Module

Understanding Food Sovereignty

Module Progress:

In the last module, you looked back at the roots of agroecology. In this module, you will look forward and see why farmer-led social movements such as La Via Campesina have identified agroecology as a path towards Food Sovereignty. To better understand how agroecology is a mechanism for food system transformation, you will explore different definitions of Food Sovereignty, as well as learn more about it’s global context. Finally, you will explore the differences between Food Sovereignty and Food Security.

La Via Campesina and Food Sovereignty

At the Forum for Food Sovereignty in Sélingué, Mali, 27 February 2007, about 500 delegates from more than 80 countries adopted the “Declaration of Nyéléni“,[2]. In this historic declaration, La Via Campesina defined Food Sovereignty in part as:

“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. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”

La Vía Campesina believes that in order to protect livelihoods, jobs, people’s food security, and health as well as the environment, food production has to remain in the hands of small-scale sustainable farmers and cannot be left under the control of large agribusiness companies or supermarket chains. Only by changing the export-led, free-trade based, industrial agriculture model of large farms can the downward spiral of poverty, low wages, rural-urban migration, hunger, and environmental degradation be halted. Social rural movements embrace the concept of food sovereignty as an alternative to the neoliberal approach that puts its faith in an inequitable international trade to solve the world’s food problem. Instead, it focuses on local autonomy, local markets, local production-consumption cycles, energy and technological sovereignty, and farmer-to-farmer networks.

Excerpt 1: “Agroecology, Small Farms, and Food Sovereignty”

by Miguel A. Altieri | from The Monthly Review

For centuries the agricultures of developing countries were built upon the local resources of land, water, and other resources, as well as local varieties and indigenous knowledge. This has nurtured biologically and genetically diverse smallholder farms with a robustness and a built-in resilience that has helped them to adjust to rapidly changing climates, pests, and diseases.5 The persistence of millions of agricultural hectares under ancient, traditional management in the form of raised fields, terraces, polycultures (with a number of crops growing in the same field), agroforestry systems, etc., document a successful indigenous agricultural strategy and constitutes a tribute to the “creativity” of traditional farmers. These microcosms of traditional agriculture offer promising models for other areas because they promote biodiversity, thrive without agrochemicals, and sustain year-round yields. The new models of agriculture that humanity will need to include forms of farming that are more ecological, biodiverse, local, sustainable, and socially just. They will be rooted in the ecological rationale of traditional small-scale agriculture, representing long established examples of successful community-based local agriculture. Such systems have fed much of the world for centuries and continue to feed people in many parts of the planet.6

Fortunately, thousands of small traditional farms still exist in most rural landscapes of the third world. The productivity and sustainability of such agroecosystems can be optimized with agroecological approaches and thus they can form the basis of food sovereignty, defined as the right of each nation or region to maintain and develop their capacity to produce basic food crops with the corresponding productive and cultural diversity. The emerging concept of food sovereignty emphasizes farmers’ access to land, seeds, and water while focusing on local autonomy, local markets, local production-consumption cycles, energy and technological sovereignty, and farmer-to-farmer networks.

Vía Campesina believes that in order to protect livelihoods, jobs, people’s food security, and health as well as the environment, food production has to remain in the hands of small-scale sustainable farmers and cannot be left under the control of large agribusiness companies or supermarket chains. Only by changing the export-led, free-trade based, industrial agriculture model of large farms can the downward spiral of poverty, low wages, rural-urban migration, hunger, and environmental degradation be halted. Social rural movements embrace the concept of food sovereignty as an alternative to the neoliberal approach that puts its faith in an inequitable international trade to solve the world’s food problem. Instead, it focuses on local autonomy, local markets, local production-consumption cycles, energy and technological sovereignty, and farmer-to-farmer networks.

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Agroecology, Small Farms, and Food Sovereignty
(optional reading)

Film 1: Food Security | Lexicon of Sustainability

Small farmers are being pushed out by industrial agriculture all over the world. Here in the United States, the problem is a little different. Currently, less than 2% of the US population is considered a farm operator, although 15% of the US population produce, process and sell the nation’s food and fiber (American Farm Bureau Federation, 2015).

Most Americans are removed from food production, and their access to food is through a retailer, which creates a bottleneck for consumers. The politics of a given area can affect what retailers chose to set up shop there.  This video explores how that phenomena can contribute to “Food Insecurity”, and highlights the differences between Food Security, Food Sovereignty and Food Justice.