Food Sovereignty: back to basics

Food Sovereignty

Each food-related action carried out by a local authority must be backed by a food sovreignty vision. This has been a key message during the BioCanteens#2 network, but not always easy to convey. In fact, the inappropriate use of the term food sovreignty is nowadays creating more and more misunderstandings, making it easily confused with national protectionism. But lets' go back to basics, and define food sovereignty. What is it, and why is it so important? 

In one year and a half, the cities of BioCanteens#2 network have worked hard to transform the functioning of their school canteens. They have put into question their local agriculture and economy, drafting strategies on how to stimulate organic offer and demand. They have made a consistent job of sensibilization to food-related issues targeting not only kids but politicians, civil society and neighboring cities. All these actions have limited meaning and impact if taken singularly, but gain powerful sense if analysed altogether in a vision of food sovereignty. But what is the real meaning of this concept? 

Food Sovereignty is not to be confused with sovereinism, as it often occurs. In the mouth of many politicians, food sovereinism cares for the growth of the country’s GDP through the structuration of national agri-food industries and value chains. Closing agricultural economy to export and trade becomes the solution to protect national excelleces and economies.

This capitalistic vision of food and agriculture is often miscalled food sovereignty and disguised with messages of environmental and biodiversity preservation, creating confusion.

Food sovereignty deeply cares for the territory at a smaller scale and aspires at decoupling food – essencial need for human beings – from market dynamics. Food sovereignty is about human beings having direct, democratic control over the most important elements of their society – how we feed and nourish ourselves, how we use and maintain the land, water and other resources around us for the benefit of current and future generations, and how we interact with other groups, peoples and cultures. (La via Campesina, 2018). The organisation La Via Campesina introduced this concept in 1996, based on 6 pillars: 

  1. A food system that focuses on food for people : rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity or component for international agri-business.

  2. A food system values food providers and aims at creating fair market conditions

  3. Localises food systems: brings food providers and consumers closer together. Importance of the territories. 

  4. Decisionmaking and control at the local level: recognizes that local territories often cross geopolitical borders and ensures the right of local communities to inhabit and use their territories; it promotes positive interaction between food providers in different regions and territories and from different sectors. No national protectionism

  5. A food system that builds knowledge and skills that are respectful for the future generations' needs

  6. A food system that works with nature, values agroecological practices and takes into account the perspective of Climate Change

Inspired by the theories of François Collart Dutilleul (Nourrir, 2021), we like to add another pillar : Democracy –promoting equal rights for the individuals, for future generations and people, as well as transparency of information

We put all these information on the table during the Biocanteens#2 project because only a strong Food Sovereignty vision will be the engine for future actions.

Submitted by Clara Garrone on 28/12/2022