Food Sovereignty: a citizen’s proposal

On Friday, 23 February, the World Forum for Food Sovereignty “Nyéléni 2007” begins in Mali, convened by an alliance of international social movements of peasants, women, fisherfolk, environmentalists and consumers. The seat of the Forum is the village of Sélingué, 140 km from the capital, Bamako. More than 600 participants from 98 countries all over the world will be attending, having set themselves the task of defining a global and collective strategy “so that peoples’ right to food sovereignty is recognized as a specific and full right, one that is legally binding for governments and guaranteed by the United Nations”, in accordance with the objectives defined for the event.
“Food sovereignty is a citizen’s proposal. It is not a proposal for sectoral reform, aiming only to benefit food producers, be they farmers or fisherfolk”, continues the document setting out the objectives of the Forum. On the contrary, it “has repercussions on every sector of society. By guaranteeing fair prices to farmers, it allows them to live in their communities and it reduces migration to cities. It is a global citizen’s proposal which will only succeed and be accepted at an international level if it is actively supported by those sectors of society which do not produce their own food directly”.
The Forum’s organizers also propose to create meeting spaces with governments who are in favour of food sovereignty. One such government is the government of Mali, a country which recently adopted a new Law on Agricultural Orientation, which has made food sovereignty its top priority. Other countries are developing proposals which are very similar to food sovereignty – without using the same term – which demonstrates that “more and more countries have stopped believing that neo-liberal policies can provide an answer to the hunger and poverty suffered by growing sectors of their populations, and they’re ready to try new ways to solve the problems”. In this way, concludes the document, the Forum will provide an opportunity to think about the best strategies to ensure that nations actively support food sovereignty at the international level. To this end, members of governments have been invited to attend on the last day to enter into dialogue with participants in the event.
In an interview with ALAI, José Bové, leader of the French peasant movement, stressed that the aim of the Forum is “to ensure that food sovereignty is acknowledged as the only response possible for peasants, for countries themselves and for the majority of the peoples on the planet”. With this in mind, the results of the Forum will be disseminated, initially, to all peasants’ and fisherfolk’s movements and to civil society. However, it is also planned to forward the result to heads of state, the United Nations, the FAO and development bodies.
Bové, who is also a candidate in his country’s presidential elections, believes that the food sovereignty proposal is closely linked to the freedom to re-use and exchange seeds. “If we want food sovereignty to become a reality, we must make it clear that seeds are part of the global inheritance of humankind. The right to reuse seeds is a fundamental struggle, like prohibiting patents on living beings, whether they be plants, animals or humans themselves”, he said.
The agrarian reform proposal is also “an integral part of food sovereignty” according to Bové. “If we want to create food sovereignty, if we want agriculture to allow peasants to earn a living from their work and consumers to have access to quality products, we have to break away from the logic of huge farms, redistribute the land and see that in many countries guarantees are given that peasants will not be expelled, either by big landowners or by the concept of industrial production”, said the leader of Vía Campesina.
Among the obstacles to achieving this aim, according to Bové, are the agreements entered into within the framework of the WTO. He also challenges the fact that market prices are not determined on the basis of actual production costs, but artificially, according to the fluctuation of global prices influenced by the surpluses of the European Union or United States, or on the commodities exchange, as is the case for products such as cocoa and coffee.

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