Food Sovereignty is the democratic control by communities of producers and consumers over the agricultural system and markets, from production to food processing to distribution, guaranteeing an equitable and inclusive access to healthy, culturally appropriate food while maintaining the fertility and ecological sustainability of the land and its creatures. The term was first used in 1996 by the worldwide farmers’ movement known as Via Compesina. (Mass Hunger in the Midst of Record Harvests? Why the World Needs Food Sovereignty by Stephen Bartlett, March 2009)

“Consequently, the promotion of justice is at the heart of a true culture of solidarity. It is not just a question of giving one’s surplus to those in need, but of helping entire peoples presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development. For this to happen, it is not enough to draw on the surplus goods which in fact our world abundantly produces; it requires above all a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies.” (Pope John Paul II, 2001 World Day of Peace Message)

The chalayplasa in Peru is a network of local food markets based on bartering that has gained importance during the last decade. The barter markets take place in the Lares valley in the southeastern Andes. The region is about 3600 square km, encompassing some 30 communities, with more than 4000 people exchanging on the markets. At the weekly market in Lares, yunga women bring up their fruit, coffee, yucca and coca, quechua women bring corn, pulses and vegetables and puna women offer potatoes, tubers, wool and meat. Altogether they trade more than five tons of food per week. Products are traded in the barter markets according to socially agreed measurements. Some products are exchanged one to one, such as potato and cassava. Others are traded by volume, as one or two handfuls of a product. Almost one third of the households’ food comes from barter markets.

Reflection:

Millennium Development Goal #1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger with a goal of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

In the 1980’s, Haiti produced 80% of the rice it consumed. Now, it imports 80% of the rice it consumes. (Halving Hunger Still Possible, Oxfam, Sept. 2010, page 9)

More people die from hunger each year than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. (Food For All Factsheet, Oxfam, Oct. 2010, page 2)

Action:

Who is hungry in my community? What programs exist to change the structure such that greater food sovereignty exists?

What do I know about the food that comes to my table? Where did it come from? How many miles has it traveled? How might I make this system more sustainable for all?

Why is it more difficult to transform the food system to provide food security for all at the local level than it is to ship surplus food to hungry people.

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