SEATTLE — Although both food sovereignty and food security are intertwined, and are both important concepts in terms of alleviating global poverty, there is a significant distinction in the definitions of the two phrases. While food security is concerned with making sure there is enough food to feed the impoverished, food sovereignty focuses more on the rights of those producing the food.
Food sovereignty is described as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems…[food sovereignty]puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than on the demands of markets and corporations.”
Indeed, many peasant farmers across the globe are marginalized, criminalized or otherwise exploited by mega-agricultural conglomerates. For the longest time, impoverished farmers did not have an organized voice to speak out in favor of food sovereignty—that is until groups like La Via Campesina (translated “The Peasants’ Way”) came into the picture.
What is La Via Campesina?
La Via Campesina (LVC) defines itself as “an international movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world” with the goal to protect peasant agriculture for food sovereignty against large-scale corporate-driven agriculture. The movement also recognizes that women, the largest group of food producers worldwide, are consistently oppressed by neoliberalism and patriarchal societies, and seeks to defend this demographic from any form of violence while promoting women’s rights and gender equality.
LVC began operating in Belgium in 1993 and has since expanded into a movement of over 200 million farmers comprised in 182 local and national organizations spanning across 81 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. To this day, the group remains independent of any sort of political party or economic structure.
LVC’s Most Recent Victory in Food Sovereignty
Since its inception, LVC has led demonstrations around the world and met with representatives from prestigious institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the U.N. to fight for the rights of impoverished farmers—and the ripple effect of their actions can now be seen spreading. Their most recent victory came in the form of a United Nations General Assembly Declaration titled: “U.N. Declaration of Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas”.
The Declaration passed on December 17, 2018, through “Resolution number A/C.3/L.30” in which it is written that “States shall respect, protect and fulfill the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. They shall promptly take legislative, administrative and other appropriate steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights of the present Declaration that cannot be immediately guaranteed.”
Next Steps for LVC and the Declaration
Many members of LVC recognize the ratification of the Declaration as a landmark success for food sovereignty peasant rights around the world; now, the next step is to ensure that the Declaration is promptly acted upon, enforced and promoted by foreign governments. Although the struggle for food sovereignty is far from over, the work of La Via Campesina and others like it is undoubtedly making huge strides in the right direction.
– Haley Hiday