The basic idea of food sovereignty is that the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food should be at the heart of our food systems, rather than the demands of transnational corporations. It prioritises local food production, based on agro-ecology and family farming, and local markets. It keeps seeds and biodiversity in the hands of farming communities, and GMO free. It nurtures and builds on indigenous knowledge of soils, seeds and farming systems. It recognizes the crucial and central role of women. The world desperately needs food sovereignty.
Henk Hobbelink, GRAIN. Taken from the Right Livelihood Award 2011 acceptance speech.
Reclaiming Control of our Food System: Insisting on ethical food from seed to plate
Food Sovereignty requires ethical, connected-up thinking and practice at every stage of the food system. It is 'the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods'. In other words, food that takes into account the needs and health of ecosystems, soils, seeds and farmers as well as consumers. Food Sovereignty goes beyond the term 'food security' and recognizes that it is not enough for people to have access to food, if this food is the product of a wholly unethical chain of events. Food Sovereignty emphasises that it is all of our responsibility to ensure that the way in which we grow our food assures the vitality of future generations of all species.
Food Sovereignty prioritises local and national food systems and related economies and markets over international trade. When we buy local we not only support local farmers and economies, we also reduce the transport emissions associated with food distribution. In this way we are able to take responsibility for the food we eat - because we know the story of where our food has come from and where and how it has been grown, to assure the long-term health of our food and the ecosystem on which it depends. The commodification of our food system by global corporations is in stark contrast to this. It is a system built on making profits, trade and ownership out of food which is a fundamental necessity and right. This has resulted in increasing hunger and poverty on the one hand, and huge amounts of food waste at the other extreme.
Small-scale farming which relies on ancient methods of composting and rotational systems improve the fertility of the soil and promote a rich diversity of crops. 70% of the world's food is still produced by small-scale farmers who use traditional farming methods and sell their surplus produce at local markets. Small-scale ecological farming methods are the key to ensuring resilience to climate change. They are based on enhancing diversity - thereby increasing options to respond to climate instability. We need to support these traditional systems in order to feed the world, keep land in the hands of small farmers for whom this is a way of life, and protect our rich landscapes and the natural habitats on which other species depend. A fair food system would be one where agricultural traditions are once again firmly rooted in their local landscapes. These traditions recognize that healthy food depends on healthy ecosystems, and this requires farmers to comply with the same laws of Nature which give life.
Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees fair incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock, and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food.Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007
Gaia works with the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), Navdanya and an extensive number of other partners both in the UK and globally to support the growing international Food Sovereignty movement. The movement calls on citizens to withdraw their participation from a food system that violates fundamental principles of social and ecological justice. The movement proactively supports diverse, local, ecological farming alternatives. Challenging the industrial food system is also vital in order to resist the alarming drive for landgrabbing.
To forget how to dig the Earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
In order to challenge the industrial food model at the grassroots level, Gaia supports the African Biodiversity Network and its Climate, Seed and Knowledge (CSK) programme. CSK recognises the essential qualities of small-scale agro-ecological farming but goes one step further. CSK was born out of the recognition of the essential connectivity between indigeneous seed, indigenous knowledge, and climate change resilience. Communities are supported to revive their indigenous seeds and knowledge, and to enhance their traditional farming systems. Thus they begin to regain confidence in their own traditional farming methods. These are farming methods that have been practiced for thousands of years, providing resilience to climate change pressures, because they are born out of local practices and understanding, and built on enhancing the rich diversity of crops, highly adapted to their ecosystems and climate conditions.