Posted October 15, 2015 by Pete Huff   

Used under creative commons license from Donna Cleveland.

In the current media environment, there’s a lot of seemingly contradictory information about the “right” way to grow and eat food. Setting out to address these tensions in a public forum, the Food Dialogues® came to Minneapolis this summer. The event–entitled “Farm to Consumer: Bridging the Gap Between Consumer Concerns and Food Production and Sourcing Decisions”–was presented as an open panel discussion on the way the nation grows and eats food, now and into the future.

At first glance, the dialogue between actors such as Minneapolis Public Schools, a national leader in providing healthy, regionally sourced foods, and General Mills, a major financial backer for groups that fight improved school nutrition standards, appeared promising. Equally promising was the presence of the farm voice, specifically Riverbend farm, a small, community supported organic farm, side-by-side with Cargill, the nation’s largest privately held corporation. However, looking behind the curtain of this and other Food Dialogues® events around the country reveals the less objective agenda of those setting the stage–an agenda that had little interest in a real dialogue about the future of farming and food systems.

Supported and advised by a long list of “industry partners” including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere and other perennial favorites, the Food Dialogues® are more a promotional product than a real dialogue. Investing in public events like the Food Dialogues® is common practice for some of the largest corporations driving our current farming and food system. The industrial agriculture and food sector spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to influence what ends up on our forks. In its new report Spinning Food, Friends of the Earth highlights the fact that industry trade associations and front groups for industrial agriculture and food spent over $740 million privately to influence public policy, media and consumer behavior toward their products between 2009 and 2013. That’s nearly $150 million spent annually by agribusiness to ensure that the status quo dinner table remains set.

The Food Dialogues® are hosted in cities around the country by commodity producer associations and funded with public and private dollars to further the interests of industrial agriculture, thus indirectly favoring corporate consolidation over producers and local control. For the Food Dialogues®, the driving force is the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), who sponsored the Minnesota event in conjunction with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (a branch of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association) and the Nebraska Soybean Board. These three organizations collectively raised approximately $38 million in revenue in 2012 (the most recent tax information that is consistently available). While the latter two are less public about the composition of their funding, the USFRA website claims that nearly a third of its funding comes from “industry partners,” corporations with a clear interest when it comes to the “right” way to grow and process food. As for the rest of the bill, that’s where those who work the land pick up the tab. Remarkably, farmers and ranchers are legally compelled to fund these promotional associations and events, regardless of whether they agree with their message or whether the message helps or hurts their farms.  While a lack of financial transparency obscures the breakdown of income for many commodity groups, USFRA notes that the remaining two-thirds of its funding comes from what they call “farmer-and-rancher-led affiliates.” This compelled support is better known as checkoff program money.

Taxing farmers and ranchers to promote agribusiness

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the “checkoff program,” is supposed to act as a “promotion and research program.” Checkoff programs are established by federal law and are crafted to promote the consumption of particular agricultural products (pork, eggs, corn, soy, etc.) that typically enter the market in less processed forms and, therefore, make it difficult for producers to distinguish their products via advertising. For example, instead of two farms marketing their eggs separately, it is more cost-effective to work together to encourage consumers to buy eggs over another protein source. In short, a rising egg tide lifts all producer boats. Hence the 1974 Egg Research and Consumer Information Act was passed to establish a framework for the egg checkoff.

Under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996,the overarching and coordinating federal law for “commodity promotion laws,” check-off programs function as a mandatory tax,  typically around one percent, that farmers of a particular commodity must pay per unit of that particular commodity sold at market or to processors. These taxes are collected by the USDA and are redistributed by the agency to approved checkoff organizations for the purpose of promoting the commodity crop in a generic sense (i.e. not promoting a particular brand or company). According to the National Agricultural Law Center, “checkoff programs attempt to improve the market position of the covered commodity by expanding markets, increasing demand, and developing new uses and markets.” For example, according to the Pork Checkoff website, “U.S. pork producers and importers pay $0.40 per $100 of value when pigs are sold and when pigs or pork products are brought into the United States.” While this seems like a small amount to pay, the money adds up quickly for checkoff programs-the National Pork Board alone cleared $81 million in revenue in 2011.

According to Alan Guebert, agriculture journalist and author, there are currently 22 federal check off programs that include both familiar and unfamiliar commodities from beef to mangos and raise approximately $750 million per year from U.S. farmers and ranchers. The results are some of the more iconic advertising campaigns of the 20th century: “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner,” brought to you by the National Livestock and Meat Board; “The Incredible Edible Egg,” by the American Egg Board; “Pork: the Other White Meat;” “Got Milk?;” and other advertising campaigns of the  same variety. While the organizations that fund these advertisements will claim market development success, there is little independent economic analysis evidence to validate these claims, and more important, the money is not being spent to promote small-scale organic or sustainably produced products, or food raised or grown for local markets.

Legally, checkoff programs have long been contentious in their purpose and practice. Federal law requires that checkoff programs hold a vote for participants to determine the continuation, suspension or termination of the program and requires that programs authorize and fund an independent evaluation every five years. Along with late fees and interest payments, penalties for violating program requirements can cost a producer upwards of $10,000. Given the mandatory nature of the programs, it’s not surprising that not all producers agree that the touted benefits of checkoff programs are worthwhile. In 2000, a majority of pork producers voted to end the pork checkoff–but the USDA, on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council, overturned the vote.  

Over the past two decades, several key legal battles have highlighted two of the major participant complaints: that checkoff programs are inequitable because producers required to pay for them don’t receive equal benefit, and, perhaps more concerning, that the programs violate the First Amendment rights of their participants. While efforts have been made to ensure the equal delivery of benefit through various exemptions and credit programs, particularly for small, organic and specialty producers that claim their size and/or products don’t benefit from generic advertisement, the programs remain contentious. It should be noted that with the exponential growth of the market for organics and subsequent rise of large-scale corporate organic producers, there is currently a controversial effort underway to establish a checkoff program for the organic sector.

Regarding the constitutionality, USDA programs have regularly been considered by various courts to determine if checkoffs violate free speech. Complaints center around the fact that qualifying producers are legally compelled to contribute to shared advertising which they may not agree with and are thus forced into associated with businesses they otherwise avoid, including those who import competitive foreign products into domestic markets. However, a 2005 Supreme Court decision ruled that checkoff participants have no legal claim to First Amendment violations.

Beyond the functionality of the checkoff programs as they exist legally, the various organizations they support have long been subject to scrutiny regarding the ethics and accountability of their practices. The authorizing legislation for checkoff programs limits the activities of funded entities to advertising, promotion, consumer education and research—explicitly forbidding lobbying efforts. However, two current examples provide a window into how industry is increasingly involved in the political process.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is revisiting a lawsuit against the USDA by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) regarding the relationship between the National Pork Board (NPB), a checkoff approved organization, and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), a lobbying group. The case is specifically looking at the legality of the USDA’s approval for the NPB to license “Pork, The Other White Meat” to the NPPC for $3 million per year for 20 years.

In another current example, evidence has emerged this month that potentially links the American Egg Board (AEB), an authorized checkoff organization, to a coordinated multi-year attack on Hampton Creek, the San Francisco-based, plant-based protein food company that made waves with its open letters about changing the food system that were recently published in the New York Times. Perhaps more concerning than the apparent malice of the AEB, is the fact that USDA staff are clearly implicated in the electronic paper trail. These current transgressions are not the only examples of the use of checkoff funds being questionable–explorations of the practices of checkoff programs typically reveal that oversight is limited at the best and non-existent at the worst.

It’s clear that checkoff organizations aren’t neutral ground for an unbiased conversation.

The private and public funding behind groups like the USFRA and events like the Food Dialogues® and other related events should be clearly identified to their participants and the general public–and given a more accurate description: paid advertising. The discussion that the Food Dialogues® takes on is a needed one, but, given the power and questionable behavior of checkoff organizations, that discussion needs to be more balanced, transparent and inclusive.  An equitable and effective dialogue about farming and food should bridge the gap between producers and consumers and lead to solutions that benefit both, not simply agribusiness.  

Posted October 13, 2015 by     Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First

An OFRANEH youth brigade member waters sweet chili pepper in a family garden. Photos by Steve Pavey.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

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

On October 14th 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.

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Other Worlds.

Attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa or watch the livestream. More information available at

Posted October 8, 2015 by     Stephen Bartlett, Agricultural Missions, and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds

Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH. Photo courtesy of Grassroots International.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

“Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty,” said Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, or OFRANEH by its Spanish acronym, in an interview.

OFRANEH is winner of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize, given by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. “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,” said Miranda. “It’s about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land. We need to become producers.”

In order to produce, through, one must have land. OFRANEH has organized the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people of the Atlantic Coast of Honduras into a movement to protect Garifuna territory – including ecologically rich lands, rivers, forests, and oceanfront - against theft by multinational corporations, the national government, and the oligarchy. On the lands and waters, OFRANEH members are also actively strengthening their skills of ecological farming and sustainable small-scale fishing practices.

OFRANEH also aims to defend all that is nurtured upon their territories. This includes community, autonomy, traditional culture, the Garinagu language, local radio stations, ancestral spirituality, and ceremonial life.

OFRANEH’s defense of its identity and territory is head-on, through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.

Garifuna lands are being grabbed, with approval from the Honduran government and often the US government - for tourism, a naval base, deep-water port, and gas and oil extraction. This is despite Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Honduras’ own constitution, which guarantees free, prior, and informed consent to any projects in indigenous territories. Narco-traffickers have seized additional lands.

On September 10, 2015, Garifuna peoples were forcibly evicted from the city of Puerto Castillo – formerly claimed by United Fruit Company – by a major landowner. This robbing of ancestral lands and compressing the displaced into a restricted location has happened in the town before, for the construction of a major port.

The community of Triunfo de la Cruz has brought a case about dispossession of its land to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This is only the fourth case ever brought to protect indigenous territories. (The other three are the Sarayacu in Ecuador, the Saramaca in Suriname, and the Awas Tingni in Nicaragua.) A decision is expected soon.

Narco-traffickers, interested in the strategic characteristics of the land for clandestine drug running – space for a runway, a hidden creek to the sea, and remote location – had invaded the legally titled Garifuna lands. In 2012, the community reoccupied its land with drumming and ceremony, despite narco and paramilitary threats and automatic rifle fire. Since then, however, a portion of the land has been re-invaded by campesinos, with the support of narcos. The community is threatened with an illegal sale by narco-connected individuals, with the complicity of politicians. OFRANEH’s strategy to win back and keep Vallecito is to apply strong enough pressure, together with allies around Honduras and the world, that the governmental Agrarian Institute of Honduras (INA) will be forced to evict the illegal usurpers.

The future of Vallecito is complicated by Honduran government plans for so-called “charter cities” (ciudades modelos in Spanish), foreign enclaves shielded from Honduran sovereignty with their own security and laws, financed by international investors. Vallecito is at the center of a large swath of Garifuna territory the government has in mind for this project. If it is consolidated, dozens of Garifuna communities could be displaced.

Regardless, OFRANEH plans to recover and keep Vallecito and transform it into a center of Garifuna renewal.  All community members dislocated from their lands, for whatever reason, will be able to resettle there. Strengthening traditional Garifuna agriculture, aqua-culture, and culture in general will be an integral part of the resettlement. Immediate plans include the construction of a Garifuna ceremonial/cultural building. Youth leadership development is another part of the plan, so that urban youth and young adults can learn the same skills and knowledge as Garifunas living in remote rural locations.

Like other indigenous and non-indigenous Hondurans standing up for their rights, the Garifunas suffer continual violence, threats, and human rights abuses. Both the land grabs and the violence surrounding them are part of a political climate resulting from a coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009. Then, with the help of the US government, a clique of the top oligarchs of the nation swept to power. The U.S. government has played an enabling role with a series of post-coup regimes, providing political cover and military and police aid, and looking the other way as human rights violations and impunity mount. Hundreds of assassinations of opposition organizers and their family members have marked Honduras in recent years, bringing to mind the death squads of the 1980s. 

In addition to the government’s impunity and corruption, the illegally imposed congress has conceded land and minerals to foreign investors. Beyond what is happening in indigenous communities, campesino land across the country is being grabbed by agribusiness, particularly for African palm plantations planted to feed the craze for biofuel in the North.

Miriam Miranda said, “Our lands and identities are critical to our lives. For us, the struggle for our territories and our commons and our natural resources is of primary importance to preserve ourselves as a people.” 

Attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa or watch the livestream. More information available at

Originally published by Daily Kos.

Posted October 7, 2015 by     Shannon Duncan Bodwell

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

“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.

Attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa or watch the livestream. More information available at

Originally published by Grassroots International.

Posted October 7, 2015 by     Beverly Bell, Other Worlds

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.

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

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.

Attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa or watch the livestream. More information available at

Originally posted at

Posted October 6, 2015 by     Beverly Bell, Other Worlds

Food Sovereignty Prize Domestic Winner Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC)

This is part of a blog series around the 2015 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize, which will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015. The Food Sovereignty Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, which IATP is a member organization. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human necessity and public good and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.

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.

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.

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 visit

Attend the Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa or watch the livestream. More information available at

Posted October 2, 2015 by     Matilde Perez U., La Jornada (Mexico)

TradeTPPFree trade agreements

Used under creative commons license from mapper-montag.

English translation of original post by La Jornada

The Union of Dairy Producers of the Mexican Republic and the Mexican Dairy Federation asked the government to refrain from presenting offers in the negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which are being carried out in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, that have not been agreed to by the national sector.

The National Front of Dairy Producers and Consumers demanded that the product be removed from the negotiations. Alvaro Gonzalez Muñoz, the group’s president, explained that the risks are very high, since the nations that make up the commercial bloc will offer very low prices for dairy products, which will lead to the bankruptcy of the majority of the 250,000 producers.

Vicente Gomez Cobo, president of the Mexican Dairy Federation, indicated that the national negotiators “should not use milk producers as a bargaining chip. We are not like textiles or patented medicines.”

Salvador Alvarez Moran, president of the Union of Dairy Producers of the Mexican Republic, explained that the sector is going through a profound crisis, created by the oversupply of milk on world markets, which has led to a 70 percent drop in prices in the last year and a half. “The situation could get worse if we include dairy in the TPP, since New Zealand is the main exporter of milk and cheeses in the world. Its competitive advantages allow it to produce milk at half of what it costs in Mexico.”

He referred to the Mexican dairy supply chain, which is made up of 250,000 farms, of which 96 percent have fewer than 100 heads of cattle, and which generate 635,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Both reported that the 240,000 dairy producers continue to confront a complicated situation due to the low prices they receive, which are below the costs of production. “Hundreds of small and medium producers are at risk of disappearing,” they indicated in separate interviews.

Gomez Cobo said that production costs have risen 30 percent due to the effects of the devaluation of the peso against the dollar, since 85 percent of inputs are priced in that currency.

Posted October 1, 2015 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn   

AgricultureTradeTPPFree trade agreements

Used under creative commons license from cafnr.

Trade ministers and negotiators are meeting this week in Atlanta in what might be the final round of negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Leaving aside the fact that they first announced a “final” round nearly two years ago, it does seem that they are down to a few sticking points. As in so many trade agreements, whether and how to include agriculture is one of those points of controversy. This time, much of the debate focuses on just how much the member countries must open their dairy markets to imports, and whether Canada will be compelled to weaken its dairy supply management program.

These demands come at a time when dairy producers in many countries are reeling from falling prices. After increases in global prices over the last few years, farmers in many countries increased production. Then conditions changed dramatically. Russia banned dairy imports from the U.S, EU and Australia. China substantially increased its own production. According to USDA reports, the price of non-fat dry milk (the main reference price) fell from $1.77 per pound in 2014 to about $0.89 as of September 2015.

Wild swings in supply and demand have pushed many dairy farmers over the edge. According to an article in Bloomberg Business, the U.S. has lost more than 76 percent of its dairy farms in the last 25 years. In the article, Andrew Novakovic, an economics professor at Cornell, said, “This is a problem of globalization. You are exposing yourself to a lot of risk without a lot of control.”

Sound familiar? One of the big lessons since the 2008–2009 food price crisis has been that volatile prices are bad for both farmers and consumers. And that too much dependence on fickle world markets is dangerous for food security. But the official answer to the dairy crisis that resulted from too much of a focus on global markets seems to be to open those markets wider and more permanently.

Canada’s dairy supply management program has helped to insulate it from these wild swings, but that sensible policy is under threat in TPP. In what sounds like a kind of shell game, several governments are demanding market opening under TPP, each with the idea of strengthening its access to the others’ markets. For several years now, New Zealand has made clear that one of its top priorities in TPP is to open U.S. and Japanese markets to imports of milk protein concentrate on behalf of Fonterra, which controls the vast majority of its production. The U.S. has said that it won’t increase access to its dairy market unless Canada opens its dairy markets to U.S. exports.

Canadian dairy farmers are pushing back, staging protests all over the country, including bringing cows and tractors to block traffic at the Parliament to protest the proposed TPP deal. They have made it a major issue in the electoral campaign, with current Prime Minister Stephen Harper claiming that he will safeguard the current system. Still, agriculture ministers for Ontario and Quebec, the two biggest dairy producing regions, decided to join the talks over concerns that the federal government would give up too much. Quebec Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis said, "We want the minister, who left the federal campaign to go down there, to feel that this is a big deal."

The Dairy Division of the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF) issued a statement saying that, “we believe that sovereign democratic nations have the right to protect jobs and livelihoods in the interests of their peoples. For example, the supply management system in Canada provides price stability for producers and income stability for workers and has widespread democratic support within Canada. Its retention or otherwise should solely be for the people of Canada to decide, free from any intimidation or blackmail by corporate interests or by other nations.”

If dairy markets are opened under TPP, the end result won’t be just more milk being shipped across borders. It will undoubtedly lead to further bankruptcies of family farmers who are unable to cope with falling prices and rising costs, and greater control by a few big businesses. The driving force for these proposals is not farmers, consumers or even governments. It is agribusiness groups including the U.S. Dairy Export Council and Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy producer, for whom a “balanced” approach means opening up markets as much as possible.

The lessons of the past are clear. Trade agreements have been used as weapons against supply management programs, going back to NAFTA and the 1996 U.S. Farm Bill. Opening agriculture to “market” forces dominated by a few big producers results in greater corporate concentration, reduced bargaining power for smaller producers, and new challenges for fair and sustainable local economies. TPP is supposed to be a 21st Century trade agreement, but it looks like more of the same failed policies. It’s time to learn the lessons of history instead of just repeating them. 

Posted September 30, 2015 by Ben Lilliston   


Used under creative commons license from Andrew Barclay.

One year after it was launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York, the controversial Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) is at the center of an emerging international debate. Last week, more than 350 civil society organizations from around the world urged global decision-makers to oppose GACSA, charging that the initiative opens the door for agribusiness greenwashing while undermining agroecological solutions to climate change.

GACSA, housed at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is made up of 21 national governments, agribusiness interests (particularly the fertilizer industry) and some civil society groups. GACSA was formed to lobby international institutions, like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to support agricultural production systems and projects deemed “climate smart.”

But with a murky governance structure, no solid criteria or definitions for what climate smart agriculture (CSA) is or isn’t, and heavy corporate influence, GACSA appears to be more of a marketing campaign than a positive way forward for agriculture in the age of climate change. In their open letter, civil society groups criticized “climate smart” agriculture’s lack of social or environmental safeguards and failure to prioritize farmers’ voices, knowledge and rights.  Without clear definitions, corporations such as Monsanto, Walmart, Syngenta and the world’s largest fertilizer company, Yara, have filled the void, branding themselves as “climate smart.”

Instead, the groups opposed to GACSA called for greater recognition of “agroecology within a food and seed sovereignty framework” to help the world adapt to a changing climate while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, we “need a radical transformation of our food systems away from an industrial model and its false solutions, and toward food sovereignty, local food systems, and integral agrarian reform in order to achieve the full realization of the human right to adequate food and nutrition,” the groups wrote.

GACSA is part of a larger debate happening at international institutions (like the UNFCCC, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization) and within national governments about how to integrate our understanding of climate change into agriculture and food policy. Last year, a letter signed by 70 scholars openly opposed the “climate smart” agriculture model, promoting instead the scientific and social legitimacy of agroecology. Agroecology, with a strong emphasis on community ownership, farmer knowledge and food sovereignty, poses a direct challenge to the corporate-led, chemically-intensive industrial model of food production.

The issue is also being debated at the Green Climate Fund (GFC, a funding mechanism to support developing country programs, established at the 2010 Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in Cancun), which hopes to announce initial funding for projects prior to the December climate talks. The GCF should be a good match for supporting agroecology in developing countries. GCF projects need to provide broad environmental and social benefits–including a gender-sensitive approach. At least 50 percent of the GCF’s projects must focus on climate adaptation–what is most needed by developing countries. IATP contributed to a report earlier this year on exactly how the GCF could support agroecology.

U.S. government agencies are also considering how to integrate “climate smart” agriculture into their programs. The U.S. Agency for International Assistance (USAID)’s Feed the Future program sought comment earlier this month on integrating “climate smart” agriculture into their programs (See IATP’s comment to USAID, calling for a stronger emphasis on agroecology). The USDA is currently seeking comment on a new interagency report titled: Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System In the U.S., we can expect the debate over what is and isn’t “climate smart” to escalate as we head into the writing of the next U.S. Farm Bill in 2018.

Right now, the focus of the climate smart debate is at the FAO, which hosts both GACSA and a series of international symposiums on agroecology. Later this year, global decision-makers at the UNFCCC meeting in Paris will consider whether to support a GACSA-driven agenda or farmer and community-led agroecology. GACSA has the backing of some enormously powerful political and economic interests that can lean heavily on international institutions. But those same interests are not immune from the impacts of climate change–including economic and political instability. When it comes to the future of agriculture, we can’t afford to choose GACSA-led marketing over agroecology’s proven track record. 

Posted September 28, 2015 by Dr. M. Jahi Chappell   

Part of the meeting included area farm tours.

IATP’s long-time ally in Mexico, ANEC (the National Association of Producers' Enterprises) held a three-day conference recently (Aug. 31 – Sept. 2) celebrating its 20th anniversary, and more significantly, discussing what should be the next steps in creating an international agenda for agroecology in Latin America. Momentum in favor of agroecology is growing in response to a number of documents and events including our own report on Scaling Up Agroecology, several open letters by prominent scientists, International Seminars in Rome and Brasilia organized by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Nyéléni Declaration of the International Forum on Agroecology, and upcoming meetings in Senegal and Thailand, to name a few examples.  Building on that momentum, the meeting’s theme was “Peasant Economies and Agroecology: Social Movements, Knowledge Exchange, and Public Policies.”

The meeting included more than 300 participants from 16 countries and 15 Mexican states. Following the opening remarks of Olga Alcaraz (Secretary of ANEC’s Governing Board) and Victor Suárez (Executive Director of ANEC and former IATP board member), I gave my own welcoming comments (IATP assisted as co-coordinators of the conference). Looking out into the crowd before I began my formal talk, I asked how many campesinos[i] were in the audience; I figured there was a good number due to the many Stetson hats in the crowd. Around a third of the attendees—100 people or so—raised their hands. This, I noted, was an excellent sign, and one of the most exciting and significant elements of this anniversary and conference: there are very few conferences I have attended as a professor or as a staff member at a nonprofit that had so many farmer attendees. Having a critical mass of the people living the challenges we’re confronting is so important, and alongside the numerous extensionists and academics, the ANEC meeting showed the power of bringing scientists and farmers together directly to talk and exchange experiences. What’s more, the scientists in attendance included some of the most prominent agroecologists in Mexico and in the Americas more generally. The full program is available on ANEC’s website, but several highlights include Dr. Victor Toledo of the National University of Mexico, whose nearly 300 articles and presentations have again and again lent scientific support to the vibrancy and importance of campesino agriculture and innovation, and Dr. Clara Nicholls, the current president of the Latin American Scientific Society for Agroecology.

Those two prominent scientists barely scratch the surface of the numerous dedicated, knowledgeable, and deeply passionate researchers in attendance. And in addition to farmers, researchers, activists, university administrators, financial authorities, and representatives of charitable foundations who support agroecology, the new national Secretary of Agriculture of Mexico, José Eduardo Calzada Rovirosa, and the Mexican representative to the FAO, Dr. Fernando Agustín Soto Baquero gave remarks and support.

After presentations by many of these figures, the conference broke into working groups on Day Two. The groups covered five separate topics of fundamental importance to realizing and supporting peasant agroecology:

  • Peasant and social movements in agroecology
  • Technological alternatives and the dialogue of knowledges
  • Gender equality and inter-generational turnover
  • Biodiversity and climate change
  • Nutrition and food sovereignty

What’s interesting is that these five themes are relevant not just in Latin America, but in the U.S., and throughout the world. We’re seeing this in forum after forum, not just at the FAO Regional Meetings nor simply from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology in the UK, or even in recent discussion and debate with the European Parliament.  These themes appear in scholarly papers and demands by social movement members themselves. We’re seeing these their relevance in the continued study and implementation of “dialogues between ways of knowing” and alternative practices, in the focus on supporting women and youth and their leadership and also supporting men to assume a wider diversity of new and shared roles. And we continue to learn ever more about the potential for agroecology to support biodiversity, address climate change and resilience, and to enhance nutrition and food sovereignty.

The meeting in Mexico ended with a powerful joint statement, agreed to by acclamation from the conference floor, acknowledging that “Because the model of peasant agroecology is an alternative paradigm, not only for agriculture, food, and climate change, but for of all life against the collapse of civilization in which we live, we consider it a duty of solidarity and an unavoidable political commitment to share it, to divulge it, to advance it for all of our America.” The final statement also agreed to a number of commitments from the attendees, including:

  • To initiate a process in which we involve all to follow up on the agreements of this meeting; to build a space of convergence, of research and investigation in common.
  • To launch the permanent process of building a movement of peasant agroecology.
  • To generate networks between producers and consumers;
  • To push for gender equality at all levels: familial, organizational, societal and institutional, and to demand [corresponding] public policy and programs in all the countries.
  • To fight for and demand opportunities to celebrate and promote the role of young boys and girls in rural areas through educational reforms that recognize multiculturalism and multiple identities, and that provide jobs and other opportunities to facilitate intergenerational relief in the countryside.
  • To promote through all media the continuous interchange of both scientific and peasant knowledge and experiences as an actual alternative of agroecology.
  • To work with peasants, consumers, academics, and civil society organizations to articulate a proposal toward the transition, recognizing legally the collective rights of the indigenous peoples and peasants, promoting the conservation of the richness of biocultural patrimony and pushing for the development of agroecological lands, resilient and adaptable in the face of climate change.

[Some points have been summarized here for brevity; read the full declaration in Spanish or an English translation of the declaration.

With the FAO Regional Meetings on Agroecology in Africa and Asia to come this November, commitments from the ANEC meeting attendees to participate in worldwide days of action against free trade agreements (October 10–17, 2015), the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, possible regional meetings on agroecology in Europe and more still, we are seeing the beginning—and maybe beginning to see the middle—of the transition towards a truly just, sustainable, sovereign and agroecological system happening right before our eyes. That said, we cannot wait for it to happen. It will happen because we work together to keep this momentum, collectively and around the world, and keep pushing the agendas of agroecology forward.

Photos from the event and farm tour.

[i] “Campesino” translates more or less as “peasant”, but in Spanish it carries more of its original connotations of “a person of the land” and is not considered insulting as it is customarily in English. It refers to small and medium-scale farmers, who in many cases are experiencing the same struggles around the world—including in the US and Europe. For the purposes of this piece, I use campesino, peasant, and farmer interchangeably.

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