Food Sovereignty

Food Sovereignty, what is it?

Food sovereignty is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmers, peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, rural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed "right" of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having cross-border trade in food.

Quote from wikipedia

Food Sovereignty principles

  1. Food as right not a commodity
  2. Valuing producers
  3. Localising food
  4. Democratic control
  5. Building knowledge and skills
  6. Working with nature

More info on the FoodSovereignty website and on the World Development Movement

Transforming the food system – how do we build a movement for food sovereignty in the UK?

Report on the Food Sovereignty Conference at Hawkwood Community Plant Nursery on 8th/9th July 2012

Author: Ceri Galloway

The first International food sovereignty movement meeting took place in Mali in 2007 where the Nyeleni Declaration “six pillars of food sovereignty” was prepared as a starting point for action. Following this in 2009 the first European Nyeleni Forum took place and the same year, the Permaculture Association adopted the Nyeleni declaration after consultation with its members. The UK conference took place in July 2012 as the opening stage of building an effective food sovereignty movement in Britain. The aim of the group is to protect European food sovereignty and to act in solidarity with the indigenous and peasant farmers movement such as the Via Campesino. The concepts of the Nyeleni declaration fit well with the Transition Movements goals to build resilience in our local communities, which means among other things taking control of our food culture. As movement for change Transitioners will find many allies in the food sovereignty movement. The Food Sovereignty conference at Hawkwood in July this year drew together a wide range of participants from the UK :

  • producers, small holders, farmers, including the Scottish Crofters Association
  • academics involved in agro-ecology at UK universities such as Coventry
  • PhD students seeking ideas for their research projects
  • NGO’s and charities such as War on Want, WDM and World Family who work on international poverty reduction by supporting food sovereignty rights
  • UK land rights as Reclaim the Fields and squatters groups such as Heathrow community gardens and the Forest of Dean land rights group and the Land Magazine which offers advice on UK planning control and supports land rights issues
  • gardeners and allotment holders including people from Garden Organic International Team and The Permaculture Association.

The aim of this meeting was to begin to explore how we should develop an active food sovereignty movement in the UK and support individuals and producers to take control of how food reaches our plate in a manner that does not damage the environment and is sustainable. The Food Sovereignty Movement aims to help people to take control of our food system moving away from the control supermarkets and multinational businesses have over this system and give power back to local communities. It wants the European Union and the UK to support local food production and make clear the corporate responsibilities of the multinationals. The two-day event at Hawkwood used the Transition style methods such as open space to develop ideas and to build a cohesive strategy for the UK movement and a hierarchy of practical actions was created. This was facilitated by very skilled group leaders who donated their time, which made the process very productive. Two days of workshops started with a report on practical actions that had already taken place since the European conference. Then participants were asked to explore what they understood by the term food sovereignty as a concept as opposed to food security. Many people find it easy to use these terms as interchangeable but it was pointed out that Aid can offer food security to populations, if only temporarily, but food sovereignty puts the power back into the hands of the farmers, producers and consumers. It localises control and protects common rights to saved seed, making land ownership secure. Food Sovereignty helps to retain local distinctiveness in foods for the people who produce and eat that food, creating food democracy.

This was followed by a series of workshops with small groups asking “What is it that we want to change about the food system?”, “How do we go about doing this? ” and “What will we do first?” This led to discussion about everything from community cooperatives to farming and corporate responsibility. It became clear that many people found it easier to start with making practical change though they felt it was important to build a movement to tackle the bigger issues, such as trading of food on the global futures market or reducing control of patenting by large seed companies (which means that they have control of a limited seed bank leading to a reduction in the biodiversity of seeds and how much is available internationally and making that seed increasingly expensive). They were concerned about a decreased local resilience and sustainability but also many felt quite overwhelmed by the task of tackling global control of our food supplies The second day of workshops looked at aspects of how we wanted to change food production in the UK in more depth. Finally a set of proposals led to a number of initiatives:-

  • A research group to map groups, individuals and businesses who might be stakeholders in this movement - to help grow membership of the movement and progress it aims.
  • A second research group to explore how to support small mixed farm, which are more productive than farms specialising in just six crop rotation. They would aim to influence DEFRA so that funding and government policy supported crop research for these mixed growers and demonstrated the value of small farms to society.
  • Another group to organise the next conference in order to take development of the movement further.
  • To set up a media and communications group to educate the government, public and businesses about food sovereignty and break down stereotypes in the media.
  • To develop a more effective website and administration.
  • To use the hub model for communication between groups.
  • To organise a Festival of UK food movement stakeholders.
  • To have a working group on how to increase access to healthy food to the wider population.
  • Help seed saving, Heritage seed groups and anti-GM technology groups working together.
  • Encouraging groups to sign up to the Nyeleni declaration.

The agreed priorities for the group has been to focus on the second research group and to develop the website, set up communications group and organise a further conference. Participants at the conference were interested in our food system operating in a different way from the current system where supermarkets have most of the power and control, leading to insecurity and lack of support to farmers and agricultural workers here and in the southern part of the globe.

1. The six pillars of food sovereignty are:-

  • Focuses on Food for People
  • Values Food producers
  • Localises food systems
  • Puts control locally
  • Builds knowledge and skills
  • Works with Nature

2. See the Nyeleni Declaration at

3. To become a member of the movement email list email or locally come to a Transition Cambridge food group meeting see bulletin for meeting dates.