Evaluation of La Via Campesina (LVC)
Background The DF carried out an external evaluation of La Via Campesina (LVC) in 2005. The DF has worked with La Via Campesina since 2003. The DF's project with LVC has as a main objective: to strengthen and to consolidate the work of LVC, through improving their institutional, organizational, political and mobilization capacity for the continuance of incidence at the national and international levels. Main emphasis is given to the strengthening of LVC in the African region. The report summarises the appreciations of La Via Campesina members' organisations regarding achievements and future challenges in terms of internal organization and social mobilization. In addition, two of LCV's campaigns were analysed: the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform and the more informal campaign for Food Sovereignty and its related call for "WTO out of Food and Agriculture." Two main case studies were included, one in the African region and the other in Honduras (the former location of the International Operative Secretariat, or IOS, of LVC). The purpose of the African case study is to address the progress and potential future strategies for La Via Campesina the region. The evaluator became concerned about participation by member organizations that do not speak the four dominant languages of La Via Campesina (Spanish, English, French and Portuguese), and added a special additional case study of South Korea and Thailand to address that issue. Purpose/objective The objective of this evaluation was to address the main achievements and challenges for la Via Campesina as a global social movement. The following questions were addressed:• In which ways do the actions and campaigns of La Via Campesina strengthen the work of the member organizations?• How well is Via Campesina able to effectively promote and defend peasant interests at the international level?• How do the grassroots member organizations and their networks give legitimacy and accountability to Via Campesina's work and struggles at the national and global levels?• What do member organizations need from Via Campesina in the future? Methodology This is was a participatory evaluation. All members of LVC had an important role in evaluating their movement. The methodology of this evaluation, agreed upon with Via Campesina and the Development Fund, has been based on accompaniment of Via Campesina at its meetings over a relatively long period of time, and an attempt to let the participants speak in their own words. This report is full of direct comments by representatives of the organizations that are the members of La Via Campesina. In agreement with the Via Campesina, it also includes the words of its allies, of officials of international agencies that are 'targeted' in the political work of the Via Campesina, and of some academics and researchers who follow the Via Campesina closely. In order to interview members of LVC, the evaluator travelled to and attended the meeting of the International Coordinating Commission (ICC) in Mozambique, visited South Africa, Honduras (former headquarters of the IOS) and Thailand, and attended the meeting of the Food Sovereignty Commission of LVC in the Basque Country. About 40 in-person interviews were carried out with members of LVC from all regions. In addition, the input of a sample of 24 allies of LVC (mostly from NGOs), and of 5 academics and researchers who follow La Via Campesina, was obtained via questionnaires emailed to each of them. Finally, officials of FAO, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) were interviewed by telephone concerning the possible impact of LVC on the agencies. Key findings • Strengthening the Regions: There is a clear call for [and plan for] strengthening the regional structure of the Via Campesina. La Via Campesina is becoming too large to manage without this sort of decentralization of work and responsibility, and the plan is to create regional (staffed) secretariats to help with this endeavour. While these Secretariats will be supported financially in the short-term, it is hoped that they will become self-sufficient over time in terms of doing their own fundraising. This regional structure should emphasize articulation between organizations and countries within each region, supporting exchanges, translation/interpretation, and building regional identities; and increasing linkages to input and output markets and off-farm and non-farm activities• Commissions: the commissions or working committees of LVC are spaces for horizontal dialog and for deepening the collectively analysis of key issues. However, they have not always functioned optimally: many times people come unprepared, or a different person comes each time, there are language problems, and overall, a lack of continuity. The work of the commissions needs to be more structured, while not falling into the trap of bureaucratization.• Internal Systems: LVC needs systems in place to ensure having a clear follow-up plan for every event, delegation or other activity. It must also invest in building and strengthening it's internal management systems, including financial management systems. The task of finalizing and approving the internal by-laws is overdue.• Funding: LCV depends too much on a small number of funders. A variety of potential income sources, ranging from membership dues to direct mail and internet fundraising, can be considered and assessed in devising this strategy. A financial reserve fund should be considered, and cost-effective, efficient financial management should be the norm at all times.• Mentor New, Weak Member Organization: There are a number of cases where LVC has very new and/or weak member organizations, which should be strengthened.• Gender : women have made significant contributions to LVC, notably in the Seeds Campaign. LVC can be more proactive in providing training to member organizations on how to strengthen the role of women inside those organizations.• Indigenous People: there are many indigenous people, and organizations of indigenous people, inside the Via Campesina. While they are often affected by neoliberal policies in the same way as• Africa: African members of la VC reported as benefits of their membership: empowerment, exchange, ideas and concepts, international solidarity, etc. Additionally, it is worth noting the potential of internal mediation that was mentioned in the South Africa case. African members want the Via Campesina to offer more international training and exchanges of experiences to member organizations, and for the Via Campesina to be more present with visits of international leaders. They want LVC to help them address gender issues. The Via Campesina faces some particular problems in Africa, which include the diversity of languages spoken, poor communications infrastructure, and a particularly heavy dependence of African peasant organizations on NGOs and governments. Comments from the organisation LVC as a global social movement has clear implications in the way it had to be evaluated. A participatory approach proved to be appropriate in this case. The current evaluation had clear implications for LVC's work in coming years. Some of the main changes are related to the decentralization of activities in the regions, and the stronger support to local agendas. These challenges are also followed up by Bread for the World (BftW), through the project they support within LVC. Any evaluation is produced within a very limited framework with regards to the composition of the evaluation team, its time available, its access to information and how it analyses the information received. Furthermore, any social reality can be analysed and presented in many different ways, among which an evaluation represents only one. Hence while this evaluation report may be useful as a tool for general learning, it has limited value as a source of information about the particular projects and partners in question. We urge any reader do consult the partners involved or Development Fund before applying this information in a way that may affect the partners and the project.