#FOODSOVPRIZE

A Tale of Two Food Prizes

October 13, 2015
13 Oct 2015

By Eric Holt-Giménez

What’s in a prize? The politics of distribution versus growth.

On October 14, in Des Moines, Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, run by African-American farmers of the southern United States and to OFRANEH – the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña).

The next day, hundreds of distinguished international guests will also gather in Des Moines, Iowa as Sir Fazle Hasan Abed accepts the World Food Prize in the name of BRAC – the world’s largest non-governmental rural development agency.

Both prizes are awarded in recognition of the fight against hunger. That’s where the similarity ends and the lesson begins.

Founded in 1986 by the “father of the Green Revolution” Norman Borlaug, the World Food Prize typically celebrates technological innovations that increase agricultural yields. This is because the award committee assumes that there is not enough food in the world to feed everyone. Actually, over the last four decades we have consistently produced 1 ½ times enough food for every man, woman and child on the planet. Yet, over a billion people are still hungry and malnourished because they are too poor to buy food. Awarding the Word Food Prize to BRAC should be a reminder that poverty, not scarcity, is the main cause of world hunger.

Sir Fazle’s knighthood and 20 international awards all attest to the positive impact of BRAC’s anti-poverty work. Their selection was a safe move for the World Food Prize, which has been roundly criticized for giving the award to yet another Green Revolution scientist last year and to a triad of biotechnology scientists from the private sector the year before. BRAC will undoubtedly help restore some of the Prize’s lost luster in a world were genetic engineering has lost much of its credibility.

Does this award reflect a shift in the World Food Prize’s paradigm? Is the emblematic lightship of the Green Revolution ready to admit that hunger will not be ended by dint of a continuous flow of industrial crop varieties and chemical inputs? Not likely. A review of nearly thirty years of Food Prize laureates reveals a smattering of recipients who do not fit the dominant Green Revolution paradigm (Hans Herren, Muhammad Yunus, George McGovern and Robert Dole, among others). While the Prize entertains intermittent forays into areas of food aid, economic development and even agroecology, it always returns, lemming-like, to its foundational discourse: to end hunger we must double food production. The corollary to this theorem is that only chemically-based, industrial agriculture is up to the task.

That the planet has been overproducing food for nearly half a century is irrelevant to Green Revolution champions. That agroecological methods of production are cheaper, more accessible and consistently more productive and climate resilient than anything the Green Revolution has on offer, is also quietly swept under the rug in the yearly World Food Prize celebrations.

The destitute farmers producing over half the world’s food – primarily peasant women – make up most of the world’s hungry. They need more land, more water and a larger share of the food dollar. But the World Food Prize does not understand hunger or poverty as a problem of resource distribution. Rather, the World Food Prize believes that hunger and food insecurity are the result of scarcity. Whatever the problems underlying poverty and world hunger – in the Global South and the Global North – the solution for hunger is always the same: growth. Growth in productivity, growth in commercial inputs, growth in credit, growth of global markets…

But global food supply has been growing at 12% per capita a year for several decades. At the height of the global food crises of 2008 and 2011, the world saw record-breaking grain harvests. The problem of hunger is poverty. Resource-poor farmers – who make up 70% of the world’s hungry – are forced to sell their harvest cheaply (because they are poor). Later, when their own supplies run out and prices rise, they go hungry because they can’t afford the food in the markets. The steady spread of high-external input, plantation agriculture – largely soy for livestock, cane and maize for biofuels and oil palm – pushes smallholders and pastoralists off the land, destroying their livelihoods, increasing poverty and hunger even as more food is produced.

Why does the World Food Prize insist that the answer to hunger is growth?

Because a focus on growth allows us to ignore the problems of inequity, exploitation and the growing disparity of wealth in the world. It allows us to ignore the issue of resource distribution – and its corollary: re-distribution. Eighty-four individuals now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. The growing wealth gap is causing hunger. It is easy to talk about baking an ever bigger pie. It’s much harder to talk about who get the biggest piece, or who gets to cut the pie.

This political convenience becomes evident when we look at the Food Sovereignty Prize, in many ways the antithesis of the World Food Prize. This prize has a shorter history (and an infinitely smaller budget) than the World Food Prize. This year’s laureates, the U.S.-based Federation of Southern Cooperatives and OFRANEH were chosen for their steadfast commitment to human rights and their historical resistance of oppression.

What do human rights and oppression have to do with hunger? Everything.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, founded in 1967 came out of the civil rights movement when according to its founders, as a black person in the rural south,

You took your life in your hands when you went anywhere. Particularly if you were going somewhere where they were talking about freedom and independence and cooperative farming.”

For four decades across 16 southern states, the Federation has promoted Black and family owned farms, coops, training in sustainable agriculture, forestry, management and marketing, and has advocated in the courts and state and national legislatures for the rights of Black farmers. They have stood up against the steady trend in Black land loss that has gone from a peak of 14% to less than 1% of agricultural land in the United States. Ben Burkett, southern farmer and Director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (and president of the National Family Farm Coalition) states,

Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self-determination of a local community to grow and do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.

Co-prize winner OFRANEH from Honduras came together in 1978 to protect the territories and the human rights of the Garifuna people of Honduras’ Atlantic coast. These descendants of African-Carib ancestry are a historically oppressed minority in Honduras. Their traditional lands are being grabbed by oil palm plantations and tourism developments. Because displacement and deforestation have made the Garifuna extremely vulnerable to the extreme weather events associated with climate change, OFRANEH works with local populations to build climate resilience. Says OFRANEH Coordinator Miriam Miranda,

Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. We need to produce to bring autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.

The difference between the World Food Prize and the Food Sovereignty Prize is the difference between entrepreneurial “empowerment” and real political power. While the former implies an increase in personal agency within the existing system – by becoming economically successful – the latter is about how the resources of that food system are allocated.

When compared to BRAC’s impressive economic successes, the impacts of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and OFRANEH seem circumscribed, their positions romantic; small, grassroots Davids standing up to the Goliath of institutionalized racism and unstoppable global economic forces.

The World Food Prize provides us with an optimistic story of successful grassroots capitalism, while the Food Sovereignty Prize is a resistance story about hope against all odds. But these narratives actually distort our understanding of hunger and its causes. The fact is that for the vast majority of the world’s peasant farmers, BRAC’s successes are the exception rather than the rule. The default is land grabs, racism, hunger, institutionalized violence and climate disasters – the daily reality of the farmer and fisher families of OFRANEH and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

If the entrepreneurialism promoted by BRAC is so good for rural people then why, after four decades and widespread international recognition, haven’t these alternatives become standard policy everywhere?

Clearly, farmers with BRAC are better off and their success stories should be celebrated and replicated. But giving prizes for optimistic alternatives should not blind us to the harsh realities of an economic system that prevents most farmers from accessing the coops, micro credit, training and services promoted by BRAC. Indeed, unless “empowerment” enables rural communities to protect themselves from the waves of dispossession and climate chaos resulting from global capitalism and the spread of industrial agriculture in the name of ending hunger, even these gains may be short-lived.

Economic development is necessary for the oppressed, discriminated and exploited communities of our food system. It is also insufficient. Not all growth benefits the poor. Indeed, much of it hurts them.  Economic growth without redistribution of power and wealth ultimately reinforces the existing systems of exploitation. Without political control over land, water, markets and food producing resources – without food sovereignty – rural people will be a tourist development or an oil palm plantation away from poverty and hunger.

What’s in a prize? A tale of two paradigms and the difference between optimism and hope, between food security and food sovereignty – between the status quo and the end of hunger.

A Different Way to Fight Hunger: Agroecology and the Food Sovereignty Prize

October 9, 2015
09 Oct 2015

By Bill Ayres
WhyHunger Co-founder and Ambassador

There is a certain mindset which says that science and technology have all the answers, swooping in from above to solve every agricultural problem that is preventing us from feeding the world, especially in the face of an ever expanding population, climate change and global warming. They will solve the growing problem of hunger and starvation throughout the world with a series of tech-fixes that will save millions of lives. Trust us they say. We are the smart people and we are here to help you, just do as we say.

This top down series of tech- fixes has been the dominant method of development for decades. Science and technology experts know what to do and all that “poor” farmers need to do is follow their lead. Many of these experts are well meaning and dedicated. Many others are just out to make a buck, or more likely a fortune. And their top-down, technological, agribusiness-led development approach is neither feeding the planet, nor befitting communities or the environment.

There is another way. It starts from the bottom up, listening to the needs of small farmers all over the world but also listening to what they already know, what resources they already have and then how they can be better organized to make the most with what they know and can learn.

Agroecology is spreading through farmer-to-farmer and community-to-community dialogues and learning exchanges. It relies on the knowledge and experiences of millions of small and medium sized farmers who grow food and take care of the land. It is a continuing dialogue of learning and practicing agriculture. More than that, it is an empowering way of life that brings together whole communities of varying sizes as well as ethnic and religious backgrounds. It empowers women in ways that have changed centuries of gender bias and exclusion.

Agroecology is the backbone of a larger movement known as Food Sovereignty that supports the democratic control of food systems and the right of all people to grow, consume and sell healthy foods of their choice For example, it resists governments and agri-businesses forcing farmers to grow rice in parts of India that have traditionally grown millet or forcing farmers off their land through illegal deals between corrupt governments and ranchers or mono crop conglomerates that result in “land grabs.”

The 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize is honoring two peoples organizations dedicated to making change and bringing justice from the grassroots in the bottom-up approach, despite fighting against the dominant development model that was destroying their communities.

Ben_Burkett_photo-480x358The Federation of Southern Cooperatives has worked since 1967 in 16 States in the U.S. to keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily, but not exclusively, black farmers. Black farmers have withstood decades of discriminatory and racist practices by the US Department of Agriculture, which finally settled for billions of dollars with farmers and their families who were forced off their land. Today, only .4% of farmland in the U.S. is operated by black farmers; over 98% is operated by whites.

To deal with the threats to farming families posed by the government, the Federation promotes land-based agricultural cooperatives, where it provides trainings in a variety of skills and helps farmers survive and stay on the land, especially through fights for justice in local courthouses, state legislatures and in the halls of Congress.


Garifuna Community fishfolkThe Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), an organization of the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people in Honduras, protects the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. Connected to both the land and the sea, sustaining themselves through farming and fishing, the Garifuna people defend against land grabs for agrofuels, tourist-resort development and narco-trafficking that seriously threaten their way of life, along with rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. OFRANEH has been doing this a long time, defending the land, oceanfront, fishing and farming of 46 Garifuna communities on the Atlantic coast of Honduras since 1979. This has always been an uphill battle against racism, poverty and violence but it has become even more dangerous since the recent coup, land grabs and the escalation of violence throughout Honduras.

Both of these organizations have struggled for decades against oppression from their governments and large agricultural companies. They have pioneered excellent agricultural practices, fought for their rights and produced nutritious food for people. OFRANEH and the Federation, by their story of their struggle, show again that “Black Lives Matter,” that black peoples will not be targeted and victimized and their stories ignored and voices silenced.

There is another way to fight hunger. It is not through the latest tech solution or the latest chemical toxic concoction, but it does utilize science rooted in ecological principles, community participation and democratic management. This ‘other way’ and the leaders who are organizing their communities to reclaim their right to determine how their food is grown and who benefits from it will be honored next week, when the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and OFRANEH accept the Food Sovereignty Prize in Iowa. Another affirmation that ending hunger is about justice, community power and equity, and not a quick, technological fix.

If you can’t make it to Des Moines to attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony in person, tune into the livestream at www.foodsovereigntyprize.org on October 14th at 7 p.m. CT!

Follow Bill Ayres on Twitter: www.twitter.com/whyhunger

 

Alfredo’s Story: Human Rights Defender Despite Imprisonment

October 8, 2015
08 Oct 2015


GRI Logo CMYK 2014

By Shannon Duncan Bodwell

October 6th, 2015

“In the end we succeeded. But it cost us six years in jail, and five of my colleagues were assassinated. However we are still here, working, and pushing forward,” said Alfredo Lopez.
Alfredo, a well-known and respected community leader, is the vice-president of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), a partner of Grassroots International. OFRANEH organizes with indigenous, Afro-descendant Hondurans (known as Garifunas), whose ancestral territory contains some of the most breathtaking and fertile areas along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. And they also constantly face land grabs by agrofuel plantations, tour-resort developers and narco-traffickers.

While leading efforts to stop a tourist development from displacing Garifuna communities, Alfredo was jailed on trumped-up charges and spent six years in prison before being released for lack of evidence. It was only through community pressure, international solidarity, and a ruling by the International Human Rights Commission Court in Costa Rica that the Honduran government finally freed Alfredo.

Since his release, he and with other members of OFRANEH have received numerous threats and been the target of several attacks. Soft-spoken and humble, Alfredo explains that threats to personal safety are commonplace for human rights defenders in Honduras. Embroiled in the middle of political violence spurred by a hardline, military-backed government, Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Alfredo has helped OFRANEH set up a network of six community radio stations that are unifying Garifuna communities along the coast. The stations educate communities about their rights, history and culture, and keep them current on news and strategies for defending their territories. OFRANEH has also set up an impressive network of international solidarity and a national network of allies across the country to help them in their efforts.

The determination of OFRANEH and its organizers like Alfredo – to continue to defend their rights in the face of such adversity – has been recognized internationally as they have been named the international winner of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize. The Food Sovereignty Prize spotlights grassroots organizations working internationally and in the United States for a more democratic food system. The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on October 14, 7 pm Central Time in Des Moines, IA, and will be livestreamed over the Internet.

While the challenges are many, Alfredo and OFRANEH continue in their push for justice and find strength from the past. “Our ancestors suffered through the same situation as us, perhaps even worse. They were forced onto boats and shipped from Africa. Many were not lucky enough to survive the journey and died along the way. We try to remember and respect their sacrifices, and this helps us today in our struggles,” said Alfredo.

Defending Afro-Indigenous Land: Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras Wins 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize

October 8, 2015
08 Oct 2015

youth-fsp-img-2

Garifuna youth brigade members remove a fence post in the area planted by narco invaders of the land prior to the 2012 land recovery. Photo courtesy of Steve Pavey.

By Beverly Bell

On 06 October, 2015

In 2015, the US Food Sovereignty Prize honors the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH by its Spanish acronym), Afro-indigenous farmers and fisherpeople who are defending their lands, waters, agriculture, and way of life. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, primarily African-American farmers across 13 states in the deep South, shares the prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

The prize is given by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is comprised of groups of advocates, activists, and farmers and other food producers. Food sovereignty asserts that people everywhere must reclaim their control over food systems. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance upholds the right to food as a basic human right, and connects local, national, and international movements for systems change.

Below are excerpts from an interview with Miriam Miranda, coordinator of OFRANEH. OFRANEH works with the 46 Afro-indigenous Garífuna communities of the nation to defend their lands, agriculture, fishing, other riches of nature, identity, and rights.

Without our lands, we cease to be a people. Our lands and identities are critical to our lives, our waters, our forests, our culture, our global commons, our territories. For us, the struggle for our territories and our commons and our natural resources is of primary importance to preserve ourselves as a people.

We are a mix of African descendants and indigenous peoples who came about more than 200 years ago in the island of San Vicente. We live on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. What we Garífuna face is largely the same things faced by people all over Latin America, and in fact the whole planet.

If you map out the conflicts that are threatening our country, you’ll see they reflect exactly where transnational capital is trying to take more resources from indigenous peoples. Maybe you believe that President Mel Zelaya was ousted in a coup d’état [in 2009] because he was a leftist. No. It was because [those with wealth] wanted to take land and resources, which they are now doing. There’s more pressure on us every day for our territories, our resources, and our global commons.

Look at the search for so-called alternatives to oil – through mining, mega-dams, et cetera. All these resources are being taken from indigenous areas. In Honduras, they’re taking land that we were using to grow beans and rice so they can grow African palm for bio-fuel. The intention is to stop the production of food that humans need so they can produce fuel that cars need. The more food scarcity that exists, the more expensive food will become. Food sovereignty is being threatened everywhere.

Another of our main challenges is the tourism industry. We live almost on the sea, right on the beach. It’s a blessing but recently it’s also become a curse, because of course all those with power want to have a place on the beach. The Honduran government has started on some tourism mega-projects. The displacement of communities and the loss of cultures that come with the development of tourism [are increasing].

We’ve occupied and claimed ancestral lands that had been taken by others, such as Vallecito Limón. We’re also using international human rights law in order to guard our territories. We have a claim against the government in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington regarding Triunfo de la Cruz [a beachside Garífuna community whose communally owned lands have been taken]. We hope to have a decision in November or December. This will create an important precedent for all indigenous peoples, not just for the Garífuna. It’ll define the responsibility of the state to protect territories and rights of indigenous peoples. This will only be the [fourth] case ever brought that will help establish policies and mechanisms to protect the territories and resources of indigenous peoples, and all of humanity, of course.

The marvelous women comrades in Triunfo de la Cruz, Garífuna women, many of them elders, have incredible strength. They participate in meetings, in actions, tearing down walls that are built on the beach. They’re sustaining the Garífuna youth so that they know who they are, without shame. They’re producing the yucca that is our staple food.

Women [everywhere are] defending life, culture, and territories, opposing a model of death that grows stronger each day. We are at the front of the avalanche of attacks. Everywhere throughout Honduras, like in all of Latin America, Africa, Asia, women are at the forefront of the struggles for our rights, against racial discrimination, for the defense of our commons and our survival. We’re at the front not only with our bodies but also with our force, our ideas, our proposals. We don’t only birth children, but ideas and actions as well.

If the problem is global, we have to have a global response. It’s time for every human being in the global North to take up his or her responsibility in respect to the use of resources, responsibility relative to waste and to consumption. The standard of living that you all have in the US is unsustainable. You are the button-pushers.

We [on the other end] have crises piled one after another. We are trying to resist and find every solution we can, but we ask ourselves: Hmm, are we the ones consuming all this energy? If those in the North are the consumers, why are we in Honduras paying? Why are we being displaced to generate energy for others? What are we supposed to do? Leave the planet to destruct, or make a change for future generations? They won’t have land or water or air. This is not pessimism, it’s reality. The time has come.

For more information, please see US Food Sovereignty Prize. And also visit this site to learn about the US Food Sovereignty Alliance’s Month of Community Power.

Black Farmers’ Lives Matter: Defending African-American Land and Agriculture in the Deep South

October 6, 2015
06 Oct 2015

DAILY KOS

By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds

The 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize goes to two organizations that are demonstrating just how much Black lives matter, as they defend their ancestral lands for community-controlled food production. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, primarily African-American farmers across the deep South, shares the prize with the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, Afro-indigenous farmers and fisher-people. The prize will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

Food sovereignty goes beyond ensuring that people have enough food to meet their physical needs. It asserts that citizens everywhere must reclaim their power in food systems by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those who eat. 
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance upholds the right to food as a basic human right and works to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers. Its members are farmers in 13 Southern states, approximately 90 percent of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.

Ben_Burkett_photo-480x358

Ben Burkett on his farm in Petaluma, Mississippi, with his great-nephew. Photo courtesy of Grassroots International.

The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in fewer than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and speaks truth to power in local courthouses, state legislatures, and the halls of the U.S. Congress.

Below are excerpts from an interview with Ben Burkett, an active member of the Federation. Burkett is also a farmer, director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, president of the National Family Farm Coalition board of directors, and a member of La Via Campesina’s international board

“Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land, and the self-determination of a community to grow and eat what they want.

“The Federation of Southern Cooperatives grew out of the civil rights movement [in 1967]. Racism is still here in the marketplace and in credit, but we have learned to deal with it and not give up on changing the system. We struggle every day to bring about a change.

“We recognize the natural flow of life. It’s just what we’ve always done. We want to go back to the way things were. It’s supporting mankind as small farmers and family farmers. It’s not so much a matter of making money, it’s a matter of carrying on so your farm will continue on. But you have to make some profit off it in order to keep it going.

“Myself, I’m a fourth-generation farmer on a farm that my great-grandfather homesteaded in 1889. That wasn’t but about 20 years after the end of slavery. He got 164 acres from the United States government. I still have the title – they called it a patent – signed by Grover Cleveland. And we’re still farming that same land.

“Some say the system is working. It appears to be working fine, but corporate agriculture is not sustainable. Our system of growing food is heavy, heavy, heavy dependent on petro-chemicals, on inorganic compounds, mostly petroleum-based. And then it takes too much control out of the local community. Now, it might last for several decades, but in the end it can’t last.

“You’ve got a few companies that want to control all the seed stock of the world, and they’ve just about got a handle on marketing three of the main commodities: corn, soybean, and cotton. [For us,] it’s hard to find seeds that aren’t treated with the Monsanto-manufactured Roundup Ready. I’ve tried to find cotton that wasn’t treated, but I couldn’t. Now they’re working on controlling wheat and rice.

“And they make those seeds so most of them don’t regenerate the next year anyway. But if you do save any of the seeds, Monsanto and the other companies are going to prosecute you for saving their property. Those seeds are patented, the property of the seed company, so they reserve the right to keep them. They’ll take you to court and make you pay back their money. Basically you’re just sharecropping for them, you’re leasing their seeds.

“I don’t think that’s fair. Once you’ve bought the seeds and planted them on your own land, it looks to me like they ought to be your own seeds. That’s the essence of life. Where did Monsanto and the other companies get their first seed from? Someone gave them to them. Those seeds didn’t fall out of the sky.

“We’ve been – I don’t want to use the word co-opted – trained by the institutions of agriculture, the companies, the university system, and technology, to give our rights over to the company, which I think is absolutely wrong. We have to be more proactive than reactive as small farmers, family farmers. We can’t wait for the government and large corporations to dictate to us what we can do in our region.

“They’ve got a unique way of buying you off to not fight here. The American consumer doesn’t care as long as it’s cheap. But no matter what farmers plant, the consumer’s got to change the system. People buying the end product have to complain. As long as they don’t complain, there’s no need even talking about it.”

The prize is given by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which is comprised of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups. To learn more about the work of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, please visithttp://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/.  

Ben Burkett on his farm in Petaluma, Mississippi, with his great-nephew. Photo courtesy of Grassroots International.

Black and Afro-Indigenous Farmers Share 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize

September 12, 2015
12 Sep 2015

In this moment when it is vital to assert that Black lives matter, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance honors Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially commemorate them as a vital part of our food and agriculture system—growers and workers who are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food and democratic control over food systems.

In 2015, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance’s two prize winners are: the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S. and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American farmers. The federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 10 Southern states, approximately 90 percent of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino and White.

The federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the U.S. have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in fewer than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned, the federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management and marketing; and speaks truth to power in local courthouses, state legislatures and the halls of the U.S. Congress.

Ben Burkett, farmer, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives director and National Family Farm Coalition board president, said, “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on Earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land and the self-determination of a community to grow and eat what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”

The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras

The grassroots organization the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change.

The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, promotion of Garifuna culture and movement-building. In its work, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.

“Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. There is a big job to do in Honduras and everywhere, because people have to know that they need to produce to bring the autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land,” says Coordinator Miriam Miranda.

The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of Oct. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more food through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but unbalanced access to wealth means the inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agroecology. The communities around the world who struggle to grow their food and take care of their land have long known that destructive political, economic and social policies, as well as militarization.

The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Des Moines chapter and the Small Planet Fund.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Black and Afro-Indigenous Farmers Share 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize

August 31, 2015
31 Aug 2015

Des Moines, Iowa, United States – September 1, 2015

In this moment when it is vital to assert that Black lives matter, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance honors Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen, and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially commemorate them as a vital part of our food and agriculture system – growers and workers who are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food, and democratic control over food systems.

In 2015, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance’s two prize winners are: the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S., and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. The prizes will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.

THE FEDERATION OF SOUTHERN COOPERATIVES
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American farmers. The Federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 10 Southern states, approximately 90 percent of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.

The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in fewer than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and speaks truth to power in local courthouses, state legislatures, and the halls of the U.S. Congress.
Ben Burkett, farmer, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives director and National Family Farm Coalition board president, said, “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land, and the self-determination of a community to grow and eat what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”

THE BLACK FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION OF HONDURAS (OFRANEH)

The grassroots organization OFRANEH was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. OFRANEH brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action,promotion of Garifuna culture, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.

Miriam Miranda, Coordinator: “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. There is a big job to do in Honduras and everywhere, because people have to know that they need to produce to bring the autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.”

The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more food through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but unbalanced access to wealth means the inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agroecology. The communities around the world who struggle to grow their food and take care of their land have long known that destructive political, economic, and social policies, as well as militarization.

The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Des Moines chapter and the Small Planet Fund.

For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org. Also, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize on Facebook (facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyPrize) and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).

Contacts:
Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
(515) 314-2655, adam@iowacci.org

Lisa Griffith, National Family Farm Coalition
US Food Sovereignty Alliance
(773) 319-5838, lisa@nffc.net

A Tree Grows in Gaza

February 2, 2015
02 Feb 2015

By Siena Chrisman on December 5, 2014

A family in the South Hebron Hills prepares to plant new trees. Courtesy Grassroots International (via Flickr).

An olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, but as the decades-long struggle between Israelis and Palestinians continues, it has become yet another source of conflict.

In the West Bank and Gaza, almost half of the arable land is planted with olive trees, from saplings to some that have produced fruit for a thousand years. Nearly 80,000 Palestinian families depend on the annual fall olive harvest for their livelihood. But in recent decades, the conflict in the region, which recently flared up once again, has taken a devastating toll: Israeli settlers and military personnel have cut down, uprooted and burned an estimated 800,000 olive trees since 1967, including approximately 49,000 in just the past five years, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Union of Agricultural Work Committees of Palestine (UAWC) wants to turn this dire situation around. Ali Hassouneh, the group’s board chair, believes that the olive groves represent a shared inheritance. “If I have an olive tree that is 1,500 years old, I think: Who planted it? How many thousands of people have eaten from it? The trees are our heritage – my heritage and [the Israelis’], too.” The UAWC, one of the oldest Palestinian NGOs, has worked with farmers in the West Bank and Gaza on water and land access since 1986. It also provides annual support with the olive harvest.

Read the rest of the article at Modern Farmer.

The Other World Food Day Prize

October 27, 2014
27 Oct 2014

 | EcoWatch 

October 15, 2014  

Norman Borlaug, often referred to as the father of the Green Revolution, called for a World Food Prize to be established just after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. His intention was to lift up, more frequently than the venerable Nobel committee could, those who have devoted their careers to alleviating global hunger and therefore contributing to a more peaceful world.Indeed, hunger is often cited as one of the root causes of conflict and war. Calling attention to hunger—and its constant companion poverty—as inextricably linked to peace does certainly warrant a prize that continually puts these issues in the spotlight. The tragedy of the World Food Prize is that since 1987, when the prize was first awarded, the laureates—with a very few exceptions—have been primarily scientists that have advanced food as a commodity and not as a basic human right. This week the World Food Prize is once again being awarded to a plant scientist, Dr. Rajaya Sajaram, for his development of numerous prodigious wheat varieties that have been spread around the world to the benefit of “small and large-scale farmers.”wholesomefood

Yet, privileging food as a commodity to be bought and sold on the exchange floors of Chicago and New York has led to considerable damage to the natural environment and to our health. Not to mention that world hunger has reached the staggeringly high estimate of nearly one billion people, with more spikes than declines in the past few decades, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Production agriculture is the source of at least 14 percent of green­house gas emissions, depends on unsustainable fossil fuels and is the consumer of 70 percent of the world’s an­nual freshwater supply. Climate change is in part a direct result of this profit-driven recipe for efficiency and scale in agricultural production. And, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, no longer able to control what he has summoned by his spells, climate change is making our Earth inhospitable to food production through an increasing prevalence of drought followed by monsoons. And what is the response historically to a dwindling access to natural resources among rural communities in particular? Hunger and conflict.

How does a prize meant to honor those who fight hunger and bring about peace reward the very science, technology and methods that are degrading our planet, our health and our ability for generations to come to feed ourselves?

Enter the Food Sovereignty Prize as a foil to the message perpetuated by the World Food Prize that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world. In 2009, a group of non-governmental and community-based organizations, spurred on by the world food crisis that hit headlines around the globe, banded together to form what is now called the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance and established an alternative prize to recognize the quiet champions producing food in a way that puts people and their basic needs and rights to be nourished first.

The Food Sovereignty Prize has for six years running been awarded to peasants and small farmers who, despite the billions of dollars pouring in to support big agri-business and food and farm policies that prop up food as a commodity and result in land grabs by multi-national companies, are growing food for their families, communities and local markets. These leaders are organizing their communities to reclaim their right to determine how their food is grown, and who benefits from it.

Why should peasants and small farmers be heralded as formidable foes against hunger? The majority of the food that people around the world eat—70 percent—is produced by peasants and small farmers on medium to small tracts of land and is consumed within 100 miles of where it was grown. The narrative put out by the World Food Prize that an industrial agribusiness model, requiring billions of dollars of investment in scientific research, is necessary to feed the world is false.

Not only are peasants and small farmers currently growing the majority of consumable food in the world, but food production worldwide already provides 1.5 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050. It’s clearly not a question of production keeping up with population as the World Food Prize narrative suggests.

For the first time since activists, farmers and organizers came together to establish the Food Sovereignty Prize, it is being awarded in a public ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa the same week and city where the World Food Prize laureate is traditionally honored. The Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony will take place at the Iowa Historical Building at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 and will be live streamed.

This year’s prize goes to two awardees—the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) of Palestine, and Community to Community Development/De Comunidad a Comunidad (C2C) of Bellingham, WA. Both organizations, founded and led by farmers, are being honored for their work to advance the rights and food sovereignty of communities without legal protections to the right to food and the right to land. Both organizations exemplify that people, not profits, should be at the center of the discourse on ending hunger and healing the environment.

UAWC has been engaged in humanitarian and justice work for decades in an effort to empower stateless Palestinian farmers, both men and women, who face geo-political challenges to accessing land and water in order to produce food for their families and communities. The UAWC has organized and supports 21 committees in the Gaza Strip and 26 in the West Bank.  Together these committees of peasants work to protect farmers’ rights to land, organize women’s collectives and cooperatives that create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, ensure access to water for food production through cisterns and grey water reuse, and to promote seed sovereignty through the development of the strongest seed bank in the region.

Community to Community Development/De Comunidad a Comunidad, a founding member of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, is led by and works with farmworker communities, including youth, in Washington State. C2C organizes farm worker cooperatives, primarily around producing value-added goods, but also works to access land for community gardens. They are a member of the Domestic Fair Trade Association. Notably, over the past year, C2C has worked with a group of farmworkers who organized themselves at Sakuma Berry Farms because they were not being paid, the housing provided to them was poor, and discipline measures were harsh. In addition, the workers (some of whom had worked at Sakuma for many years), were going to be replaced by guest workers coming on H2A visas. This is the first major farmworker struggle related to the guest worker program impacting farm workers here and is raising important issues. The farmworker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, has won numerous legal battles with C2C but their struggle continues.

By lifting up these organizations among the countless others around the world fighting for the right to a dignified life, the Food Sovereignty Prize is redirecting the public discourse around ending hunger from one that focuses on industrial-scale food production to one that focuses on social justice.

This year’s 2014 Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, held each year in conjunction with the World Food Prize ceremony, is putting the following question front and center: “The Greatest Challenge in Human History: Can We Sustainably Feed the 9 Billion People on our Planet by the Year 2050?”

We already know the answer to that. Yes, we can. With food sovereignty framing the policies and practices that map out the pathway to a just society rooted in self-determination and democratic principles, community-led responses to climate change, equitable distribution and access to land and water for fishing and farming, and—finally—science and technology in service to building resilient communities and led by the experiential knowledge of peasants, we will repair the planet and create the capacity for healthy food production and consumption for generations and generations to come. Peace begins, not when the hungry are fed, but when the people have achieved food sovereignty.

Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.

 

Food Day 2014: Food Justice = Worker Justice!

October 27, 2014
27 Oct 2014

October 22, 2014

 2014-10-22-FCWA_Logofinal.jpg

Five years ago, the Food Chain Workers Alliance was founded as a national coalition of unions, workers centers, and non-profit organizations to work towards a sustainable food system that respects the rights of workers all along the food chain – production, processing, distribution, retail and food service. One of the reasons the nine founding organizations came together to create the Alliance was that they were witnessing the growth of the sustainable food movement around the country, but they didn’t see much attention paid to workers in the food system. We set about to change that and work with the food movement for positive social change.

Now in 2014, we are celebrating Food Day in the U.S. on October 24, and one of the areas of focus for this Food Day is justice for food and farm workers. We’ve come a long way!

In fact, in a recent interview with Edible Manhattan, author and NY Times columnist Mark Bittman said,

“Even five years ago, the sustainability conversation focused almost exclusively on animal welfare and agriculture; those things are obviously crucial, but you don’t need to know anything about food to realize how backwards it is to be more concerned with the provenance of a tomato than the treatment of the worker that picked it. Not only is labor now firmly a part of the equation, but there is important work being done by food workers, NGOs, unions, and others surrounding the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and other key labor policies both nationally and locally.”

So on Food Day 2014, we’re excited to be co-sponsoring an amazing Food Justice Panel & Fair Food Fair at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. with the national Food Day campaign. And we have an amazing line-up of speakers!

2014-10-22-20141015WorldFoodSovereigntyPrizeC2C.jpg One of our panelists is Rosalinda Guillen, the executive director of Community to Community Development (C2C) in Bellingham, Washington. C2C is one of the two winners of this year’s World Food Sovereignty Prize. C2C works with migrant farmworker communities in Washington State whose families are indigenous to Mexico with deep agricultural traditions. C2C was chosen as one of the winners because of its work to reclaim the human right to food through food sovereignty, the democratic recognition of full human rights, and for their commitment to the leadership of those most impacted by the policies that produce hunger. C2C is currently supporting farmworkers at Sakuma Brother Berry Farms, a supplier to Driscoll and Haagen Dazs, who have formed their own union. C2C is also a fellow founding member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, along with the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA).

Our other great panelists include:
• Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and a producer of the forthcoming farmworker documentary Food Chains about FCWA member group the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and its Campaign for Fair Food
• Jose Oliva, the FCWA’s associate director and long-time worker and immigrant rights organizer
• Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists

And our moderator is Michael Jacobson, Food Day Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

If you’re in D.C. on October 24, join us at the National Press Club. If not, find a Food Day activity in your area. And get ready for our 3rd Annual International Food Workers Week, November 23-29, 2014!

Follow Joann Lo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/foodchainworker