Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

Women in the struggle for Food Sovereignty – We want to continue to play our key role: feeding humanity

Excerpt from an interview with Francisca Rodriguez of Anamuri, CLOC-Via Campesina, Chile.

Peasants of the world are highly diverse peoples, communities, organisations and families. We represent different cultures and worldviews.

The process of discussing and debating around food sovereignty has allowed us to recognise and value our peasant activities — and recognise that women have been fundamental to the development of agriculture and continue to be key to the production, processing and transformation of food.

We have strongly promoted Agroecology – not as something new that is emerging – but rather as part of a process of recovering ancestral practices in agriculture, which have been developed by indigenous and original peoples up until the present day.
Never in history have we properly realized the value of the countryside for the survival of humanity itself – we are the guardians of the land, we live where the resources are, and our task is to fight to preserve them for current and future generations.

We are proud to be what we are, we do not want to migrate to the cities or be forced abroad by force, we want to continue fulfilling our fundamental role: feeding humanity with our work, our knowledge and our natural goods, ensuring that the right to food is fulfilled for all without exception, and that Mother Earth is cared for while we obtain our sustenance from her.

Voices from the field 2

Food Sovereignty – challenges and hopes for fisher communities

Ibu Zainab, member of Solidaritas Perempuan Anging Mammiri – Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The challenge faced by fisherwomen in our struggle for food sovereignty is that businesses and corporations are taking away the ocean which is the source of our livelihoods. These corporations deny us access to the ocean, pollute the coastal environment, and even trigger conflicts within communities. Our government has never listened to our demands, but instead sided with these corporations.

As women, our identity as fisherwomen is also not recognized and is often attached to our husbands’ role as fishermen. I hope that the government protects our right to food and our access to marine resources so we can fish and sustain our livelihood as small-scale food producers. There must be a solution to ensure the struggle for space between company interests, government agendas and community rights does not marginalize fisherwomen. Because Indonesia is an archipelago, fishermen and fisherwomen are heroes of the nation in ensuring a healthy diet (fish as major source of protein) and our rights must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

Voice from the field 3

The Importance of alliances for Food Sovereignty from the perspective of two US women farmers

How does organizing in cross-sectoral alliances fit into the global effort toward Food Sovereignty?
Patti Naylor, USFSA member and Coordinating Committee member of the Civil Society and Indigenous Mechanism for North America.

As a farmer, I see around me how corporate-dominated agriculture does not support rural communities, farmer livelihoods, or Mother Earth’s essential sources of life. Nor does it produce healthy food – it instead relies on long, complex supply chains that result in highly processed foods. Food sovereignty is necessary to replace this disastrous system. Coming together in organizations and building our collective strength into alliances is critical as the momentum of industrial agriculture gains speed and power worldwide, becoming a force that could become impossible to stop. Time is critical. The injustices of capitalism, impacts of climate change, and disruptions to territorial markets due to COVID-19 are putting food producers in dire circumstances.

Just like upheavals in the past, farmers, fishers, peasants, and rural workers who cannot survive economically will leave their farms and communities. The production of local food and even the ability to organize in resistance will be greatly diminished. Rural areas will be depopulated as people move to cities in search of jobs. These changes may be irreversible. As we recognize the urgency of these situations, we must continue to build alliances that are strong and are based on clearly defined, common goals to reach food sovereignty for all peoples.

Can you tell about the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA)?
Jennifer Taylor, national coordinator for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Like the Nyeleni 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty, the USFSA membership is made up of family farmers, fisherfolk, ranchers, farm workers, women, youth, rural and urban workers, consumers, etc. who believe that food is critical to humanity and that healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through agroecological methods is the basis of healthy food systems and healthy environments. We believe in the benefits of agroecology- food sovereignty policies.

The USFSA upholds the right to food as a basic human right. As an agroecology-organic BIPOC small farmer promoting wellbeing and quality of life, I would emphasize that our Human Right is to the availability of and access to healthy, nutritious food, that benefits healthy farms and community environments, and that fosters healthy communities — this critical emphasis upholds the right to local and global food sovereignty and is inclusive of underserved farming populations, black indigenous farmers and farmers of color and their communities. Participatory capacity building of local and global agroecology-organic smallholder farmers and their communities is vital to enable healthy local and global food systems. USFSA supports participatory capacity building strategies that enable the wellbeing, livelihoods, and ability of local and global black indigenous farmers and farmers of color and their communities.

Voice from the field 4

Agroecology is not just a set of practices, but a way of life

Anuka Desilva, MONLAR/ LVC, Sri Lanka.

Agroecology is not just a set of practices, but a way of life. It is as much about nurturing our soil, our fields – as it is about solidarity between our peoples. Without solidarity between people, there is no agroecology.

In Sri Lanka, the young collective of peasants from Dikkubura, Ahangama and Galle have attended agroecological formation sessions, met peasants from other regions, and studied and debated on not just the practises we follow in the field, but also the politics of food in general.

Through several training sessions, our collective learnt and exchanged information regarding the preparation of beejamrutha, jeevamrutha, ghana jeevamrutha, agniastra and other inputs used in natural farming. We also learned about dry-land horticulture and different techniques of grafting in horticulture crops. Various seed saving techniques were discussed too. These were the practical aspects. However, we do not just stop there. We also studied the dynamics of the global food system that is now in the hands of transnational corporations. We analysed the impacts of free-trade agreements on local production and consumption. We studied the gender and caste disparity in the ownership of land in South Asia and much more. So the training sessions are often a mix of practical and political aspects of the peasantry.

Agroecology is at its core giving autonomy to people to design their own food systems, based on local resources and local labour. It is a system that allows us to produce food in harmony with nature and that prioritises the food sovereignty of the local community above everything else.

We need to be clear about this – a set of sustainable practices alone will not help advance Agroecology. The training sessions we have in LVC are about both the practical and political aspects of Agroecology that allow us to make it a tool for achieving food sovereignty.

Voice from the field 5

Food Sovereignty – challenges and hopes for pastoral communities

Fernando Garcia, Campo Adentro, European Shepherds Network — WAMIP, Spain.

In April, while the Covid crisis was at its worst, different social movements’ representatives of the Food Sovereignty movement wrote a letter titled “COVID-19 — Small-scale food producers stand in solidarity and will fight to bring healthy food to all.”(https://www.foodsovereignty.org/covid-19/).

We can hardly foresee the impact that this crisis might entail.
On one hand there is a growing concern regarding the unsustainable patterns of our food models – especially the danger of intensive livestock systems and factory farms which are associated with ecosystem disruption due to industrial agribusiness expansion (such as native forests being removed for palm oil plantations).

On the other hand climate change is more present than ever, and the importance of small-scale food producers is crucial. This crisis is a sort of “stress test” as economists say, for an entire food system that is supplying an ever-growing urban population and is based on globalized transport and circulation. Maybe patterns we have seen increasing till now could change.

This crisis is surely hitting small businesses harder (such as shops and restaurants), which are generally more closely linked to small-scale local producers. Some actors – with e-commerce now king – might promote an even faster digitalization of food systems driven by corporate interests and profit.

Pastoralists in Europe and the world look at these scenarios with great concern, but also with the confidence that comes with the knowledge that they are a vital part of the solution. We hope that the environmentalist movement doesn’t simplify the slogan “no more meat” and impose an urban-western-centred view of veganism, but that it will instead promote a responsible consumption of quality, healthy and local animal products from pastoralist systems.

Grassroot organisations, joined in a renewed World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples & Pastoralists – WAMIP — are now active in different spaces and working to bridge the discussions on Agroecology and Food Sovereignty (born in the context of peasant struggles) to the particularities of pastoralism. We together made and acknowledge the Declaration of Peasants – and Pastoralists – Rights and now we need to make sure that real spaces of participation and recognition put pastoralists first — such as at the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub of the FAO, or the GASL and LEAP initiatives . We have managed to have the FAO COAG (Committee on Agriculture) pass the proposal making 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, and trust IPC and other civil society processes.

The hardest thing is staying in touch in spite of the distances, and to make time for building alliances besides our everyday work…but if we don’t, anti-pastoralist policies and economic interests will put in danger our way of life, and the territories and landscapes that with our animals we nurture.

Voices from the field 6

The fruits of Food Sovereignty — organized youth

David Otieno, Kenyan Peasant League Youth/LVC, Kenya.

Food sovereignty is about food producers and consumers taking total control of the food production process from seeds, land and water to markets, inputs and distribution. We as young people are critical in ensuring that Food Sovereignty is attained. Our greatest strength lies in our collective capacity to live and build a more fair and just world.

Within LVC, we have been organizing ourselves through training processes to establish youth brigades that strive to correct the current broken global food system, which is based on agribusinesses that are also responsible for climate change. We, the youth, have been doing this in order to place LVC members who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than at the mercy of markets and corporations as envisioned by agribusiness.

Through LVC Southern and Eastern Africa, our youth articulation has been in the forefront in reclaiming wastelands for food production. A good example is in South Africa where youth, members of the Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Landless People’s Movement – all members of LVC – have been engaged in an “occupy” campaign aimed at turning wastelands into spaces for producing food.

In Kenya through the Kenyan Peasants League youth collective we are engaged in ensuring that seeds and food has been distributed to members and others who have been in dire need during the coronavirus pandemic. Our efforts have also included assisting older members to till and plant their farms and documenting all the seeds among members to ensure ease of distribution.

MST youth brigades have also been engaged in reconstruction processes especially following cyclone Idai that hit most parts of Southern Africa and were also involved in solidarity initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking back at the Nyeleni forum for Food Sovereignty held in 2007 in a small Malian village, one sees that food sovereignty and youths are strongly linked: the struggle for food sovereignty has helped organize youths while an organized youth is ensuring the achievement of food sovereignty.