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Solidarity Economy, Agroecology and Food Sovereignty: building bridges and strengthening transformative solutions

Convenor: Judith Hitchman (URGENCI)

The Nyéléni Forum on Agroecology took place in Mali in February 2015. The Declaration clearly identifies solidarity economy as one of the keys for achieving food sovereignty. It is not a set of production techniques or mere production practices.

One of the key bridging movements between the food sovereignty and solidarity economy is Community Supported Agriculture. There are also other emerging trends that connect producers and consumers through direct or genuine short food distribution chains: local food coop shops, farmers’ collective shops.

This workshop aims to examine:

  • How the different forms of local solidarity partnerships between producers and consumers can influence policy makers and work collectively to build concrete solutions at territorial level

  • Ensure that small-scale food producers can earn a decent living

  • Guarantee that consumers have access to nutritional, healthy food that they can afford

  • How these local initiatives fit into the wider picture of solidarity economy and agroecology

It also aims to examine the threats as well as the opportunities facing the solidarity economy – agroecology – food sovereignty connections.

Food Sovereignty Forum: agroecology and solidarity economy
October 27, 2015

ECVC (European Coordination of La Via Campesina) and Urgenci held a joint Food Sovereignty Forum at Solikon 2015 in Berlin, to promote the concept that agroecology and solidarity economy are the logical vectors for the realisation of right to food, and that food sovereignty can only be fully achieved in the context of a paradigm change.

The Nyeleni Europe process in Europe has provided the impetus for developing a European platform for these concepts, and based on the extraordinary success of the Krems Nyeleni Europe Forum in 2011, much development of national platforms is now happening. The pillar 2 of the Nyeleni Europe process is largely carried forward by Urgenci, who have had 2 European meetings on this subject since 2011.

The interface between Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Economy, and the role of the Via Campesina, Urgenci and RIPESS in this field was presented, as well as concrete territorial illustrations from Greece and the Basque country.

The main presentations were made by Ludwig Rumetshofer (Nyeleni Austria), Andrea Ferrante and Paula Giaoa (ECVC) and Jocelyn Parot (Urgenci) for the Nyeleni Forum, and Judith Hitchman on the interface between solidarity economy and food sovereignty. Casestudies were presented by Jenny Gkiougki of the Neighbourhood network in Greece and also Urgenci, and Isa Alvarez of Nekesare, the Basque CSA network that is also part of Urgenci.

PEOPLE’s EXPO: food soverignty vs EXPO’s corporate “feeding” the Planet

The international RIPESS network participates with twelve people from Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe to the People’s Expo in Milan.  On Tuesday, June 3rd, 2015 at the Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan, the People’s Expo is taking place, an international forum of civil society and peasant’s movements. This forum will last until the 5th of June and will bring together over 150 delegates from all over the world. The main purpose is to assert the voices of peoples, in order to propose and illustrate strategies and solutions put in place to cope with the global problems of access to food and natural resources, with food soverignty as the main political goal. The governments and transnational corporations are grabbing the spotlight at the official Expo and we must make the voices of peoples be heard through this important space, for a totally different way to “feed the planet”.

The event is organized by the People’s Expo Committee, a group gathering 50 NGOs and associations of the Italian civil society together with international networks and peasant’s movements who operate on a daily basis in various areas such as: cooperation for development, environmental justice, human rights, organic production, critical consumption.

“This year, while the United Nations are setting the new Sustainable Development Goals and a new Global Agreement on Climate Change – explains Giosué De Salvo, the Committee spokesman- People’s Expo wants to seize the opportunity of the theme set by Expo 2015 to have the political agenda focus on the respect for human rights and the limits of the planet. The forum will give voice, above all to representatives of small-scale and family farming, excluded from the official Expo despite the fact they produce 70% of food consumed globally and are nowadays the main investors in agriculture.” As a matter of fact, it is at the People’s Expo that some of the world’s most important peasants’ movements will participate, including: La Via Campesina, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty, the Terra Madre network of food communities, the Global Call Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Climate Action Network.

An intense three-day program, with schedules from 9 am to 18 pm, will include plenary lectures, a speakers’ corner where anyone will be able to share their own testimony and working spaces reserved for delegates. Many issues will be addressed during the forum: the promotion and support of agro-ecology and biodiversity conservation; transition towards an oil-free economy; solidarity economy and ethical finance; but also issues of crucial importance for the more “vulnerable” peoples on the planet, as the impact of free trade agreements, financial speculation and land and water grabbing, which is the phenomenon of large-scale acquisition of land and water at the hands of transnational companies, foreign governments and investment funds that is damaging the rural economy, especially in the South, but also in Europe.

The international networks participating to People’s Expo: Terra Madre network of food communities, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), La Via Campesina, IPC – International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty, Nyeleni Europe, World Fair Trade Organization, Urgenci (the international network of community supported agriculture), RIPESS – Intercontinental network for the promotion of social solidarity economy, Climate Action Network, La Red Vida – Vigilancia Interamericana para la Defensa y Derecho al Agua.


Zaragoza: when Solidarity Economy engages in food sovereignty
January 19, 2015

One of the tracks of the recent REAS congress in Saragossa that brought together over 600 people for 3 days, was a full day’s workshop on food sovereignty and solidarity economy, attended by about 40 food sovereignty activists. It focussed specifically on how these two key concepts can be brought together a local level, and the many different dimensions that can be implemented by Local Authorities to regenerate and relocalise the economy, create sustainable employment and provide both food security and food sovereignty for all. At a time when the industrial food system is undermining people’s health and food security, it is essential to refocus our attention on local short chain food production and distribution in all its many forms, and ensure local food sovereignty is implemented as an essential dimension of solidarity economy.

As someone who has been working on these questions for several years, I believe this workshop was a watershed moment. It was the first time that these concepts have been taken up and developed so completely at grass-roots level. The methodology was participatory and very well prepared in advance, and ensured that all ideas were captured on paper. The outcome should be a booklet for supporting local food policy implementation and the realisation of food sovereignty. Participants included members of the Via Campesina and Urgenci.

The individual entry points per se were not new: they covered local food policy councils, allotments, community gardens and CSAs, public procurement, governance of land planning and use, small-scale local processing linked to peasant agriculture and sustainable job creation, as well as access to land for youth and transmission of farms to new farmers, incubator training schemes for new farmers and more… What was new to me was the collective bottom-up determination to make it happen as a coherent and systemic approach.

When the outcomes have been duly written up we will find the means of translating them into other languages and making sure they can be shared. Hopefully it will also lead to more comprehensive work through a European programme and further dissemination.

See the Charter for Food Sovereignty from our Municipalities (in Spanish)

[Judith Hitchman – Urgenci and member of the RIPESS Europe Coordination Committee]

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