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food sovereignty movement

Together We Can Cool the Planet

By Eugenia Izquierdo and IvanZigarán - La Via Campesina and GRAIN - December 2016

Based on the video Together we can cool the planet! co-produced by La Vía Campesina and GRAIN in 2015, we have created a comic book to support training activities of social movements and civil society organisations around climate change. This comic book looks at how the industrial food system impacts our climate and also explains what we can do to change course and start cooling the planet.

La Via Campesina and GRAIN have pointed out that the industrial food system is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions. In the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa, we have been denouncing the false solutions to climate change such as GMOs, the “green economy” and "climate-smart agriculture".

We say loud and clear: it is peasants and small farmers, along with consumers who choose agroecological products from local markets, who hold the solution to the climate crisis.

We must all rise to the challenge!

Read the report (PDF).

Watch the video, too:

Food Sovereignty: A Strategy for Environmental Justice

By David Barkin - Climate and Capitalism, November 11, 2016

ABSTRACT:

Dominant approaches to rural development have proven unable to confront the structural challenges posed by a system where progress itself generates hunger and increasing environmental damage.

This article places its accent on the direct action of communities to organize themselves to satisfy their food and other basic needs and those of their regions with self-help strategies that could be applied in both rural and urban areas.

While generally applicable, this focus draws its inspiration from the experience of La Via Campesina, the largest social organization in the world, with chapters in more than 80 countries and 200 million members.

The food sovereignty approach offers a forward-looking strategy to social mobilization, confronting the scourge of rural disintegration while also addressing the pressing issue of environmental balance.

It proposes to direct political and social actions to the collective organization of communities to promote local mobilization and cooperation within and among communities, on a regional as well as on a much broader geographic scale.

It functions by integrating experts into a well-proven farmer-to-farmer approach for the exchange of information and materials conducive to improving productivity and promoting diversity in accordance with local customs while also creating possibilities for improving the quality of foods being produced and their nutritional impact.

Most organizations promoting food sovereignty consider agroecology to be the most effective approach to organizing production, emphasizing the use of locally available inputs and technologies as well as a diversity of cropping system adapted to local conditions.

Justice in the Fields: A Report on the Role of Farmworker Justice Certification and an Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Seven Labels

By Kerstin Lindgren - Fair World Project, October 2016

A growing number of eco-social certifications are available on food products at a variety of retail locations. These certifications cover a range of environmental and social values and include claims like fair trade, humane, and environmentally friendly. As the historically invisible contribution of farmworkers in the agriculture system gains more attention, so too do the dangerous, often unsanitary conditions and low pay of farm labor. In recent years, eco- social certifications claiming to benefit farmworkers have emerged in response to this growing recognition. This has coincided with the decreasing prominence of and membership in labor unions, the traditional tool for addressing labor issues. The emergence of farmworker labels has also coincided, especially in the U.S., with the surge of wage victoriesat the state and local level, led by the Fight for $15 labor activists. Political advocacy, collective bargaining through worker associations, and social certifications can serve to reinforce each other to achieve the broad goals of fair pay and decent working conditions. This report looks at the role that certification can play and compares seven certification schemes.

Read the report (PDF).

More Farmers, Better Food: A framework for British Agricultural Policy

By the Land Workers' Alliance - August 2016

The UK’s small-scale, ecological and family farms are at the heart of our rural culture and communities; they create employment, protect cherished landscapes and provide a huge amount of the food we eat. However, in the past, the UK’s farming strategies have undermined domestic production of healthy, affordable food and left many small farms unfairly disadvantaged in the market place.

The task of creating a post-Brexit ‘British Agricultural Policy’ that support producers, protects the environment and prioritizes access to healthy, nutritious food for all is a complex but essential one. It represents a great opportunity if the Government is ready to listen to the needs of all stakeholders and put in place a truly long-term plan for environmental, social and economic resilience.

In order to contribute to this debate, The Landworkers’ Alliance proposes 8 points that we believe must be integral to forthcoming policy. Over the next 6 months we will carry out an in-depth consultation among our members to draw up a more comprehensive policy proposal that addresses the needs of food producers in the UK. We will also work with other organizations to draw up a framework for a ‘Peoples’ Food Policy’ that can address the systemic inequalities and misguided policies currently afflicting the food and farming sectors.

Download ‘More Farmers, Better Food – A framework for British Agricultural Policy’ here:

People’s Manual on the Guidelines on Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests

By various - La Via Campesina, et. al., June 2016

This publication is intended to support the use of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. It is not intended to contradict the language of the Guidelines as endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012 nor the role of states in their implementation.

This People’s Manual has been developed with the technical assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and with the financial assistance from the European Union (EU), Oxfam and Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development, and the contributions of the organizations participating in and supporting the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC).

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union, Oxfam, Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development and the IPC, concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO, the European Union, Oxfam, Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development and the IPC, in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) is an autonomous and self-organized global platform of more than 800 organizations of small-scale food producers and rural workers, men and women, and grass root/community based social movements, dedicated to advancing the Food Sovereignty agenda at the global and regional levels.

Read the report (PDF).

From Uniformity to Diversty: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems

By Emile A. Frison - International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems - June 2016

Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: widespread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the world.

Many of these problems are linked specifically to ‘industrial agriculture’: the input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots that now dominate farming landscapes. The uniformity at the heart of these systems, and their reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and preventive use of antibiotics, leads systematically to negative outcomes and vulnerabilities.

Industrial agriculture and the ‘industrial food systems’ that have developed around it are locked in place by a series of vicious cycles. For example, the way food systems are currently structured allows value to accrue to a limited number of actors, reinforcing their economic and political power, and thus their ability to influence the governance of food systems.

Tweaking practices can improve some of the specific outcomes of industrial agriculture, but will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates.

What is required is a fundamentally different model of agriculture based on diversifying farms and farming landscapes, replacing chemical inputs, optimizing biodiversity and stimulating interactions between different species, as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods, i.e. ‘diversified agroecological systems’.

There is growing evidence that these systems keep carbon in the ground, support biodiversity, rebuild soil fertility and sustain yields over time, providing a basis for secure farm livelihoods.

Data shows that these systems can compete with industrial agriculture in terms of total outputs, performing particularly strongly under environmental stress, and delivering production increases in the places where additional food is desperately needed. Diversified agroecological systems can also pave the way for diverse diets and improved health.

Change is already happening. Industrial food systems are being challenged on multiple fronts, from new forms of cooperation and knowledge-creation to the development of new market relationships that bypass conventional retail circuits.

Political incentives must be shifted in order for these alternatives to emerge beyond the margins. A series of modest steps can collectively shift the centre of gravity in food systems.

Read the report (PDF).

The Future of the Food Justice Movement

By Rory Smith - Truthout, May 7, 2016 ©Truthout; may not be reused without permission.

The food justice movement -- a loose but expansive conglomeration of organizations working to create a more just food system in the United States -- has accomplished a great deal over the last 30 years. But can it manage to converge in its diversity and create a countermovement potent enough to transform the current food regime? Or is it too shallow and too spread, destined to disappear in its disjointedness.

Things may seem a little out of sorts when one in six Americans -- residents of the most affluent country on the planet -- don't have enough to eat, and when the percentage of hungry people in the United States has gone up 57 percent since the late 1990s. Sprinkle in that little detail about how Black and Latino neighborhoods are often left practically devoid of fresh produce but flooded with fast food restaurants (something that contributes to high rates of obesity, diabetes and thyroid disease), and you might start to question one or two things.

Toss in the fact that many of the 2 million farm laborers who produce US consumers' fruits and vegetables are not only subjected to brutal labor conditions but also can't afford to consume the very same food they pick, and you might really start to wonder. And when you top off this gallimaufry with one more slight detail -- that there are 1 billion people around the world suffering from malnourishment, a number that hasn't changed significantly since the 1970s -- the inequity of the current food regime becomes pretty clear. It was the food justice movement that first recognized this reality, and it has spent the last 30 years challenging and redressing these inequalities.

The Black Panthers' Free Breakfast for School Children Program, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and the family farming caucuses that swept the United States during the 1980s were early proponents of food justice. And while these original players have been all but subsumed by the passage of time, they have been replaced by hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, urban and rural farmers, activists, consumers and academics who are all working to institute a fairer and more just food system. This effort is what Eric Holt-Giménez, the executive director of Food First, calls "converging in our diversity," and it is the linchpin of creating a just food system: a system that stresses the right of communities everywhere to produce, distribute and have equal access to healthy food, irrespective of class, gender or ethnicity.

Just when that Rust Cohle-like pessimism seems to have obtruded on our collective consciousness -- foregrounded by our failure to engineer any overhaul of the US financial system and scientists' incredulous predictions on global warming -- the food justice movement could be that slow-cooked countermovement that we have all been waiting for. Everyone has some kind of a relationship with food. It is the cornerstone of culture and life, as well as of the capitalist system. If any revolution is going to be successful, this seems like a good place for it to start.

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

The Land Grabbers of the Nacala Corridor: A new era of struggle against colonial plantations in Northern Mozambique

By staff - UNAC and GRAIN, February 2015

A report by Mozambique’s National Farmers’ Union (UNAC) and GRAIN shows there is a colonial-style scramble for Africa’s farm lands under way. Politically-connected companies based in offshore tax havens have grabbed hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland from peasants in Mozambique.

Read the report (PDF).

Feeding the 1%: An IT billionaire’s foray into agribusiness paints a disturbing picture of today’s farmland financiers

By staff - GRAIN, October 7, 2014

Since the global food crisis of 2008, there has been a massive wave of private sector investment in agriculture. More money flowing into agriculture means more innovation, more jobs and more food for a hungry planet, say the G8, the World Bank and corporate investors themselves.

But does it?

Looking at the investments made by Indian billionaire Chinnakannan Sivasankaran – one of the most active private sector players in the global rush to acquire farmland – a worrying picture emerges of what happens when speculative finance starts flowing into food production.

Since 2008, the Siva Group and its myriad subsidiaries have acquired stakes in around a million hectares of land in the Americas, Africa and Asia, primarily for oil palm plantations. On paper, this makes Sivasankaran one of the world’s largest farmland holders.

But Sivasankaran's also a land grabber and tax avoider. Like the majority of transnational investors in agriculture, his investments are channeled through a web of shell companies based in offshore tax havens. The companies he holds shares in are engaged in dubious land deals and kick back schemes, and seem more concerned with funnelling generous payments into the pockets of their directors than with producing food.

The alarming side effect of this type of investment is the commodification of land and the marginalisation of communities that rely on it. Wherever the Siva Group and its like go, they secure title to vast parcels of land by any means necessary – often without the meaningful consent of the affected communities. They then leverage these landholdings for cash and credit to turn still more deals.

Governments have so far done little, if anything to protect their people from this new wave of predatory investment. Their efforts have focussed more on providing investors with safeguards and incentives, while proposing only voluntary guidelines to keep corporate responsibility in check. The door is thus wide open for financial players like Sivasankaran to grab lands and make quick profits, undermining food systems and the livelihoods of farmers in the process.

Read the report (PDF).

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