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Nyeleni newsletter - Now is the time for food sovereignty!

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Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. (…) Declaration of Nyeleni.

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Newsletter no 28 - In the spotlight 2

Agroecology at a crossroads – between institutionalization and social movements

Agroecology is in fashion. From being ignored, underappreciated and excluded by the institutions that govern agriculture internationally, it has become recognised as one of the key alternatives to confront the serious crises caused by the green revolution. This is unprecedented, and leaves agroecology facing a serious dilemma : give in to cooptation and message capture, or take the political opportunity to advance agroecology as a tool for transforming the current hegemonic, agroextractivist model. While international institutions are not monolithic and internal debates exist, the situation can be seen as a struggle between two competing camps. The first is made up of official government institutions, international agencies and the private sector, and the other is composed of various social movements, who defend agroecology as the only viable option to radically transform the prevailing agriculture and food system.

In this scenario we can see how green capitalism has “discovered” agroecology as a way of incorporating peasant agriculture, its territories and agro-ecological practices into global circuits of accumulation. Its objective is to commodify seeds and agro-biodiversity ; appropriate the agroecological knowledge of peasants and indigenous communities ; find agricultural products for food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical markets ; increase the profits made from carbon credits and neoliberal conservation and arrangements like REDD+ ; and profit from the expansion of markets for industrial organic products, which might even be rebranded as “agroecological” in the largest supermarkets. On top of this it is also offers an excellent opportunity for agribusiness to fine tune its production practices and partially revert its tendency to degrade the conditions of production, increase production costs and reduce productivity over time.

Through the classic strategies of development the intention will be to appropriate the knowledge of rural peoples – creating and imposing dependency on a system that in the future will provide agroecological services through states, opportunistic NGOs, transnational companies, and the projects of foundations and international organizations. We should avoid the naivety of believing that at last the doors have been opened to transform world agrarian structures towards agroecology ; on the contrary, social movements have to remain alert that institutionalization does not strengthen dependency on public programs and projects, which can generate more bureaucracy and useless demagoguery.

We are at a crossroads which social movements cannot afford to ignore. To refrain from taking part in these discussions is to leave the way clear for capital to find its way out of its chronic crisis of over-accumulation, while temporarily restructuring the conditions of production. Above all however, it is an excellent opportunity for regrouping our forces as we resist this new attempt at appropriation, for giving new meanings to struggle, updating our forms of resistance, and finally for redefining the meaning of al ternatives.

In the end, one of the major contradictions of capital is that in the attempt to gobble everything up - in the efforts to bring every space and human activity into the circuits of accumulation, they end up reinforcing peoples’ struggles, having the antagonistic effect of strengthening mobilizations and inspiring people to reappropriate their own knowledge and heritage, revalue their cultures, and redouble their efforts to build effective social processes for scaling up agroecology in their territories.

The full article can be seen here (in Spanish only) : http://revistas.ufpr.br/guaju/article/view/48521/29189