FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 05/11
Caustic Political Speech
STOP THE DAM
8 Years of Occupation
Hezbollah in Lebanon
The Master's Plan
Kristen L. Buras
30th Years of FNB
War, Prisons, Torture
Angola 3 News
What Happened in Wisconsin
A Serious Fight
The Libya Intervention Debate
Stop Bombing Libya
On Libya & Crises
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
A Q&A on Libya
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
Civil Wars U.S. Labor
Guide to Green Politics
Toward Climate Justice
Zaps - 05/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Alternatives To The Dominant Agricultural Model
Neoliberal globalization's mission to privatize all areas of life, including agriculture and natural resources, threatens to condemn a vast part of the world's population to hunger and poverty. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that, worldwide, there are 925 million hungry people today, at a time when we produce more food than ever before. According to the international organization GRAIN, food production has tripled since the 1960s while the world population has only doubled. However, mechanisms of the production, distribution, and consumption of food serve private interests, preventing the poorest from obtaining essential sustenance. The increasing concentration of each stage of the agribusiness food chain in the hands of enormous agro-industrial concerns has led to a loss of autonomy for both farmers and consumers.
Opposed to this dominant model of agribusiness is food sovereignty, which affirms the right of local peoples to define their own agricultural and food policies, control their own domestic food markets, and promote local agriculture by preventing the dumping of surplus products. It encourages diverse and sustainable farming methods that respect the land and sees international trade as only a complement to local production. Food sovereignty means returning control of natural assets to local communities and fighting against privatizing life.
Achieving this goal demands breaking with neoliberal agricultural policies imposed by the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Their imposition of free trade agreements, structural adjustment, external debt, etc., serves to erode people's sovereignty.
However, the demand for food sovereignty does not imply a romantic return to the past, but rather regaining an awareness of traditional practices in order to combine them with new technologies and new knowledge. Neither should it consist of a parochial approach or an idealization of small producers, but rather an entire rethinking of the global food system in order to encourage democratic forms of food production and distribution.
A Feminist Perspective
Promoting the construction of alternatives to the current agricultural and food model also involves an awareness of the role of gender, a recognition of the role women play in the cultivation and marketing of what we eat. Between 60 and 80 percent of the burden of food production in the South, according to FAO data, falls on women. They are the main producers of staple crops like rice, wheat, and maize, which feed the poorest populations in the global South. Despite their key role, they are, along with children, those most affected by hunger.
Women in many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America face enormous difficulties in accessing land, getting credit, etc. These problems aren't confined to the South only. In Europe, many farmers have little or no legal status since most of them work on family farms where administrative rights are the exclusive property of the owner of the farm. Women, despite working the land, are often not entitled to aid, land for cultivation, milk quotas, etc.
Food sovereignty has to break not only with a capitalist model of agriculture, but also with a patriarchal system rooted in a society that oppresses and subordinates women. Any notion of food sovereignty that does not include a feminist perspective is doomed to failure.
Via Campesina was formed in 1993 and gradually became one of the key organizations to critique neoliberal globalization. Its rise is an expression of peasant resistance to the collapse of the rural economy caused by neoliberal policies.
Via Campesina's membership is very heterogeneous in terms of the ideological origin of the landless, small farmers, but all are among those hardest hit by the neoliberal globalization. Since its inception, Via has created a politicized "peasant" identity linked to land and food production and building opposition to the current model of agribusiness and in defense of food sovereignty. It embodies a new kind of "internationalism"—the peasant component of the new global justice movement.
The concept of food sovereignty was first proposed in 1996 by the international movement La Via Campesina, which represents about 150 farmers' organizations from 56 countries. Their proposal coincided with the World Food Summit of the FAO in Rome.
A Viable Option
One of the arguments used by opponents of food sovereignty is that organic farming is unable to feed the world. However, this claim has been proved false by the results of an extensive consultation. Organized by the World Bank in partnership with the FAO, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNESCO, representatives of governments, private institutions, social interest groups, etc., this project involved over 400 scientists and experts in food and rural development over four years.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (IAASTD) report, published in early 2009, argued for local peasant and family production of food and the redistribution of land to rural communities. It concluded that agro-ecological production provided food and income to the poorest, while also generating surpluses for the market, and was a better guarantor of food security than transgenic production. The report was rejected by agribusiness and filed away by the World Bank, while 61 governments approved it quietly, except for the U.S., Canada, and Australia, among others.
In the same vein, a study by the University of Michigan, published in June 2007 by the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, compared conventional to organic food production. The report concluded that agro-ecological farms were more productive and more capable of ensuring food security throughout the world than systems of industrialized farming and "free trade." It estimated that, even according to the most conservative estimates, organic agriculture could provide at least as much food as is produced today, although the researchers considered a more realistic estimate that organic farming could increase global production food up to 50 percent.
A number of other studies have demonstrated how small-scale peasant production can have a high performance while using less fossil fuel, especially if food is traded locally or regionally. Consequently, investment in family farms and ensuring their access to natural resources is the best option in terms of combating climate change and ending poverty and hunger, especially given that three-quarters of the world's poorest people are peasants. It is also crucial to break the monopoly of large retailers and to avoid large-scale distribution circuits through the use of local markets, direct sales, consumer groups, and community-supported agriculture—thereby establishing closer relationships between producer and consumer.
Alternatives exist to the dominant agricultural model. They necessitate a break with the capitalist logic imposed on the agricultural system and insist on the right of the people of the world to food sovereignty.
Esther Vivas is a member of the Center for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is the author of the book (in Spanish) Stand Up Against External Debt and co-coordinator of (also in Spanish) Supermarkets, No Thanks and Where is Fair Trade Headed? A version of this article was first published at Socialist Resistance.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.