above, for articles in
The Time for Food Sovereignty Has
OPEN LETTER To
: Mr Jacques Diouf Secretary General of the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan, President of the
G8, Mr. John W. Ashe, Permanent UN representative, Antigua and Barbuda's
Permanent and Chairman of the Group of 77
Dear Mr. Diouf, Mr. Fukuda, and
Our movement, La Via Campesina, consists of millions of small
farmers and landless workers in more than 60 countries around the world.
Although we are the ones producing food for our families and communities, many
of us are hungry or living in poverty. Over the last months, the situation has
worsened due to the sudden rise in food prices. We are also severely hit by the
crisis because many of us do not have enough land to feed our families, and
because most producers do not benefit from those high prices. Large traders,
speculators, supermarkets and industrial farms are cashing in on and benefitting
from this crisis. This current food crisis is the result of many years of
deregulation of agricultural markets, the privatization of state regulatory
bodies and the dumping of agricultural products on the markets of developing
countries. According to the FAO, liberalized markets have attracted huge cash
flows that seek to speculate on agricultural products on the “futures” markets
and other financial instruments.
The corporate expansion of agrofuels and
the initially enthusiastic support for agrofuels in countries such as the US, EU
and Brazil have added to the expectation that land for food will become more and
more scarce. On top of this in many southern countries hundreds of thousands of
hectares are converted from agricultural uses in an uncontrolled way for
so-called economic development zones, urbanization and infrastructure. The
ongoing land grabbing by Transnational Companies (TNCs) and other speculators
will expel millions more peasants who will end up in the mega cities where they
will be added to the ranks of the hungry and poor in the slums. Besides this, we
may expect especially in Africa and South Asia more severe droughts and floods
caused by global climate change. These are severe threats for the rural as well
as for the urban areas.
These are highly worrying developments that need
active and urgent action! We need a fundamental change in the approach to food
production and agricultural markets!
Time to rebuild national food
Rebuilding national food economies will require immediate and
long-term political commitments from governments. An absolute priority has to be
given to domestic food production in order to decrease dependency on the
international market. Peasants and small farmers should be encouraged through
better prices for their farm products and stable markets to produce food for
themselves and their communities. Landless families from rural and urban areas
have to get access to land, seeds and water to produce their own food. This
means increased investment in peasant and farmer-based food production for
Governments have to provide financial support for the
poorest consumers to allow them to eat. Speculation and extremely high prices
forced upon consumers by traders and retailers have to be controlled. Peasants
and small farmers need better access to their domestic markets so that they can
sell food at fair prices for themselves and for consumers.
to set up intervention mechanisms aimed at stabilizing market prices. In order
to achieve this, import controls with taxes and quotas are needed to avoid
low-priced imports which undermine domestic production. National buffer stocks
managed by the state have to be built up to stabilize domestic markets: in times
of surplus, cereals can be taken from the market to build up the reserve stocks
and in case of shortages, cereals can be released.
international markets and supporting countries to strengthen their food
At the international level, stabilization measures also have
to be undertaken. International buffer stocks have to be built up and an
intervention mechanism put in place to stabilize prices on international markets
at a reasonable level. Exporting countries have to accept international rules to
control the quantities they can bring to the market, in order to stop dumping.
The right to implement import controls, set up programs to support the poorest
consumers, implement agrarian reform and invest in domestic, farmer
peasant-based food production has to be fully respected and supported at the
We ask the FAO, based on its mandate, to take the
initiative and create the political environment for a fundamental change in food
policies. In the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural
Development (ICARRD) a broad majority of governments recognized and agreed on
the importance of rural development and agrarian reform to combat poverty and
hunger in the rural areas. The International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an assessment of the
agricultural sector that involved Civil Society organizations, the private
sector, and governments as well as the FAO and the World Bank came to the
conclusion that corporate-led agriculture and the increasing dependence of
peasants and small farmers is at the heart of the problem. They also concluded
that peasant, and farmer-based sustainable agriculture has to be supported and
strengthened. The International Fund on Agricultural Development (IFAD) also
recognizes the key role of peasants and small farmers in the production of
We request that G8 governments allow these initiatives to be taken.
They should stop the promotion of agrofuels as these are no solution for the
climate crisis and add to the destruction of forests. Especially in the southern
countries, agrofuels occupy millions of hectares that should remain available
for food production.
We also demand that the G8 analyze critically their
own agricultural policies, take initiatives to stop the ongoing volatility of
the international markets and shift their financial support away from industrial
agriculture towards sustainable family farmer-based food production.
also demand that the G8 stop and cancel any free trade agreements that will only
contribute to the destruction of food production in developing countries and
block any possibility of autonomous industrial development.
of transnational corporations and financial speculative interests has to be
controlled as much as possible and kept away from the the international food
market. Food is too important to be left to business alone.
WTO agreement in the Doha Round will mean another blow for peasant-based food
production. We demand that the governments of the G77 assess again the WTO
negotiations on agriculture in the Doha round and reject any agreement that has
negative implications for domestic food production and does not allow the taking
of all necessary measures to strengthen food production and increase national
Peasants and small farmers are the main food
La Via Campesina is convinced that peasants and small farmers
can feed the world. They have to be the key part of the solution. With
sufficient political will and the implementation of adequate policies, more
peasants and small farmers, men and women, will easily produce sufficient food
to feed the growing population. The current situation shows that changes are
The time for Food Sovereignty has come!
Saragih is the International Coordinator for La Via
This essay was
originally published by Pambazuka News. Pambazuka
News is the weekly electronic forum for social justice in Africa,
www.pambazuka.org (Pambazuka means arise
or awaken in Kiswahili) it is a tool for progressive social change in Africa.
Pambazuka News is produced by Fahamu, an organization that uses information and
communication technologies to serve the needs of organizations and social
movements that aspire to progressive social change. This essay is herein
reprinted with the author's permission.
Posted May 04,
You are here: HOME page-SPRING 2008 Issue-Food Sovereignty
Previous : Politics of Naming Next : World Food Prices