There are two conflicting rural development and production models:
Industrial agribusinesses, fisheries and aquaculture produce food ingredients in monocultures for global markets controlled by few TNCs. They are supported by public and private research institutions and promoted for ‘food security’ yet, they harm small-scale farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fisherfolk and indigenous peoples. And they damage the environment – soils, water, agroecosystems and our planet’s biodiversity and life support systems. They are a major contributor to the current global water crisis and Global Warming through intensive use of fossil fuels for fertilisers, agrochemicals, production, transport, processing, refrigeration and retailing: each unit of food energy produced requires many times more fossil fuel energy inputs. Corporate controlled industrial production is capital intensive, is protected by patents and trade rules. This enable corporations to capture and control markets for inputs ((GE) seeds, livestock breeds, water, fertilizers) and products (food, animal feed, biofuels, fibre and industrial commodities), to capture ecosystems and overexploit and degrade natural resources resulting in soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, desertification, water depletion and contamination and polluted seas, the costs of which are never included in the price paid. This approach seeks to control and transform nature rather than work within its parameters.
Agroecological production, pastoralism and artisanal fisheries are diverse and multifunctional producing many goods (food, clothing, housing materials, as well as those for exchange and sale) and providing ecosystem functions (clean water, healthy soils) needed by local communities. They are highly productive in terms of area, inputs and energy. These methods of production and harvesting are people-centred with both women and men having decisive roles. They are knowledge-intensive and maintain livelihoods. They depend on and provide locally-developed plant varieties and livestock breeds that are adapted to local climatic conditions – such as drought resistant seed varieties, crops that grow in wetlands and flood plains, disease-resistant livestock etc. They are not dependent on agrochemicals. They sustain agroecosystems – they work with and not against the environment and, as a result, productivity is higher. These approaches do not seek to transform nature, but instead, they develop synergies with nature creating space for local experimentation and building the store of knowledge that can be shared, without high costs. They are resilient in the face of climate change and other threats and they are not ‘carbon hungry’, not dependent on fossil fuels: for every unit of energy input, up to 10 times as much food energy is produced. Small-scale agroecological production methods and artisanal fishing practices cannot be appropriated or ‘owned’ by an individual. They enable localised control over food systems i.e. food sovereignty.
What are we fighting for?
How can we promote the use of locally-controlled, diverse, small-scale agroecological production methods and artisanal fisheries in all regions of the world?
How do we ensure that local agroecologically produced food is available locally as so much food is exported while local producers often do not have enough to eat?.
How will the next generation adopt these production and harvesting methods?
Most small scale food production, pastoralism and fisheries methods are ecologically sustainable, but not all. If some people decide to produce in an unsustainable way, what implications does that have for their claim to food sovereignty, for their role in the food sovereignty movement, and for the movement as a whole? Who should have the power to make them change production methods if it affects the food sovereignty of others?
Should production be based only on local resources or on resources that are “within the control of” local producers? What is an acceptable ‘footprint’ for food sovereignty systems? If, for example, farmers in rich countries import sustainably produced animal feed from poorer countries to produce milk, eggs or meat, can this contribute to food sovereignty?
Some international food and environment agreements, which support these changes, have been signed by many governments. How can we ensure these are implemented?
What are we fighting against?
How can we push for dismantling agribusiness corporations and the conversion of industrial production to agroecological systems, the protection of pastoral grazing areas and the outlawing of destructive fishing practices?
Given the combined impacts of climate change and reducing oil stocks, how can we use the fight against Global Warming and water privatisation as opportunities to force changes in eating habits and production and harvesting methods?
How can we challenge the race to produce biofuels for the affluent rather than food for people?
What can we do about it?
How do we develop a common, collective understanding of food sovereignty based on agroecological sustainable production, distribution and consumption?
So-called ‘cheap food’ policies, that are fuelling unsustainable industrial agribusiness production, are at the heart of the present crisis. How can we unite producers (peasants, family farmers, pastoralists, food and farm workers, artisanal fisher peoples, indigenous peoples) and urban consumers to fight these policies and guarantee affordable, healthy, diverse and environmentally sustainable food for everyone including people in cities and especially the hungry? Would a campaign against industrial monocultures (e.g. Eucalyptus, Soya, Biofuels etc.) and industrial fisheries and aquaculture controlled by TNCs be a priority joint action agenda?
How can we make common cause with all citizens worried about the future of the planet and future generations and concerned about their health, the quality of food and the need for careful management of local and the global environment, including the impacts of global warming? How can we enrol them in the fight for food sovereignty?