What happens if we Democratize food? Put people, the producers and the consumers and their communities, at the center of our food systems? What would that look like, and how would that be a better alternative to what we have now?
There is a global push for farmers to become more competitive by increasing production without regard to environment or community.With this limited perspective comes limited options. Often farmers feel they only have two choices: Get big or Sell out. However, industrial agriculture is not the only solution. Industrial agriculture has negative impacts with human costs (loss of diversity of jobs, disappearance of rural communities, pollution of living and working space) and ecological costs (loss of biodiversity, water quality impacts)
Despite a bleek outlook, there are alternatives! Farmers and organizations in Latin America are redefining their food systems, and the purpose of this bike trip is to explore and share their solutions used.
I will connect with farmers and organizations that are exploring and experimenting with democratizing and diversifying their personal and community agriculture systems.
The questions I’m exploring on this journey:
How are Latin American farmers succeeding on family farms?
What alternatives have they found to industrial agriculture?
Answers I want to explore include, what happens when:
women are empowered to make agricultural decisions.
individuals realize the power of working cooperatively.
sustainable agriculture and agro-ecology is practiced with the land.
These topics I am most interested in exploring, but I am open to learning and documenting how anyone or any group has incorporated food sovereignty into their lives and communities.
The term “food sovereignty” was first coined in 2006 by Via Campesina, a coalition which coordinates peasant organizations from Asia, Africa, America and Europe advocating family-farm-based sustainable agriculture. Combining several definitions, food sovereignty is the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems and policies.
It is with this philosophy in mind we search for alternatives.
6 Principles of Food Sovereignty
- Focuses on food for people
- The right to food which is healthy and culturally appropriate is the basic legal demand underpinning food sovereignty. Food is not simply another commodity to be traded or speculated on for profit.
- Values food providers
- Food sovereignty asserts food providers’ right to live and work in dignity. Many smallholder farmers suffer violence and marginalisation from corporate landowners and governments and agricultural workers can experiance severe exploitation. And although women produce most of the food in the Global South, their role and knowledge are often ignored, and their rights to resources and as workers are violated.
- Localizes food systems
- Food must be seen primarily as sustenance for the community and only secondarily as something to be traded. Under food sovereignty, local and regional provision takes precedence over supplying distant markets.
- Puts control locally
- Food sovereignty places control over territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations under local food providers and respects their rights. They can use and share them in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity. Privatization of such resources, for example through intellectual property rights regimes or commercial contracts, is explicitly rejected.
- Builds knowledge and skills
- Food sovereignty calls for appropriate research systems to support the development of agricultural knowledge that is already used and supplement with new skills and appropriate technologies. Technologies and the policies that accompany them, such as genetic engineering, are not prioritized as they undermine food providers’ ability to develop and pass on knowledge and skills needed for localized food systems.
- Works with nature
- Food sovereignty requires production and distribution systems that protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding energy-intensive industrial methods that damage the environment and the health of those who inhabit it.