Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

IPEF: Secretive negotiations over the future of the Indo-Pacific economy

As international trade deals continue to evolve, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is being negotiated between multiple nations in the Asia-Pacific region. With the United States taking the lead, its members include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Despite its claims of trans-regional economic cooperation, critics argue that the IPEF is designed to advance U.S. corporate interests and provide an avenue for them to influence national regulation in critical sectors such as agriculture, labour, environment, manufacturing, services and digital technology. A significant point of contention surrounding the IPEF (as in other trade-investment agreements) is its secretive negotiations, shutting out public and democratic scrutiny, checks and balances.

Joseph Purugganan from Focus on the Global South summarized civil society concerns, stating:[1]The consensus was evident: IPEF, despite being touted as a new model for trade, appears to be heavily tilted towards mega-corporations and tech giants. The lack of transparency in its negotiations and the haste to finalize it, compounded by the geopolitical tussle between the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific, raises red flags. Governments are urged to carefully reflect, to place their citizen’s welfare above corporate windfalls, and to ensure that the IPEF, in essence, aligns with the aspirations and rights of those it stands to affect.“

Voices from the field 2

Exclusion and discrimination at the FAO World Food Forum

Melissa Gómez Gil, MAELA, Colombia

The FAO World Food Forum demonstrated the exclusion and discrimination of historically marginalised populations and communities, such as young people, women and rural communities. There, spaces for dialogue and the exchange of experiences were created, but they lacked the tools and mechanisms needed for interpreting. The accommodation and catering facilities were inadequate for those (like us) who had travelled from our territories, perhaps for the first time, to a country with a currency that is three times the value of our own national currency.

We felt that our right to food was being undermined by offering us their crumbs because they think that we are used to a violent system of social inequality; and this clearly replicates both the state of inequality in which we live in our own territories as well as the xenophobia that we experience in “first world” countries. Perhaps the experience for some was exciting for the simple fact of being in Rome or being at the FAO headquarters, but the truth is that for the young people of our social movement it was a traumatic experience without any safeguards or dignified conditions  in which we were allowed to participate fully.

Voices from the field 3

Digital tsunami:  A technology that is not discussed with the peoples creates exclusion and dependency

The following testimonies were obtained during the two year discussion, among diverse peasant, Indigenous, local community and family farmers organizations, on the digitalization of food systems, prompted by the “Data Work Stream” inaugurated by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in 2021.

Digitalization in agriculture and food is perceived as a driver of profit, more than a series of tools and processes that can ease work in the fields and benefit the majority of non- industrial agriculturalists. There is awareness that this technology has not been developed by the peoples for the peoples, but comes from the corporate world and intends to create dependency and exclusion, just like other agricultural innovations throughout history.  —Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSIPM) Vision statement on Data

“A farmer is now forced to produce food in a different way, which is not conventional or traditional, but dependent on technology.” Moayyad Bsharad, LVC-MENA Region, land worker.

The selection of certain data, and ignoring other data, is sometimes used to justify a political or profit-oriented goal. An example of a political goal comes to us from the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza. —CSIPM Vision statement on Data

 “Using Data collection on the food systems in Gaza and [the] analyzing [of] it by the occupier which holds power, the Israeli occupation was able to calculate an average of calories per person by which people do not starve but never feel well fed. Through this weaponization of food based on very accurately calculated Data, the Israeli occupation aimed at putting direct pressure on the population in Gaza through a form of collective punishment to drive them to abandon certain political choices they have made”. Mariam Mohammad, Coalition of Lebanese Civil Society / Arab Network for Food Sovereignty


[1] https://focusweb.org/press-release-indo-pacific-economic-framework-ipef-under-scrutiny-civil-society-raise-alarms-on-its-potential-consequences/

Boxes

Box 1

Digitalization of food systems: ‘Big Data’ won’t feed us

During its fifty-first session, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), issued recommendations for the collection of data for food security. Since 2021, the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism (CSIPM) insisted that data recollection won’t solve the historic and structural problems at the core of hunger and malnutrition. Aspects like the governance of digitalization, conflicts of interest (since the main promoters of ‘data re-collection’ are the world’s techno-titans), the importance of other knowledge systems, the environmental impacts of digital tools, and the need to assess the digitalization of food systems, were brought to the negotiations by the CSIPM. Below are the words of Patti Naylor, member of the National Family Farm Coalition and co-coordinator of CSIPM Data Working Group during the plenary on October 24[1]:

These policy recommendations fall short in many areas. Dangers to future food security and the environment were not addressed, neither were surveillance and privacy violations or monopolistic control of digital processes that enable the corporate control of the global food system. The document insists in “data” as the tool for achieving food security while huge amounts of data are already being collected and not driving the policies needed. The extraction of data joins the exploitation of human labor and the extraction of natural resources. As the seriousness of risks become more evident, these discussions around data and digital technologies must continue.

Box 2

Financing for development: a systemic perspective[2]

Struggles for food sovereignty are completely tied to the rules that govern the global economy. Be it how financial speculation and instability affect food, fuel, and fertilizer prices; how unsustainable indebtedness and unfair trade deals, rooted in colonial dynamics, have kept so many countries dependent on food imports and commodity exporting; or how the deregulation of global finance has been pushing farmers and rural communities out of their lands as these are bought by financial actors seeking profitable investments.

This is where the UN Financing for Development (FfD) process comes in as a space to advance on the systemic changes we urgently need to see. The FfD process is unique, as it is the only democratic space in which global economic governance is addressed, while the issues of climate change, inequalities and human rights remain at its core.

The FfD has its historical roots in the active discontent of Global South countries surrounding the structural flaws in the design of the international financial architecture and the inequalities that define it.

Momentum is building on international cooperation to face multiple crises. In recent months, the UN FfD process has regained steam due to two major steps forward: The approval by consensus of a resolution tabled by the Africa Group for an intergovernmental process on tax cooperation at the United Nations, and the momentum building towards the fourth Financing for Development Conference, which is expected to take place in 2025.

The issues of tax dodging and illicit financial flows, which have been raised by developing countries since the inception of the FfD process, cost governments around the world hundreds of billions of dollars in lost tax income every year. Decades of economic deregulation, corporate tax cuts and tax holidays to attract foreign investors have enabled a global land rush and the concentration of corporate power in food systems. These are resources that could be invested in public purchasing from agroecological producers, or in climate resilient and decentralized rural infrastructure to support local food systems, for instance.

The fourth International Conference on Financing for Development in 2025 would be a key moment for global mobilization and public pressure on debt justice. Supporting demands for debt cancellation and the reform of the global debt architecture would also be relevant to food sovereignty movements, as many countries trapped in debt have been forced to shape their economies around destructive large-scale industrial agribusiness exports, in order to earn the dollars needed for debt repayment.

In line with the new Nyéléni process and upcoming Global Nyéléni Forum, strategies for creating just and ecological food systems can only be strengthened by alliances with civil society organizations and social movements demanding a systemic transformation of the international financial architecture.

Box 3

Nyéléni process: towards a Global Food Sovereignty Forum 2025

Voices from our allies

Dražen Šimleša, RIPESS Int. https://www.ripess.org

The Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS Int.) doesn’t envisage a real and alive social solidarity economy (SSE) without food sovereignty and vice versa—our constituencies are inseparable and mutually supportive. We are standing on the position that today polycrises are rooted in the rules and design of today’s economic system. That is why we support transformative potentials in the global struggle for a better world. The area in which this growth obsessed, destructive economy and political system is the most visible is our food sector. We can see it from the position of small farmers and women in rural areas over the situation involving soil and biodiversity, to public health and monopolisation of the food sector. That is why work on food sovereignty and agroecology is important for a social solidarity economy. We see our movements as streams of the same river, as parts of the same ecosystem.

Within SSE constituency we are already working on many crossing points and overlapping areas. Our members are active in the promotion and implementation of territorial food systems, collective farms/farm shops (small local cooperatives), collective/shared food production and processing, territorial public procurement, preservation of the Commons (land, water, seeds, etc.), producer/consumer solidarity with shared risks and benefits, and general improvement of health. In those areas, among others, we can see the connection between SSE and FS.

Our input can be seen through highlighting the above mentioned close related programs, projects and activities.

We will continue to work on solidarity within our societies and the needed transformation of the neoliberal capitalist economy that is endangering the planet, small food producers, women, minorities, and all other groups that are not running the profit-above-all agenda. RIPESS Int. can also provide support for building capacities and knowledge with education activities and trainings on SSE and FS.


[1] https://www.csm4cfs.org/csipm-data-working-groups-statement-at-cfs51/

[2] For more info on this check the article by Flora Sonkin and Iolanda Fresnillo.

In the spotlight

In the spotlight 1

Red alert: ‘NbS’ and ‘nature tech’ are techno-fix traps!

The idea of ‘Nature-based Solutions’ (NbS) sounds positive and innocuous but is, in fact, neither. NbS is a highly ambiguous term increasingly used to greenwash corporate profiteering via policy arenas that are supposed to be tackling global climate, biodiversity and food crises.

Because of this ambiguity, NbS is being used to promote a huge variety of proposals, from plantations and wetland conservation, through to genetic engineering of plants and soil microbes.[1] Technical and market-based approaches, and a focus on ‘enhancing’ nature (including by excluding peoples from their lands) are the order of the day.

In 2022, NbS was incorporated into a range of intergovernmental agreements including in: fourteen resolutions at the fifth UN Environment Assembly; UNFCCC COP 27 Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan; the Convention on Biological Diversity Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework; and a resolution of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands COP 14.[2] This has been accompanied by a barrage of corporate NbS proposals:

“The…number of corporate ‘NbS pledges’ has exploded. But as there simply isn’t enough nature to go round, companies are pushing for technological means of “enhancing” nature, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) projects and other geoengineering technologies.[3]

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is also insidiously cementing the technofix approach as essential to NbS, arguing that “nature-based solutions can be transformed through nature tech into solutions that are scalable, transparent and trustworthy”.[4]  Here the WEF is spinning a carefully worded narrative about positive-sounding ‘nature tech’, to promote techno-fixes as the only way forward. This is not only untrue, but a dangerous distraction from real solutions.

The term ‘technofix’ is popularly understood as a technical solution to an urgent problem. Usually, however, it is nothing more than a ‘fix’ addressing the symptoms but not the root causes of a problem (because the promoters of the technofix would go out of business).

Technofixes may also increase the risks of negative impacts. For example, Solar Radiation Management (SRM) technologies have been proposed to reflect sunlight back into space.[5] This could have untold impacts on weather patterns and food production, but could nevertheless be hard to stop once started, because of the risk of ‘termination shock’—a rapid acceleration in climate change that would make adaptation infinitely more difficult than it is now,[6] including for food producers.

It is alarming that the technofix agenda is gaining ground so quickly, when the consequences could be so severe. This seems to be partly because of technology development being seen as politically neutral and always progressive—even though this is not the case[7]—and partly because of a reckless reliance on corporate actors to deliver technologies for the public good. These power imbalances are rarely disclosed or countered.

We in civil society need to collectively challenge and discredit the use of techno-fixes in all policy fora.

In the spotlight 2

The Global Trade-Investment Regime: formalising theft and destruction

The global trade and investment regime is built on a history of extractivism and exploitation of nature, labour and wealth by corporations largely from the global north, but with increasing numbers from the global south as well. With roots in the colonial era, this regime is a powerful political economic force that is threatening peoples’ food sovereignty, subverting democratic multilateralism and endangering the planet.  A watershed moment in global trade architecture was the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995, that was lauded by many governments for putting in place a rules-based multilateral trading system. In reality however, WTO rules have favoured the economic interests of wealthy countries, with market access firmly at the centre of all negotiations. Its numerous agreements on agriculture (AoA), intellectual property rights (TRIPS Agreement), industry (Non-agricultural market access negotiations—NAMA), health/safety standards (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures—SPS), services (General Agreement on Trade in Services—GATS), investment, government procurement, trade facilitation, fisheries, e-commerce, and environmental services are designed to secure corporate control over the goods and services necessary for everyday life through progressive trade liberalisation.

Over the past two decades, the WTO has been accompanied by a new genre of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and economic partnerships that can be bilateral, plurilateral, regional and trans-regional, for example the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and most recently, the Indo-Pacific Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). These agreements are more ambitious than the WTO in terms of enabling foreign corporations to operate in domestic markets, intellectual property protection, investor protection and shaping domestic regulation. TRIPs plus provisions in FTAs allow pharmaceutical companies to own data on the safety and efficacy of medicines, de facto extend their patent periods and create drug monopolies, and significantly delay the production and marketing of generic drugs. They also demand participating countries to join and follow International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) rules, which favour corporate agribusiness and biotechnology companies.

One of the most dangerous provisions of these agreements is investor rights protection through Investment State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms by which investors can sue governments over public policies, laws and regulations that constrain their operations and profits including, for example, taxation, labour, environmental and pollution laws. ISDS arbitrations incur huge costs to taxpayers in legal fees, court appearances and payments for damage, and discourage governments to regulate in the public interest.

The WTO and FTAs are faces of corporate driven globalization, and prioritize opportunities for corporations to profit over the rights and capacities of small-scale food producers, workers, Indigenous Peoples and people. They supersede multilateral conventions on human rights, environment and biodiversity, and distort concepts of sustainability, inclusivity and accountability. The structural failings of this model and its governance regime are evident in recurring food, financial and public health crises, collapsing supply chains, dispossession of small-scale food producers and accelerating climate change. Negotiations are characterized by power asymmetries among countries, opaque backroom deals and coercion parading as consensus. This regime must be dismantled and trade-investment governance embedded in principles of food sovereignty, peoples’ rights, dignity, solidarity, and respect for nature.

In the spotlight 3

Hydra with a Thousand Heads: How corporations privatise international decision-making

Corporate power, the industrialization of agriculture, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, and market concentration in food systems continue rising. Seizing seats at the decision-making table of various international public institutions has been instrumental to maintain and increase corporate power. How are corporations increasing their influence in UN agencies dealing with important issues related to food sovereignty?

–        Seventy percent of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) budget comes from voluntary contributions, including those from philanthropies and corporate associations. FAO does not disclose how much money it receives from the corporate sector.

–        FAO has intensified its collaboration with the corporate sector in its strategic framework for 2022-2031. Besides Crop-Life International, it has signed agreements with the International Fertilizer Association, Google and Unilever, among others. Source.

–        Coca-Cola was one of the sponsors of the climate COP 28 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), will be overseeing the upcoming round of global climate negotiations as president of COP28, hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Source: here and here.

–        Crop-Life International participates in technical expert groups of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Business associations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Economic Forum, which include major agribusiness corporations, have established coalitions to promote sustainable solutions that protect corporates’ interests but do nothing for the environment. Examples include offsetting mechanisms (such as ”No Net Loss”, ”Net Gain”, ”Nature Positive” and ”Nature-Based Solutions”), self-reporting, self-regulation and self-certification. Source.

Another way to increase corporate influence in UN institutions is to change the manner of policymaking. Instead of relying on intergovernmental processes of negotiation with clear rules of the game, many forms of multi-stakeholder initiatives with informal policy outcomes and a strong presence of business-friendly networks are mushrooming.

The UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 convened by the UN Secretary General was the biggest of these initiatives so far. Despite not having an agreed plan of action by governments, a UN Food Systems Coordination Hub – hosted by FAO and jointly led by the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the heads of the Rome-based agencies (FAO, World Food Programme—WFP, and International Fund for Agricultural Development—IFAD), WHO and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was created as a parallel structure to existing institutions such as the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This Hub enjoys more than double the budget of CFS while the latter continues struggling for funding. National governments are not part of the governance structure of this Hub. In other words, a corporate-friendly UN bureaucracy is de facto deciding which policies to promote.

The FAO World Food Forum (WFF) is a large event trying to match investors and countries. It is organized around three main pillars: the Global Youth Forum, the Science and Innovation Forum, and the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum. It provides a large platform for corporate actors to promote their business solutions. (See further reading box).

Democratizing decision-making around food systems is at the very core of the food sovereignty movement. We must counter the corporate capture of the United Nations. Building on our vision on food and peoples’ sovereignty and human rights, we need to further develop our proposals and strategies for inclusive global food governance and the democratization of the United Nations in a broader sense.


[1] https://www.etcgroup.org/sites/www.etcgroup.org/files/files/geoengineering_in_climate_negotiations_final.pdf

[2] https://research-and-innovation.ec.europa.eu/research-area/environment/nature-based-solutions_en

[3] Quote from the No to Nature Based Dispossessions statement, March 2022.

[4] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/12/nature-based-solutions-are-essential-for-tackling-the-climate-and-biodiversity-crises/

[5] https://www.geoengineeringmonitor.org/cat/technologies/solar_radiation/

[6] https://www.geoengineeringmonitor.org/2022/03/high-risk-geoengineering-technologies-wont-reverse-climate-breakdown/

[7] https://www.etcgroup.org/content/politics-technology and https://etcgroup.org/es/content/la-politica-de-la-tecnologia

[8] https://www.csm4cfs.org/csipm-data-working-groups-statement-at-cfs51/

[9] https://focusweb.org/press-release-indo-pacific-economic-framework-ipef-under-scrutiny-civil-society-raise-alarms-on-its-potential-consequences/

Newsletter no 54 – Editorial

How multilateral and other international platforms affect food sovereignty 

Illustration: Andrea Medina for ETC Group, facebook.com/andreammedinagraphic/

For many governments and policy makers, food has come to be viewed as a commodity rather than a right. Global food governance increasingly serves corporate interests through market- and business-friendly agreements which are normalised in a wide range of multilateral institutions. People’s livelihoods and nature are being traded away via economic and financial deals that benefit corporations and elites in different sectors and countries, but threaten the conditions necessary for peoples’ food sovereignty. This threat is now being compounded by corporate techno-fix approaches to climate change and biodiversity crises.

In this issue of the Nyéléni newsletter, we describe how trends in multilateral and other international platforms are impacting food sovereignty in ways that will be decisive for the future of food and peoples’ self-determination. We unpack the different processes in which unfair exchanges are being perpetuated and opaque concepts promoted.

As trade and investment fora continue to advance industrial food systems and global supply chains, the proliferation of so-called ‘Nature-based Solutions’ (NBS) is masking new ways of commodifying nature, territories and livelihoods.  By assigning land, soil, water, forests and biodiversity the impossible task of making up for the pollution caused by industries elsewhere in exchange for monetary remuneration, a new front of commons enclosure is opening up, which is being enabled, measured and monitored through new technologies. Corporate capture of political and economic agendas is a common factor in all these scenarios; spreading out and embedding in multilateral institutions through multistakeholderism. A glaring example of this is the 2021 Food Systems Summit and the subsequent establishment of a UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, which seeks to hijack the ongoing food governance conversation.  A further example is the discussion on Data for Food Security and Nutrition in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), driven by none other than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is clear that we need to collectively mobilise and resist on an even larger and more coordinated scale than ever before to challenge and reverse these trends across a range of multilateral and other ‘negotiating’ arenas.

ETC Group, FIAN International, Focus on the Global South

Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

“Water needs a collective voice” against pig factories in Yucatan

Ka ́anan Ts ́onot / Guardianes de los Cenotes, testimony presented during the UN Human Rights anniversary in 2022

In Yucatan, Mexico, there has been a massive and accelerated expansion of pig factories. Today, there are at least 274 pig farms in the Peninsula. They have expanded despite environmental, social, and cultural conditions that should have prevented them from entering the region. This affects the metabolic relation with “cenotes”: sinkholes that connect a huge aquifer under the Peninsula with its communities.

In the town of Homún, the Guardians of the Cenotes has been defending their territory from pig farms. Through organisation, protest and litigation, the mega factory farm’s operations were suspended in October 2018. However, the risk will continue until the pig factory is cancelled. Currently the case is waiting for a ruling from a federal court to decide on the right of the Mayan children to a healthy environment and the rights of the cenotes.

In Homún’s region, Mayan communities struggle against the expansion of pig factories while defending water and life. In the word of a local human rights defender: “These cenotes are sacred places for our people, they are treasures, places where you can see life and how nature works. Nature works without voice, hands, feet. We need to stop, to pause, to see nature’s generosity including clean water. This mega farm should NOT damage my town, will NOT kill the nature of our town…Water needs a collective voice… Just as we need air and water to live, they need us”.

Voice from the field 2

How pastoralists in western India manage livestock diseases

Documented by researchers at Anthra

Until recently, in western India, if a flock of sheep showed signs of sheep pox, male shepherds would sport a beard and spray vast amounts of turmeric all over the flock. While this may appear absurd to some, it is a logical practice. By sporting a beard and not shaving, the shepherd was sending out a signal understood by other shepherds of his community that his animals were sick, that they should keep their animals away and also check them for signs of illness. Also, turmeric powder is known to have medicinal properties and it is used widely in India, not just for cooking but also as an antiseptic. This shepherd would also isolate himself, his family and his flock until the symptoms subsided so as to limit the infection.

Shepherds and other pastoralists in India have dealt with diseases in their livestock for years using a combination of practices. They have selected species and breeds suitable to the region they live in, managed grazing and water for their animals through migration, used herbs and household spices to treat their animals when sick and used “management” practices like the aforementioned to contain and limit the spread of disease.

Voice from the field 3

My job became more dangerous

Bernarda Lopez (pseudonym), testimony to the US Congress

I am from Guatemala and have lived in the US for 24 years working in different Tyson meat plants. My job became more dangerous during the pandemic because I work shoulder to shoulder with my coworkers. We had to continue our work because we were named “essential workers”. It is common for workers to go to work while sick to avoid getting disciplinary points for missing work. I was worried because my husband was convalescent due to a surgery, and I didn’t want him to get Covid-19. The company did not put in place effective safety measures and did not tell us anything about the cases that began to appear.

We only saw that people began to miss work, but they never told us the reason. I began to have some symptoms of headache and I felt very tired. When I informed my supervisor, she would not let me go home. She told me that if I left, they would give me a point, to which I accepted because I felt bad. The next day I went back to work so I wouldn’t get another point and risk getting fired. After work, I went to a clinic and tested positive for Covid-19. Inevitably, my husband was infected and passed away almost immediately.

Voices from the field 4

Not enough veterinarians is no excuse

Attila Szőcs, Eco Ruralis, Romania[1]

There are hardly any vets for peasants and small farmers in the rural countryside in Romania, only about 1 for every 1000 small farms. Because of this, there is no capacity to deal with outbreaks of African swine fever, which have been affecting the country’s pig farmers since 2017. The government’s veterinary agencies simply order the mass kill-off of all pigs in any region where there is an outbreak.

In the case of small farms, the agency sends in teams to go through villages, from farm to farm, shooting all the pigs in the head, and then they leave the dead pigs for the farmers to take care of. The big farms have their own vets and management, and they sacrifice their own animals with the supervision of the agency. Big farms have received millions of euros in compensation from the government. In January this year, there was an outbreak at a Danish-owned breeding farm and 42 thousand pigs were culled.

Voices from the field 5

Unjust standards lead to the disappearance of peasants

Nicolas Girod, Confédération Paysanne, France[2]

[Regarding animal husbandry] We have unfair and inappropriate standards, based on a model that does not fit all peasants. This is leading to the disappearance of small farmers and to the conformity or exclusion of those who don’t fit the mould. What we are pursuing through peasant farming is a different approach: a norm’s objective can be met in different ways. But this is something that the authorities are unwilling to consider.

We recently had to deal with an outbreak of bluetongue disease.  We call it an “export disease”. It had been used by France as an excuse to block meat imports from infected countries, based on an exaggerated classification of risk. When bluetongue arrived on French soil, it backfired: other countries classified it in the same way and French farmers could no longer export till all territory was free from it. This meant vaccinating all animals, even those who were not much at risk, such as the dairy sector. We went to court and were found guilty—but not convicted—because we didn’t want to vaccinate our animals. It’s the kind of absurd thing that doesn’t fit in at all with our autonomous grass-fed farming systems.

Nicolas Girod was recently arrested for his participation in the protests against the water mega-basins for industrial agriculture.

Voices from the field 6

Revitalizing regionalised meat production

Julia Smith, Blue Sky Ranch, British Columbia, Canada

In 2008, changes to meat processing regulations resulted in the loss of 80% of British Columbia’s meat processing facilities. People who used to be able to buy a side of beef from the farmer down the road, now had to go to the grocery store and buy beef from the neighbouring province of Alberta. That animal may have been born down the road, but the loss of processing facilities meant that it now had to be sent to Alberta for finishing where it would be processed by one of the giant corporations who now process 95% of Canada’s beef.

In 2018, a group of farmers in British Columbia formed the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association to fight for changes to enable farms to supply locally raised meat. In 2021, we achieved new regulations that allow up to 25 animals to be slaughtered on-farm every year and we are now developing a “Butcher Hub Network” to support both on-farm slaughter and other regional meat processing operations. This includes projects like the design and build of a slaughter trailer that can be used by a professional butcher to provide services to multiple farmers licensed for on-farm slaughter.

Voice from the field 7

Local breeds of chicken

Abdramane Zakaria Traoré, Centre Sahélien pour la Biodiversité

Local breeds of chicken provide a vital source of animal protein, eggs and income for many rural communities in Africa. Raised in family farming systems, they are often accessible even to farmers with limited resources and have exceptional resilience to disease because of their genetic diversity. Indigenous breeds are adapted to their specific environments and are more resilient to adverse environmental conditions and disease than imported commercial chickens.

Poultry diseases can cause huge economic losses and compromise food safety. However, African breeds of chicken have developed natural defence mechanisms that help them resist and recover more quickly from infections. They require less medication to prevent and treat disease than commercial breeds, which minimises the risk of antibiotic resistance developing and threatening human health. By supporting the breeding of African chickens and preserving their genetic diversity, we can strengthen food security, reduce dependence on antibiotics and improve the resilience of poultry farming systems, paving the way for a genuine transition to agroecology in Africa.


[1] More on this here.

[2] Full article in French here.

Boxes

Box 1

Pandemic Research for the People[1] (PReP)

Capital investments invade forest frontier spaces for timber, urban development, mining, and industrial agriculture (livestock, monocultural crops, and the displacement of peasants by land grabbing). These processes fragment forest ecosystems and expand the number of multi-species interactions. Viruses transfer into human populations and the accelerated mandates of global trade and travel move flora and fauna (including infected humans) around the globe.

Mainstream science calls for ever more surveillance of forests, criminalising residents that live in and depend upon forest products. In combination with agroindustry, it also promotes “sustainable intensification” whose underlying logic is that the deployment of Green Revolution technologies on existing farmland will preserve forests. Nevertheless, profits from increased production drives agricultural expansion.

In contrast, agroecologists promote a “forest matrix” model that views people as integrated, essential components of ecological systems where food production is linked with conservation. This ecological framework dovetails with ongoing Indigenous, Black, and peasant land defence processes. Agroecology is a process of adaptation and mitigation that produces low energy, biodiverse ecosystems far more likely to be resilient in extreme weather events and to better regulate epidemiological cycles.

Top-down pharmaceutical responses to infectious disease outbreaks treat disease as an isolated, external agent targeting vulnerable human populations. Integrating agroecology as an infectious disease response approaches infectivity and disease spread as a possible (but not inevitable) symptom of complex human – nonhuman interfaces structured through racial-colonial regimes of global capital. For PReP, agroecology is crucial to combatting infectious disease, all while placing autonomy over land and livelihoods in the hands of the global peasantry. 

Box 2

Mega salmon industry in Chile pollutes, affects health and destroys local fisheries!

The salmon farming industry in Chile has been occupying and destroying protected areas and Mapuche, Kawesqar and Yagán ancestral territories for decades. The industry’s abusive use of antibiotics and antiparasitic produces resistance to antibiotics vital to medical treatments for humans while affecting marine ecosystems. This process decreases the natural resistance of native species and increases the diseases that can affect them.

The salmon mega-industry has introduced at least 20 viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens into the aquatic ecosystems of southern Chile. These events cause serious social and economic impacts on coastal gathering communities, especially in the Chiloé archipelago. Clams and other filtering bivalves are contaminated with neurotoxic and gastrointestinal toxins, leading to the sanitary closure of these areas to local fishermen and collectors[2].

After creating areas of “environmental sacrifice” and a case of ecocide, the foreign and Chilean-owned corporations export their billion-dollar products, certified as “environmentally friendly and socially responsible”. The fundamental problem is the productivist and extractivist model of nature exploitation, which permanently endangers life, health and biodiversity in our territories. Our protected areas and ancestral territories will not be sacrificial zones for the destructive salmon colonialism!

Box 3

Nyéléni process, towards a Global Food Sovereignty forum 2025

Voices from our allies

Claudio Schuftan, People’s Health Movement (PHM) and World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA), Ho Chi Minh City 

Nyéléni 2007 was a key pace setter to public interest civil society organisations’ (CSOs) and social movements. It set a new tone for placing our demands to duty bearers. Fifteen years later, the time has come to reinvigorate the process to, not only sharpen our demands, but also to gather new forces to do so – thus showing the importance of the Rome meeting that took place last June (2023).

PHM fully agrees that the challenge is not to come up with a new Declaration created from above. It is the process of the next 18 months that will bring the struggle to the bases so that the outcome will be truly globally representative and will hopefully create the necessary counter-power.  PHM is a network of networks of health and human rights activists, currently with an e-presence in 70+ countries. It was established in the year 2000 and is active on both global and national issues. Its current secretariat is based in Colombia. PHM has a working Food + Nutrition thematic group very much in tone with Nyéléni supporters and activists, given the undeniable relationships between health and nutrition. In our work, our group links food sovereignty, agroecology, climate justice and the right to food to the right to health. We will take the Nyéléni process to our 3700 subscribers of the list server phm-exchange both to inform our constituents of progress and to collect their inputs to collectively work towards a 2025 Declaration. We are definitely all in.

The same is true for the work of WPHNA, a professional association of public health nutritionists, of which I am a member of its executive committee. WPHNA fully embraces the Nyéléni Principles. Our membership is around 500 worldwide. We are also definitely in.


[1] prepthepeople.net or e-mail rwallace24@gmail.com and alexliebman@gmail.com

[2] For more info, Centro Ecoceanos

In the spotlight

In the spotlight 1

Emerging diseases and factory farming

In 2008, as we followed a disastrous international response to the H5N1 bird flu epidemic sweeping Asia, we wrote: “The world is in the midst of big changes with respect to global diseases. We are heading […] for more deadly types of disease, and more capacity for them to spread. There is also a greater probability of the emergence of zoonotic diseases and global pandemics. Yet the international response to this situation has so far failed […] to reflect the seriousness of the crisis[1]”.

The source of the problem was obvious: the rapid expansion of a model of animal farming in which thousands of genetically uniform animals are packed together and pushed to grow as fast as possible. These factory farms are breeding grounds for the evolution and amplification of lethal strains of diseases, with the possibility to infect humans —as the vast majority of new diseases affecting humans come from animals (known as ‘zoonoses’). The globalised structure of the industry, with its highly concentrated areas of production (including in deforested areas where there is risk of contact with wild animals) and its focus on exporting feed, meat and animals over large distances, create the conditions for disease to spread widely and rapidly.

The H5N1 bird flu epidemic should have questioned the promotion of factory farming and industrial meat. But the opposite occurred. Governments and international agencies blamed small farmers and traditional markets. They put in place a range of measures to protect the industrial meat companies, and used the epidemic as an opportunity to increase scale and concentration, leaving oversight for these deadly farms and meat plants in the hands of corrupt corporations and tycoons.

In 2009, a swine flu pandemic emerged in Mexico out of the globalised pork industry. This was followed by a devastating African Swine Fever pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands pigs in areas where factory farming had been expanding: Russia, China and other parts of Asia. Then came Covid-19, and while its exact animal origin is not yet known, corporate meat processing plants were a major source of transmission, affecting hundreds of thousands of workers, their families and friends. Bird flu has luckily not yet morphed into a pandemic strain, but a new variant is killing millions of wild birds and running out of control through the most tightly-sealed industrial poultry farms of North America, Japan and Europe.

Under the guise of “biosecurity”, governments and agencies like the FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) continue to promote measures to further industrialise livestock farming under corporate control.  Approaches based on animal diversity, traditional knowledge and small-scale, localised production and markets, are ignored and even criminalised.

To stop this recklessness and keep the world safe from new pandemics, we have to end factory farming and defend and rebuild diverse, small-scale, localised systems of animal husbandry.

In the spotlight 2

The resistance against the expansion of mega pig farms and the defence of Indigenous territories, water, air, and nature in Latin America[2]

Despite the serious harms they cause, pig factories are spreading from the United States throughout Latin America. These meat factories are part of the current dominant (and expanding) food regime, the grain-oilseed-livestock complex[3]  through which grain and oilseeds (mostly genetically modified maize and soy) are used to feed the growing number of food animals. Unfortunately, if things do not change, by 2029, meat production will increase by 40 million[4] and much of this meat will be produced in Latin America. As most of the meat is exported, there is a clear unequal exchange between those who benefit from the exploitation of humans, non-human animals, and nature (meat companies); and the communities —usually Indigenous, peasant, and Afro communities— who experience the multiple negative impacts of the industry.

Pig factories are industrial meat production operations that confine thousands of pigs in closed spaces, to focus their energy into producing meat. The production of meat under this capitalist logic pollutes water, air, and the soil. It is associated with land grabbing and health hazards (including pandemics), it is one of the largest contributors to climate change and deforestation, involves cruelty against animals and displaces other more sustainable and just forms of food.

Pig factories are also associated with multiple rights violations, including the rights to land and territory, to a healthy environment, to water, to food, the rights of nature, human rights defenders and Indigenous Peoples[5]

It is no surprise that there is a growing resistance against the expansion of agribusiness and specifically pig factories. In 2022, impacted communities, activists, organisations and academics met in Yucatan to discuss the growing problem of pig factories in the region. The declaration of America without mega pig farms[6] solidifies the demand to promote food sovereignty, agroecology and ancestral food production, instead of subsidising and supporting agroextractivism and the need to stop meat factories.

Multiple collective actions have taken place to stop meat factories. Including, but are not limited to, citizen consultations, Indigenous self-consultations, campaigns, protests, occupations, and litigation[7].  When they have raised their voices, multiple peasants and Indigenous Peoples have suffered intimidation, criminalisation, and repression. At a regional level, multiple organisations have requested the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to grant a thematic hearing to address the cases of human rights abuses in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and the United States related to the meat industry.


[1] Viral times – The politics of emerging global animal diseases,

[2] There are many documents made by the group that produces this article. See more here and here.

[3] Weis, T. (2013). The ecological hoofprint: The global burden of industrial livestock. Bloomsbury.   

[4] Stiftung, H. B. Meat Atlas 2021.

[5] For more information regarding the meat industry and human rights violations, please visit the thematic hearing request presented by 20 organisations and supported by 243 in 2022, and again in 2023, available here.

[6] The Declaration (in Spanish) is available here.

[7] For more information about Yucatan and elsewhere, you can visit the storymap (in Spanish).

Newsletter no 53 – Editorial

Emerging diseases and factory farming

Illustration: Rini Templeton, www.riniart.com

What makes food safe?

Within the industrial food system, “safety” is all about managing the high risks created by this model of food production. Food is produced on monoculture fields or factory farms, with uniform breeds of plants and animals that are highly vulnerable to pests and diseases. In this context, diseases can grow or mutate into more lethal forms, and, in the case of animals, transfer to humans and spread through corporate supply chains. To deal with their vulnerabilities, crops are genetically modified or doused with toxic pesticides, and animals are fed antibiotics and drugs, creating more health dangers. Then much of the food gets highly processed and sold through supermarkets, causing harms like diabetes and cancer.

More and more regulations and standards are imposed by governments and corporations to deal with these risks. But they typically only curtail the most serious excesses, without threatening corporate profits, and are alien to food systems based on traditional animal husbandry, markets and agroecology, where risks are low because of diversity, local knowledge, trust and small scale circuits. Those regulations have become a tool to expand corporate control and undermine the healthy food systems that continue to feed the majority of the world’s people and that are the only real solution to the harms of the industrial food system.

GRAIN

Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

From the international forum to the field 1

Kusnan, National Seeds Centre, Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), Tuban, East Java, Indonesia

The global food sovereignty movement, which organized its first forum in Nyéléni, Mali, in 2007, was instrumental in providing political clarity and a common understanding of what food sovereignty means in our diverse national contexts.

In Indonesia, for several decades, Serikat Petani Indonesia has been struggling for agrarian reform that will ensure that our territories obtain food sovereignty. We call these regions “food sovereignty areas.”

I am currently in Tuban, East Java, in a Food Sovereignty Area that has been protected from large-scale grabbing for industrial use. Here, we cultivate the land as a community with autonomy over our tools, seeds, and methods of cultivation. Our cooperative system is run and managed by peasants who share the principle of agroecology and have built an integrated system of production where our cattle, crops, and nature exist in harmony, complementing each other’s functions.

We plant a diverse set of crops, such as rice, corn, horticulture, fruits, and vegetables and oppose any attempts to create industrial monocultures. We use small-scale farm mechanization that provides autonomy to the peasants who use it. Our seeds are bred and produced by selecting and crossing local seeds to improve their genetic properties, productivity, and resistance to climate change.

Our farm practices are derived from local wisdom and ancestral knowledge, and we use solid organic fertilizers from livestock waste and biological fertilizers containing various kinds of micro-bacteria. This helps to break down organic matter in the soil and create conditions of ecological balance in a balanced ecosystem. This approach fulfils the availability of macro and micronutrients and controls pests and diseases so that we can produce healthy and nutritious food.

To market our produce, we have formed the Indonesian Farmers’ Cooperative, a farmer’s institution that processes and distributes production in rural areas and cities in the Food Sovereign Area. This cooperative system provides a sustainable and equitable approach to agriculture that prioritizes the needs of the community and helps to protect our food sovereignty.

Voices from the field 2

From the international forum to the field 2

Ibrahima Coulibaly, The National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali (CNOP-Mali)

Food sovereignty struggles in Mali have been ongoing since the Nyéléni Forum of 2007. It has materialized on the ground with the aim of opposing the production and distribution model dominated by private interests and supporting the local economy to fight against hunger and poverty.

The National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali (CNOP-Mali), in 15 years, has made Nyéléni a beacon that sheds light on the future of family farming by putting peasant agroecology at the heart of food sovereignty.

This commitment by the CNOP resulted in the organization of an International Forum on Agroecology in 2015 held in Mali, the establishment of a system ranging from the identification of a pool of peasant trainers to the development of 12 modules developed around practices in the land, a charter of relay farmers, and an Agroecology manifesto. Additionally, a peasant agroecology platform in Mali was created at the initiative of the CNOP in April 2017, along with a system for training peasant trainers in peasant agroecology to achieve economic, social, and environmental justice.

Today, this system has thousands of producers trained and committed to the practice of Agroecology. However, the challenge remains to implement an approach to remove obstacles to the multiplication of markets for agroecological and organic products. How can we move from target markets to mass markets? How can we structurally involve peasants in the consultation of actors related to food systems? And how can we ensure a political position of decision-makers, both nationally and within regional governing bodies and the African Union? These are all questions that require necessary answers.

Voices from the field 3

A glimpse into the struggles and resilience of fisher communities

Md. Mujibul Haque Munir, COAST Foundation, Bangladesh

Recently I embarked on field visits to Cox’s Bazar, Bhola, and Sunamganj, to assess the current situation before our regional consultation. I witnessed first hand the resilience and strength of fishers’ communities despite the numerous challenges they face.

In Cox’s Bazar, I witnessed the harsh realities caused by the ongoing Rohingya crisis. The region is known for its marine fisheries but the fisherfolk battle numerous challenges. They long for proper registration and written contracts to secure their jobs and ensure fair compensation in case of accidents. Many fishermen expressed mixed experiences with the assistance provided by the District Fisheries Office, where only some of them received essential safety equipment. Financial hardships were also evident, with meagre monthly incomes and reliance on advances from boat owners. These challenges take a toll on their families, impacting access to education and healthcare.

Traveling to Bhola, the devastating impact of natural disasters on the coastal region became apparent. Recent cyclones had left communities in ruins. The local fishermen displayed incredible resilience as they worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives. However, immediate assistance in the form of shelter, clean water, and livelihood support was crucial for their recovery. Strengthening disaster preparedness and resilience in this area is paramount to mitigate the impact of future events and protect their lives and livelihoods.

In Sunamganj, a region characterized by rivers and wetlands, I encountered a different set of challenges. Flooding, erosion, and waterborne diseases were prevalent issues. Despite the adversities, the community showcased remarkable adaptability, devising innovative ways to cope with recurrent floods. However, long-term solutions such as embankment construction, early warning systems, and improved healthcare facilities are urgently needed to safeguard their well-being. Enhancing their resilience is essential in this unique environment.

Community members, local authorities, and humanitarian organizations provided me with a holistic understanding of the challenges and potential solutions. Collaborative efforts involving all actors are crucial to address the multifaceted issues faced by these communities: to begin with adequate government support, financial security, safety measures, and access to essential services need to be ensured. By recognizing the fishing communities’ contributions and extending a helping hand, we can empower them and create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Voices from the field 4

A Peoples’ Food Plan by the people, for the people!

Jessie Power, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA)

In 2012, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) launched its original Peoples’ Food Plan in response to the Australian Government’s National Food Plan, which has since been abandoned. Unlike the Government’s National Food Plan, which was developed without participation from small-scale farmers and local communities, the Peoples’ Food Plan reflected the concerns and aspirations of eaters, farmers, community organisations, independent food businesses and advocacy groups. The People’s Food Plan process was conducted as a model of participatory democracy in policy development – open, inclusive, and democratic – because we knew the scale of the challenges and the urgency of the work needed to transform our dysfunctional food system, and that decision making is best handled by those it affects.

Through the collectivising work around the original Peoples’ Food Plan, the food sovereignty movement in Australia emerged as an alliance of farmers, food systems organisations and individuals ready to take food justice into their own hands. Eleven years on, AFSA has grown into a farmer-led civil society organisation championing the fight for food sovereignty. With over a decade of policy submissions to federal, state, and local governments, now is the time to update the Peoples’ Food Plan as a policy framework and grassroots action plan towards food sovereignty in Australia.

AFSA released the updated Peoples’ Food Plan draft for public consultation on 1 June, which will invite anyone involved in food system activism and transformation to get involved in shaping peoples’ actions and policy recommendations for Australian government at all levels. Our international allies are also invited to help us build a library of case studies that illustrate food sovereignty and agroecology in action to let our governments know that we the people should have full agency to determine our own food and agricultural systems, where Indigenous Peoples and small-scale producers have been effectively doing so for millennia!

Since 2019, Australia’s food system has experienced a wave of shocks: catastrophic bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating flooding across the eastern coast. The Australian Government has prioritised industrial agriculture and large-scale food producers set up for exports through enabling policies, legislation, and scale-inappropriate regulation. Yet, three years of systemic crisis has highlighted that it is small-scale food producers who are able to weather these storms and feed local communities. We aim to launch our updated Peoples’ Food Plan 2023 at AFSA’s annual Food Sovereignty Convergence in October as a rallying call for change in the wake of crises.

If you’d like to get involved in AFSA’s updated Peoples’ Food Plan 2023 or send a case study for inclusion, email us: coordinator@afsa.org.au.

Boxes

Box 1

India’s historic farm struggle explained

The Agricultural Producers’ Market Committee (APMC) in India provide a regulated space for farmers to collectively trade their produce, protected from market volatility. Minimum Support Price (MSP) is another policy that provides a minimum remuneration for farmers, ensuring they can recover their costs of cultivation and make a profit.

However, in 2020, the Indian government passed three laws without consultation that sparked protests from farmers across the country. The first law allowed private entities to set up de-regulated private markets, which farmers feared would end the APMC system and their collective bargaining power. The second law allowed for contract farming, leading to concerns about corporate concentration in agriculture and land disputes. The third law removed stocking limits and other regulatory mechanisms on agricultural commodities. Farmers alleged that these laws pushed for a massive privatisation of the Indian agricultural system without any legal safeguards for the MSP in place.

The farmers across the country mobilised against these laws, and after a 15-month long protest, the Indian Government repealed the three controversial laws in 2021, bowing to public pressure. However, more than 750 farmers reportedly lost their lives during the struggle. While the functioning of APMC markets must improve, the farmers’ struggle highlights the need to consult with stakeholders before passing legislation and the importance of protecting farmers’ collective bargaining power and MSPs in the Indian agricultural sector.

Box 2

Roadmap to the Nyéléni Process

After a one year period of exchange and discussion within the IPC’s members, we have now started the process to build alliances with other sectors. During the following year and a half, the Nyéléni process will enter its main phase.

Currently (June 2023) the first Stocktaking meeting of the International Nyéléni Steering Committee is taking place in Rome. During this meeting we aim to create solid basis for a dynamic coordination with those sectors that are not part of the IPC.

The Steering Committee will then serve to create guidelines to conduct six regional meetings (Latin America, Asia and Pacific, North America, Africa, Europe, and North Africa and Middle East) that will take place from September 2023 to September 2024. Different actors from different sectors will participate into these regional fora to gather an all-inclusive regional perspective.

During the final phase, the Global Nyéléni Forum will build on the regional consultations’ outcomes to conduct cross-regional, cross-thematic discussions and prepare a final analysis and proposals. Concurrently the forum will aim to achieve the other goals: such as (re)energizing and strengthening the food sovereignty movement, fostering solidarity between actors and sectors, creating momentum to make the voices of grassroots organizations and people heard, and giving a common direction to the social movements for the years to come.

The main objective of the Nyéléni process is not the Forum itself, but rather the implementation of the decisions taken, and the guidelines adopted throughout the process.

Box 3

Power, violence, and food systems: Insights from an address by Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

“The right to food is about celebrating life through food in communion with others”. This was the practical definition of the right to food favoured by Michael Fakhri, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, during a keynote address given at the Peace Palace in the Hague in April[1].  Fakhri shared that he was inspired to become a Special Rapporteur by the global food sovereignty movement, which gives the right to food its power. This is a power built on reciprocal relationships as opposed to the power of the rich which is built by acting as ‘gatekeepers to the necessities of life’.

He outlined four forms of violence in our food systems that are necessary to confront in order to advance the right to food including: 1) Discrimination as a result of denying people their right to food based on their class position or other markers of identity; 2) Bodily harm that is inflicted on people as a result of armed conflict or other forms of domination and submission; 3) Ecological violence wrought by the industrial food system both on the climate and on nature; 4) Erasure of people by emptying landscapes to make way for resource extraction and capital accumulation.

These four forms of violence in food systems pose a significant challenge to the food sovereignty movement and beyond. They illustrate the urgency of building up counter-power through processes of convergence and alliance building that stand at the core of the Nyéléni global gathering. Harnessing the power of the global food sovereignty movement has been demonstrated to prove effective, whether it be through the negotiation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants or by exposing the corporate sham of the UN Food Systems Summit. Given that hunger and malnutrition are, as Fakhri stated, always a political problem, not a consequence of scarcity, there is much to be fought for.


[1]   A video recording of the lecture is available here.