Building a big inspiring food sovereignty movement
By: Heidi Chow
Date: 1 November 2016
“Never before have we brought together so many different people from across Europe, working with so many languages to build the movement for food sovereignty” – Adam Payne, Land Workers Alliance.
We’re back from the the Nyéléni food sovereignty forum in Romania, where 600 delegates from 42 countries in Europe and Central Asia gathered together in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The Nyéléni forum attracted delegates from a range of backgrounds including producers, farmers, community activists, consumers, campaigners, academics, marginalised people and NGOs. All of us, regardless of our language and background, shared a common vision for food sovereignty where food is seen as a human right and not as a commodity to make profit from and where the resources to produce food is in the hands of millions of small-scale producers.
So what is the Nyéléni forum?
The forum is named after the location of the first international food sovereignty gathering in Nyéléni in Sélingué, Mali in 2007. This was the inspiration for the first European food sovereignty gathering in 2011 in Krems, Austria and the follow up forum in Romania this past week. Nothing beats meeting face to face to build relationships, share experiences, make connections and make new plans. The forum is all about creating a democratic, participative space where people can bring their experiences and knowledge together to work out how to grow and strengthen the movement for food sovereignty.
Taking your views with us
Each of the 42 countries involved had to select a national delegation. Kahra and I were selected to join the UK delegation so before we went we emailed Global Justice Now supporters and activists about their views so we could take these with us to the forum. We had a fantastic response from over 800 of our supporters who have been involved in our food campaign. Tackling corporate power in the food system was by far the top concern.
One of the working groups that I took part in at the Nyéléni forum addressed this issue of corporate power and we identified key actions that could connect food sovereignty with existing initiatives such as the global fight to control corporate power through a new UN treaty. We also discussed ideas for campaigning against increasing corporate concentration where a very small number of agribusiness corporations are controlling most of the global markets for seed and chemicals.
Our survey also showed that supporters are equally concerned between the range of issues covered at Nyéléni. The forum identified a wide range of issues to take action on including: agroecology, land issues, migrant food workers rights, public food policies, TTIP* and CETA** – all issues that we as Global Justice Now have worked on through our food sovereignty and trade campaigns. There were lots of great ideas and discussions on how to advance each of these challenges collectively as a European movement.
Building a movement
But there were also frustrations at times as people worked through differences of opinion, cultural differences, different agendas and different expectations. For me, building a movement of people calling for radical social and structural change is no mean feat. It is a challenging task but at the same time, it is also inspiring, exciting and necessary. Against the backdrop of increasing corporate control, stark inequality and rampant racism, division and xenophobia, building a global movement that overcomes differences to unite behind a passion to transform our food system into one that truly works for the benefit of communities is more necessary than ever.
* Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
** Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement