Voices from the field
Latin America and Caribbean – Alianza
The nights are sacred for the gatherings of my Kuna people in Panama. There, we nourish ourselves with oral history, with the struggles for self-determination of other peoples. There, we embrace the universe, and organize ourselves in the defence of Mother Earth. Nyéléni is the Peoples’ Assembly for Food Sovereignty, where we share global struggles, feed ourselves with the strength of the people and the embrace of our sisters and brothers from other continents. For over 500 years the problems have remained the same. The struggle for life, water, territory, have other names and other forms, but continue to be the same problems that each generation must face with new strategies and tactics. The Nyéléni process is an opportunity for coordination between diverse organizations focused on the defence of Mother Earth and the Food Sovereignty of the peoples. Now, it is extremely important to weave alliances and organizational work in the face of the threat of megaprojects and extractive projects, as well as to define strategies to overcome the impacts of COVID 19.
As with every starry night, with or without the moon, with the sea choppy and storms approaching, the Kuna communities discuss how to solve social, cultural or spiritual problems in the same way that the Nyéléni process is a moment in time to gather the peoples of the world, to sing, to dance, to dream, to understand that we are part of Mother Earth, of Grandmother Sea, of Grandfather Sun and they call us from their shells to start a conversation around the fire, between social movements and Indigenous Peoples, to organize ourselves in the defence of Mother Earth.
Europe and Central Asia – Nyéléni ECA
Our world, including Europe and Central Asia, is undergoing a series of inter-related crises: armed conflicts and civil unrest associated with humanitarian crisis caused by war and political instability in many parts of our region. It is an economic crisis that manifests itself in food and energy price increases, and increased vulnerabilities related to loss of employment, access to healthy affordable food, the on-going COVID 19 pandemic, and the on-going climate crisis. The latest crisis is the war in Ukraine, which affects both people and the land, and impacts food security policies in the region and beyond. This crisis has shown us the level of local communities’ resilience and the importance of local food systems and of the central role of the Nyéléni space, allowing different constituencies to come together in solidarity and to work on policies related to our struggles.
Just like Nyéléni, the legendary Malian peasant woman who farmed and fed her people, small-scale food producers (farmers and fishers alike) in Ukraine, courageously struggle to continue feeding local populations in times of war, including the recent destruction of the national seed bank. But little is written about this, nor is much support provided to them.
The war also contributes to the aggravation of longer-term issues such as climate change. The majority of women and children in several regions are either internally displaced or have sought refuge in European countries. While in Russia, Indigenous Peoples and human rights defenders continue to be repressed.
The Nyéléni process implies a duality of influencing public policies at all levels and independent social movement-building. Social movements of the various constituencies are brought together through this work in intersectional support. The process also includes a broader, more intersectional, and much-needed approach to address the deep multiple crises of economic, social, and environmental issues around the world.
IPC African region
As the national government and private sector continue tightening the space for the family farmer to produce what they eat and eat what they produce by the introduction of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, this destroys the environment. The Nyéléni processes support the promotion of agroecological approaches which encourages socially acceptable, economically viable, and environmentally friendly production while also protecting the natural environment. This approach ensures the promotion and protection of biodiversity conservation. The process further discourages the corporate powers that prevent our family accessing territorial markets with their cheap food and food that puts our health at risk and damages the environment. food sovereignty cannot be obtained where food, land, seeds, fish and livestock are in the hands of corporate control.
The Nyéléni process helps to prevent the privatisation and commodification of native seeds from the introduction and use of new and old GMOs in our farming and food system. We are continuing to face land grabbing by corporate powers, corporate capture of our territorial markets, and challenges created by climate change and other external factors such as COVID 19 and other conflicts.
We believe that the Nyéléni process can support the social movements on the ground in strengthening and promoting collaboration and participation in regional policy dialogues where changes in national public policies happen. The stimulation of movements and the intersectionality of struggles can help in promoting land justice, agroecology, and territorial markets. Together we can enhance advocacy on land, seeds, and water for small-scale food producers.
IPC MENA Region
In the North African region, food sovereignty is commonly understood as a tool for democratisation that can provide major support to rural populations in order to include demands relating to the various threats identified. In this case, water contamination, privatisation of rural land, and the commodification of our food. In contrast, in the Middle East region, food sovereignty is seen more from a political perspective, particularly because of the people’s aspirations for the liberation of occupied and/or semi-occupied territories. The new context today calls, more than ever, for a synergy between the discourse and practice of food sovereignty in order to implement the principles in the daily work of the actors involved in the production, distribution and consumption of food.
It should be noted that the past Nyéléni meetings presented a strategic vision for achieving food sovereignty that recognises the contribution of women to peasant agriculture, yet these documents do not take into consideration the issue of gender relations.
On the other hand, food sovereignty must be understood as a multifaceted political project in constant evolution, whose substance is highly likely to vary according to the type of collective actors who claim it. In this sense, the Nyéléni process can support social movements in the MENA region to strengthen the convergence among movements of different constituencies. This is key to ensuring the development of the capacities of the social movements via the capacity building of the movements’ youth and leaders around food sovereignty.
IPC Asia and Pacific
Asia and the Pacific, home to 60% of the world’s population, is faced with a multitude of challenges in terms of food sovereignty.
All around the world, over 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers and artisanal fisherfolk grow, collect, and harvest food for human consumption. Such localised food systems provide the foundations of our nutrition, incomes, economies, and culture throughout Asia and in the world.
The COVID 19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing challenges to food security such as climate change impacts, disaster risks, shrinking natural resources and degrading environments, use of GMOs, changing demographics and labour profiles, and infrastructure deficits, among others. In the context of growing populations, increasing urbanization, and changes in the food value chain and food industry, the food sovereignty debate is quite crucial.
Local people’s loss of capacity for autonomy and self-determination is a direct consequence of the expansion of the industrial, heteronomous model of development rooted in commodity production. We as IPC need to collectively assert and advance the principles and policies that constitute food sovereignty and reject those that aim to further embed corporate interests in our food systems.
The notion of ‘food sovereignty’ is perhaps best understood as a transformative process that seeks to recreate the democratic realm and regenerate a diversity of autonomous food systems based on equity, social justice, and ecological sustainability.
Gender equity and respecting the voices of the very poor and marginalised remain urgent challenges for the food sovereignty movement and civil society at large. The Nyéléni process can strengthen the organizations of women, men and young people, Indigenous Peoples, farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, migrants, rural workers, fisherfolk and others.
IPC North American region
On April 5 and 12, 2022 the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) organized two online consultations for the North America region (United States and Canada) as part of the Nyéléni process. The dialogues brought together a diverse range of small-scale food producers, rural worker organizations, Indigenous and Native Peoples, scholar-activists, and civil society organizations to discuss the future of the food sovereignty movement and build common priorities for navigating the inter-related food system crises in the region.
Over the past two years, COVID 19 has laid bare the fragility of concentrated corporate food value-chains in North America, with farmers forced to dump milk and destroy crops, workers falling sick due to lack of protective equipment and corporate collusion, and rising food insecurity in marginalized communities. These challenges, coupled with mobilizations against racial injustice and the impacts of the climate crisis on rural communities, have shaped new opportunities for farmer-worker solidarity and union organizing, greater awareness and investment in resilient local food systems, and policy action on equity and justice in agriculture. In this context consultation participants emphasized anti-capitalist, racially just, anti-imperialist, and radically feminist approaches to organizing around land access, dismantling corporate monopolies, advancing agroecology, the right to food, and strengthening indigenous sovereignty.
Since the first forum in Mali in 2007, the political declarations and relationships that have emerged from Nyéléni have shaped the direction and strength of the food sovereignty movement in North America and solidarity actions beyond the region. As this collective work continues, the Nyéléni process provides a dynamic forum for building rural power within and across our communities as we advance the principles of food sovereignty in our local food systems and international policy spaces.