In search of autonomy and food sovereignty

Sélingué, 25 February – Silvia Ribeiro was charged with communicating the conclusions of the first day of work of the multi-sectoral group which discussed the theme of Local Knowledge and Technology. Ribeiro began by saying that herdspeople and representatives of indigenous communities had not been well represented in the group, but that the number of peasant participants from all over the world had been high.

Summarizing the discussion within the group, Ribeiro said: “What we saw during the discussion on knowledge and technology is that those who really have the necessary knowledge for food sovereignty are the peasants, the small-scale fisherfolk, the herdspeople, the people who can work and live in the forest, the people who can work on a small scale – whether it be at sea, on the land, or with herdspeople – but this is knowledge that over the last few thousand years – thirty thousand in the case of plant collection and woodland knowledge, ten thousand years in the case of agriculture, maybe more – has formed the very basis for the survival of every one of us who is alive today”.

Ribeiro continued by explaining that the knowledge in question was extremely complex and necessarily local, and invaluable in achieving food sovereignty.

“What we said is that what is needed is not to save seeds, or for there to be many different species of fish, or huge numbers of fisherfolk or peasants. A peasant is not a producer of seeds; a peasant is a complete person, who exists within a culture, as are fisherfolk and herdspeople. No, what we want to see is these entire cultures to be taken into account, including autonomy, rather than just sovereignty”, she said.

Ribeiro explained that the knowledge that needs to be preserved does not concern tangible things, but is a dynamic concept, which refers basically to the capacity each person has to organize him or herself independently within the community.

Another of the themes addressed by the local knowledge and technology group was the threat presented by the increasing use of certain technologies, such as GMOs and the development of biofuels, both of which were contrary to the principles of autonomy and food sovereignty.

In this regard, Ribeiro said: “It is a communion of the most powerful industries on earth – the automobile industry, the seed industry, the cereals industry, the distribution of cereals all over the world. They are united on the subject of biofuels with the creation of a new industry in mind, an industry which will take over even more land and evict even more peasants”, she said in conclusion.