ASEAN People’s Forum: Food sovereignty and agrarian reform to solve crises

Report from La Via Campesina workshop

BANGKOK, Feb 21 – Years of poor land use and trade policies have created serious problems for farmers and peasants throughout Asia and the world, and underscored the need for more food sovereignty, activists said today.

Over 70 people, including many farmers from Southeast Asia, gathered to talk about food sovereignty and agrarian reform as the solutions to the food, fuel, financial and climate crises in a workshop at the ASEAN People's Forum. Activists see the issue of food sovereignty as inseparable from pressing matters of energy, finance, and the environment. Food sovereignty focuses on the rights of a community to collectively define food and agricultural systems

While there is no consensus on the direct causes of the global food crisis which started in 2007, many believe it reflects an overall problem of bad trade and finance policy, rather than inadequate supply.

Governments are continuing to support top-down, corporate-friendly, and technology-driven food policies, said Maryann Manahan, from Focus on the Global South.

State and multilateral responses to the food crisis also overemphasised food aid, she told the workshop.

The current global economic crisis, however, is seen as an opportunity for new ideas to emerge.

The crisis "presents us with an opportunity to re-imagine things, to build alternatives," said Manahan.

Activists at the workshop agreed that food sovereignty was the most promising counter to the current food and agricultural systems.

Collective action is urgently needed to lobby for viable alternatives to how food is produced and sold, they said.

The struggle for food sovereignty is a political one, said Manahan, who called for a "global response to what's happening with our food system".

Some workshop participants also shared experiences of trying to assert food sovereignty in their countries.

Sukaew Fungfu, from the Northern Peasant Federation of Thailand, said there was widespread disapproval in his community of market influence over land use and food production. He said there were now community land reform projects aimed at giving farmers control of natural resources.

To push for food sovereignty, Sawad Aubahad, from the Thailand Assembly of the Poor, encouraged more forceful popular action on food and land issues, calling for an "agricultural revolution." – APF Media Team.