This past week, I visited the community of Tomabu in the department of Estelí. It is a small campo community with an incredibly curvy and uneven dirt road that leads to the top. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Dolores and Bernardino in their home, where they shared with us that Dolores was born in the community and they have been campesinos/campesinas their entire lives, currently working with 4 manzanas of land, and that the community’s main crops are corn and beans Dolores and Bernardino have one of the ATC’s projects behind their home – cama profundas, as they are called in Spanish – a deep bed system for reproducing pigs that will either be sold within the community or consumed by community members. During our visit, we got to see the first piglets from the mother pig in the deep bed system.
With food costs at near-record prices, the idea of growing your own food has never been so attractive. But food production requires space, and space can be a precious commodity — even a rarity — for people who live in urban areas. For decades, communities in cities around the U.S. have created urban farms and gardens. These spaces make use of empty lots to grow low-cost produce or flowers for communities. These urban farms are not always in high-profile or easily accessible places, however. But, what if your urban farm was in a central location? Perhaps your local library? The Cicero Branch of the Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL) in Upstate New York has explored precisely this question. In 2011, they created the Library Farm — partly the brainchild of Meg Backus, then the adult programming director and public relations coordinator.
“Deglobalizing” and “dedollarizing” have been much in the news. Reducing dependence on the global supply chain and the U.S. dollar are trends that are happening not just internationally but locally. In the United States, we have seen movements both for local food independence and to divest from Wall Street banks. The burgeoning cryptocurrency movement is another push to “dedollarize” and escape the international bankers’ control grid. This article is a sequel to one discussing home gardens and community food co-ops as local counter-measures to an impending food crisis.
In 2018, 48% of U.S.-based churches had their own food-distribution ministry or supported efforts run by other churches or organizations such as food pantries or food banks. These faith-based ministries, unlike government programs, provide immediate help to hungry people with no requirements. And more than two million people volunteer at a food pantry, soup kitchen, emergency shelter or after-school programs in the U.S., working more than 100 million volunteer hours a year—according to Hunger in America 2014, a study conducted by Feeding America. This wave of charity recognizes a serious problem in the United States: Despite being a wealthy nation, food insecurity remains high.
As apartheid Israel’s brutal siege of Gaza enters its 15th year this June, food sovereignty and climate activists Mohammed AbuJayyab and Asmaa Abu Mezied emphasized the centrality of the agricultural space in building resistance, autonomy and community in the greater fight for justice and Palestinian liberation in a recent public conversation hosted by Adalah Justice Project (AJP) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “To talk about agriculture in Gaza particularly, the first thing that comes to mind is the systematic challenges that face farmers in Gaza,” related to climate change and daily worries of production, yield and market prices, says Abu Mezeid, an economic development and social inclusion specialist .“Diving deep into them, you will understand how political and politicized these challenges are.”
On Monday, November 1, 2021, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (“Yakama Nation”), acting through its agricultural enterprise Yakama Nation Farms, purchased Inaba Produce Farms, Inc. from the Inaba family. “When the Inaba family began farming here on the Yakama Reservation in the early 1900’s, Yakama tribal members supported their efforts, leasing land to them when the laws of the United States did not permit Japanese immigrants to be landowners. Today, the Inaba family honors our historic relationship by selling Inaba Produce Farms to the Yakama Nation to support our sovereignty and food security,” said Virgil Lewis, Sr., the Yakama Tribal Council Vice Chairman and Yakama Nation Farms Board Chair.
“That’s unbelievable,” my father-in-law wrote me from Ireland after watching me give a statistic-heavy webinar on the advances for the poor in Nicaragua since 2007. “I know, right?” I replied. “No, I mean it’s actually unbelievable,” he wrote back. “For cynical people like me, our faith in humanity has been undermined. The story of a government really looking after ordinary people is too good to be true.” I understand what he means. If I hadn’t been living in Nicaragua for the last 20 years and hadn’t seen with my own eyes the changes since the Sandinista government came back in to power with a pro poor strategy 14 years ago, I know that I would also dismiss the statistics as nothing but propaganda.
It offers a vision for our collective future, and defines the principles around which we organize our daily living and co-exist with Mother Earth. It is a celebration of life and all the diversity around us. It embraces every element of our cosmos; the sky above our heads, the land beneath our feet, the air we breathe, the forests, the mountains, valleys, farms, oceans, rivers and ponds. It recognizes and protects the inter-dependency between eight million species that share this home with us. We inherited this collective wisdom from our ancestors, who ploughed the land and waded the waters for 10,000 years, a period in which we evolved into an agrarian society. Food Sovereignty promotes justice, equality, dignity, fraternity and solidarity.
On 1 October, the International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA), a network of over 200 social and political movements, had its public launch. The IPA owes its origin to a meeting held in Brazil in 2015 where movement leaders gathered to talk about the perilous situation facing the world. At this meeting – called the Dilemmas of Humanity – the idea was born to create the IPA and three partner processes: a media network ( Peoples Dispatch ), a network of political schools (the International Collective of Political Education), and a research institute ( Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research ). Over the course of the next few months, I will be writing more about the history of the IPA and its general orientation. For now, we welcome its launch.
This September 23, the United Nations holds its Food Systems Summit in New York. Under the guise of the UN system, and despite sleight-of-hand language about “equal opportunities,” this summit represents a hostile takeover of world governance by corporate forces and the billionaire elite. Today, social movements are standing up for democracy and against big capital’s devastation of their lands, farms, and communities. The United Nations is based on the idea of multilateralism, where states seek peaceful solutions on the basis of equality and respect, replacing the colonialist institutions that preceded it. That’s why for decades, the United States government has instead pushed for things like G-7, NATO, and other forms of control over geopolitics.
Despite crippling, unilateral sanctions and globally rising food prices, hunger levels in Nicaragua have been falling. The Sandinista government has been able to ensure people’s food needs are met through its focus on building food sovereignty and security. How has this been achieved? Erika Takeo from Nicaragua’s Association of Rural Workers (ATC) and Rohan Rice, a writer and campaigner with the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign explain.
The only just and sustainable path forward is to immediately halt and transform corporate globalized food systems. The first step on this path is fully recognizing, implementing, and enforcing the human right to adequate food. While foundational, the right to adequate food is indivisible from other basic human rights, such as the right to health, housing, safe working conditions, living wages, social protection, clean environments, and civil-political rights including collective bargaining and political participation, which collectively should be central to any food system process.
Yet, the organised peasant and indigenous movements from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas that collectively represent most of the world’s small-scale food producers have called for a total boycott of this summit. In April this year, scores of scientists, researchers, faculty members, and educators who work in agriculture and food systems, also issued an open call to boycott the event. To understand why social movements and scientists are staying out of a UN-sponsored summit, it is important to know how the world’s food system works today.
Members of the Sanctions Kill coalition are currently in Nicaragua as guests of the Friends of the ATC (the Association of Rural Workers) to learn about the Sandinista Revolution and the impacts of the recent economic war being waged by the United States against it. The ATC is a member of the global Via Campesina movement. Nicaragua is putting concrete programs in place to uplift its people by focusing on eradicating poverty, providing basic necessities such as health care, education, retirement security and more and empowering sectors of society that are typically at a disadvantage. A major focus of the Nicaraguan government is achieving food sovereignty using farming methods that are rooted in sustainable and organic methods and supporting small farmers. Clearing the FOG speaks with Erika Takeo of the Friends of the ATC, Antonio Tovar of the Farmworkers Association of Florida and Paul Oqwist of the Nicaraguan government.