First asserted in 1997 by Via Campesina, a peasant-led movement to protect smallholder farmers from predatory international “dumping”, by 2007 the food sovereignty movement had grown to encompass a broad range of struggles against neoliberal food policy. That year, more than 500 representatives from 80 countries met in Sélingué, Mali to refine and assert the goal of food sovereignty at the first global forum on food sovereignty. In the declaration that followed, these representatives asserted the right of all people to not only have access to nutritious food but to decide on what terms it was produced, distributed, and consumed.
Unlike projects which attempt to “solve hunger” by donating food to areas of inaccessibility, food sovereignty projects are rooted in the redistribution of power. Power must be redistributed so that community members determine entirely how their own food system functions. The fight for food sovereignty is dictated by and for diverse localities’ interests and because of this food sovereignty will have different manifestations in different contexts.
“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 the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” –Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007
Ultimately, the tenants of food sovereignty center and empower local needs above the demands of agribusinesses and the market (see the ways that our Farm Bill does not serve these ends ). Food sovereignty recognizes that access isn’t enough. Growing and sharing food is part of how people build individual and community identities. Food exchange is intimate and personal and every person should have the power to be represented and hold power in their food system.
Anderson and others offer 6 structural changes necessary to support agroecology (source). These goals also support food sovereignty
- 1. Public protection of and reparations towards equitable access to land, seeds, and water
- 2. Affirmation by educators, political leaders, and community organizers of diverse local knowledge systems as well as public investment in local leaders
- 3. Empowerment of local systems of exchange including informal markets, barter systems, and gift economies. These networks should be embedded in democratic social relations and community solidarity
- 4. Develop networks for farmers, researchers, and organizers to coordinate policy action and exchange knowledge and skills.
- 5. Promote robust public discourse about the intersections between agroecology, the environment, health, economy, and social justice specifically uplifting diverse place-based world views and cultural practices
- 6. Prioritize equity in agroecological networks and ensure greater participation and decision-making power of those who have previously been marginalized or excluded
(for more details, see the full report)
Sources + more reads
Anderson, R Colin et. al. (2020). “Scaling Agroecology from the Bottom up: Six Domains of Transformation”. Food First. Retrieved from: https://foodfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FoodFirstBackgrounderAgroecologyTransformations_Feb21.pdf
Nyéléni 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty. (2007), 9–9. Retrieved from https://nyeleni.org/DOWNLOADS/Nyelni_EN.pdf