Profits before people: The great African liquidation sale

Published on CHOIKE, Source Pambazuka, Nov/Dec 2009.

[The fervour with which foreign commercial interests are forcing their agricultural 'solutions' on the African continent represents nothing more than an established endeavour to protect profits and access to resources. For all that they are dressed up as 'help' and 'knowledge', these ostensible solutions are about one thing: Money. November 2009. (see more ... )].

According to Vía Campesina, an international movement that coordinates farmer organizations from Asia, Africa, America and Europe, food sovereignty is the right of all peoples, their nations or unions of States to define their agricultural and food policies, without dumping involving third-party countries. Food sovereignty goes beyond the more common concept of food security, which merely seeks to ensure that a sufficient amount of safe food is produced without taking into account the kind of food produced and how, where and on what scale it is produced. 

The concept of food sovereignty was developed by Vía Campesina and introduced into the public debate on occasion of the World Food Summit in 1996, with the aim of providing an alternative to neo-liberal policies. Since then, this concept has become a major issue of debate on the international agricultural agenda, even within the United Nations. It was the main subject of discussion in the forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that was held in parallel to the June 2002 World Food Summit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food sovereignty involves:

  • prioritizing local agricultural production to feed the population and the access of women and men farmers to land, water, seeds and credit. Hence the need for agrarian reform, to combat genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to guarantee free access to seeds, and to keep water a public good to be distributed in a sustainable way.
  • the right of farmers to produce food and the right of consumers to be able to decide what they want to consume, and how and who produces it.
  • the right of all nations to protect themselves from excessively cheap agricultural and food imports (dumping).
  • linking agricultural prices to production costs; this will only be possible if countries or unions of countries have the right to impose duties on excessively cheap imports, if they commit themselves to promoting sustainable rural production, and if they control domestic market production to prevent structural surpluses.
  • engaging the participation of people in the definition of agrarian policies.
  • acknowledging the right of women farmers who play a key role in agricultural production and in food issues.

Vía Campesina believes that neo-liberal policies undermine food sovereignty, as they give precedence to international trade over peoples’ food rights. It further believes that these policies have done nothing at all to eradicate world hunger. On the contrary, they have increased peoples’ dependence on agricultural imports and intensified the industrialization of agriculture, thus endangering the earth’s genetic, cultural and environmental heritage, and putting the health of the world’s population at risk. Lastly, it has driven millions of women and men farmers to abandon their traditional agricultural practices, forcing them into rural exodus or migration … (full text).

Links:

FAO on wikipedia;

Food Sovereignty.org;

Statement on the website of Africa Action, the US based (oldest) organization working on African affairs … : Food Sovereignty and the Food Crisis, June 2009.

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