Food Sovereignty Movement

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"food sovereignty = “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. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.” (,)


By Daniel Moss at :

"four movements – small farmers, environmentalists, foodies, consumers – all coming together to radically transform our corporate food system and win equal access to precious resources: land, water and food. Steward those resources for the common good and you have the makings of a healthy, edible commons.

The current food system has failed to feed the world’s hungry, most of whom, tragically, are the very people who feed us: farmers, farmworkers, and other food producers. They are also the hardest hit by the massive environmental problems created by the industrial model—deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and the poisoning of the environment by pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

“Enough is enough” is the sane response to this abuse, and it’s the inspiration behind the rapid growth of the Food Sovereignty Movement. Its adherents care about the environment because their lives depend upon it.

One might call it a people’s environmental movement, with the accent on ‘people.’

With millions of supporters, the Food Sovereignty Movement constitutes a vast global network of on-the ground environmental watchdogs, caring for the planet, and developing innovative methods for doing so. Combining U.S. environmentalism’s active networks and rich campaigning experience with food sovereignty’s world-wide people power and global perspective adds up to tremendous potential for growing the Food Sovereignty Movement, protecting the environment and feeding the world." (


"Food sovereignty’s principles resonate with those of the Slow Food movement and the emphasis on "buying and eating locally." It finds common cause with Community-supported Agriculture and the Sustainable Agriculture movements. There is a very strong "beyond organic" approach, but most importantly, its supporters are pushing governments across the globe for fair trade policies and sustainable eco-economies—so that the women, children and men who produce the food that sustains us can sustain themselves.

Sustainable use and management of natural resources.

Agriculture must work with nature, not against it. Food sovereignty advocates believe that yields high enough to feed the planet can be accomplished through agroecology rather than chemical additives; emphasizing biodiversity, intercropping, local markets, organic cultivation; and prioritizing agriculture for food over fuel production.

Promotion of eco-friendly technologies.

Instead of promoting genetically modified crops, the emphasis should be on preserving our abundant biodiversity. In particular, seeds—the very lifeblood of agriculture—must remain biodiverse and ecologically appropriate, controlled not by corporations, but by family farmers.

Building the eco-economy.

"Pay for services" approaches such as carbon sinks often treat farmers as paid employees rather than sustain their livelihood as farmers. Food sovereignty sees small producers as stewards of the environment, supported holistically through fair pricing, preservation of local markets and economies, and fair access to natural resources such as land and water." (


Eric Holt-Giménez

"The difficulty of confronting the extensive attacks on smallholders and politically mobilizing around the complexity of their livelihood demands has been a challenge for agrarian movements in the South. This has also been a problem for northern organizations seeking to protect family farms and counter the expansion of large-scale industrial agriculture with more sustainable forms of production. Only a decade ago, rural sociologists lamented the lack of an “underlying notion…to serve as a unifying force” for a sustainable agriculture movement, and pointed to the need for advocates to form coalitions to advance an agro-foods movement capable of contesting deregulation, globalization, and agro-ecosystem degradation.17 With the current food crisis, the peasant-based call for food sovereignty — literally, people’s self-government of the food system — can potentially fulfill this political function.

First defined in 1996 by the international peasant federation La Vía Campesina (The Peasant Way) as “people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems,” food sovereignty proposes that people, rather than corporate monopolies, make the decisions regarding our food. Food sovereignty is a much deeper concept than food security because it proposes not just guaranteed access to food, but democratic control over the food system — from production and processing, to distribution, marketing, and consumption. Whether applied to countries in the global South working to re-establish national food production, to farmers protecting their seed systems from GMOs, or to rural-urban communities setting up their own direct marketing systems, food sovereignty aims to democratize and transform our food systems.

For decades, family farmers, rural women, and communities around the world have resisted the destruction of their native seeds and worked hard to diversify their crops, protect their soil, conserve their water and forests, and establish local gardens, markets, businesses, and community-based food systems. There are many highly productive, equitable, and sustainable alternatives to the present industrial practices and corporate monopolies holding the world’s food hostage, and literally millions of people working to advance these alternatives.18 Contrary to conventional thinking, these practices are highly productive and could easily feed the projected mid-century global population of over nine billion people.19

Smallholders working with movements like Campesino a Campesino (Farmer to Farmer) of Latin America, and NGO networks for farmer-led sustainable agriculture like Participatory Land Use Management (PELUM) of Africa, and the Farmer Field Schools of Asia have restored exhausted soils, raised yields, and preserved the environment using highly effective agroecological management practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land. These practices have given them important measures of autonomy in relation to the industrial agrifood system and have increased their environmental and economic resiliency, buffering them from climate-induced hazards and market volatility.

At the same time, peasant organizations struggling to advance agrarian reform have been busy confronting the neoliberal offensive.20 Because the expansion of industrial agrifood both dispossesses smallholders and recruits them into a massive reserve army of labor, these peasant organizations have broadened their work across sectors and borders. The globalization of these movements — both in content and scale — responds in part to the intensification of capital’s enclosures, and is partly a strategic decision to engage in global advocacy. As a result, the new transnational agrarian movements regularly integrate social, environmental, economic, and cultural concerns with demands for land reform.

Two distinguishable currents can be identified from these trends. One is made up of peasant organizations and federations focusing primarily on new agrarian advocacy — like Vía Campesina. The other trend is made up of smallholders working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus primarily on developing sustainable agriculture — like Campesino a Campesino. The political and institutional origins of these currents are different, and this has at times led to contradictory, competitive and even adversarial relations, particularly between non-governmental organizations implementing programs in the interests of farmers, and farmer’s organizations interested in implementing their own programs. Nonetheless, at both the farm and the international level, there is clear objective synergy between the agrarian demands of today’s peasant organizations, and the needs of the growing base of smallholders practicing sustainable agriculture as a means of survival. The food crisis may be bringing these movements together." (

Nora McKeon

"It looks like it could be a magic moment for food activists! For once, three important ingredients for change in the global food system have come together simultaneously: vibrant world-wide people’s food movements building from the local level on up, cracks in the dominant corporate-controlled “wisdom” about how best to ensure food for all, and a new and exciting global space for decision-making on food issues. That’s right: the UN system that many people had given up on as a tired and toothless bureaucracy is proving instead to be part of the solution, and an important one at that. Let’s take a look at these three developments one by one. ...

This emergence has been happening among small farmers since the ‘80s, especially in the Global South, in reaction to neo-liberal policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Camouflaged by an inscrutable label—“structural adjustment”—that evoked something out of a chiropractor’s manual, these measures arrived on the tail of the food crisis of the ‘70s and provided the champions of the untrammeled free market with an opportunity to peddle their wares. ...

Since then, the food sovereignty movement has continued to spread, not only in the Global South but also in the North as communities have woken up to the impacts of the corporate-controlled food system. In the US, the annual conferences of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) testify to the rich variety of local initiatives underway coast to coast: municipal food councils, food banks, urban agriculture, community stores and more. The CFSC conference held in New Orleans in October 2010, witnessed the birth of a US Food Sovereignty Alliance, a step echoed in Canada just a month later.7 For its part, Europe is rife with community-supported agriculture initiatives, public procurement of local food by municipalities for schools and hospitals, local seed trading fairs, farmers’ markets, and regions that bind together in opposition to the introduction of GMOs. A process is now underway to bring these local initiatives together in a horizontal, Europe-wide food sovereignty movement. ...

The second development supporting change is that while people’s movements have been building up their strength, cracks have developed in the dominant global system they are opposing. Since late 2007, the food price crisis and social unrest in cities around the world have thrown into question the failed food security strategies applied up to now.

...When the [2008 global food]crisis erupted, a sharp divide emerged over how to fill the governance gap. On one side, the G8 threw up a veritable smoke screen of rhetoric about an elusive ‘Global Partnership on Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition’ (GPAFS), promising billions of dollars of new investment in agriculture (that somehow hasn’t quite materialized), and ever more advanced technological fixes for whatever ails society. An audacious alternative to the GPAFS was championed by a number of predominantly southern governments allied with civil society organizations and social movements. Their plan aimed to transform the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) based in FAO from an ineffectual talk-shop into an authoritative, inclusive UN forum deliberating on food security in the name of ensuring the global right to food. The challenge was to effectively fill the global governance gap rather than simply paper it over and allow wealthy states and corporations to stay in control. Better the UN than the G8/20, if it can actually be made to carry out its mission effectively.

...The link between social movement global policy advocacy and local struggles is fundamental. Applied to the land-grab issue, the rapidity with which land deals are proceeding adds even greater urgency. In the words of Ibrahima Coulibaly, the president of the National Peasant Platform in Mali ... “The only global level action that might make a difference in the immediate term would be If the CFS adopted a moratorium on land grabbing and mandated a mission to verify the situation.” ... As a national workshop on land tenure governance in Senegal held in December 2010 noted, the land-grab phenomenon has activated the interest of a range of official and civil society actors ... to initiate a real dialogue between the State, producers’ organizations, local authorities, and other partners. ... An important piece of the CFS reform is the commitment on the part of member governments to replicate at national and regional levels the multi-stakeholder approach that has been institutionalized in the global CFS. This commitment [needs to] be an instrument that social movements and civil society organizations can use to push for transparency and accountability on the part of national governments. And, conversely, participation in global policy discussions by governments that are held accountable to their citizens is the most important contribution one can imagine to attaining effective and equitable global governance....

There are cracks in the corporate armor, people’s food sovereignty movements have never been stronger, and there’s a new global forum where their experience and proposals can be brought to bear. Small food producers and civil society organizations have played a decisive role in opening up this space. Now let’s make it work to our advantage!" (


More Information

See the report from Grassroots International and Food & Water Watch, "Towards a Green Food System," at [1]

Download it at

Booklet on the movement at [2]

Essay in the Monthly Review: From Food Crisis to Food Sovereignty. The Challenge of Social Movements. By Eric Holt-Giménez