International day of action on the twin food and climate crises

World Development Movement, 5 December 2011

Amy Horton, food justice campaigner

Today activists in South Africa are mobilising around the Durban summit to challenge industrial agriculture, which is at the heart of both the food and climate crises. They have called an international day of action for food sovereignty to cool down the earth.

“Industrial agriculture and production is responsible for global warming, hunger, land dispossession, massive displacements of farmers, rural workers and indigenous communities across the continent.”

They point out that Africa and other countries of the global south will be hit hardest by climate change, not least through its impacts on agriculture, which provides livelihoods for so many. A radical overhaul is needed. In South Africa, for example, only 5 per cent of agricultural land has been transferred to black people in 17 years of democracy, and millions in rural and urban areas suffer from food and nutritional insecurity. Women tend to get the worst deal. An alliance that includes the quarter-billion movement of small-scale producers, La Via Campesina and a number of African groups is today protesting false solutions promoted by the powerful inside the climate summit. This is grassroots resistance to land grabs. It’s also about halting a new green revolution that would put control over resources in the hands of multinational corporations, and reversing the commodification of nature – from forests to soil to carbon. Today, they are marching on the climate ‘conference of polluters’, taking actions against corporations trying to privatise seeds, and holding an ‘Assembly of the Oppressed’ to discuss ways of ending this unjust system. 

But just as industrial agriculture and climate change are intimately linked, so ecological agriculture and food sovereignty offer the solution. Food sovereignty means food being treated as a right rather than a commodity. It values food providers, particularly smallholder famers and women, who produce the majority of the world’s food. It demands the democratisation of our food system, shifting power away from giant corporations seeking to privatise resources and knowledge. And it involves producing food ecologically, meaning healthier and more diverse food, less backbreaking tedious labour, and relief from the environmental damage of toxic inputs, as Sri Lankan activist Sarath Fernando described to us.

In solidarity, WDM held a discussion and film showing focused on food sovereignty at the London occupation. You can watch those films online and demand the UK government acts to roll back the power of the financial sector that is wreaking havoc with global food prices.