Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

From the international forum to the field 1

Kusnan, National Seeds Centre, Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), Tuban, East Java, Indonesia

The global food sovereignty movement, which organized its first forum in Nyéléni, Mali, in 2007, was instrumental in providing political clarity and a common understanding of what food sovereignty means in our diverse national contexts.

In Indonesia, for several decades, Serikat Petani Indonesia has been struggling for agrarian reform that will ensure that our territories obtain food sovereignty. We call these regions “food sovereignty areas.”

I am currently in Tuban, East Java, in a Food Sovereignty Area that has been protected from large-scale grabbing for industrial use. Here, we cultivate the land as a community with autonomy over our tools, seeds, and methods of cultivation. Our cooperative system is run and managed by peasants who share the principle of agroecology and have built an integrated system of production where our cattle, crops, and nature exist in harmony, complementing each other’s functions.

We plant a diverse set of crops, such as rice, corn, horticulture, fruits, and vegetables and oppose any attempts to create industrial monocultures. We use small-scale farm mechanization that provides autonomy to the peasants who use it. Our seeds are bred and produced by selecting and crossing local seeds to improve their genetic properties, productivity, and resistance to climate change.

Our farm practices are derived from local wisdom and ancestral knowledge, and we use solid organic fertilizers from livestock waste and biological fertilizers containing various kinds of micro-bacteria. This helps to break down organic matter in the soil and create conditions of ecological balance in a balanced ecosystem. This approach fulfils the availability of macro and micronutrients and controls pests and diseases so that we can produce healthy and nutritious food.

To market our produce, we have formed the Indonesian Farmers’ Cooperative, a farmer’s institution that processes and distributes production in rural areas and cities in the Food Sovereign Area. This cooperative system provides a sustainable and equitable approach to agriculture that prioritizes the needs of the community and helps to protect our food sovereignty.

Voices from the field 2

From the international forum to the field 2

Ibrahima Coulibaly, The National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali (CNOP-Mali)

Food sovereignty struggles in Mali have been ongoing since the Nyéléni Forum of 2007. It has materialized on the ground with the aim of opposing the production and distribution model dominated by private interests and supporting the local economy to fight against hunger and poverty.

The National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali (CNOP-Mali), in 15 years, has made Nyéléni a beacon that sheds light on the future of family farming by putting peasant agroecology at the heart of food sovereignty.

This commitment by the CNOP resulted in the organization of an International Forum on Agroecology in 2015 held in Mali, the establishment of a system ranging from the identification of a pool of peasant trainers to the development of 12 modules developed around practices in the land, a charter of relay farmers, and an Agroecology manifesto. Additionally, a peasant agroecology platform in Mali was created at the initiative of the CNOP in April 2017, along with a system for training peasant trainers in peasant agroecology to achieve economic, social, and environmental justice.

Today, this system has thousands of producers trained and committed to the practice of Agroecology. However, the challenge remains to implement an approach to remove obstacles to the multiplication of markets for agroecological and organic products. How can we move from target markets to mass markets? How can we structurally involve peasants in the consultation of actors related to food systems? And how can we ensure a political position of decision-makers, both nationally and within regional governing bodies and the African Union? These are all questions that require necessary answers.

Voices from the field 3

A glimpse into the struggles and resilience of fisher communities

Md. Mujibul Haque Munir, COAST Foundation, Bangladesh

Recently I embarked on field visits to Cox’s Bazar, Bhola, and Sunamganj, to assess the current situation before our regional consultation. I witnessed first hand the resilience and strength of fishers’ communities despite the numerous challenges they face.

In Cox’s Bazar, I witnessed the harsh realities caused by the ongoing Rohingya crisis. The region is known for its marine fisheries but the fisherfolk battle numerous challenges. They long for proper registration and written contracts to secure their jobs and ensure fair compensation in case of accidents. Many fishermen expressed mixed experiences with the assistance provided by the District Fisheries Office, where only some of them received essential safety equipment. Financial hardships were also evident, with meagre monthly incomes and reliance on advances from boat owners. These challenges take a toll on their families, impacting access to education and healthcare.

Traveling to Bhola, the devastating impact of natural disasters on the coastal region became apparent. Recent cyclones had left communities in ruins. The local fishermen displayed incredible resilience as they worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives. However, immediate assistance in the form of shelter, clean water, and livelihood support was crucial for their recovery. Strengthening disaster preparedness and resilience in this area is paramount to mitigate the impact of future events and protect their lives and livelihoods.

In Sunamganj, a region characterized by rivers and wetlands, I encountered a different set of challenges. Flooding, erosion, and waterborne diseases were prevalent issues. Despite the adversities, the community showcased remarkable adaptability, devising innovative ways to cope with recurrent floods. However, long-term solutions such as embankment construction, early warning systems, and improved healthcare facilities are urgently needed to safeguard their well-being. Enhancing their resilience is essential in this unique environment.

Community members, local authorities, and humanitarian organizations provided me with a holistic understanding of the challenges and potential solutions. Collaborative efforts involving all actors are crucial to address the multifaceted issues faced by these communities: to begin with adequate government support, financial security, safety measures, and access to essential services need to be ensured. By recognizing the fishing communities’ contributions and extending a helping hand, we can empower them and create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Voices from the field 4

A Peoples’ Food Plan by the people, for the people!

Jessie Power, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA)

In 2012, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) launched its original Peoples’ Food Plan in response to the Australian Government’s National Food Plan, which has since been abandoned. Unlike the Government’s National Food Plan, which was developed without participation from small-scale farmers and local communities, the Peoples’ Food Plan reflected the concerns and aspirations of eaters, farmers, community organisations, independent food businesses and advocacy groups. The People’s Food Plan process was conducted as a model of participatory democracy in policy development – open, inclusive, and democratic – because we knew the scale of the challenges and the urgency of the work needed to transform our dysfunctional food system, and that decision making is best handled by those it affects.

Through the collectivising work around the original Peoples’ Food Plan, the food sovereignty movement in Australia emerged as an alliance of farmers, food systems organisations and individuals ready to take food justice into their own hands. Eleven years on, AFSA has grown into a farmer-led civil society organisation championing the fight for food sovereignty. With over a decade of policy submissions to federal, state, and local governments, now is the time to update the Peoples’ Food Plan as a policy framework and grassroots action plan towards food sovereignty in Australia.

AFSA released the updated Peoples’ Food Plan draft for public consultation on 1 June, which will invite anyone involved in food system activism and transformation to get involved in shaping peoples’ actions and policy recommendations for Australian government at all levels. Our international allies are also invited to help us build a library of case studies that illustrate food sovereignty and agroecology in action to let our governments know that we the people should have full agency to determine our own food and agricultural systems, where Indigenous Peoples and small-scale producers have been effectively doing so for millennia!

Since 2019, Australia’s food system has experienced a wave of shocks: catastrophic bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating flooding across the eastern coast. The Australian Government has prioritised industrial agriculture and large-scale food producers set up for exports through enabling policies, legislation, and scale-inappropriate regulation. Yet, three years of systemic crisis has highlighted that it is small-scale food producers who are able to weather these storms and feed local communities. We aim to launch our updated Peoples’ Food Plan 2023 at AFSA’s annual Food Sovereignty Convergence in October as a rallying call for change in the wake of crises.

If you’d like to get involved in AFSA’s updated Peoples’ Food Plan 2023 or send a case study for inclusion, email us: coordinator@afsa.org.au.