At the World Food Summit in 1996, La Via Campesina (LVC) launched a concept that both challenged the corporate dominated, market driven model of globalised food production and distribution, as well as offering a new paradigm to fight hunger and poverty by developing and strengthening local economies. Since then, food sovereignty has captured the imagination of people the world over - includ- ing many governments and multilateral institutions - and has become a global rallying cry for those committed to social, environmental, economic and political justice.
Food sovereignty is different from food security in both approach and politics. Food security does not distinguish where food comes from, or the conditions under which it is produced and distributed. National food security targets are often met by sourcing food produced under environmentally destructive and exploitative conditions, and supported by subsidies and policies that destroy local food producers but benefit agribusiness cor- porations. Food sovereignty emphasizes ecologically appropriate production, distribu- tion and consumption, social-economic justice and local food systems as ways to tackle hunger and poverty and guarantee sustainable food security for all peoples. It advocates trade and investment that serve the collective aspirations of society. It promotes commu- nity control of productive resources; agrarian reform and tenure security for small-scale producers; agro-ecology; biodiversity; local knowledge; the rights of peasants, women, indigenous peoples and workers; social protection and climate justice.
In 2001, delegates from peasant, fisher-folk, indigenous peoples, civil society, and academic organisations met in Havana at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty to elaborate the different elements of food sovereignty. From 2000 onwards, cam- paigners against the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture demanded public support for sustainable, family based food production and called for Priority to Peoples’ Food Sovereignty and WTO out of Food and Agriculture.
The International Forum on Food Sovereignty in 2007 in Mali was a defining milestone for food sovereignty and brought together more than 500 people from 80 countries to pool ideas, strategies and actions to strengthen the global movement for food sovereign- ty. The Declaration of Nyéléni encapsulates the vision of the movement and asserts:
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food pro- duced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts 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… Food sover- eignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal-fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food pro- duction, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sus- tainability… Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequal- ity between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.
Editorial from the Nyeleni Newsletter. Read full editorial here.