Opinion: Peasants embody food sovereignty

Opinion: Peasants embody food sovereignty

18 April 2017

In his call for solidarity, Masa Koné argues that food sovereignty is about controlling our peasant seeds.

Photo: Diana Quiroz

Currently, we live in a world of extremes in the global food system. On one hand, there are the politics of the capitalist system, of those who control the world and just want to make business at our expense. They perpetuate the vision of food security in which a few big corporations produce all the food that we are expected to buy and eat. One of the problems with this situation is that we will not know the origin of those foods, how they are produced and processed, and whether or not they are genetically modified.

On the other hand, there are the people, us, we are the peasants. We embody food sovereignty. The word sovereignty is another word for freedom. And food sovereignty means having control of our peasant seeds, the seeds that we ourselves have selected, planted and harvested for generations. It means producing the food that we know, and owning this knowledge.

But there are a few obstacles that stand in the way of our freedom. The first one has to do with the politics of international trade and economic globalisation, which promote the vision of food security. We peasants produce for ourselves but we also  sell on the market. Yet legislation created by the World Trade Organization favours large corporations and blocks the access to markets for peasants. It is this type of policy that turn us from producers into consumers of food.

Another obstacle is war. And war is situation created by a few politicians but in which we all lose. Through war we lose our land and our homes which we have struggled to build. Through war we lose our animals and we lose access to the waters where we fish. We must find a solution to war, but cannot do this alone.

Therefore, we need to join forces in order to achieve our vision of food sovereignty. All over the world, civil society is increasingly supporting agroecology and food sovereignty. People are also fighting for control over natural resources and sustainable management of the environment. There is still a long way to go. In Africa, we face repression and land grabbing, and in Europe people face difficulties accessing land and lack of political willingness.

Nonetheless, we move forward. Meetings like the Nyéléni forum on food sovereignty offer a space of convergence where we can discuss how to achieve this vision. When everybody commits to the cause, we can achieve a lot.

Massa Koné (kmassa26@gmail.com) is secretary general of the Union of Associations and Coordination of Associations for the Development and Defence of the Rights of the Deprived (UACDDDD) and spokesperson of the Malian Convergence Against Land Grabbing.