Peasant and Popular Feminism: Co-constructing sustainability and peace in Colombia

How does the concept of Peasant Popular Feminism influence socio-political roles within regional peasant organisations? How does it support women farmers in agroecological transitions? And how does it connect to peace-building?

This project explores the effectiveness of Peasant Popular Feminism in supporting activism and agroecological (the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices) transitions for women peasants in the Peasant Reserve Zone of Valle del Rio Cimitarra, Colombia.

Peasant Popular Feminism is a concept that emerged in 1994 during the first congress held by La Via Campesina’s Latin American branch – the world’s leading transnational peasant organisation. Peasant Popular Feminism seeks to remedy low levels of female participation in socio-political spaces, wider representation in La Via Campesina, the sexual division of labour within the organisation, and male influence over decision making. It also states the need for more female perspectives and experiences in fights for land, seeds, agrarian reform and access to credit.

This project will fill an important gap on how regional organisations have assimilated and adapted Peasant Popular Feminism to local realities. Working with women to understand how they oppose multi-faceted violence is crucial to supporting sustainable rural economies and socio-ecological peace in Colombia and beyond.

What will the project involve? 

The project seeks to explore Peasant Popular Feminism through co-produced research and participative methods. The researchers believe this is of extreme relevance to advancing sustainable and gendered peace-building in Colombia. In so doing, they will be contributing to a strong tradition of activist research that looks to incorporate women activists throughout the project process.

The project will be asking the following four research questions:

  • How do women activists conceptualise Peasant Popular Feminism?
  • How does this concept of Peasant Popular Feminism influence socio-political roles within regional peasant organisations?
  • How does this concept of Peasant Popular Feminism support women farmers in agroecological transitions?
  • How does Peasant Popular Feminism connect to peace-building?

The researchers intend to answer these questions using a mix of participative qualitative interviewing methods and surveys with women activists and farmers, as these will be shaped in conversation with women from the area. They will also undertake soil experiments on collective and individual farms worked by women, which will be informed by and feed into regional sustainable development plans. Finally, they will also co-create a mural, using participative methodologies, to depict meanings and images that women associate with Peasant Popular Feminism.

The researchers hope these methods will help them to explore how Peasant Popular Feminism has been adapted to regional feminist social movements, how it influences the socio-political roles women have in local organisations and feminist agroecological transitioning through everyday farming practice.

The research team have written a blog about their research process and findings: Blog post: Peasant and Popular Feminism: Co-constructing Peace and Sustainability

For Spanish speakers, The research team have also created a wonderful podcast “El Feminismo Campesino y Polular en la ZRC-VRC”. Listen to the podcast below:

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Jaskiran Kaur Chohan (School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol) is a researcher and political ecologist with an interdisciplinary background in the Social Sciences. Her research relates to peasant agriculture, agroecology, food systems, decolonisation and sustainable development in Latin America. Jaskiran also worked on the POR EL Páramo (POst-conflict Reconciliation of Environment and Livelihoods in Boyacá Páramo) project in Colombia. She is the Principal Investigator of the South West Agroecological Network.
  • Natalia Fernandez (Congreso de Colombia) is a sociologist with a specialisation in gender currently working on research and involved in gender policy development with the Colombian Congress . She has experience in oral history, feminist ethnography and participative action research as well as her many years of working in the ZRC Valle del Rio Cimitarra on policy development.
  • Jeimey Lorena Tellez Gonzalez (Overseas University, Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios) is an agricultural engineer/agronomist with significant experience of working with peasant communities. She is currently undertaking a masters entitled Peace, Development and Citizenship which has a strong agronomy and agroecology research/teaching group.
  • Álvaro Saúl Pérez Peña (Latin American Studies, University of Bristol) is an artist who has 12 years of experience in co-creating art with peasant communities and de-mobilised FARC-EP fighters to support their reincorporation in society. He is also a founder and leading member of the artist collective 71. He has experience of working in the area, creating street art and murals depicting peasant struggle and memorialising victims of the conflict. Moreover, their work is strongly grounded in participative practice, therefore, will actively include women in the co-creation of the mural.

What is to come?

The results of the project will have three main components: a journal article, a diagnostic agronomy report on agroecological transitions and an artistic mural in a rural village of the peasant reserve zone.

The researchers hope the journal article will act as a space of interdisciplinary reflection on the agency of women activists within their regional organisations, on participative and co-creation methodologies, as well as analysing the progress of agroecology transitions led by women in collective and individual farms.

Data for the article will come from oral histories, semi-structured interviews on farming practice, agronomy surveys, observation and focus groups for the mural. The project intends for all research outputs to prioritise co-creation with women from the area and therefore impact. The article will emerge from discussions within the women’s coordinating group of the Asociación Campesina Valle del Río Cimitarra (the leading peasant organisation of the zone), thus, it will support internal discussion and policy development on how to support women within the organisation and in their socio-economic trajectories.

The team will also conduct surveys for a diagnostic report on existing sustainability levels, which will feed into policy development on agroecology transitions. These surveys will measure specific bioindicators on farms (including plant species diversity, soil acidity and fertility levels). Both the diagnostic report and the article will also feed into the Asociación Campesina Valle del Río Cimitarra’s sustainable development plan, particularly reflections on transitions towards agroecology. It will also lend a gendered lens to this assessment, which is often missing from such reports.

The project will culminate with a co-created mural to be painted in the town of San Pablo. The researchers want to leave lasting visual evidence of the work women have done in the region, which can often remain invisible and hidden. Through the mural, they hope more women will feel they occupy a space in their communities and have left their mark.

Photo Credit: Jaskiran Kaur Chohan
Muralist: Álvaro Saúl Pérez Peña
Co-designed mural from the project, depicting the rural economies that women participate in and lead: ‘Women cultivate for life and peace’, painted in the ward of Bajo Cañabraval, San Pablo.

All the research outputs will be working together and feeding into each other, supporting co-creation and dialogue among the team. They will all be present during each other’s data collection and so horizontal dialogue between researchers is central to the entire research process.