), led to the consolidation of soybean monoculture in much of the province of Cordoba. This caused a displacement of other activities such as bovine cattle raising to peripheral areas that hitherto were occupied by peasants engaged in subsistence activities such as minor livestock raising. The new productive map configuration of the province, extended the agricultural frontier pressing on peripherical lands as the occupied by peasants of El Duraznal. The interviewee reports that APENOC always established dialogues with universities, government programs and various institutional spaces. Furthermore, they spoke with partner organizations: peasants and indigenous, among others. Regarding the people who made the CTP possible, the interviewee mentioned the presence of the father Carlos Julio Sanchez, who could be described as "Third World Priest" that promoted a process of legitimation of peasant struggle. The participation of the church and the priest in particular were crucial, and they promoted a very important mural movement in Serrezuela. "The reaction to that was to send someone trained in Buenos Aires, belonging to Opus Dei, very conservative, to paint murals white.” A very important episode was what happened to a peasant named Ramona Bustamante, who had been evicted three times. The case reached the media, and Ramona appeared holding hands with Raly Barrionuevo (an Argentine musician) in the Cosquín Festival (a folklore festival well known throughout the country, held every year). After this situation, the government created a registration of owners. "We tried to engage the government of Córdoba and the Ministry of Justice. There was a program called the Social Agricultural Program, which did not address the issue of land and we tried to incorporate it. They did not support the movement assiduously, but we had colleagues who worked in these organizations and were giving a helping hand. Very punctually we also worked with the Environment Agency of Cordoba. But they were very specific issues, in general we had a feeling of great leaderless. We managed to form a board of land in the Agency, that helped us legitimise ourselves. At other times the state was more present, but in this moment we worked alone. The government of Cordoba was always adverse, hostile."

Related events

In 1996, the national secretary of Agriculture authorized the incorporation and use of transgenic seeds of ten crops (soybean, corn, cotton, etc.). This event are directly related to the CTP because it was what facilitated the expansion of the agricultural frontier on peripherical lands occupied by APENOC peasants. The interviewee identifies three stages: the first one, in which the identity of the farmers took shape. "For fifteen years we had been told that the peasant were lazy, poor, Latin American, foreign, not Argentine, and at this stage we start saying 'we are land, we are land to feed the poor.’ In this first stage, these slogans fueled that identity. We established a dialogue with the inhabitants of the cities, to make them understand that, if they wanted to eat healthy, they had to consume food produced by peasant families”. The second stage identified by the interviewee is the the beginning of involvement in electoral politics. He considers it a positive balance because it allowed them to think: "we can also make decisions for ourselves and for others." "I believe that strengthening the organization inwards was the first of the results. Fifteen or twenty years ago women were expected to go to work as housemaids to a city and men were working in the field. What chance did they have to decide what they wanted to do? Going from that to the existence of schools, containment and new families being formed in the countryside is very exciting. It was a kind of 'small agrarian reform of the resistance' as we call it." The third stage was to consolidate the rights gained. "When we conquer a right it is difficult to pull back. It will no longer be so easy to take away our rights, because it's all been achieved by fighting."


The CTP emerges as a contestation. The inhabitants of El Duraznal face a businessman who claims the land where they had lived for years. The biggest dispute was over who owned the land. In the latter intervened mainly peasants structured into organizations, businessmen and landowners. Beyond the law, the dispute was over who use of the land. "There were places where supposedly the legal dispute was lost, and yet the colleagues continued to use the land, then in the end they did not lose anything." The land conflict not only affect productive activities, but also deteriorate the living conditions of the entire community: “Families who lived in El Duraznal, were accommodated on a space of 20 ha. Five strings of wire interrupt a path that community used for more than a hundred years, which requires that children to travel 2,000 meters more to get to school in sulky. Health and food supply also difficult following the access closure to the local road that connects with all basic services.” Also, with this CTP new conflicts arose: “The next dispute was for the education. Only traditional schools had the power to educate people to 'be someone'. Now, the dispute is that more and more students go to rural schools, because that title also enables you to continue studying, to get a qualified job or to work in the field with more tools."


The CTP was identified as such at the time it occurred. The main reason was that the association had never experienced a similar situation and, especially, because this issue was not within their main concerns. “When the state began by all its fury to try to break the organizations, just imagine. The most committed partners, the three or four families more involved, were desperate. We have five hundred years of history of defeat and struggles, and many years of individualism. I will not say that capitalism is here to stay, because it is not the idea, but it is still very strong in the perceptions of many people. These have not been easy times, when state intervention was so severe." There was even a crack, there were people who became afraid and said, "I will not go on with this." Then eventually most of them overcame fear, when the fight was institutionalized. Until then the APENOC sought to improve production practices and living conditions of rural families who lived isolated. The CTP, connected for first time subsistence production to commercial farming looked like two universes that did not touch nor influenced. The CTP requires APENOC to modify their agenda and incorporate the land's possession and use problems. The new agenda also includes environmental issues such as deforestation and over-exploitation of water resources.


Learnings emerged in the action during the CTP. The members of the APENOC incorporated learning about issues of ownership and possession of land, on how to operate against a legal action or how to make visible their problems in front the rest of society. However, the main learning highlighted by the interviewee were their own identification as peasants and their role in promoting sustainable agricultural practices, healthy eating and distributive justice: "We learned that the struggle allows us to achieve genuine things. You can accomplish things differently, but in order to be sustainable over time it is good that things have been appreciated, discussed, planned, fought for... we learned that the more you give the more you receive, that when you give away your activists to work in the state, that comes back to you. We learned that there was no peasantry as such and today the movement is emerging shyly. The issue is not so strong on the agenda as we would like. It has been attempted to associate the peasantry to family farming and is not the same. We are family farmers, of course, but not only that. We will not give in the representation of the peasantry so easily, this is part of an international organization that is the Via Campesina, which has given many lights, especially to the movements of Latin America, seed production, healthy food, direct marketing. We learned that being a farmer is a choice, it is not a job at all, it’s a journey and a life choice.

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