Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through socially just, ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their collective right to define their own policies, strategies and systems for food production, distribution and consumption. – Nyeleni 2007 Declaration.
Food Sovereignty was proposed by La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants and rural peoples, in 1996, and since then embraced by thousands of organisations and social movements worldwide.
Food Sovereignty for System Change
Food Sovereignty is a political movement and a pathway towards the fundamental transformation of our broken food system and societies. As a living pathway Food Sovereignty embodies principles such as Food as a Human Right not a commodity; and solidarity, cooperation, internationalism and justice, over free markets, profit and individualism. It asserts peoples’ right to participate in decision making and brings together grassroots struggles for environmental, social, economic, gender, racial and intergenerational justice. Food Sovereignty means defending peoples’ rights, land, territories, seeds and biodiversity, promoting agroecology, and fighting the agribusiness model and neoliberal trade and investment policies.
It is based on peasant, family, indigenous, artisanal and cooperative production and distribution, in both cities and rural spaces.
Food Sovereignty recognises and promotes the central role of women in food production and as political subjects; the right of small-scale producers to dignified living conditions and fair pay; the right of workers to decent work conditions and living wages; and the right of the working classes to access healthy and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantities and at fair prices.
Peasants, family farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolks and forest communities are still the main food producers, providing between 70% – 80% of what the world eats, but their needs are permanently ignored by public policies and markets. They also protect territories (forests, water bodies, lands), seeds, and diverse ways of life through agroecology and community forest management.
Dismantling corporate power
Yet decades of corporate control and free market fundamentalism has left the food system in crisis. Around the world: there are two billion people hungry or under-nourished, despite record levels of production; one-third of food produced is lost or wasted; and more than one-third of the adult population is overweight or obese. The vast majority of rural populations are forced into extreme poverty, discrimination and their human rights violated, in particular to displacement, forced evictions and land expropriation. The majority of wage, self-employed and family workers in the agriculture and rural sectors are informal, which negatively impacts working conditions, wages and social protection, as the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated. These realities show the immense power imbalances in the food system.
Agribusiness is a model of agrocommodities production, distribution and consumption guided by a capitalist and patriarchal economy, and by the privatisation, commodification and financialisation of nature as a means to grab territories for profit and homogenise food and food production. It is a model led by transnational corporations, who, along with national elites, act in the interests of the accumulation of wealth and profit.
Agribusinesses grab land and territories, destroy soils and forests, kill fisheries, pollute rivers, oceans and air, poison communities, and commodify essential natural commons and food, all while making billions in profits. The peoples who fight back are increasingly under threat, criminalised and killed.
The movement for Food Sovereignty
We believe it is possible to feed the world, move away from the hunger, climate and biodiversity crises and build societies based on justice and solidarity using agroecological practices for food sovereignty.
Friends of the Earth International is part of a strong and growing movement led by peasant, family, indigenous and artisanal food producers and workers, which includes the The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) and the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security.
In 2007, more than 500 people from 80 countries representing organisations of small scale food producers, rural workers, migrants, women, youth, consumers and environmental and urban movements, came together in the village of Nyéléni, Mali, to strengthen the global movement for food sovereignty. The voices of this movement are represented in the quarterly Nyeleni newsletter.
Through campaigning and advocacy, supporting grassroots struggles, exposing corporate power and injustice, organising and building movements for change we demand:
- Food for people, not for profit.
- Value and support for peasant, family, indigenous and artisanal producers, and rural workers.
- Recognition and promotion of the central role of women in food production and as political subjects.
- Women’s rights, an end to violence against women and girls, and dismantling of patriarchy.
- Re-localisation of food systems.
- Democratised control and ownership of decision-making and resources related to food and agriculture.
- Respect and support for grassroots knowledge and innovation.
- Harmony with nature through agroecology.