Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming our food system

Nicole Vosper
Friday, 7th October 2011

Food sovereignty is the right of people to democratically define their own food and agricultural systems without harming other people or the environment. This week marks the beginning of a worldwide week of action to celebrate and also to campaign for food sovereignty.

Food sovereignty is a framework that has emerged from the grassroots efforts of small farmers in the Global South. They have taken action to protect their livelihoods and determine their own food systems in the face of power inequalities and the ecological harm from industrial agriculture. Beyond protesting about problems however, food sovereignty like permaculture offers a framework for solutions.

"Food sovereignty is an issue relevant to every permaculturist," says Permaculture Association' trustee Tomas Remiarz. 

Food sovereignty: A global movement for local food schemes & against GM crops

"The idea of food sovereignty puts the day-to-day work of permaculture into a larger context and connects us to people everywhere in the world." Permaculture can now be placed in the beating heart of a global movement. "It can make visible the links between seemingly disparate issues and bring people addressing them together," says Tomas. "Whether we try to grow our own food, run a local food scheme, campaign against genetic engineering, for access to land or better conditions for farm labourers, people around the globe are working on food sovereignty in a million different ways."

Democratically controlled food systems

Bhutan, one of the few countries in the world that still has traditional agriculture untouched by corporates.Earlier this year, members of the Permaculture Association voted in favour of signing the Declaration of Nyéléni. The declaration was born from the first Food Sovereignty Forum in Mali, Africa in 2007, where six core principles emerged that illustrate how food systems can be designed to place people and the environment at the centre of democratically controlled food systems.

Food Sovereignty as a framework is now being embraced across Europe. Tomas recently returned from the first European Food Sovereignty Forum in Austria, which brought together over 400 people from 34 different countries. "It was hugely inspiring to have discussions with Turkish trade unionists, Swiss land activists, researchers from Germany and so many other people. The question that brought us together was: How can we, the people of Europe, feed ourselves without destroying other people's opportunities to feed themselves?"

Food sovereignty workshops, gatherings and events

Momentum is now building to create a movement for food sovereignty in the UK. A workshop and presentation will be taking place at the Permaculture Association's upcoming annual general meeting and a regional gathering is taking place in Somerset to introduce people to the ideas behind food sovereignty and showcase the work already taking place around the south west. Campaigning organisation War on Want, together with the All Parliamentary Group on Agroecology have organised a major food sovereignty event in London to discuss the strategy and adoption of food sovereignty in the UK. An international rally will also give a platform to representatives of farmer's movements from Sri Lanka, Brazil and Mozambique.

Young people are also at the forefront of the movement with groups such as Reclaim the Fields having their first UK gatherings this year in London and Bristol. The desire for a food system no longer dominated by multinational corporations or a handful of retailers is escalating. Through permaculture and the 'grow your own' revolution, many young people are itching to go back to the land and grow for their communities. The vibrant community food movement has given communities the taste for change and as the seeds are sown for food sovereignty in the UK, this positive movement for social change could soon be bearing fruit.

This article was written by Nicole Vosper you can find her website at:

Useful resources

The Future of Food DVD - Giving a voice to the farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by unlabelled GM patented food that has silently been filling our supermarket shelves for the past decade; this film explores the health implications of GM food, government policies and global influence of multinational corperations that seek to control the world's food system. Informative, educational and motivating! 

LOCAL FOOD, How to make it happen in your community - This book explores a huge range of initiatives for rebuilding a diverse, resilient local food network – including community gardens and food cooperatives.