[permaculture] Organize and Declare “Food Sovereignty,” Like Sedgwick, Maine USA
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Sun Aug 7 10:13:43 EDT 2016
By Evaggelos Vallianatos
In May 2014, the Spain-based international agrarian organization, Grain,
reported that small farmers not only “feed the world with less than a
quarter of all farmland,” but they are also the most productive farmers on
Earth. For example, small farmers and peasants in nine European countries
outproduce large farmers. The “productivity of small farms [in Europe] is
at least twice that of big farms.” This remarkable achievement is not
limited to Europe. Grain says: “if all farms in Kenya had the current
productivity of the country’s small [peasant] farms, Kenya’s agricultural
production would double. In Central America and Ukraine, it would almost
triple. In Russia, it would be increased by a factor of six.”
The European invasion of the tropics in the fifteenth century, the
industrialization of agriculture in the nineteenth century, and the triumph
of communism in the twentieth century proved catastrophic for peasant
These major events remade the world in the image of Europe. The European
colonizers carried with them their mechanized agriculture and their
distaste for things agrarian.
The British ruling class, for example, confiscated the land of British and
Irish peasants, expelling many of them to Australia and to the Americas.
This stealing of peasant land is what historians now call enclosure.
When the Europeans conquered the tropics, they put into practice
enclosures. They confiscated the best land for themselves. They taxed and
enslaved the native people by forcing them to grow cash crops for export.
The rise of communism had equally devastating effects on peasants in
Russia, Eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia. Communism lasted for most
of the twentieth century.
This massive violence against peasant life and rural culture shaped our
industrialized agriculture. Its failure today is therefore much more than
the poisoning of our food and drinking water and the ecological devastation
it sows. The blood of peasants and small family farmers is on the hands of
industrialized agriculture. Its failure is thus moral and political as well.
Resistance and struggle
Despite the war against them, peasants continue to resist. Along with the
organic or biological family farmers of the Western world, they offer the
only hope for raising food without the deleterious consequences of
In the mid-1970s, I tasted the bitter reality of the peasants. In 1976, I
wrote my first book about them. I called it Fear in the Countryside because
I sensed that fear in the country of Colombia where I did some of my
research. Colombia in the 1970s, like almost everyone else, was enclosing
land in a war against its peasants. America was on the side of landowners.
In the book I wrote that peasants are productive small family farmers
feeding most of the world’s population. It is still true today. According
to the February 2015 Berlin Memorandum on Sustainable Livelihoods for
Smallholders, peasants “produce the bulk of all food in developing
countries, including 70% of all the millets, tubers, fruits and
vegetables.” Experts from Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Germany and
India wrote the Berlin Memorandum.
The pro-peasant message of my book infuriated the Charles Kettering
Foundation, which funded my research. Like the Rockefeller and Ford
Foundations, it was in the thick of private-public partnerships, funding
and encouraging the industrialization of the tropics.
I refused to change my book so the Kettering Foundation wanted it buried.
My publisher, Ballinger Publishing Company, warned the Kettering Foundation
of bad publicity, if it suppressed my book. They resolved the controversy
by having me not mention Kettering Foundation support. But the Foundation
nevertheless insisted it had to have the book royalties. It got them.
Many things have happened since the 1970s. The World Bank and the US Agency
for International Development and private foundations have created in the
tropics the equivalent of US land grant universities. These international
agricultural research institutes are the brain of agricultural
My life also changed. Fear in the Countryside challenged my Greek
metaphysics with the reality of our industrialized world. As a result,
neither the American academic community nor the government treated me
fairly. My colleagues at several universities did not feel comfortable with
my critique of industrialization, especially my shedding light on the
dreadful ecological and undemocratic effects of giant agriculture. My
philosophy blocked any chance for academic tenure. At the US Environmental
Protection Agency, where I worked for several years, my commitment to good
science got me into trouble.
The rise of food sovereignty
But my personal costs pale into insignificance compared to the violence
against peasants. Nevertheless, many have survived. Recently, international
scholars have been focusing more attention on them. These social scientists
publish their research primarily in the Journal of Peasant Studies, now
edited in Holland by a scholar named Saturnino Borras.
The JPS is important. It monitors and studies the most despised but most
important people on Earth. It keeps documenting the science, wisdom, and
perseverance of peasants, their ecological farming and culture.
For the last two decades, JPS contributors and other rural academic experts
have been talking about peasants using the concept of “food sovereignty.”
This is a slogan, process, struggle, and battle cry designed to put the
value of the peasants as well as their other assets in historical context.
But, above all, food sovereignty is an inspiration to both peasants and
those who study them. Some academics go further. They see food sovereignty
as an alternative to the market economy (Edelman et al 2014).
In a recent volume of the JPS (41, Nos. 5-6 , Routledge, November 2014),
food sovereignty academics examine why food sovereignty has become
fashionable, indeed indispensable, in our understanding of the peasants. In
fact, an international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has adopted food
sovereignty as its political agenda and philosophy.
Even the UN is taking the peasants seriously. In late January 2015, the
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a draft declaration
on the rights of peasants. The UN declared, “Peasants and other people
working in rural areas have the right to food sovereignty. Food sovereignty
is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced
through socially just and ecologically sensitive methods. It entails
peoples’ right to participate in decision-making, and to define their own
food and agriculture systems.”
This may be rhetorical hyperbole but it may also reflect a subtle change in
the international system previously fully behind the violent landlords.
Food sovereignty, for once, got its day in court.
In the academic world, the expert who captured the essence of the food
sovereignty debate is the Dutch academic Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. He speaks
of “peasant-driven agricultural growth and food sovereignty.” He says that
in the absence of oppression peasants are the world’s best farmers. Their
agricultural productivity, ingenuity, and resilience give them the
potential “capacity to establish and secure food sovereignty.” In other
words, peasants may be on the verge of getting power. They produce, he
says, “(more than) sufficient good food for the growing world population.”
They also grow all that food “in a way that is sustainable.”
Time has come for recognizing and rewarding the talents and hard work of
peasants. Give them room to breathe.
The international community ought to support peasants rather than
industrialized farmers who cause so much damage to our health, democracy,
and the natural world. The international community should stop talking
about “green revolution,” a code word for more agricultural
industrialization of the tropics. Instead, they should talk about agrarian
reform or how do we get land to the landless and more land to those who
Support the ecological and productive peasants. Support their organic farm
brothers and sisters in the West.
Edelman et al. (2014) Introduction: Critical Perspectives on Food
Sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies 41: 911-931.
Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of several books, including “Poison
Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA” (with McKay Jenkins,
Bloomsbury Press, 2014).
by Evaggelos Vallianatos
Food Crisis: World Hunger, Agribusiness, and the Food Sovereignty
Alternative (Part Two) - Climate & Capitalism
Fighting for food sovereignty
The changes imposed by transnational agribusiness and its agencies have not
gone unchallenged. One of the most important developments in the past 15
years has been the emergence of La Vía Campesina (Peasant Way), an umbrella
body that encompasses more than 120 small farmers’ and peasants’
organizations in 56 countries, ranging from the Landless Rural Workers
Movement (MST) in Brazil to the National Farmers Union in Canada.
La Vía Campesina initially advanced its program as a challenge to the
“World Food Summit,” a 1996 UN-organized conference on global hunger that
was attended by official representatives of 185 countries. The participants
in that meeting promised (and subsequently did nothing to achieve) the
elimination of hunger and malnutrition by guaranteeing “sustainable food
security for all people.”
As is typical of such events, the working people who are actually affected
were excluded from the discussions. Outside the doors, La Vía Campesina
proposed food sovereignty as an alternative to food security. Simple access
to food is not enough, they argued: what’s needed is access to land, water,
and resources, and the people affected must have the right to know and to
decide about food policies. Food is too important to be left to the global
market and the manipulations of agribusiness: world hunger can only be
ended by re-establishing small and mid-sized family farms as the key
elements of food production.
The central demand of the food sovereignty movement is that food should be
treated primarily as a source of nutrition for the communities and
countries where it is grown. In opposition to free-trade, agroexport
policies, it urges a focus on domestic consumption and food
Contrary to the assertions of some critics, food sovereignty is not a call
for economic isolationism or a return to an idealized rural past. Rather,
it is a program for the defense and extension of human rights, for land
reform, and for protection of the earth against capitalist ecocide. In
addition to calling for food self-sufficiency and strengthening family
farms, La Vía Campesina’s original call for food sovereignty included these
Guarantee everyone access to safe, nutritious and culturally
appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy
life with full human dignity.
Give landless and farming people — especially women — ownership and
control of the land they work and return territories to indigenous peoples.
Ensure the care and use of natural resources, especially land, water
and seeds. End dependence on chemical inputs, on cash-crop monocultures and
intensive, industrialized production.
Oppose WTO, World Bank and IMF policies that facilitate the control of
multinational corporations over agriculture. Regulate and tax speculative
capital and enforce a strict Code of Conduct on transnational corporations.
End the use of food as a weapon. Stop the displacement, forced
urbanization and repression of peasants.
Guarantee peasants and small farmers, and rural women in particular,
direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels.
La Vía Campesina’s demand for food sovereignty constitutes a powerful
agrarian program for the 21st century. Labour and left movements worldwide
should give full support to it and to the campaigns of working farmers and
peasants for land reform and against the industrialization and
globalization of food and farming.
Stop the war on Third World farmers
Lawrence F. London
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
More information about the permaculture