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Rural Workers Association (ATC) represents Nicaraguan campesinxs

News from Nicaragua | Tuesday, 8 September 2020 |

Power and property in the hands of the few

For 43 years the US backed Somoza family dictatorship ruled Nicaragua resulting in an extreme concentration of power, wealth and property ownership in the hands of a corrupt, repressive few.

Rural labourers led an insecure, nomadic life as seasonal workers moving from one large farm to another. This meant no employment rights, no education, no health provision and no stable income or home.

The Sandinista Revolution commitment to economic and social justice

Founded in 1978 the ATC formed part of a broad alliance that overthrew the dictatorship in what is known as the Sandinista Revolution.

Agrarian reform was a fundamental part the Sandinista government’s commitment to building a new society based on social and economic justice.

The ATC played a central role in improving the living and working conditions of campesinxs on state or private farms and farming co-operatives.

The brutal reality of US foreign policy

In response, the US administration under President Ronald Regan set about destroying the Sandinista Revolution through financing and training a mercenary force called the Contra, imposing a trade embargo, and conducting an international propaganda campaign to discredit the Sandinistas.

Thirty thousand people lost their lives in war declared illegal by the World Court in 1986. Many of them were campesinxs defending their families and communities.

Reconciliation and resistance

After the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, the ATC facilitated a process of reconciliation between former contra and Sandinista peasant families, an essential part of recognising common interests over political affiliation.

Under three consecutive neoliberal governments from 1990–2006, the ATC organised to defend the gains of the revolution, including peasants’ rights to retain the land distributed in the agrarian reform programme.

Poverty reduction programmes for the benefit of the many

The National Development Plan that the Sandinista government has implemented since 2007 focuses on poverty reduction and infrastructure development. This investment has greatly improved the quality of life in rural areas most affected by high levels of poverty.

Free basic health care and education, rural electrification, land titles, clean water, credit programmes for women, technical training, building food sovereignty and new roads are just some of the many government programmes that have benefited rural communities.

The ATC: a national movement representing Nicaraguan campesinxs

The ATC has over 47,000 members and plays a key role in strengthening the social economy by creating alliances and promoting food sovereignty policies and access to government programmes to improve the living conditions of small scale farmers.

The ATC has two main areas of work:

* defending the employment rights of agricultural workers in the banana, coffee, tobacco, sugar cane and African palm industries;

* promoting the struggle for political, economic, social and climate justice focusing on land rights, agroecology, food sovereignty, and gender equality

Compesinxs are organised into co-operatives and associations, growing coffee, maize, beans, fruit, and vegetables using agro ecological methods. The focus is on building local, resilient and ecologically diverse food systems.

The ATC has two national movements: the Movement of Rural Women (MMC) and the National Youth Movement (MJC)), both of whom participate in national discussions relating to the quality of life for women and young people in the countryside.

The ATC operates five training centres for community leaders in employment rights, agro ecological farming, political and community organising, and food sovereignty.

In March 2018 the ATC set up a Latin America Agroecology Institute (IALA) in Nicaragua, one of eight IALAs in Latin America. The first cohort of 22 students aged 17 – 30 from Central American and Caribbean La Via Campesina organisations graduated in November, 2019.

The objective of IALA is to provide a holistic training - technical, political, ideological, spiritual - as the basis for promoting agroecology, achieving food sovereignty and transforming society.

'Agroecology is a revolution! …the most urgent task we face is the search for ways to protect the Earth. ’ Marlen Sanchez, director, Latin America Agroecology Institute, Nicaragua (IALA)

International solidarity and La Via Campesina

Internationally, the ATC is a founder member of La Via Campesina, an international social movement representing over 200 million peasants, small farmers, agricultural workers, and indigenous peoples.


Globalise Struggle, globalise hope!


Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.“ La Via Campesina Declaration, 2007

Climate Justice: ‘It is imperative to create harmony among the living beings of the planet and to cool Mother Earth. Food sovereignty links climate change and the collective rights of humanity, it guarantees the protection of the peasantry, and indigenous people and their role in food production.’ La Via Campesina, declaration of meeting of the International Collective on the environment and climate justice, Managua, 27 August, 2018

Agroecology is holistic in that it aims to ensure the wellbeing of people and the planet. As such it also encompasses social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual elements.


Source of information including a video about the history of the ATC available on the website of Friends of the ATC https://friendsatc.org/history/