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paraguay: challenging agribusiness, building people’s food sovereignty

The rapid spread of industrial agriculture across Latin America is devastating indigenous peoples, local communities and the environment, as people and forests are moved out of the way to grow vast tracts of soya and other monocultures. These crops are mainly exported, to feed people and fuel vehicles in wealthy industrialized countries. The Southern Cone of Latin America is also a key region for the biotech industry, since many countries either permit or are unable to restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crop varieties, which is prohibited in many other countries.

paraguay agribusiness Indigenous peoples, local communities, and women in particular, are affected by the rampant spread of industrial-scale agribusiness. Specific impacts include the loss of forests and the biodiversity that communities rely heavily on, and the loss of related cultural diversity. Vital water sources are contaminated or may simply dry up. Rural communities are expelled from their homes, and food sovereignty is destroyed.

Civil society, in Latin America and elsewhere, is increasingly responding by resisting the spread of agribusiness, and working to re-build food sovereignty. This concerted effort involves collaboration between communities, Indigenous Peoples, and many different social movements and civil society organizations.

what happened

To facilitate collaborative resistance FoE Paraguay/Sobrevivencia provided the venue for and co-hosted a forum on food sovereignty, in Asunción, 21-23 August 2009. Many organizations worked together to make the forum possible, including FoEI and FoE Uruguay/REDES, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty, Vía Campesina Paraguay and Via Campesina International, the World March of Women (WMW), Cono Sur Sustentable, Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Rural e Indígenas (CONAMURI), Food & Water Watch and the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

The forum followed on from and built upon the global Nyeleni ‘Forum on Food Sovereignty’ convened in Mali in February 2007. It provided another space for leaders of different communities, movements and organizations to come together to generate resistance strategies, exchange experiences and testimonies, strengthen affected communities and women, and further develop and implement the concept of buen vivir (literally, ‘the good life’) in communities.

The Asunción forum also looked specifically at the agribusiness model, the soya-meat chain, the timber/cellulose-biofuels chain, and industrial fishing. The forum also highlighted the critical question of gender, looking at the role of women, especially in protecting seeds and conserving water resources, and the impact that agribusiness has on them. Additionally it focused on building a de-globalized agriculture and reconstructing national food markets through agrarian reform, food sovereignty, rescuing native seeds, and territories free of transgenic organisms and agro-toxins.

The forum was recorded and shared through multiple media, including video, photography and radio. Radio Mundo Real broadcast the event, and recorded interviews with many different participants.

what changed

The Forum on Food Sovereignty helped to build synergies between many communities, movements and organizations, allowing the continued construction of a common agenda and strategy around people’s food sovereignty. The richest moments came during the panelists’ presentations, and the subsequent debates in plenary and in working groups.

The forum served to strengthen national, regional and global alliances, including those between the Paraguayan campesino groups participating in Via Campesina Paraguay, and FoE Paraguay.

what next

Participants discussed a joint strategy and key dates for collaborative efforts following the forum. Important moments listed included the International Day Of Food Sovereignty on 16 October, and Regional Forums such as the Foro Social América due to take place in Paraguay in 2010.

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs

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