Food Sovereignty Conference Papers # 30-36
Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue - An international conference at Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, September 14-15, 2013
Conference Paper # 30: Water Access, Food Sovereignty and Peru’s Water Regime, by Barbara Deutsch Lynch
Peru’s water regime is the product of 20 years of negotiations involving the state and non-state actors, the World Bank and the InterAmerican Development Bank. The 2009 water law and the institutions which have been designed to implement it are informed by IWRM discourse. While on the surface, it appears to be a rejection of the neoliberal water privatization project, its principal beneficiaries are the agro-export and energy sectors. Using case materials from the conflictive Rio Santa and Rio Ica watersheds, this paper asks what the new water regime means for food sovereignty, in particular for the power of highland campesinos, small- to mid-scale coastal farmers, and artisanal fishers to supply domestic markets.
Conference Paper # 31: The Role of US Consumers and Producers in Food Sovereignty, by Molly D. Anderson
Given food sovereignty’s origin as a movement by farmers in developing countries, its expansion to other actors in the food system and to other geographic regions is not straightforward. This paper explores how the concept of food sovereignty has been applied to date in the United States. A case study describes how several towns in the state of Maine have passed “food sovereignty” ordinances that aim to enable small-scale farmers to sell their products directly to consumers, exempt from new food safety regulations. To date, 10 Maine towns have approved these food sovereignty ordinances; but state officials have contested them in at least one town. The ability to sell directly to one’s customers seems to be only a small portion of legitimate food sovereignty claims in the U.S. The paper presents seven additional claims that could gain wider public support for food sovereignty by promoting farmers’ and consumers’ rights and linking with other social movements or interest groups. In addition, food sovereignty entails particular responsibilities for US consumers, to become achieved worldwide. These responsibilities include solidarity with developing country producers and consumers, political participation to increase food justice and sustainable consumption to ensure that resources are shared equitably. Consumer support for food sovereignty is critical in the US to gain sufficient political leverage to enact food sovereignty laws and overturn regulations that act to its detriment, in international as well as domestic policy.
Conference Paper # 32: Farmland Preservation, Agricultural Easements and Land Access in California, by Zoe Brent
California is a land of contradictions. It is known as the breadbasket of the nation, but farmland is disappearing with alarming speed. Crop and ranch lands are falling out of production at a rate of one square mile every four days between 1984 and 2008.1 Urbanization and real estate development are a key factor in this conversion process, eating up an average of 38,000 acres a year between 1990 and 2004.2 However, in the scramble for what crop and ranch land stays in production, large-scale agribusiness is also strong and well established throughout the state’s warm valleys. The result: farmland prices have steadily risen (by 100% between 2002 and 2012 for irrigated land in California3) and in many cases surpassed the productive value of the land. In the nation’s top agricultural producing state where over half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables in the country are produced, farmland is disappearing. Small-scale, new and low-income farmers, especially, are facing serious challenges with regards to accessing land in the face of competition from large-scale agribusiness and real estate development. Under the banner of farmland protection, agricultural easements have become one of the most common tools for combating this loss of farmland. According to the American Farmland Trust’s 2012 national survey, agricultural easements managed by state and local governments as well as private land trusts, have facilitated the protection of 5 million acres of land. A number of studies4 explore how these deals are made possible through donations, consumer funded purchases and leveraging public and private funds, but what is less clear is: who is benefitting from these easement schemes? And why? This paper begins by situating agricultural easements within the farmland preservation movement and explores the three main ideological undercurrents that fuel this effort: economic utilitarianism, progressive agrarianism, and resource conservationism. The key actors driving the use of conservation easements to protect farmland are local land trusts, therefore multiple motivations for farmland preservation co-exist within the movement, depending on the different character of each trust. Then I take up the question of what type of farmer this easement strategy benefits in hopes of shedding some light on the future generation of farmers this farmland preservation model protects. One of the main conclusions of this research is that agricultural conservation easements benefit a limited sector of farmers, predominantly those who already have family land wealth and farm near an affluent land trust donor base. And few land trusts address the serious vulnerability of small farmers (even those with land) and farmworkers in the context of California’s highly industrialized agriculture system.
Conference Paper # 33: The Temptation of Nitrogen: FAO Guidance for Food Sovereignty in Nicaragua, by Birgit Müller
Food sovereignty is often presented as a panacea. In this paper I am showing that although the concept has been incorporated into local discourse, in practice it is elusive. It is also inextricably linked with larger global financial and governance structures, energy use and inequality that are extremely difficult to locate and to challenge, especially for local farmers.
Conference Paper # 34: Food Sovereignty, Post-Neoliberalism, Campesino Organizations and the State in Ecuador, by Patrick Clark
In Latin America the failure of neoliberal policies, and the popular mobilization of social movements against neoliberalism, led to the election of anti or post-neoliberal governments. This has opened up new political space for rural social movements to push for the institutionalization of food sovereignty in state policy. This paper analyzes the theoretical and practical challenges underlying the institutionalization of food sovereignty by examining the case of Ecuador under the government of President Rafael Correa. I present a theoretical framework by which to analyze the potential of the state to scale-up food sovereignty principles, which includes elements such as state-society relations, the question of the developmental state and state-society synergy. I then apply this framework to the case of Ecuador, ultimately concluding that the current policies of the government do not largely reflect food sovereignty principles. I conclude with some reflections on the question of food sovereignty and the state in Ecuador and beyond.
Conference Paper # 35: With flowers and capsicum in the driver’s seat, food sovereignty is impossible: A comparison of the politics of agricultural policy in two Indian states, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, by Sejuti Dasgupta
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute's Global Hunger Index, 2011, India ranks 67th among the 81 countries of the world with poorest food security; and this is when some states in the country have registered very high rates of growth in agriculture. The objective here is to understand how these contradictory facts coexist. To build such an understanding, the drivers of agricultural growth has been identified in this paper which includes two primary factors - classes of farmers whose interests dominate policy-making and examine how tenets of new policy are furthering class interests of ruling classes. It explored the industrial bourgeoisie alongside rural big farmer and landlord interest to see what character they have assumed in post-liberalisation era. This explained why there has been a shift from land reforms to input-centricity as the core of India’s post-liberalisation agricultural policy. The two states compared are Gujarat and Chhattisgarh based on empirical evidence gathered through fieldwork.
Conference Paper # 36: The Debate Over Food Sovereignty in Mexico, by Guadalupe Rodriguez-Gomez
In 2007 a popular movement called Sin maíz no hay país y sin frijol tampoco emerged in Mexico, in response to the domestic food crisis. This was conceived as the leading edge of the 2007 and 2008 global food crises. The movement advocated for the protection of domestic staple agriculture and food sovereignty. It sought to create fair competition between US and Mexican farmers by encouraging the re-negotiation of the Agricultural Chapter of NAFTA; and to defend native varieties of corn against their replacement with GM. This presentation examines responses by both Mexican society and state to this food crisis. It focuses on meanings, ideas, actions, relationships, and processes that dominant and popular groups set in motion. It identifies the ways in which the Mexican neoliberal state has manipulated the market according to the principles of “competitive and comparative advantages,” to redistribute public resources unequally among producers and to open Mexican food market to imports. It argues that the Mexican state’s food market interventions are contradictory since (1) it legitimizes neoliberalism by claiming that the market should be the only force shaping internal production; and (2) Mexican agriculture is more exposed than ever to the negative impacts of global trade. Accordingly, Sin maíz no hay país is an illustration of less-privileged farmers and urban groups’ struggle against Mexico´s neoliberal food and agriculture policies and global food market instability, while promoting small-scale staple farming.
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.