What is Food Sovereignty?
'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.' Declaration of Nyeleni in 2007.
It is a solutions focused framework that defines core principles for which a sustainable, life-supporting food system would be based on. Food Sovereignty has emerged from international peasant movements under the banner of La Via Campesina in the Global South.
Many groups in Somerset are active in the wider Food Sovereignty movement, and anyone active for a sustainable food system should be aware of their power and impact around the world, as a framework of what we are building.
Principles of Food Sovereignty
1. Focuses on Food for People: Food sovereignty stresses the right to sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food for all individuals, peoples and communities, including those who are hungry or living under occupation, in conflict zones and marginalized. Food sovereignty rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity for international agribusiness.
2. Values Food Providers: Food sovereignty values and supports the contributions, and respects the rights, of women and men, peasants and small scale family farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples and agricultural and fisheries workers, including migrants, who cultivate, grow, harvest and process food; and rejects those policies, actions and programs that undervalue them, threaten their livelihoods and eliminate them.
3. Localizes Food Systems: Food sovereignty brings food providers and consumers together in common cause; puts providers and consumers at the center of decision- making on food issues; protects food providers from the dumping of food and food aid in local markets; protects consumers from poor quality and unhealthy food, inappropriate food aid and food tainted with genetically modified organisms; and resists governance structures, agreements and practices that depend on and promote unsustainable and inequitable international trade and give power to remote and unaccountable corporations.
4. Makes Decisions Locally: Food sovereignty seeks control over and access to territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations for local food providers. These resources ought to be used and shared in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity. Food sovereignty recognizes that local territories often cross geopolitical borders and advances the right of local communities to inhabit and use their territories; it promotes positive interaction between food providers in different regions and territories and from different sectors to resolve internal conflicts or conflicts with local and national authorities; and rejects the privatization of natural resources through laws, commercial contracts and intellectual property rights regimes.
5. Builds Knowledge and Skills: Food sovereignty builds on the skills and local knowledge of food providers and their local organizations that conserve, develop and manage localized food production and harvesting systems, developing appropriate research systems to support this and passing on this wisdom to future generations. Food sovereignty rejects technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate these, e.g. genetic engineering.
6. Works with Nature: Food sovereignty uses the contributions of nature in diverse, low external input agroecological production and harvesting methods that maximize the contribution of ecosystems and improve resilience and adaptation, especially in the face of climate change. Food sovereignty seeks to heal the planet so that the planet may heal us; and, rejects methods that harm beneficial ecosystem functions, that depend on energy intensive monocultures and livestock factories, destructive fishing practices and other industrialized production methods, which damage the environment and contribute to global warming.
Source: Nyéléni 2007 - Forum for Food Sovereignty, 2007, Sélingué, Mali, Synthesis Report.
Further information & resources
Articles, factsheets & reports
Nyeleni European Declaration from the European Forum in Krems, Austria, August 2011
Primer on People's Food Sovereignty
Food Sovereignty: Towards democracy in localised food systems, Michael Windfuhr and Jennie Jonsén FIAN-International
Food Sovereignty, Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community, edited by Hannah Wittman, Annette Aurelie Desmarais & Nettie Wiebe, Food First Books, Oakland, US 2010
Introduction to Food Sovereignty. Food and Democracy edited by Marcin Gerwin (free e-book)
Local Food: How to make it happen in your community, Tazmin Pinkerton & Rob Hopkins
Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, edited by Andrew Kimbrell