From Food Justice to Food Sovereignty
I spent most of my time at the US Social Forum between the huge COBO center where many of the workshops were held and the "tent village" where U.S. Food Justice groups and Food Sovereignty movements from Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua met to hammer out the next steps in building a local-global food movement strong enough to transform our current food systems.
Haiti: An Occupied Food System
A group of six farmers and activists from Haiti livened up the tent quite a bit with their boisterous debates in Creole. Farmers from the MPP peasant movement explained why farmers in Haiti had rejected Monsanto's recent "donation" of seeds:
Haiti is an occupied country. Bill Clinton is our acting president. We cannot have sovereignty or even rebuild our food system by becoming dependent on Monsanto's seeds. We need help to propagate and distribute our own seeds.
On June 4th eight thousand Haitian farmers marched against USAID's donation of seeds bought from Monsanto and symbolically burned a small amount in protest. "We didn't burn the whole lot because it would have put poison in the air," said Doudou Pierre Festile, the coordinator of Mouvement paysan Acul-du Nord.
A Cool Food System
One of the most interesting sessions in the food justice tent was the Vía Campesina's meeting on climate change. Via is organizing farmers in Mexico and North America to converge on the climate negotiations in Cancún, Mexico in November of this year. Following the failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December of '09 -- where civil society was prevented from attending the talks -- people's movements met in Cochabamaba, Bolivia in April at the People's World Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth to come up with another plan to cool the planet. Now, as the world's governments descend on Cancun to talk more about climate, la Vía Campesina is preparing a mass mobilization to put the people's agenda in the climate talks. "In 2003 we went to Cancún to derail the WTO talks," said Alberto Gomez of Via Campesina, "Now we go to Cancún to set the climate agenda. Change the system, not the climate!"
Why is an international peasant federation taking the lead on climate change? The world's 1.5 billion smallholders depend on a stable climate for their livelihood. They will bear the brunt of the waves of unpredictable weather (not just warming and drought) that accompanies climate change. Ironically, smallholders actually capture carbon, unlike industrial agriculture that presently emits a third of the world's greenhouse gases. We need small farmers to cool the planet.
A Food Sovereignty Statement; A US Food Sovereignty Alliance
Farmers, gardeners, farm and food workers and hunger rights activists worked for three days to hammer out a statement to be read at the People's Movement Assembly. Individuals and organizations from such diverse groups as NAMA, The Food Chain Workers Alliance, Family Farm Defenders, WHY Hunger, Agricultural Missions, People's Grocery, Brooklyn Food Project, and Food First produced a PMA statement that is a sweeping indictment against the present corporate food regime and strong call to action for food justice and food sovereignty.
After much discussion participants also changed the name and the mission of the U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis to the U.S. Alliance for Food Sovereignty. According to participants, this is because without food sovereignty, there is no solution to the food crisis.