Five representatives of Koalicja Żywa Ziemia, which was established last year, visited Berlin to establish relations with coalitions from other countries, and to recharge their activist batteries. On January 19, we joined approximately 35,000 people and 170 tractors in a huge demonstration in favour of sustainable farming. The event is impressive, and energising for action.
The visit’s undoubted high point was participating in Saturday's great demonstration – Wir haben Agrarindustrie satt!, or “We’ve had enough of industrial agriculture!". Walking from the hotel, on one of the streets we came across a train of slow-moving tractors. It made a huge impression on us; we could see neither the beginning nor the end of this tractor cavalcade. As we later learned, there were 170 machines on the city streets, and they had come from various parts of Germany, even from very remote parts. All the vehicles were decorated with banners calling for climate and environmental protection, and appeals for an agriculture that produced wholesome food and that cared for animal welfare and social justice. People cheered and greeted the farmers enthusiastically. These were truly touching moments when we felt part of a community working for a better future for farmers and consumers. The demonstrating crowd then gathered in front of stage near the Brandenburg Gate, where green movement activists were speaking. The organisers were kind enough to allow our group to greet the demonstrators directly from the stage and express our solidarity in Polish. Beside us, there were women representing a coalition from France and Spain.
The demonstration brought together crowds in large numbers – about 35,000 people of very varying ages are estimated to have taken part, expressing in a peaceful and cordial atmosphere their opposition to the current agricultural policy that is increasingly industrialising agriculture. The Wir haben es satt! (We’ve had enough!) demonstration for more sustainable agriculture has been held in Berlin every year for nine years on the occasion of the world's largest international agricultural and food fair, Grüne Woche (Green Week). Each year brings ever more participants, and more tractors show up. Some farmers ride their machines for up to three days in order to take part in the largest demonstration for a systemic change in farming. This year, the message is being directed particularly strongly at all EU national governments, because work on the next reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is underway. Organisations and ordinary people are demanding that the reform put an end to the growth of industrial agriculture and that it direct public funds to support primarily those farms that use sustainable production methods. Currently, agricultural subsidies depend on farm size, so most money goes to the largest, the majority of which are monocultures using enormous quantities of chemicals, or large industrial farms that cause terrible suffering to animals. Instead, public funds should support those farmers who manage their operations in a climate-, environment-, and animal-friendly manner. One of the slogans of the campaign is "Public funds for public services".
During our stay in Berlin, we also had the opportunity to talk with representatives of coalitions for better agriculture from other countries. The largest and oldest is the German coalition Meine Landwirtschaft (My Agriculture), with more than 50 different member-organisations, including agricultural, ecological and consumer bodies. It focuses mainly on organising demonstrations and other public events such as festivals – that is, raising awareness and activating citizens. The Spanish coalition PorOtraPac and the French Pour une autre PAC (both meaning “For a different CAP”) are much younger and number about 30 organisations, and devote more attention to advocacy, i.e. lobbying for legal changes. The Polish Koalicja Żywa Ziemia is the newest of the coalitions, so we hope for further meetings, to be able to draw on the experiences of our European partners and look for effective ways of working together.
Taking part in the visit in Berlin were: Agnieszka Makowska (gardener, Coalition coordinator, Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczno-Kulturalne ZIARNO [ZIARNO Ecological and Cultural Association], Nyeleni Polska [Nyeleni Poland], Ekologiczny Uniwersytet Ludowy [Ecological Folk High School]); Maria Staniszewska (Polski Klub Ekologiczny [Polish Ecological Club]); Monika Styczek-Kuryluk (organic farmer, Fundacja Mała Wielka Zmiana [Great Little Change Foundation]); Robert Kuryluk (organic farmer, Stowarzyszenie EKOLAND [EKOLAND Association]); Justyna Zwolińska (Fundacja Strefa Zieleni [Green Zone Foundation]); and Ewa Jakubowska-Lorenz (European Agricultural Policy project coordinator at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw).
Demonstration photo gallery: