As part of the Waltham Forest Council’s Urban Food Growing Festival and the CFGN Spring Events series, the Hornbeam Café kindly hosted two events around the topic of food sovereignty.
‘Raising Resistance’, a documentary about the effects of the spread of GM soy in Paraguay, illustrated how small-scale farmers are pushed off their land and the agroecological methods employed by them are placed under risk of becoming extinct. Inspiringly, these farmers did not take these encroachments sitting down, but launched a series of land occupations and other forms of direct action to protest against the loss of their livelihoods and the health consequences of intensive agrochemical use.
The same week, after an introductory talk about the principles of the food sovereignty movement, some inspiring speakers shared their experiences working with producers in Africa and Latin America. The first speaker was from the World Development Movement, a group standing in solidarity with producers in the global south. He drew our attention to farmers across Africa currently being stripped of the ability to control their means of production by the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative driven by corporate actors and pseudo- charities such as the Gates Foundation. Equipped with misleading development rhetoric and the power to influence the trade policies of African governments, these interests are pushing to colonize the markets they identify as having potential for growth. Additionally, they are receiving the support of government while millions of small-scale farmers are left dispossessed. Visit www.wdm.org.uk to see what you can do to support them.
A speaker from War on Want presented the case study of Cuba, a country forced to adopt agroecological methods after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here, urban producers played a large role in the self-sufficiency of the nation, and government investment in agricultural research was an inherent part of the strategy to avert hunger and crisis. Drawing on her experience from years of working with dispossessed farmers in Colombia, she highlighted how drawing on the knowledge of indigenous groups can be key to developing collectivist yet autonomous models of rural development.
Deliciously ethical food and drink preceded the event, which was concluded with lively discussion and a brainstorming session on how food sovereignty could be practically implemented in Waltham Forest.