All over the world people are finding ways to take back control of their food. In 1993 small organisations defending the livelihoods of peasant farmers in South America united to form La Via Campesina. Now a global organisation representing over 200 million small scale farmers and producers, La Via Campesina developed the concept of food sovereignty as a practical basis for rebuilding our food system.
Food sovereignty calls for the right to food controlled by and for people and communities not for big business elites and private profit. The purpose of the food system should be to feed the population in a way that is sustainable and equitable and this can only happen by building local food systems. This means bringing producers and consumers closer together in a system that is locally controlled by them, that reduces food miles and environmental damage, values food providers and builds knowledge and skills around food growing. The demands of food sovereignty inevitably call for new patterns of land ownership and land distribution as part of this shift to local democratic control of food production.
Britain could be self sufficient in food fuel and fibre if the right decisions were made about land use and consumption. The biggest blocks in making these decisions are the structures of ownership, planning law and corporate monopolies that prevent people from engaging in food growing as a viable livelihood.
Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just and fair incomes to all people as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations
The Agroecology Land Trust supports and works within the framework of food sovereignty, as defined in the Declaration and Synthesis report of Nyéléni 2007 (Forum for Food Sovereignty, Mali, February 2007).
We fully endorse the six principles of food sovereignty and seek to apply them in our actions and decisions we take that effect the future generations of our communities.
The 6 principles of food sovereignty:
- Focuses on food for people:The right to food which is healthy, culturally and regionally appropriate is the basic legal demand underpinning food sovereignty. Guaranteeing it requires policies which support diversified local food production in every region and respects the the fact that access to healthy food is necessary for our sense of security. Food is not simply another commodity to be traded or speculated on for profit it is a basic human need and equal access to the means to meet this need is fundamental for a healthy community.
- Values food providers:Many smallholder farmers are marginalisation and people are often discouraged from the possibility of land based livelihoods by central government and agribusiness. Agricultural workers can face severe exploitation. Food sovereignty asserts food providers’ right to live and work in dignity.
- Localises food systems:Food must be seen primarily as sustenance for the community and only secondarily as something to be traded. Under food sovereignty, local and regional provision takes precedence over supplying distant markets, and export-orientated agriculture is rejected. The ‘free trade’ policies which prevent developing countries from protecting their own agriculture, for example through subsidies and tariffs, are detrimental to local economic resilience and therefor also inimical to food sovereignty.
- Puts control locally:Food sovereignty places control over local resources in the hands of those that use them to be used and shared in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity. Such resources should not be privatised but model of shared use and ownership should be developed from the ground up.
- Builds knowledge and skills:Technologies that undermine food providers’ ability to develop and pass on knowledge and skills needed for localised food systems are rejected. Instead, food sovereignty calls for appropriate technology, education and research systems to support the development of agricultural knowledge and skills.
- Works with nature:Food sovereignty requires production and distribution systems that protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding energy-intensive industrial methods that damage the environment and the health of those that inhabit it.
For more information see our food sovereignty resources page.