Fighting for Food Sovereignty


15 January 2015

Over the last few years I have travelled to a number of countries including Ethiopia, Venezuela and Indonesia to meet activists from around the world who are fighting for food sovereignty.

Often I am meeting people for the first time and a common reaction whenever I introduce the organisation I work for – the World Development Movement – is one of suspicion and hesitancy. And I completely understand why. To many civil society groups and activists in the global south, the term ‘development’ has become a moniker for neo-liberal policies that have benefited global corporations at the expense of small-scale farmers and local communities.

I quickly follow up my introduction by saying that our organisation fights for climate justice, trade justice and food sovereignty in solidarity with groups in the global south. Struggles that they are also engaged in and instantly recognise, providing assurance that I am not from an agency of the World Bank.

Our new name, ‘Global Justice Now’ reflects much more accurately the politics and the struggle that underlies our work on food sovereignty. We launched a new campaign last year to challenge the role of the UK government in partnering with global corporations to take control of Africa’s food system.

The UK government channels £600m of aid money through a G8 initiative called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition - a benevolent sounding name disguising a corporate focussed agenda to gain more control of Africa’s food at the expense of small scale farmers.

This year we are going to challenge the projects and policies that make up the New Alliance and expose specific examples of how the New Alliance is wrestling control of seeds, land, resources and markets out of the hands of small-scale farmers and transferring them into the hands of multinational companies. Exacerbating an already unfair global food system where control is concentrated in the hands of corporations to the detriment of small-scale farmers, the environment, local communities and ordinary consumers.

We will also be advocating for the food sovereignty framework and showcasing the evidence that small-scale sustainable agriculture works. This is both in terms of producing enough food but also tackling climate change, addressing gender issues, supporting biodiversity and providing sustainable livelihoods.

Food sovereignty grates against a dominant narrative that industrial, large scale, high input agriculture is the only way forward to address hunger and malnutrition. And it will not be easy challenging the grip of corporations who control so much of the global food system and the rich governments that facilitate their agenda.

But there is a global movement rallying around food sovereignty and in the UK we want to support a growing and vibrant movement here. We are supporting the UK food sovereignty movement national gathering on 2nd-5th October 2015 - a vital opportunity for the UK movement to meet and strategise.

Really big change can happen but it needs a huge movement of people pushing for a very different sort of world. By acting in solidarity with activists and communities in the global north and south we can challenge a system that only works for the elite minority.

As a food sovereignty campaigner, I am hoping that as I introduce ‘Global Justice Now’, I get a nod and a look of understanding that we are in the same struggle together.

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