The Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice has a sister relationship with the Rural Workers Association through the US-based Friends of the ATC. The February 2017 portion of our Honduras-Nicaragua delegation was hosted by the ATC and we plan further collaborations on delegations in the future. This week’s guest blog is a description of the ATC’s work by Erika Takeo, coordinator of Friends of the ATC.
Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo,
or Rural Workers Association, Nicaragua
The ATC (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo, or Rural Workers Association), founded in the 1970s (officially incorporated in 1978), is an organization dedicated to organizing and defending rural workers and people of Nicaragua. After the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, the ATC was active in incorporating thousands of rural workers into the various social programs of the FSLN. These included the national Freirean-based literacy campaign (which successfully reduced illiteracy rates from around 50% to 12.7% in a matter of months), adult education, community health, and social security programs. The ATC also supported the processes of agrarian reform, which redistributed 5 million acres to 120 thousand previously landless peasant families. When US intervention threatened these processes, the ATC helped organize economic brigades to defend the revolution and struggle against the contras.
During the neoliberal period in Nicaragua (1990-2007), the ATC focused on defending the gains achieved in the 1980s and also facilitated a process of reconciliation with former contra peasant families that in present day make up ally peasant organizations of the ATC. The ATC also began to take on an international character by assuming a founding role of the global movement called La Vía Campesina (LVC) which today represents over 200 million peasants, women farmers, indigenous and afrodescendent peoples, fisherfolk, and pastoralists. LVC was (and continues to be) a global response to the destruction caused by the Green Revolution, the establishment of the WTO and free trade agreements, and the arrival of other new neoliberal policies that have consistently taken control of food production away from farmers and consumers and into the hands of large governments and corporations. An important gathering to launch La Vía Campesina took place in Managua in 1992 with participation of the ATC: the campaign of 500 years of peasant, indigenous, and afro-descendent resistance which was launched in response to the Spanish government’s celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Cristobal Columbus to the Americas.
Today, the ATC continues to be active in peasant struggle in the Nicaraguan countryside and with Vía Campesina at the Central American and global levels. Much of the ATC’s work happens at the local level through its affiliated agricultural labor unions, with workers who tend to work in export-focused crops like bananas, coffee, or tobacco, and cooperatives of small-scale peasant farmers that cultivate grains, beans, coffee, and tropical fruits. The ATC has offices in 13 departments, a national office in Managua, and three schools that host a wide range of degree-earning programs, workshops, meetings, and assemblies. It also has active youth and women’s movements which articulate responses to youth migration to cities, patriarchy and machismo, and women’s access to land.
The ATC and its fellow organizations of La Vía Campesina coined the term food sovereignty, or the right of peoples to define, create, and defend their own food system. In recent years, the movement has put more emphasis on agroecology as a pillar to realize food sovereignty. Agroecology is not just a form of agriculture but a way of life based on ecological principles, reclamation of traditional and ancestral knowledge, and producers’ demand for autonomy over their own production. The ATC is actively coordinating efforts in Nicaragua to construct IALA Mesoamerica (IALA = Instituto Agroecológico Latinoamericano, or Latin American Institute of Agroecology) to train Central American youth in agroecology. The ATC is also involved in territorial agroecological initiatives such as community seed banks, learning exchanges on parcels of small-scale producers, ecological animal husbandry, and soil restoration.
- The President of Ficohsa – Nicaragua Bank, Marco López, announced the approval of US$30 million in lending to help develop small businesses. “The international financial consortium BlueOrchard has signed an agreement with Ficohsa Bank to offer greater access to low cost loans for small and medium-size businesses in Nicaragua,” Lopez said. (Nicaragua News, August 7)
- Nicaragua Minister of Energy and Mines Salvador Mansell announced that electricity coverage reached 91.4% nationwide last month and renewable energy generation exceeded 84% on many days during this period. “This represents a significant progress in the improvement of the quality of life of the Nicaraguan people and every day we are installing electric service in isolated rural communities throughout the country. A 99% national electricity coverage is being projected for the year 2021,” Mansell said. (Nicaragua News, August 7)
- The Comprehensive Care of Early Childhood Support program, implemented by the Nicaragua Ministry of the Family (MIFAM), Ministry of Education (MINED) and Ministry of Health (MINSA), culminated with very positive results. The program was for three years with an investment of US$28 million, of which US$20 million was financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). More than 63,000 families were served, and 3 million household visits were carried out nationwide. (Nicaragua News, August 1)
- During a meeting with Heads of Mission and International Organizations accredited to Ecuador, Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa stated that Nicaragua and Uruguay are countries with the highest levels of gender equality in all areas: political, social, salary rates, and respect for women’s rights. “In fact, the ambassadors of Nicaragua and Uruguay accredited to Ecuador are women,” the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said. (Nicaragua News, August 1)
- A study by the M & R Consultants polling company, published last Wednesday, points out that 73.6% of Nicaraguans reject the US Congress bill known as NICA Act which would require the US to block multilateral loans to Nicaragua. 86.3% of the interviewees said that this initiative will harm all Nicaraguans and 74.7% expressed their disagreement with the Nicaraguan political sectors that promote the bill. The survey was conducted from July 28-30, 2017 and is based on 1,375 interviews nationwide. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 3)