Food sovereignty

Food sovereignty is the right of nations, countries, or federations of states, as well as local communities, to determine their own agricultural and food policy without dumping goods on third party countries. It is the right to self-determination, to an autonomous choice of the ways to produce and consume food, without giving up the decision-making to the mechanisms of the free market and international corporations operating in the agricultural and food markets. This self-determination also includes respecting independent decision-making (food sovereignty) of others. Food sovereignty is about providing food security based on local systems of production and distribution, in which food is perceived, above all, as the source of nutrition for people, and only then as the object of exchange.
[Polityka na talerzu. Przewodnik po agroekologii i suwerenności żywnościowej, p. 9]

Marta Łukowska, member of the Nyéléni Polska food sovereignty movement, was a guest of the debate Changing habits – the first step towards food sovereignty held on 16 February 2021. She talked, among other things, about what food sovereignty and agroecology are, and how we can support the transformation of the food system.

Marta Łukowska, doctor of psychology, member of the Polish movement for food sovereignty Nyeleni Polska. Eco-farmer, herbalist, apiarist, agroecology educator and deep ecology coach. Member of Wawelska Kooperatywa Spożywcza (food cooperative). In 2017, she completed a course in permacultural design and a two-year programme of ecological farming at the Ecological Folk High School in Grzybów. Graduate of a year-long Academy of Deep Ecology. Co-organiser of two editions of the National Food Sovereignty Forum.

Publication Polityka na talerzu. Przewodnik po agroekologii i suwerenności żywnościowej (Politics on a Plate. A Guide to Agroecology and Food Sovereignty), can be downloaded here (in Polish)

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Nyéléni Declaration

On 27 February 2007 in Mali, several dozen representatives of countries working for global food sovereignty signed a joint declaration. This is the official document summarising the first international Nyéléni forum which was held in Africa.

Nyéléni Declaration
27 February 2007
Nyéléni Village, Sélingué, Mali

[Declaration of the Forum for Food Sovereignty, Nyéléni 2007]

We, more than 500 representatives from more than 80 countries, of organizations of peasants/family farmers, artisanal fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, landless peoples, rural workers, migrants, pastoralists, forest communities, women, youth, consumers and environmental and urban movements have gathered together in the village of Nyéléni in Sélingué, Mali to strengthen a global movement for food sovereignty. We are doing this, brick by brick, as we live here in huts constructed by hand in the local tradition, and eat food that is produced and prepared by the Sélingué community. We give our collective endeavor the name “Nyléni” as a tribute to and inspiration from a legendary Malian peasant woman who farmed and fed her peoples well.

Most of us are food producers and are ready, able and willing to feed all the world’s peoples. Our heritage as food producers is critical to the future of humanity. This is specially so in the case of women and indigenous peoples who are historical creators of knowledge about food and agriculture and are devalued. But this heritage and our capacities to produce healthy, good and abundant food are being threatened and undermined by neo-liberalism and global capitalism. Food sovereignty gives us the hope and power to preserve, recover and build on our food producing knowledge and capacity.

Food sovereignty is 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. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal – fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations.

In Nyéléni, through numerous debates and interactions, we are deepening our collective understanding of food sovereignty and learning about the realities of the struggles of our respective movements to retain autonomy and regain our powers. We now understand better the tools we need to build our movement and advance our collective vision.

What are we fighting for?

A world where…

…all peoples, nations and states are able to determine their own food producing systems and policies that provide every one of us with good quality, adequate, affordable, healthy and culturally appropriate food;

…there is recognition and respect of women’s roles and rights in food production, and representation of women in all decision making bodies;

…all peoples in each of our countries are able to live with dignity, earn a living wage for their labour and have the opportunity to remain in their homes, if they so choose;

…food sovereignty is considered a basic human right, recognised and implemented by communities, peoples, states and international bodies;

…we are able to conserve and rehabilitate rural environments, fish populations, landscapes and food traditions based on ecologically sustainable management of land, soils, water, seas, seeds, livestock and all other biodiversity;

…we value, recognize and respect our diversity of traditional knowledge, food, language and culture, and the way we organise and express ourselves;

…. there is genuine and integral agrarian reform that guarantees peasants full rights to land, defends and recovers the territories of indigenous peoples, ensures fishing communities’ access and control over their fishing areas and eco-systems, honours access and control by pastoral communities over pastoral lands and migratory routes, assures decent jobs with fair remuneration and labour rights for all, and a future for young people in the countryside;…where agrarian reform revitalises inter-dependence between producers and consumers, ensures community survival, social and economic justice, ecological sustainability, and respect for local autonomy and governance with equal rights for women and men…where agrarian reform guarantees rights to territory and self-determination for our peoples;

…share our lands and territories peacefully and fairly among our peoples, be we peasants, indigenous peoples, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, or others;

…in the case of natural and human-created disasters and conflict-recovery situations, food sovereignty acts as a form of “insurance” that strengthens local recovery efforts and mitigates negative impacts… where we remember that communities affected by disasters are not helpless, and where strong local organization for self-help is the key to recovery;

…peoples’ power to make decisions about their material, natural and spiritual heritage are defended;

…all peoples have the right to defend their territories from the actions of transnational corporations;

What are we fighting against?

Imperialism, neo-liberalism, neo-colonialism and patriarchy, and all systems that impoverish life, resources and eco-systems, and the agents that promote the above such as international financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation, free trade agreements, transnational corporations,and governments that are antagonistic to their peoples;

The dumping of food at prices below the cost of production in the global economy;

The domination of our food and food producing systems by corporations that place profits before people, health and the environment;

Technologies and practices that undercut our future food producing capacities, damage the environment and put our health at risk. These include transgenic crops and animals, terminator technology, industrial aquaculture and destructive fishing practices, the so-called White Revolution of industrial dairy practices, the so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’ Green Revolutions, and the “Green Deserts” of industrial bio-fuel monocultures and other plantations;

The privatisation and commodification of food, basic and public services, knowledge, land, water, seeds, livestock and our natural heritage;

Development projects/models and extractive industries that displace people and destroy our environments and natural heritage;

Wars, conflicts, occupations, economic blockades, famines, forced displacement of peoples and confiscation of their lands, and all forces and governments that cause and support these;

Post disaster and conflict reconstruction programmes that destroy our environments and capacities;

The criminalization of all those who struggle to protect and defend our rights;

Food aid that disguises dumping, introduces GMOs into local environments and food systems and creates new colonialism patterns;

The internationalisation and globalisation of paternalistic and patriarchal values, that marginalise women, and diverse agricultural, indigenous, pastoral and fisher communities around the world;

What can and will we do about it?

Just as we are working with the local community in Sélingué to create a meeting space at Nyéléni, we are committed to building our collective movement for food sovereignty by forging alliances, supporting each others’ struggles and extending our solidarity, strengths, and creativity to peoples all over the world who are committed to food sovereignty. Every struggle, in any part of the world for food sovereignty, is our struggle.

We have arrived at a number of collective actions to share our vision of food sovereignty with all peoples of this world, which are elaborated in our synthesis document. We will implement these actions in our respective local areas and regions, in our own movements and jointly in solidarity with other movements. We will share our vision and action agenda for food sovereignty with others who are not able to be with us here in Nyéléni so that the spirit of Nyéléni permeates across the world and becomes a powerful force to make food sovereignty a reality for peoples all over the world.

Finally, we give our unconditional and unwavering support to the peasant movements of Mali and ROPPA in their demands that food sovereignty become a reality in Mali and by extension in all of Africa.

Now is the time for food sovereignty!

The Manifesto you can find here

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We treat food as commodity

In brief, food sovereignty is the attempt to introduce real democracy to the subject of food. So that food issues can be decided by those whom this matter concerns the most: consumers – because what they eat affects how they feel, their health, etc., and producers – because they put their work, effort, and they take risks related to farming in order to provide, sell food.

The statement comes from an interview conducted with Marcin Wojtalik from the Institute of Global Responsibility (IGO) by Magda Dobranowska-Wittels.

You can find the entire interview here (in Polish)

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People’s Food Policy

People’s Food Policy
Transforming our food system

The People’s Food Policy is a grassroots initiative developing recommendations for the food policies we would like to see. It is a collaboration between actors in the food sovereignty network and groups working for a more just and sustainable food system.
A People’s Food Policy was developed by a coalition of representatives from the Land Workers’ Alliance, Global Justice Now, the Ecological Land Co-op, The Centre for Agroecology and the Permaculture Association. Over 150 food and farming initiatives, community groups, grassroots organisations, unions and NGOs have contributed to the analysis, ideas and proposals in A People’s Food Policy and over 100 organisations have so far signed up in support it. 

You can read more about The People’s Food Policy and download the document here


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