Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue: An international conference: Abstracts 19-22
Conference Paper # 19: Farmers’ Rights & Food Sovereignty: Critical Insights from India, by Karine Preschard
Farmers’ access to and rights over seeds are the very pillars of agriculture, and thus represent an essential component of food sovereignty. Three decades after the term farmers’ rights was first coined, there now exists a broad consensus that this new category of rights is historically grounded and imperative in the current context of the expansion of intellectual property rights (IPRs) over plant varieties. However, the issue of their realization has proven so thorny that even researchers and activists who are sympathetic to farmers’ rights now express growing skepticism regarding their usefulness. In this article, I explore this debate through a case study of India’s unique Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act. Based on an analysis of advances and setbacks in implementing the PPV&FR Act and a discussion of other relevant pieces of legislation, I argue that the politics of biodiversity and IPRs in India in recent years has been characteristic of the cunning state, and that this has seriously compromised the meaningful implementation of farmers’ rights.
Conference Paper # 20: Culturally appropriate food: Researching cultural aspects of food sovereignty, by Devon Sampson and Chelsea Wills
One way that food sovereignty challenges conventional notions of food security is by insisting that culture is and should be part of food systems. Many definitions of food sovereignty assert a right to “culturally appropriate” food, but who decides what is culturally appropriate? We argue that food and farming “culture” is too often assumed to be static and settled by a default consensus within farming communities, when in fact it is dynamically changing and the subject of significant disagreements. We present findings from two years of participatory action research in rural Yucatan, Mexico that offers glimpses into the process by which cultural values of food and farming are agreed upon, contested, and disseminated. We involved a group of recent high school graduates from a rural municipality in participatory photography work as part of a research project on agrobiodiversity and food sovereignty that we collaboratively presented in the municipality and later at national and international venues. Their work captured moments of agreement and dissent in what constitutes culturally appropriate food. At the same time, the youth researchers used the photography as a means to a stronger voice in defining the kinds of food and agriculture they want for themselves and their community. What is “culturally appropriate” is dynamically worked, never reaching a static consensus, but still affecting food sovereignty in tangible, material ways.
Conference Paper # 21: The Developmental State and Food Sovereignty in Tanzania, by Richard Mbunda
Tanzania has been experiencing different periods of food shortages mainly because of insufficient food production. While the country has an undisputable potential for food production, the state and its development partners such the World Bank, believe that the unsustainable peasant food production is the main cause of the food crisis. As a panacea to the food crisis, a call for de-peasantization in favor of commercial large scale farming is advocated. This paper is against de-peasantization, in light of the fact that for a country that is largely agrarian, achieving food self-sufficiency should began with the peasants. The principles of food sovereignty must be adopted and the orientation of the state must be developmental. The state must play the ‘activist’ role in investing heavily in agricultural related projects as well as a ‘de-activist’ role by reducing the budget of sectors that do not add direct value to the national project.
Conference Paper # 22: Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Social Conflict in Africa, by Kai Thaler
As foreign governments and corporations lease and purchase large tracts of arable land across the globe, in Africa, such large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) or ‘land grabs’ have allegedly provided the grievance behind protests, riots, coups, and other conflict from Mali to Madagascar. These land acquisitions not only displace smallholder farmers and pastoralists, often from allegedly marginal lands, but the land is subsequently used for food or biofuel export crops that are sent to wealthier countries, or forested for carbon mitigation. This dynamic deprives the local market of food production, often in countries that already experience high levels of food insecurity, and forces peasant farmers and pastoralists into the wage economy, where they have less control over their food sources and their subsistence is subject to the fluctuations of the global corporate food regime. LSLA target countries may also tend already to have poor land tenure security, and are frequently characterized by weak, corrupt, or authoritarian governments. It is unclear, however, whether land grabbing itself is a mechanism that has led to a significant increase in subnational social conflict, or whether land grabs have simply provided a focal point of organization for underlying unrest related to other factors. Using data on LSLAs from Land Matrix and data on conflict from the Social Conflict in Africa Dataset, this paper finds no significant correlation between LSLAs and the incidence of social conflict. The reliability of data on LSLAs leaves much to be desired, however, and so future research should focus on improving this data and also on untangling the social and political effects of LSLA deals through rigorous qualitative research.
The Food Sovereignty Conference:
A fundamentally contested concept, food sovereignty has — as a political project and campaign, an alternative, a social movement, and an analytical framework — barged into global agrarian discourse over the last two decades. Since then, it has inspired and mobilized diverse publics: workers, scholars and public intellectuals, farmers and peasant movements, NGOs and human rights activists in the North and global South. The term has become a challenging subject for social science research, and has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a variety of ways by various groups and individuals. Indeed, it is a concept that is broadly defined as the right of peoples to democratically control or determine the shape of their food system, and to produce sufficient and healthy food in culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable ways in and near their territory. As such it spans issues such as food politics, agroecology, land reform, biofuels, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), urban gardening, the patenting of life forms, labor migration, the feeding of volatile cities, ecological sustainability, and subsistence rights.
Sponsored by the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University and the Journal of Peasant Studies, and co-organized by Food First, Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Yale Sustainable Food Project, as well as the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI), the conference “Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue” will be held at Yale University on September 14–15, 2013. The event will bring together leading scholars and political activists who are advocates of and sympathetic to the idea of food sovereignty, as well as those who are skeptical to the concept of food sovereignty to foster a critical and productive dialogue on the issue. The purpose of the meeting is to examine what food sovereignty might mean, how it might be variously construed, and what policies (e.g. of land use, commodity policy, and food subsidies) it implies. Moreover, such a dialogue aims at exploring whether the subject of food sovereignty has an “intellectual future” in critical agrarian studies and, if so, on what terms.