What Exactly is Food Sovereignty?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Presbyterian Youth Triennium (PYT) where I spoke to bright eyed youth about the work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.  I discussed with interested youth and church leaders the concept of food sovereignty, which is a major premise of PHP.   After a little bit of stumbling, I finally got a definition easy to regurgitate: Food sovereignty, “The ability for people to be able to educate and empower themselves to take control of their food system in a culturally appropriate and sustainable way.”   This definition may be easy to roll of the tongue but what does it really mean?  What does it look like?

It takes on real life practicality with the work of, “FONDAMA.”  They work with Haitian farmers to teach various sustainable agriculture practices such as seed saving so they can better feed themselves and others.    Learning such techniques and seeing the results fosters a sense of empowerment rather than the dis-empowering implications of dependency.     

It’s the, “Campaign for Fair Food” which works with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (C.I.W.) to ensure justice for field workers.  Unfortunately, workers most often in tomato fields are exploited and are forced to work in slave type conditions.  For a grim account of the realities of farm worker exploitation read the latest account here.   Fortunately, organizations like C.I.W.  fight for the rights of these workers and empower them as individuals. 

While the term food sovereignty might be a new phrase to some it’s one which demands more attention and awareness.  We need to move from immediate fixes which often throw a band-aid on the problem to a more holistic approach which focuses on the root causes of poverty and hunger and how to properly address them.  We need to support the efforts of organizations like FONDAMA and C.I.W. which empower individuals rather than creating dependency on a food system which could ultimately fail them.