Food Sovereignty refers to the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food, that is produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods of farming. Food Sovereignty demands that people be given the right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It prioritizes the needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food above the demands of markets and corporations.
Sounds familiar...I would guess not, because of the exploitation and sheer greed that plagues the food industry, not just in Kenya, but all over the globe. Think of GMO, coffee prices...the systems are designed to oppress the people for the benefit of a few who control the market
What are the Principles of Food Sovereignty?
a.)Emphasis that food production is for people.
Food Sovereignty rejects the idea that food is just another commodity for trade, its main focus is on ensuring that policies around agriculture put people's right to sufficient healthy and culturally appropriate food front and center. The acute food insecurity plaguing communities all over the world is proof that systems are broken. In Kenya for instance, we have acres and acres of cash crops such as tea, coffee, pyrethrum...you would think that abundance of crop would mean abundance for the people living in those communities. However, that is not the case. Here are my thoughts, what if tea plantation owners were required by law to grow food crops on even a small portion of their land, that would ensure a steady food supply for people in the community. Note, it is not just about having food, but food that is healthy and culturally appropriate. Not to stir the pot, but GMO is neither healthy nor culturally appropriate.
b.)Values Food Providers
It is mango season in Kenya, let me do what i do best and trigger all of you mango lovers. If you go to the market right now, you'll find a nice, ripe juicy mango for about twenty shillings. Fair, right? What if I told you that the trader is making all the profit and the actual farmer got nothing. On a recent trip to Ukambani, I came to the knowledge that farmers will sometimes sell their mangoes for as low as one shilling. Bear in mind that this farmer, let's call her Mwende, planted the tree, nurtured it into maturity (it takes about five to 8 years for a mango seedling to start bearing fruit)...probably built a scarecrow to keep the birds away, only to sell at one shilling. Assuming its a pretty healthy tree that will produce about 300 mangoes, that's 300 shillings. Three hundred shillings in this economy. Point is, Mwende, as a food producer is not valued. Food sovereignty rejects any actions that undervalue, seek to eliminate or threaten the livelihoods of food providers. Communities ought to value and support the contributions and rights of all food providers including women, small scale farmers, pastrolalists, farm workers and even fisherfolk.
c.)Localizes Food Systems
Food Sovereignty puts food providers and consumers at the center of decision-making. This protects providers from being exploited and consumers from unhealthy, poor quality food and food tainted with GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS. I know that sounds angry, that is how I feel about some of the decisions my government has been making sorrounding food policies. Let us know in the comment section below, as a producer, consumer, do yo feel heard and protected?
d.)Puts control in the hands of the locals
Food Sovereignty places control over atural resources such as land, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations in the hands of local food providers with the reqirement that they use and share these resorces in a way that is socially and environmentally sustainable. It also rejects the privatization of natural resources. I will not even begin the list of natural resources that have been privatised in this country because it is endless. Natural resources are gifts of nature, for the good of all people, unless privatization is with the intent of conservation, it is a complete violation of human rights.
e.) Empowers and Equips
Food Sovereignty expands the skills and knowledge of food providers. It educates them on how to conserve, develop, and manage food systems that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Food sovereignty rejects food production methods that distort the integrity of ecosystems. These include use of inorganic fertilizers that damage soil when used over prolonged periods of time. Nature is self-sufficient...nature provides soil with the nutrients it need through organic matter. So why would we rush to buy chemical additions that do more harm than good? These fertilizers are manufactured by multi-billion agencies whose aim is to ensure that farmers stay dependent on their product. It is time to break these toxic cycles for the sake of our communities.
Food Sovereignty is a touchy subject. It would be safe not to tackle it. That's the thing with earth-warriors, we do not play safe. We fight for this planet and the billions who inhabit it. Only a handful of people benefit from the food production indurstry as it is right now. And this handful is barely involved in actual food production. I speak for the farmer who toils their land every single day but can barely afford to educate their children, I speak for the farm worker who gets paid pennies, I speak for the consumers who have no control over what goes into the market. Food sovereignty needs to be upheld by individuals, governments, corporations and communities.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the issue of food sovereignty...share your perspective, experiences, questions...in the comment section below.