Food Justice and Agroecology


The purpose of this page is to share articles, resources, and news related to food justice issues here in North America and abroad. Some of these writings are to keep us abreast of the obstacles the agroecology and seed/food sovereignty movements are up against. We’ll also use this space to post stories of hope and progress being made in our quest for a more food just world.

 

2016

June

Looking for Food in All the Wrong Places

MAPUTO: I spent another week in Mozambique looking for ProSAVANA, the much-touted, much-reviled Japanese-Brazilian-Mozambican agriculture project that has spectacularly failed to turn Mozambique’s savannah-lands in the Nacala Corridor into a giant soybean plantation modeled on Brazil’s Cerrado region. I was there doing follow-up research for a book.

I hadn’t found much evidence of ProSAVANA two years ago (see my previous articleshere and here) and I didn’t find much now. Government officials wouldn’t talk about it. Japanese development cooperation representatives spoke only of pathetically small extension services to a few small-scale farmers. Private investors were scarce. Civil society groups debated whether it is worth cooperating in the wholesale redesign of the program.

I wondered why anyone would bother. Like many of the grand schemes hatched in the wake of the 2007-2008 food price spikes, this one was a bust, by any measure. Still, ProSAVANA remains the Mozambican government’s agricultural development strategy for the region. While farmers defend their hard-won land rights, it seems they will have to look elsewhere for agricultural development.

I decided to look elsewhere as well. I didn’t have to go far. I arrived in Marracuene, 45 minutes outside Maputo, just after the rainy-season harvest and as the irrigation-fed winter season was beginning. Marracuene didn’t get much rain or much of a harvest due to the drought that has parched much of southern Africa.

One farmer in the village of BoBole told me he’d earned barely one-quarter what he had the previous year from farm sales, and almost none of that was from maize, the Mozambique staple. Across the region, production is down, prices are up, and hunger is widespread. In Mozambique, 1.5 million people are facing food insecurity, according to UNICEF, with 191,000 children expected to be severely malnourished in the next 12 months. Read full article here…

Report Finds Big Ag’s Global Land Grab Expanding to New Frontiers

While ‘food security-driven land grabbing’ has subsided in recent years, ‘plain old profit-driven agribusiness expansion is now the dominant agenda’

by

Big Ag’s global land grab is huge, growing, and “extending its reach to new frontiers,” according to a new report from the international non-profit GRAIN.

A follow-up to its October 2008 analysis—which “exposed how a new wave of land grabbing was sweeping the planet”—GRAIN’s latest publication paints a “disturbing” picture, showing that “while some deals have fallen by the wayside, the global farmland grab is far from over.”

Indeed, GRAIN’s 2016 data set documents 491 large-scale land grabs taking place over the past decade, covering over 30 million hectares of land in 78 countries. While the total area covered by such agricultural investments has declined by five million hectares over the past four years, the number of financial deals to secure the land has increased.

And, the report notes:

While some of the worst land grabs have been shelved or toned down, a number of new deals are appearing, many of which are ‘hard-core’ initiatives to expand the frontiers of industrial agriculture. We say hard-core because these deals are large, long-term and determined to avoid the pitfalls that earlier deals ran into. Much of the Asian-led oil palm expansion in Africa, and the advance of pension funds and trade conglomerates to secure access to new farmlands, fall into this category. Increasingly, gaining access to farmland is part of a broader corporate strategy to profit from carbon markets, mineral resources, water resources, seeds, soil and environmental services.

Moreover, while “food security-driven land grabbing” has subsided in recent years, “plain old profit-driven agribusiness expansion is now the dominant agenda,” GRAIN states. Read more here…

May

How to leave industrial agriculture behind: Food systems experts urge global shift towards agroecology

(Brussels / Trondheim: 2nd June) Input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing, according to the world’s foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition.

The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argued.

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), led by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, released its findings today in a report entitled ‘From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems’.

De Schutter said: “Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture, and its reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Simply tweaking industrial agriculture will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates.” Read more and access full report here…

April

Ten Questions with Raj Patel, Writer and Activist

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016.

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more.

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Raj Patel, a writer, activist, and research professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He will also be speaking at the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Raj Patel (RP): At the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, the international peasant’s movement, La Via Campesina, blew me away. They had a beautiful vision and argument not only about what was wrong with food and agriculture at the moment but how it could be much better.

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

RP: The only way the food system can change is through organizing. We can’t shop our way out of this mess. Organizing takes time; it can be draining and hard. But there are three chances every day to commune and celebrate with those whom we love—over a table. Full interview here…

On being scholar-activists and activist-scholars:

http://www.iss.nl/…/Acad…/Jun_Borras_Inaugural_14Apr2016.pdf

New report reveals biodiversity offsets as double landgrab in the name of biodiversity

http://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/RioTintoBiodivOffsetMadagascar_report_EN_web.pdf

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

Frances Moore Lappé

The primary obstacle to sustainable food security is an economic model and thought system, embodied in industrial agriculture, that views life in disassociated parts, obscuring the destructive impact this approach has on humans, natural resources, and the environment. Industrial agriculture is characterized by waste, pollution, and inefficiency, and is a significant contributor to climate change. Within so-called free market economics, enterprise is driven by the central goal of bringing the highest return to existing wealth. This logic leads inexorably to the concentration of wealth and power, making hunger and ecosystem disruption inevitable. The industrial system does not and cannot meet our food needs. An alternative, relational approach—agroecology—is emerging and has already shown promising success on the ground. By dispersing power and building on farmers’ own knowledge, it offers a viable path to healthy, accessible food; environmental protection; and enhanced human dignity.

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy. Read full article here…

La Via Campesina organizes the International Conference of Agrarian Reform in Brazil

Press Release – La Via Campesina

The struggles for land, water, and territory are central to the struggle for Food Sovereignty.

(Harare, 6 April 2016) This year marks the 20th anniversary of the  Eldorado dos Carajás massacre. On April 17th, 1996, nineteen peasants – women and men members of the Landless Movement – were assassinated while they were taking part in a legitímate struggle to obtain land. Since that time, La Vía Campesina  has declared April 17th to be the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle. It is in this context of memory and resistance that La  Via Campesina, together with its members and allies such as the World March of Women, the World Forum of Fisher People, the Organisation of Indigenous Peoples, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), FIAN International, GRAIN, ETC Group, LRAN, and Friends of the Earth International, is organising this International Conference in order to renew and bring up to date the discussion of Agrarian Reform.

The Conference will take place in Pará, Brazil, from April 13th to April 17th.  Topics for the main discussion panels include: capitalism and agribusiness; the project for popular agrarian reform; and the challenges faced by the peasants’ and small-scale farmers’ and workers’ movements in developing a common plan of action. It is expected that the Conference will be attended by 200 women and men delegates from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. The delegates will also take part in a closing international ceremony of solidarity, mística (celebration of the ideals that inspire our movement), and justice, which will be held in very same place where the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre was perpetrated, on the same date and at the same time of day. Read full press release here…

The oligarchy and the enemies of the people murder peasants in Brazil

ALBA Movements / The Dawn News / April 7, 2016

The Continental Articulation of Social Movements towards the ALBA emphatically condemns the events that occurred earlier today, April 7, 2016, when the Military Police entered with brutality and raining bullets into a camp of thousands of families of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) located in the state of Paraná, killing two peasants and wounding many more.

It’s worth noting that the Military Police that acted in the repressive operative is under the orders of governor Carlos Alberto Richa, of the PSDB party, one of the right-wing organizations that is promoting the soft coup against President Dilma Rousseff.

Added to that, yesterday, in Paraíba, Ivanildo Francisco da Silva, 46 year-old President of the Workers’ Party (PT) in the Mogeiro municipality, was also murdered.

We express our solidarity with Brazil’s MST and we call to continental unity and to manifest in words and actions our determined repudiation against the wave of murders that is sweeping through the whole continent. These are not isolated events, this is a plan orchestrated by the enemies of the peoples to silence voices, instill fear and try to put an end to our fight.

We condemn this unjustifiable act and demand immediate justice and investigation. Full article here…

 

Two peasants members of the MST are killed in Paraná, Brazil

Source: Prensa Latina / The Dawn News / April 7, 2016. On Thursday afternoon, two teams of the Military Police of Parana, accompanied by security guards of the Araupelcompany, attacked the Thomas D. Baldwin camp, in the region of the Iguazu Falls, located in the state’s center.

So far, two dead and six wounded were confirmed, although the exact number has not been confirmed yet. The military police has prevented members of the movement from accesing the place where events occurred.

History

The camp, located in an area that belongs to the Araupel, is organized with 2,500 families and about 7 thousand people.

In that place, the Landless Workers suffer constant threats from the security guards and armed men of the company. These threats are protected by the collusion with the government and the Secretary of State for Public Safety.

Disputes over land in the state

This scenario, in part, reflects the climate of tension due to access to land and against land hoarding in the region. The conflict is related to the creation of two MST camps in the center-South region of Paraná, that was built on areas exploited by the company Araupel, which exports pine tree and eucalyptus. Read full article here…

 

Why US-Cuba Relations Won’t End Cuba’s Alternative Agriculture Movement

Justine Williams | 04.05.2016

Barack Obama’s recent trip to Cuba—coming15 months after his and Raúl Castro’s announcement that the two countries would begin a process of political and economic “normalization” – has left many food sovereignty advocates worried about the implications for Cuba’s sustainable agriculture sector.[2]

But while the prospects of increased trade and investment may tempt some Cuban leaders to abandon alternative agriculture, it is unlikely to sway many of the growers and activists who have been pursuing agricultural transformation on the island for over twenty years.

Cuba’s Alternative Agriculture: Necessity or Choice?

Since the early 1990s, international activists and scholars have watched with fascination – and often admiration – as Cuba underwent a massive transition toward a more sustainable food production system. The transformation was prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left the country with almost no access to imported food, fuel, machinery, and other industrially fabricated products.[3]Citizens mobilized to confront this scarcity by creating neighborhood gardens, innovating in low-input farming techniques, and investigating biological pest management. The state instituted a department of urban agriculture, and made more land available to small-scale, family farmers.

Commentators often describe these changes as having been born of necessity rather than choice. As one US-based scholar recently reported, “Organic agriculture was essentially forced upon Cuba.” [4] The insinuation of such statements is that because the turn to sustainable agriculture was motivated by economic precarity, it does not represent the authentic preferences of the Cuban people. Read full article here…

They were asking for food relief – they were given bullets instead

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) are asking different organizations to kindly add their support to the farmers in Kidapawan, Philippines by adding their organizations name below as signatory to the statement. The farmers were asking for food relief and calamity funds when the police authorities open fire at them killing 3 farmers, 116 injured, 89 missing, and 2 tortured.

We would like to express our utmost condemnation on the killing of unarmed farmers asking for food relief. The people of North Cotobato are suffering from severe drought. The inutile response of government to help them survive such crisis is inhuman enough. To hoard the food relief intended for them is simply criminal. To open fire at them when they were demanding what is due them is plain evil.

Thousands of farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotobato decided to temporarily leave their farms to protest the hoarding of the food relief by the local government and to demand the release of the calamity funds supposedly intended for those whose crops were destroyed by the El Niño phenomenon. Read full piece here…

 

On Wednesday, March 30, some 6,000 farmers and lumad indigenous peoples from all over the province started setting up human barricades at the local National Food Authority. The farmers were demanding the release of 15,000 sacks of rice to alleviate hunger arising from massive crop failure owing to a 7-month long drought brought about by El Nino. North Cotabato had since been declared under a state of calamity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LTSoLh-JBc

Sa bidyong ito makikita ang tunay na pangyayari hinggil sa “Kidapawan Masaker”
YOUTUBE.COM

March

Beyond Talk: Searching For Real Solutions to Food Appropriation

The Sporkful’s latest series makes a valiant effort to take a deeper look at ‘other people’s food.’ But some critics say real change will take more than conversation.

Co-creation of knowledge

This issue of Farming Matters illustrates how the collective creation of knowledge lies at the heart of agroecology rooted in family farming. It presents stories of farmers, scientists, urban citizens, government officials, NGOs, and others who have jointly created agroecological solutions that are suited to their own, local contexts.

Their experiences show that, together, people from diverse backgrounds can achieve large societal changes that range from diversified incomes and climate resilience to greater agrobiodiversity and food sovereignty.

This issue of the magazine, moreover, explores the political dimension of knowledge co-creation in the practice, science and movement of agroecology. It zooms in on various ways in which agricultural actors can move away from traditional top-down approaches of knowledge transfer, so that family farmers can truly become central players in processes of knowledge creation. Read full issue here…

 

Co-creating the agricultural biodiversity that feeds us

The co-creation of knowledge about agricultural biodiversity is an essential part of peasant strategies for survival and autonomy. Facing the threats of the industrial model of production and consumption, peasants and social movements are defending agroecology and their dynamic management of agricultural biodiversity. Together with others, they are building collective knowledge about developing localised, biodiverse food systems, about reclaiming access to their territories and about engaging in research and policy making as principal actors.

Our food is based on a great diversity of plants, animals, fish and micro-organisms. This diversity has been developed through collective knowledge, co-created between food producers and nature. It is the basis of all agroecological production systems. Through working with nature, peasants, including hunter-gatherers, artisanal àshers, livestock keepers, and other small scale food providers have learned about and innovated with ways to enhance and sustain agricultural biodiversity. The first to do so were women who innovated by collecting, sowing and selecting seeds. Food producers shared knowledge, together with their seeds and breeds, with peasants in other territories across countries and continents where, in turn, the co-creation of knowledge greatly expanded agricultural biodiversity suited to diverse ecologies, environments and human needs. The result is many hundreds of thousands of different plant varieties and thousands of livestock breeds and aquatic species which have been selected or adapted to serve specific requirements. Read full article here…

 

For Latin American environmentalists, death is a constant companion

March 30

Long before gunmen burst into Berta Cáceres Flores’s house in rural Honduras, Beverly Bell gave up any hope that her friend would live to an old age. “This was a marked woman,” said Bell, who kept a long list of the death threats. “Everyone knew it.”

The March 3 slaying of the internationally known environmentalist was condemned from the State Department to the Vatican. But for activists who work in Latin America, Cáceres’s murder was tragically familiar.

Two-thirds of environmentalists who died violently around the world since 2002 lost their lives in that region. For the five years ending in 2014, more than 450 were killed, according to an international watchdog group. More than half were in Honduras and Brazil.

Among the more recent deaths: A young worker who protected sea turtles in Costa Rica was kidnapped and brutally beaten. A farmer in Peru was shot 12 times for protesting a hydroelectric dam. A Guatemalan activist who linked a massive fish kill to pesticides sprayed by a palm oil company was gunned down near a courthouse in broad daylight. A Brazilian activist who fought logging in the rain forest was ambushed and fatally stabbed while returning home with his wife. Read full article here…

 

A Leading Scientist Promotes Agroecology in the Movement Against Pesticides

In 2007, the United States agricultural industry spent over 7.8 billion dollars on pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides combined. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman is one of the experts leading the movement against the widespread use of pesticides. She is a senior scientist and director of the Grassroots Science Program at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). She is also a graduate of Yale and Cornell Universities with degrees in women’s studies and ecology and evolutionary biology.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Marcia about her work with PAN, and with agroecology field schools in Asia and Africa.

Food Tank (FT): After studying ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and women’s studies at Yale University before that, what sparked your interest in working with (or rather against) pesticides?

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (MIE): After working on the Thai-Cambodian and Somali-Ethiopian borders throughout the 1980s, I came to realize that while political conflict over resources are at the heart of so many of the world’s problems, the ecological and environmental dimensions of these struggles (along with the social and political) must be in the forefront of solutions. That is what led me to build on my early studies in gender, politics and development with PhD research in agroecology at Cornell, and my subsequent work developing community-led farmer field schools in ecological pest management in Asia. There I witnessed the pervasive influence of pesticide companies in the fields and over government agencies, along with the intensive —and frequently unprotected—use of pesticides by farmers who had been encouraged to abandon their traditional methods of farming by government extension programs and institutions like the World Bank. These experiences eventually led to me to join the advocacy-oriented Pesticide Action Network, where I have been for nearly 20 years now! Read full interview here…

 

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw

President Obama’s trip to Cuba this week accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens.

But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead.

For the past 35 years I have studied agroecology in most countries in Central and South America. Agroecology is an approach to farming that developed in the late 1970s in Latin America as a reaction against the top-down, technology-intensive and environmentally destructive strategythat characterizes modern industrial agriculture. It encourages local production by small-scale farmers, using sustainable strategies and combining Western knowledge with traditional expertise.

Cuba took this approach out of necessity when its economic partner, the Soviet bloc, dissolved in the early 1990s. As a result, Cuban farming has become a leading example of ecological agriculture.

But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved. Read full article here…

Backgrounder: Dismantling Racism in the Food System

Breeze Harper and Eric Holt-Giménez | 03.21.2016

Racism—the systemic mistreatment of people based on their ethnicity or skin color—affects all aspects of our society, including our food system. While racism has no biological foundation, the socio-economic and political structures that dis- possess and exploit people of color, coupled with widespread misinformation about race, cultures and ethnic groups, make racism one of the more intractable injustices causing poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Racism is not simply attitudinal prejudice or individual acts, but an historical legacy that privileges one group of people over others. Racism—individual, institutional and structural (see Box 3)—also impedes good faith efforts to build a fair, sustainable food system.

Despite its pervasiveness, racism is almost never mentioned in international programs for food aid and agricultural development. While anti-hunger and food security programs frequently cite the shocking statistics, racism is rarely identified as the cause of inordinately high rates of hunger, food insecurity, pesticide poisoning and diet-related disease among people of color. Even the wide- ly-hailed “good food” movement—with its plethora of projects for organic agriculture, permaculture, healthy food, community supported agriculture, farmers markets and corner store conversions— tends to address the issue of racism unevenly.1 Some organizations are committed to dismantling racism in the food system and center this work in their activities. Others are sympathetic but are not active on the issue. Many organizations, however, see racism as too difficult, tangential to their work, or a divisive issue to be avoided. The hurt, anger, fear, guilt, grief and hopelessness of racism are un- easily addressed in the food movement—if they are addressed at all.

This Backgrounder is first in a series about how racism and our food system have co-evolved, how present-day racism operates within the food system, and what we can do to dismantle racism and build a fair, just and sustainable food system that works for everyone. Read full report here…

 

Green Manure Crops in Africa: A Report from the Field

Roland Bunch | 03.21.2016

Roland Bunch’s work with indigenous Mayan farmers in the highlands of Guatemala in the 1970s enabled the Campesino a Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) movement to sweep through Mexico, Central America and Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s. Cover crops were a central component of the movement’s success. In this personal letter, Roland shares his recent work with the successful farmer-to-farmer spread of cover crops in seven African countries.

Dear Friends,

Back in 2009-10, during a 6-nation study I carried out in Africa for World Renew, I realized that because 80% of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa now have less than 2 hectares of land (roughly 5 acres), they are no longer able every year to have 3/4 of their land sitting idle (ie. in a fallow) and still feed their families with what’s left. Fallowing is the way by which African farmers have kept their soil fertile for some 3,000 years. But as their plots have diminished in size (mostly because of population growth, but also because a lot of land has become wasteland), they have gradually reduced their customary fallow periods from 15 years to 10 years, 8 years, 4 years, and down to nothing. In most of sub-Saharan Africa, fallowing is now a thing of the past; it is in its death throes. Read full article/report here…

Conceptualising components, conditions and trajectories of food sovereignty’s ‘sovereignty’

Antonio Roman-Alcalá

This paper addresses the ambiguity of the term ‘sovereignty’ in food sovereignty (FS), intending to clarify the ‘aspirational sovereignty’ that food sovereignty movements indicate as the ideal configuration of power that would allow FS to flourish, or which might help measure movement towards FS. Since aspirational sovereignty is conditioned by existing power relations, the paper elaborates components of ‘actually existing sovereignty’, based on readings of a variety of political and social science literatures. By critically assessing the difference between actually existing and aspirational sovereignty across three geographic–political levels, the paper offers strategic options for constructing FS, and suggests what such an elaborated definition of FS’s sovereignty might offer future research on FS. Free access to this paper, available here…

March 8th: Organising and struggle to win our rights

Via Campesina Press Release

(Harare, March 8th, 2016) Today, International Women’s Day, La Via Campesina is calling for action against capitalist violence all over the world. Capitalist violence is not only the violence that is directly inflicted upon women; it is also an integral part of a social context of exploitation and dispossession that is characterised by the historical oppression and violation of the basic rights of women peasants, farmers, and farmworkers, landless women, indigenous women and black women.

La Via Campesina emphasises the importance of organising and struggle, leading to liberation and awareness and enabling women to participate in politics as historical subjects – with the goal of building a just society, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Read full press release here…

 

February

Women forging change with agroecology

This issue of Farming Matters presents stories about women from all over the world who are forging positive change through agroecology on their farms and in their communities.

Many innovations led by women are based on agroecological principles such as increasing diversity, using fewer pesticides, or building new relationships with consumers. Through small experiments women learn, get organised and strengthen their autonomy. This issue of Farming Matters, dedicated to women farmers and agricultural workers, shows a variety of experiences, each of them inspiring in their own way. Read the full issue here…

The Centrality of Seed: Building Agricultural Resilience Through Plant Breeding

by Salvatore Ceccarelli, PhD

Five of the global issues most frequently debated today are the decline of biodiversity in general and of agrobiodiversity in particular, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and water. Seed is central to all five issues. The way in which seed is produced has been arguably their major cause. But it can also be the solution to all these issues.

During the millennia before modern plant breeding began, farmers were moving around with seeds and livestock, and because neither were uniform, they could gradually adapt to different climates, soils and uses. Whenever farmers settled, they continued to improve crops and livestock. In the case of crops, the way they did it can still be seen today in a number of countries and consists of selecting the best plants, which give the seed to be used for the following season. This process was highly location-specific in the sense that each farmer did it independently from other farmers and for his/her conditions of soil, climate and uses. The enormous diversity of what we call ancient, old, heirloom varieties originated through this process. Read full article here…

Guy Kastler: FAO should support seed selection by peasants and small scale farmers

THE FAO SHOULD SUPPORT SEED SELECTION BY PEASANTS AND SMALL-SCALE FARMERS, AND IT SHOULD CONDEMN THE CONFISCATION OF CULTIVATED BIODIVERSITY THROUGH GENE PATENTING

La Via Campesina, Guy Kastler   

It was to be expected that, in order to discuss the subject of biotechnology, the FAO would call upon those who are using biotechnology in research and in industry. However, what was definitely not to be expected was for the FAO, in conducting its discussions on public policy and food policy, to turn almost exclusively to these same actors, while at the same time a very large number of peasant, small-scale farmer, and civil society organisations that are opposed to the uncontrolled development of biotechnology have not been invited to speak – or only in a very marginal way through the invitation that was sent to me. The organisations in question have released a public statement that I am asking you to take into consideration. Read full article here…

Corporate vision of the future of food promoted at the UN

Press release – La Via Campesina, ETC and Grain

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More than 100 civil society organizations raise alarm about FAO biotechnology meeting. (Rome, Monday 15 February, 2016) Just when the biotech companies that make transgenic seeds are merging, the corporate vision of biotechnology is showing up at FAO. At today’s opening of the three-day International symposium on agricultural biotechnologies convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, more than 100 civil society and social movement and organizations (CSOs) from four continents have issued a statement denouncing both the substance and structure of the meeting, which appears to be another attempt by multinational agribusiness to redirect the policies of the UN agency toward support for Genetically-engineered crops and livestock. Read full article here…

2015

November

The Secret Ingredient For Ending World Hunger

Author, activist and academic Raj Patel introduces a novel “technology” to global farming that can help decrease chronic child malnutrition and ensure food sovereignty. Watch TEDMED talk here.

October

Africa and the WTO – the Perils of Weakening the Development Agenda

In the 2013 WTO Ministerial in Bali, India stood mostly alone as the rich countries tried to isolate the government for its stockholding and food security program. But India is far from alone in recognizing the value of public food reserves as insurance against price volatility, emergency food in the event of shortages, and stocks for anti-poverty programs.

In fact, many African countries, including Kenya, Egypt, and Zambia manage such initiatives. They would be deluding themselves to think that the WTO measures taken against India will not be used against them. Most of these countries have exceeded, or are on the verge of exceeding, the de minimis limits set by the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), tripped up by the same loophole that has snagged India. That technicality, which artificially inflates the calculation of subsidy levels, must be resolved in Nairobi along with additional progress on outstanding agricultural issues in the long-running Doha negotiations.

To put the Doha Round in perspective, suffice it to say that even if the entire round was concluded to the satisfaction of the developing countries, it would not address any of the issues of food sovereignty that are raised by social movements in the Food and Nutrition Watch 2015, released today at FAO in Rome. It is, thus, from the perspective of social movements, a minimalist package facilitated by the WTO – an agency that they believe does not have the legitimacy to deal with issues of agriculture and food security, and which ultimately seems to favor corporations and profit interests of the most powerful States. Read full article here…

Controversial Trade Deal Criticized for Secrecy, Benefiting only Multinationals

TPP Should be Rejected by Congress, Could Have Wide-ranging Impact on Farmers and Food Systems

By Karen Hansen-Kuhn   
Published October 5, 2015

Minneapolis/Washington D.C.–After years of negotiations behind closed doors, it appears that the 12 countries that make up the Trans Pacific Partnership have reached a deal. While the details remain secret, the new trade rules could have serious impacts on farmers and ranchers, consumer labeling, farm to school programs and other state and local policies supporting local food systems.

“While this trade agreement has been negotiated in secret, what we do know should concern those who care about fair and sustainable food systems,” said Karen Hansen-Kuhn, IATP, Director of International Strategies. “Multinational agribusiness companies wanted this deal—it provides them a framework to lower regulations and expand their market power. Unfortunately, that same framework has proven to be a bad deal for farmers, consumers and the environment.” Read full article here…

Building, defending and strengthening agroecology

September 2015: A new multimedia publication explores the meaning and politics of agroecology from social movement perspectives. They are produced by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience of Coventry University and ILEIA, the Centre for Learning on Sustainable Agriculture.

‘We see Agroecology as a key form of resistance to an economic system that puts profit before life. […]
Our diverse forms of smallholder food production based on Agroecology generate local knowledge, promote social justice, nurture identity and culture, and strengthen the economic viability of rural areas.

– Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, 2015

A movement is growing. While agroecology has been practiced for millennia in places around the world, today we are witnessing how social movements are calling for agroecology as the pathway towards a more just, sustainable and viable food and agriculture system. Read more here…

Produced by: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience of Coventry University and ILEIA, the Centre for Learning on Sustainable Agriculture

August

Uruguay: Launching of National Agroecology Plan

26 de agosto de 2015 | |

The National Agroecology Plan (PNA) was launched in Montevideo, on August 21st, aiming to increase the number of farmers and consumers under agroecologically-based food production, distribution and consumption systems in order to contribute with the improvement of the quality of life of rural and urban populations.

In the framework of a press conference organized to launch the Plan, the members of the National Agroecology Network, together with the Native Seeds Network shared their arguments and experiences in this process at national level and launched a campaign to gather signatures aiming to exert some influence in the Uruguayan government through a message to President Tabaré Vazquez. They claim that the government´s programme includes agroecology promotion through a Plan such as this one.

At the press conference, the member of the Uruguayan Agroecology Network, Alberto Gomez, said that “the plan was developed during several meetings attended by over 1000 people around the country, but today we are sharing it with the rest of the population. He added, “the endorsement campaign will be held until November, which in addition to gathering signatures, it also aims at concrete proposals to continue deepening the plan”.

Farmer Rik Kestier, member of Cooperativa Ecogranja, member of Ecotienda, stated that they use a complex production system, contrary to conventional production, where they treat the soil, they sow the seeds, manage crops, harvest and then commercialize their products. Read/listen here…

June

Agroecology can help fix our broken food system. Here’s how.

The various incarnations of the sustainable food movement need a science with which to approach a system as complex as food and farming.

Editor’s note: This story was co-published with Food Tank, a nonprofit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters.

Thumb through U.S. newspapers any day in early 2015, and you could find stories on President Obama’s “fast-track” plans for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, antibiotic scares and the worsening California drought. Economists reported on steadily rising income inequality, while minimum-wage food workers took to the picket lines. Americans fled their kitchens and Chipotle welcomed them with farm-friendly appeal. Scientists recorded the warmest winter in history.

These seemingly disconnected events have a common thread: They all are symptoms of a political economy out of kilter with the welfare of the planet and the people who live on it. They are also nestled deep in the way food is grown, distributed and consumed today. What we sometimes call the “agri-food system” is clearly broken — just ask farmworkers and food workers (exploited and underpaid), honeybees (collapsing), forested landscapes (fragmenting), the climate (warming), and the ever-growing number of people without access to nutritious food, or the land and resources with which to produce it. Read full article here…

2014

March

Vandana Shiva: “Women are leading the paradigm shift to align the economy with ecology. After all, both are rooted in the word ‘oikos’ — our home.”

Women Ecowarriors

March 26, 2014

by Vandana Shiva

Over the last four decades, I have served the Earth and grassroots ecological movements, beginning with the historic Chipko Movement (Hug the Tree Movement), in the Central Himalaya.

Every movement in which I participated, I noticed that women were the decision-makers — they decided the course of action and even were unrelenting in protecting the land and the sources of their sustenance and livelihoods.

Women who were a part of the Chipko movement were protecting forests because deforestation and logging in Uttarakhand led to floods, draughts, landslides and other such natural disasters. It led to scarcity of fuel and fodder. It led to the disappearance of springs and streams, forcing women to walk longer and further for water.

The dominant paradigm of forestry is based on monocultures of commercial species where forests are seen as timber mines that produce timber and generate revenue and leads to profits. The women of the Chipko Movement taught the world and me that timber, revenue and profits were not the real products of the forest; the real products were soil, water and pure air.

Today, science refers to these as ecological functions of ecosystems. Illiterate women of the Garhwal Himalaya were four decades ahead of the scientists of the world. By 1981, the government was compelled to stop logging in the Central Himalaya. Read full article here…

2012

An Indicator Framework for Assessing Agroecosystem Resilience

Taking departure in the theory of resilience in social-ecological systems, we present an analysis and discussion of how resilience theory can be applied to agroecosystems. Building on the premise that agroecosystems are too complex for resilience to be measured in any precise manner, we delineate behavior-based indicators of resilience within agroecosystems. Based on a review of relevant literature, we present and discuss an index of 13 such indicators, which, when identified in an agroecosystem, suggest that it is resilient and endowed with the capacity for adaptation and transformation. Absence of these indicators identifies points of intervention for managers and stakeholders to build resilience where there is vulnerability. The indicators encompass various phases in the adaptive cycle and seek to link core aspects of social-ecological systems. We stress the strong societal need for building resilience in agroecosystems and advocate for a broader way of evaluating resilience in agroecosystems. Read full article here…

Food (In)Security – Food Security and Food Sovereignty

The challenges of institutionalizing food sovereignty.

Hannah Wittman, Philip McMichael, and Rachel Bezner Kerr discuss gaps between the framework of food security as defined by international organizations and the more challenging  grass-roots notion of food sovereignty.   Food sovereignty, as articulated by groups such as La Via Campesina, is the right of people to define agricultural and food policy, including prioritizing local agricultural production, access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. Wendell Barry once wrote, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” As advocates of food sovereignty emphasize, agriculture and food are inextricably linked.

Hannah Wittman
“Peasant Rights or Food Riots? The challenges of institutionalizing food sovereignty”

Although the human right to food has been enshrined as an international human right since the 1970s as part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it has lacked implementation and strategic focus by states, and has been actively challenged by global capital through institutions such as the World Trade Organization.  In response, global social movements have increasingly mobilized around the right to food, particularly in the face of the global food crisis in force since 2007, and language protecting the right to food has been a subject of constitutional amendment and national legislation in countries including Ecuador, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela and Bolivia.  With particular attention given to recent Brazilian civil society and government initiatives related to food sovereignty, Hannah Wittman examines the strategies and tactics of members of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina around the right to food, as related to their proposal for a food sovereignty regime supported by an International Convention on Peasant Rights. Read more here…

 

Food Security and Sovereignty: Rachel Bezner-Kerr, Hannah Whitman, Philip McMichael

Hannah Wittman, Philip McMichael, and Rachel Bezner-Kerr discuss gaps between the framework of food security as defined by international organizations and the more challenging  grass-roots notion of food sovereignty.   Food sovereignty, as articulated by groups such as La Via Campesina, is the right of people to define agricultural and food policy, including prioritizing local agricultural production, access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. Wendell Barry once wrote, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” As advocates of food sovereignty emphasize, agriculture and food are inextricably linked.

Wittman, McMichael and Bezner-Kerr were interviewed by Calumet Quarter students Katherine Rittenhouse and Dylan Meyer before their lecture on May 9. Read more here…

2011

The New Green Revolution: How Twenty-First-Century Science Can Feed the World

By

The combined effects of climate change, energy scarcity, and water paucity require that we radically rethink our agricultural systems. Countries can and must reorient their agricultural systems toward modes of production that are not only highly productive, but also highly sustainable. Following the 2008 global food price crisis, many developing countries have adopted new food security policies and have made significant investments in their agricultural systems. Global hunger is also back on top of the international agenda. However, the question is not only how much is done, but also how it is done—and what kinds of food systems are now being rebuilt.Agroecology, the application of ecological science to the study, design, and management of sustainable agriculture, offers a model of agricultural development to meet this challenge. Recent research demonstrates that it holds great promise for the roughly 500 million food-insecure households around the world. By scaling up its practice, we can sustainably improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and thus contribute to feeding a hungry planet. Read full article here…

Older

Kindle Grantee Feature: A.I.R.E’s Miguel Santistevan and the Issues of Food and Seed Sovereignty in New Mexico

by Miguel Santistevan

A story of the struggle for food and seed sovereignty in New Mexico must be told.  In an unprecedented Alliance, Tribal and Acequia farmers made a Declaration that contextualizes the expropriation and genetic engineering (GE) of crops as a malicious act in the continuation of genocide. As concerns for food security in the context of climate change rise, the resilience of indigenous agricultural systems provide a model for food security in the face of uncertainty. If our potential is to be reached, traditional agriculture and the freedom to farm must survive against the onslaught of private property regimes, uncontainable cross-pollination, misinformation, and global influence of the biotechnology industry. Read full article here…

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