Food sovereignty takes root in Eastern Europe

Food sovereignty takes root in Eastern Europe

The fight back against industrial agriculture and for a just and sustainable future for farming and peasant farmers took a leap forward this week as the largest-ever European forum on food sovereignty concluded.

After five days of discussions, the groundwork was laid to take back, relocalise our food systems and multiply food sovereignty platforms across the continent by the hundreds of participants at the second Nyéléni Europe Forum on Food Sovereignty. A huge diversity of people involved in the food system were present, including farmers, food and agricultural workers, trade unionists, researchers, activists, fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, consumers and human rights defenders.

A major outcome of this forum was the convergence of Eastern European and Central Asian organisations, along with their Western European counterparts. Ramona Duminicioiu from the Romanian host organisation Eco Ruralis, said: “Most countries in Eastern Europe are like Romania: they have a very large and vibrant, but equally vulnerable peasant population, threatened by land grabs and cheap land investments from global capital. During this week, we initiated the collective regional struggle and stepped up the coordination of the food sovereignty movement in Western Europe. If the food sovereignty movement is strong in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it is strong in Europe as a whole.”

The convergence in Cluj-Napoca lead to the formation of joint food and agricultural plans, which promote an agroecological model of agriculture. On this note, Jocelyn Parot, General Secretary of Urgenci stressed: “Millions of consumers across Europe are supporting alternative farming models, based on agroecology: they are joining farmers in their fight to regain democratic control over food chains. They’re calling for a change in public policies, which should protect their initiatives instead of pushing for destructive commercial imperatives. This forum was a key step for consumer organisations to develop a strategy within the food sovereignty movement.”

To tackle the destructive exploitation of the industrial food system, a number of key actions were chosen by the forum. These included strategies for just and equitable rights for farmworkers – and migrant workers, in particular – public policies that put natural resources (including land, water, and indigenous tenure rights) in the hands of local people instead of corporations, food distribution systems that put local, sustainable food first, a push for a binding UN treaty to regulate businesses and human rights, and a more inclusive movement that represents marginalised peoples. Central to these actions is agroecology, a radically local, inclusive, and sustainable approach to agriculture. Unusually for discussions around food policy, war and its effects were addressed, with the Turkish delegation noting that it was vital to stand up for peace.

Ali Bulent Erdemm, a member of Ciftci-Sen, the Small Farmer Unions Confederation in Turkey, stated: “War forces people to leave their lands, their homes, their livelihoods. The refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe is a result of war. As defenders of food sovereignty we fight for the rights of refugees and welcome them in our countries. It is vital for the global struggle for food sovereignty to stand up for peace.”

In opposition to rising nationalism across Europe, activists and supporters are uniting across countries from the East to the West, coming together and joining forces. Amidst the negotiation of toxic free-trade agreements, like the recently-signed CETA deal between the EU and Canada, which threaten the very existence of peasant farmers, peoples stand together with food sovereignty at the centre.

Read the Marginal People’s Nyéléni Europe 2016 statement.
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The Nyéléni movement was born in Mali in 2007, and is a global movement that advocates for local, democratic ownership of our food – food sovereignty. More on the history of the Nyéléni movement:
A photo reportage of the event is available on Flickr.