Food Hero: Eric Holt-Giménez and the Campesino a Campesino Movement

Lizzi Whittlesey | Food Tank | Nov 2, 2014

Photo by Ian Thomas Jansen-LonnquistEric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D. is an author, lecturer, agroecologist, and food system researcher. Since beginning his career in 1977, he has been a vocal advocate for campesinos and campesinas and a champion of el Movimiento Campesino a Campesino (the Farmer to Farmer Movement). The Campesino a Campesino (CaC) movement is farmer-led, seeking to increase yields, implement innovative farming methods, and improve livelihoods through sustainable agriculture, farmer-generated technologies, and farmer-to-farmer knowledge. As Holt-Giménez explains, “Successful social movements are formed by integrating activism with livelihoods. These integrated movements create the sustained social pressure that produces political will—the key to changing the structures that presently work against sustainability.” The CaC movement has now spread across Latin America with hundreds of thousands of practicing farmers in over a dozen countries.

After the highly destructive Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998, Holt-Giménez researched the agroecological resiliency of “sustainable” versus “conventional” farms in response to natural disasters. The study—which examined 360 communities across Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala—found that “on average, agroecological plots on sustainable farms had more topsoil, higher field moisture, more vegetation, less erosion and lower economic losses after the hurricane than control plots on conventional farms.” The final report was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment in 2001. He also discussed these findings in his 2009 book, Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice, which he co-authored with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck.

Successful social movements are formed by integrating activism with livelihoods. – Eric Holt-Giménez

After spending more than 25 years in Mexico and Central America, Holt-Giménez recognized the necessity for changes on a broader scale. “Small farmers and underserved urban communities need changes in national food policies and international trade rules to have a fighting chance of feeding themselves and building healthy, prosperous livelihoods.” Holt-Giménez moved back to the United States with a deep appreciation for local food systems. He spent several years teaching before serving as the Latin America Program Manager for the Bank Information Center (BIC) from 2004 to 2006. In June of 2006, he started his current position as Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. Food First uses academia and analysis to highlight the plight of campesinos and peasant farming around the world. Founded in 1975 by Joseph Collins and Frances Moore Lappé, Food First “envisions a world in which all people have access to healthy, ecologically produced and culturally appropriate food. After nearly 40 years of analysis of the global food system, [Food First] know[s] that making this vision a reality involves more than technical solutions—it requires political transformation.”

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To learn more about Eric Holt-Giménez and Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, visit the Food First website.

Food Tank recognizes individuals that are creating innovations and inspiring change in the food and agriculture field, and will regularly feature stories highlighting the inspiring accomplishments of these food heroes.