Protest, The Historical Perspective

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The organization Euskal Herriko Laborantza Ganbara was started by locals due to certain facts:

First there is a certain type of agricultural practice prevalent in the Basque Country (report for hearing impaired):

  • 80 % of the territory is classed in a Mountainous Zone with large swaths of pasture managed collectively by local farmers during the summer.
  • The farms are generally smaller than the average French farm.
  • The farmers actively direct themselves towards large open spaces for raising their livestock therefore the recuperation/cultivation of natural resources (ferns and brush) is considered to be a valuable practice.
  • Agriculture is present throughout the entire territory, including the difficult and hard to reach zones such as slopes.
  •  The production and transformation of agricultural (dairies, salted drying …) represent 50% of the employment in the rural  interior of the Basque Country.

This major economic activity, in the heart of the territory, remains largely unrepresented by the departmental Chamber of Agriculture.

A second reason is that the Basque Country is not a “politically” recognized territory, meaning no particular laws, statutes or jurisdiction.  In comparison  to  the strong policy influencing territory on the southern side of the border, the Basque Country on the Spanish side, on the French side it is invisible “politically” or in regards to “personal territorial policy”. 

The Chamber of Agriculture in the department/region of the Pyrenées Atlantiques has been the main direction for local agriculture for the past 20 years.  During this time they have continuously indoctrinated policy that favors intensive agricultural practices with small margins such as corn and, in particular, irrigated corn. The major portion of their financial windfall is devalued through the encouragement of their industry in direct detriment to the Mountanous Zone.

In addition, this type of practice by the Chambre d’Agricuture does not encourage diversified farming practices, because of the electoral party with the majority vote in the Presidency (as well as half of the available representative seats), while the other half is made up of small individual “votes” representing their perspective sectors, including this majority. The reform regarding this practice has been a battle since the ancient Confédération Paysanne (Small Farmers Confederation).  In the territory of the Basque Country, the labor union of ELB Confederation Paysanne of the Basque Country, is the majority in elections at the Chambre d’Agriculture, but it has never had a voice represented by official agricultural institutions.

More recently, various initiatives have helped sustain numerous small farms.  Agricultural products now have labels indicating top quality production : 3 AOC’s, Organic Agriculture, farm production labeled IDOKI, etc.…

In the past 20 years, this type of support and development has led to better income and the recognition for top quality.  This type of policy, with labeling indicators, has been organized by small farmers and NOT by the Chamber d’Agriculture of the region.

In face of these issues and the weight of the silence practiced by the French administration regarding the creation of an agricultural institution more specific to the Basque Country with its own concerns, ELB, supported by 70% of its constituents, and a number of powerful economic hitters came together on the 15th of January, 2005, to create the association, Euskal Herriko Laborantza Ganbara in support of an agriculture representative of the smaller farm and farming sustainability in the Basque Country.



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