Food sovereignty is absolutely critical. NOW. AND WE CAN DO STUFF! Wait a minute. How much have people even heard of food sovereignty? Out of curiosity:
So, global hunger. Big problem, right? We’ve all seen the snapshots, the comic relief films, the ads, since we were too small to understand them. So let’s go through what we know…
Where’s it a problem?
The global south/ third world/ areas of drought/famine/war/disruption to systems.
So who should lead the solution?
The farmers based in the global south, who still feed 70% of the world using smallscale agriculture.
What are they saying?
What have the G8 and its newly formed body,the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, and the IF coalition of NGOs lobbying the G8 done about Food Sovereignty?
They have actively pushed it off the agenda.
I first heard of Food Sovereignty a few years ago, from friends who live a nomadic lifestyle supporting different self sufficiency – food sovereignty – projects in the UK and beyond. It grabbed me as the absolute key aspect of global justice that I wanted to engage in, and I took the opportunity, studying anthropology & development, to read as much about it as possible. Food Sovereignty is an idea which fundamentally threatens the colonial institutions of development, and this is why we do not hear about it from the G8 and the NGOs who spend their efforts asking the G8 for solutions.
Food Sovereignty is a concept that has been developed in the global south. La Via Campesina is often described as the world’s largest social movement, with around 200 million members, and uses food sovereignty as a framework. What Food Sovereignty means is the ability to produce food to feed oneself without dependency on any external corporation, system or institution. The Food Sovereignty movement works to reduce dependencies (whether on local, regional or national levels) on others for land, seed, equipment, distribution systems and other necessities for producing food. MST (Movement for the Landless, Brazil) is a major member of La Via Campesina, and since it formed, the balance has shifted from farmers wanting to use modern industrial farming methods to agro-ecological methods becoming dominant. Agro-ecological methods use mixed cropping methods, which produce higher yields per land. The higher labour required, in the context of rapid rural-urban migration creating massive social problems, can be, if anything, an advantage.
Autonomy in food production makes people less vulnerable to external pressures, whether these are global neoliberal capitalism or an oppressive national regime. Agro-ecological methods maintain biodiversity and thus the flexibility necessary for resilience in the face of climate change. And, the framework of food sovereignty links up the local to the global. Here, in the UK, we can engage with food sovereignty in two ways. On the one hand, we can develop our own local food sovereignty and link into the global movement formed by La Via Campesina and others, taking their lead. We can also take advantage of our unfairly privileged position in global politics, and put pressure on the international powers of our politicians, NGOs, and corporations to stop actively undermining food sovereignty and instead support it.
Developing our own local food sovereignty can be done on many fronts. Choosing to consume local, organic, non-GM options is one thing, but one where affordable options are limited. So, let’s work on more affordable organic,local food supply solutions – some are suggested here! Growing your own, individually or in communities is a great solution. But, to do so, people need access to land, and time. Get involved in land struggles. Every little helps a trend – finding spaces to be claimed and cultivated as commons can happen on every street corner, park, workplace and school. There may well be a project near you that is looking for more support. Project Dirt is one of many attempts to build links and a network of individual projects. One place to start finding out more about larger scale landclaims is Reclaim the Fields . An immediate threat in the UK is further changes to squatting law, which would criminalise the use of abandoned land. Look out for ways to try to prevent these proposals.
Time and skills are also needed. The unequal distribution of free time, opportunities to access knowledge, and income are intertwined, and all are damaging. Check NEF’s 21 hours report, because we need to get a shorter working week as an option for everybody, from overworked highflyers, to overworked and underpaid double working cleaners. This is inextricable from campaigning for living wages. People must be able to support themselves, and have time and options to explore new ideas, permaculture and food cultivation being only one of these. Growing our own food sovereignty, we increase our resilience, and can start to withdraw from mass agricultural exchanges of cheap grain produced in the industrial north for southern markets for luxury goods produced at the expense of subsistence crops. And, we are working alongside others around the globe, and need to learn from their struggles and experiences.
Now, to our influence as citizens of a nation with disproportionate power. We have a prime minister who is chair of the ‘hunger summit’. We have celebrities who film themselves with him for their charity fundraiser hit. We must battle this sickening PR with the truth – that Cameron works consistently, hand-in-hand-in-pocket with the big agriculture corporations – against the interests of the global poor. This is a battle to fight in the streets, outside the headquarters of agribusinesses, their financers, with our MPs, in our schools, in our universities, in our community gardens, in the media, and everywhere. Join a group to work together – and take whatever initiative you can, wherever you can. The film ‘Seeds of Freedom’ is free to download in HD – could you watch it? Watch it with some friends? Arrange a public showing and discussion about actions people can take?
45 000 people turned up to Hyde Park to support an agenda put together by Western NGOs to be utterly unthreatening to their funders, at the cost of silencing the issues that really matter. We have to beat that. We’d better be in this for the long haul.
And finally, something immediate. In May 2012 the G8 launched the ‘New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’. It actively undermines the work of the democratically mandated UN Committee on World Food Security. The UK’s DFID has just announced it will be contributing £395 billion from the UK aid budget to this unaccountable, private sector investment organisation. Find out more and sign this petition here – only 3 minutes of your time, and pass it on.
And, if you read this before Friday 14th June 5pm, come to THIS. The G8 are gathering next week, and they need to know that there are voices close to home in solidarity with people across the world.
Written with inspiration from a workshop at The Spark.