Exploring food sovereignty for sustainable development

IN the discourse of food systems and agricultural production, the term food security has been widely used and has become a cliché.In eradicating hunger and taming poverty to improve community livelihoods and resilience, there was nothing wrong with the use of the overused term food security.


Peter Makwanya

However, there have been suggestions that food security may not be quite inclusive and sustainable enough, hence the need to explore the term food sovereignty.In this regard, how can food sovereignty be more appropriate yet both terms speak to food sufficiency?

Food security continues to be at the epicentre of sustainable livelihoods and is tied to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere) and 2 (end hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture).

Food security has revolutionise the food system discourse and communication with regard to food crises, recurring droughts and famines, leading to the creation of another term food insecurity.

Food security has been widely used to describe global efforts to address the problem of hunger and malnutrition.

Food sovereignty has rarely been used yet it is assumed to be the most ideal, inclusive and sustainable.

Food sovereignty is seen as, the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, hence the right for communities to define their own food and agricultural systems.

Furthermore, placing the needs and livelihoods of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.

One wonders if the coining of these two terms (food security and food sovereignty) is pure communication, semantics or global politics of the food systems, because food is food.

That is why the terms food security and insecurity have refused to die, while food sovereignty is struggling to gain linguistic prominence.

From the assumed definition of food sovereignty, a deeper analysis would reveal that, maybe food security has an ecological gap.

While food security is aimed at addressing issues of food insecurity and hunger, through dominant market forces, food sovereignty seeks to build new parameters and address the root causes through a bottom-up grassroot approach.

In this regard, it would mean that food sovereignty favours rural innovations for the marginalised and vulnerable which can be pro-poor (for the poor), para-poor (working with the poor) and per-poor (innovation by the poor in their communities).

In this regard, food security may be seen as having inherent deficiencies and gaps in addressing problems of pro-poor growth because of being controlled by market forces, including failure to sufficiently address global hunger.

Food sovereignty is seen as having the capacity to fight global hunger and malnutrition hence it is deeply rooted in SDGs 1 and 2.

Furthermore, food sovereignty is characterised by sustainable development, environmental conservation, genuine agricultural reforms which are not engulfed by market forces, mutual dependency on local, small-scale community prosperity.

As the situation stands, food security appears to lack sufficient placement of the locals and situating them strategically in their communities of practice as small-scale farmers for their agricultural production and prosperity.

Food sovereignty is regarded as placing cultural values in the production and consumption of food as opposed to focusing on mere nutritional values without supporting active
lives.

Cultural values are significant in improving and transforming the people’s world view, sustainable value chains and additions.

In food sovereignty, food production is seen as supporting and shaping livelihoods of the people around the world engaged in small-scale production for generations.

Therefore, their sovereignty and rights supersede market forces and small-scale farmers are situated at the heart of agricultural production worldview and localisation.

Food sovereignty is considered to be instrumental in the face of growing challenges and threats of climate change. Food security is assumed to be silent on the aspect of climate change, either considering to embed or background it.

In this regard, the relationship between climate change and food security is either highly imagined or just taken for granted as part of sustainable development.

Furthermore, the highly talked about food security is also assumed to be deficient in addressing issues of ecosystem balancing since the world continues to witness land degradation, depletion of nutrients, desertification, groundwater shortages, pollution and erosion of cultural values, among others.

Food sovereignty is considered appropriate in its ability to factor in social control at the heart of production.

It also acknowledges that there are cultural and social dimensions to food as well taking into consideration the value of access to market supplies of food, food production and supplies to the consumers.

In this regard, food sovereignty is seen as autonomous rather than promoting monopolies while food security is believed to have resulted in the loss of autonomy, hence farmers and local producers no longer have a voice in their farming matters and market systems.

Food sovereignty calls for the mobilisation of small-scale producers to build spaces and confidence for participation of locals and establish localised food systems, livelihoods and ecologies.

It is in this regard that the local and the grassroot voices are the best in sustainable development as well as being instrumental in the fight against climate change impacts.

For these reasons, food sovereignty can be described as sufficiently informative and transformational, resulting in social justice and ecological sustainability.

It creates room for small-scale producers that have been marginalised by the corporate monopoly for generations to articulate problems from their own experiences.

Finally, food sovereignty intends to build alternatives to the food security discourse, with the strength to localise food systems and emphasise the role of food production as a social and cultural part of the people’s livelihoods including fighting against climate change.

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