Making progress with the creation of alliances and a common strategy for food sovereignty

The Forum for Food Sovereignty, which is currently taking place in Selingue (Mali), is making progress on the tasks it has set itself. More than 500 delegates from 98 countries, especially invited for the forum, have come together over the past few days to meet in seven thematic groups. Their objective was to debate and establish strategies in relation to food sovereignty, as well as what we must fight for, what we must fight against and what action we can take. Based on the results of these debates, a joint declaration and a call to action will be drawn up before the Forum draws to a close on 27 February.

Access to land
One of the central debates of the Forum relates to access to land and natural resources and the conflicts that arise between the different actors involved in their management. For example, in some countries, the law prevents women from having access to land, and in others, although they have access by law, tradition and practice constitute obstacles to such access.

With regard to the tensions that exist between different sectoral groups, one of the objectives is to take steps to resolve these conflicts, emphasizing the specific interests between farmers and herdspeople, producers and consumers, the urban world and the countryside, etc. As Mamadou Goita of the Malian peasant organization CNOP said, in Africa disputes between farmers and herdspeople are common, as are the different interests of producers and consumers: the first want to sell their products at a high price, the second want to buy them for as little as possible. This is why it is essential to create alliances and mutual understanding as a way of finding a solution to these conflicts.

A forum in the countryside
The debates and meetings are being held in Selingue at a dedicated site which, when the Forum is over, will be managed by the national peasant organization CNOP and used as a training centre for West African organizations. The site has more than 50 mud and straw huts to house participants and other buildings for meetings and plenary sessions. All of the materials used in the construction of the site are local, respecting traditional architecture, the workforce used being made up of people from the village of Selingue.

The site is located next to the hydroelectric dam on the river Sankarani, a tributary of the Niger, constructed by the World Bank with serious environmental and social consequences. Its construction gave rise to the displacement of large numbers of people to the area with the aim of living from fishing, but the mass migration resulted in overexploitation of the natural resources and the consequent impoverishment of the population once they had been exhausted. This is just one further example of the need to resist the policies of the World Bank and the IMF which, instead of generating the self-proclaimed “development” they promise, bring poverty and debt. These matters are currently the subject of debate in the Selingue countryside.

Esther Vivas, 27 February