What Is Food Sovereignty?
Food sovereignty is “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal-fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations.” – DECLARATION OF NYÉLÉNI, Declaration of the Forum for Food Sovereignty, Nyéléni 2007, Nyéléni Village, Sélingué, Mali, 27 February 2007, http://www.nyeleni.org/spip.
The Principles of Food Sovereignty:
Food Sovereignty Focuses on Food for People: Food sovereignty puts the right to sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food for all individuals, peoples and communities, including those who are hungry, under occupation, in conflict zones and marginalised, at the centre of food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries policies; and rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity or component for international agribusiness.
Food Sovereignty Values Food Providers: Food sovereignty values and supports the contributions, and respects the rights, of women and men, peasants and small scale family farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fisher-folk, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples and agricultural and fisheries workers, including migrants, who cultivate, grow, harvest and process food; and rejects those policies, actions and programmes that undervalue them, threaten their livelihoods and eliminate them.
Food Sovereignty Localises Food Systems: Food sovereignty brings food providers and consumers closer together; puts providers and consumers at the centre of decision-making on food issues; protects food providers from the dumping of food and food aid in local markets; protects consumers from poor quality and unhealthy food, inappropriate food aid and food tainted with genetically modified organisms; and rejects governance structures, agreements and practices that depend on and promote unsustainable and inequitable international trade and give power to remote and unaccountable corporations.
Food Sovereignty Puts Control Locally: Food sovereignty places control over territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations on local food providers and respects their rights. They can use and share them in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity; it recognizes that local territories often cross geopolitical borders and ensures the right of local communities to inhabit and use their territories; it promotes positive interaction between food providers in different regions and territories and from different sectors that helps resolve internal conflicts or conflicts with local and national authorities; and rejects the privatisation of natural resources through laws, commercial contracts and intellectual property rights regimes.
Food Sovereignty Builds Knowledge and Skills: Food sovereignty builds on the skills and local knowledge of food providers and their local organisations that conserve, develop and manage localised food production and harvesting systems, developing appropriate research systems to support this and passing on this wisdom to future generations; and rejects technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate these, e.g. genetic engineering.
Food Sovereignty Works with Nature: Food sovereignty uses the contributions of nature in diverse, low external input agro-ecological production and harvesting methods that maximise the contribution of ecosystems and improve resilience and adaptation, especially in the face of climate change; it seeks to “heal the planet so that the planet may heal us”; and rejects methods that harm beneficial ecosystem functions, that depend on energy intensive mono-cultures and livestock factories, destructive fishing practices and other industrialised production methods, which damage the environment and contribute to global warming.
We see these six principles as interlinked and inseparable in implementing the food sovereignty policy framework. We equally endorse the following principles, as the basis of food policy. The Principle of priority of food over export crops produced by small farms sustained by state provision of the necessary infrastructure of financial credit, water, energy, extension service, transport, storage, marketing, and insurance against crop failures due to climate changes or other unforeseen circumstances. The Principle of self-reliance and national ownership and control over the main resources for food production. These are land, seeds, water, energy, essential fertilizers and technology and equipment (for production, harvesting, storage and transport). The Principle of food safety reserves. Each nation must maintain, through primarily domestic production and storage systems (including village storage as well as national silos) sufficient stocks of “reserve foods” to provide for emergencies, and to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of “reserve foods” among the population during emergencies.