Last week, representatives of over 20 organizations gathered in Seattle and Bellingham for several days of dialogue, action, and celebration of the growing food sovereignty movement. The Encounter, co-hosted by Community Alliance for Global Justice and Community to Community Development, was a national gathering of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA). On Saturday, we honored Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and Farmworkers Association of Floridaas recipients of the 8th Annual Food Sovereignty Prize, awarded by the USFSA.
As an alternative to the World Food Prize awarded the same weekend in Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes that transformation of our food system comes from the grassroots, frontlines, and communities building power – not corporate, biotech, and Big Ag industries focused on profit over people and the planet. Coming together for the Prize and events was an opportunity to reflect on strengthening our organizing and advocacy for agroecology, food as a human right, dignity for workers across the food chain, and community-led solutions to hunger and climate change.
With banners and signs reflecting messages of the movement in the center of a circle, folks gathered Wednesday night and Thursday at the WA State Labor Council to discuss the current political moment of the USFSA and the new methodology being proposed for building up grassroots leadership and regional structure in the Alliance. Present were both members and non-members of the USFSA, including the local hosts and local groups Got Green, UFCW 21, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, WA State Food Systems Roundtable, WA Sustainable Food and Farming Network; and groups throughout the US: CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee (NJ, MD, PA), Climate Justice Alliance, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (MI), Dreaming Out Loud (D.C.), Family Farm Defenders (WI), Farmworker Association of Florida (FL), Food First (CA), Grassroots International (MA), National Family Farm Coalition (D.C.), Presbyterian Hunger Program (KY), Rural Community Workers Alliance (MO), Soil Generation (PA), Southwest Organizing Project/Project Feed the Hood (NM), US Friends of the MST (IL), VietLead (PA), and WhyHunger (NY). International groups included: Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and La Via Campesina.
In the roundtable meetings, including an added final session on Saturday, important issues around defining “grassroots” and “grassroots-support” organizations and their roles, regional autonomy, and value of the USFSA were discussed, as well as lifting up the interconnected struggles between AFSA and USFSA.
Gates Foundation Action
The gathering would not have been complete without an action and visits to local organizing and food justice work. On Thursday afternoon, attendees and other activists mobilized outside of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to raise issue with the Foundation’s deep ties to the World Food Prize, which includes significant financial contributions to half of the 2016 winners and nearly $1.5 million in funding since 2009. Gates exports a model of market-based, high-tech agricultural investments and genetic engineering and biotechnology. In an interview with Humanosphere on the action, Bern Guri, Chairman of AFSA who came to receive the Prize on its behalf, says: “Food sovereignty is about farmers’ communities being in charge, being able to produce the food they want to produce, to be able to use the seed that they want to grow, to be able to share their seeds among themselves, to be able to use the technologies that they believe work for them.”