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Food Sovereignty at the World Social Forum
20 January 2007 @ 0 h 00 min - 25 January 2007 @ 0 h 00 min GMT
World Social Forum
Standing outside Gate # 14 of the Kasarani Sports Stadium on the outskirts of Nairobi with ears of organically grown white corn and a sign that said: “Food Sovereignty: Strategies for Transformation” was the only way we could think of to get the word out. The programs were scarse still, thousands of people appeared to be wandering around lost, and non-stop drumming and dancing out on the tarmac was a balm to the eye and ear. But came they did, about 120 people from dozens of countries North and South, East and West.
On the panel facilitated by Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI) were women and men speakers from tough African American farm communities facing agrarian extinction, rural villages in Bungoma District of Western Kenya hammered by governmental neglect and depleted soils, farm labor camps in Florida, US (the Dis-United States), small-scale farmers from Missouri, and a respondent speaker working with small
farmers in South Africa. Including the facilitator, three of these were members of the Via Campesina movement by membership in the US based National Family Farm Coalition!
And by the time the session was finished, we had heard from knowledgeable and engaging participants from Ethiopia (former minister of agriculture there, now working with peasant struggles), India, Germany, Haiti, Jamaica, the U.K., Kenya, and Uganda, among several others.
The topics of most intense dialog during the 2.5 hour session? The role of food aid in undermining food security and trumping food sovereignty in African countries; the common interests and varied complementary struggles among farmers in the industrialized north with those of rural peoples in the more agrarian south; the
importance of gender equity and empowerment in community development; erasing the stigma from eating (for example) millet, diverse tubors and bananas and other hardy and
resilient African crops, and ways of breaking down the hegemony of corporate virtual monopoly agriculture, fast food culture and export commodity dumping regimes. We talked strategies for reigning-in corporate mafiosos, and lending grit to weak-kneed politicians. We explained the importance of low-input organic production,
value-added activities and fair trade in helping farmers get out of chemical dependency and input-debt, and the bottom line of basic human dignity and decency sought through sometimes powerful strategic movements (such as farmworker movements in the
U.S.) by those displaced from their livelihoods by structural impoverishment and forced migration, due to neoliberal policies and savage capitalism worldwide.
And we repeated the clarion call and platform of the Via Campesina: Agrarian Reform, No to Privatization of Life (ie Seeds) or other Common Goods, the WTO, IMF, WB, Free Trade Agreements Out Of Agriculture, and embracing all those: Food Sovereignty! The
millenial birthrite that is agriculture (culture!) can be denied only at the risk of annihilation of the human species. We were here to say, that is not going to happen while we draw breath! And the breathing is sweet here in Kenya these days of Solidarity with the Struggles of Africa! Viva!
Globalize Struggle! Globalize Hope!
Mapambano Ya Dunia! Tumaini Ya Dunia!
(hence a new language is added to the repertoire of the Via Campesina, Swahili!)
by Stephen Bartlett, Agricultural Missions/ National Family Farm
Coalition/ Via Campesina
January 21, 2007, Nairobi, Kenya
Via Campesina Delegation in Nairobi:
phone: + 254-728-9059, e-mail: email@example.com