Haitian Farmers Lauded for Food Sovereignty Work

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Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (IPS) - Work by the Group of 4 (G4) union of Haitian peasant organizations, along with assistance from       the Dessalines Brigade -  South American peasant leaders and agroecology experts supported by La Via Campesina - has been singled out for promoting “good farming practices and advocat[ing] for peasant farmers” in Haiti.

The two network organizations, it was announced Tuesday, will be awarded the 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize, an annual award given to groups that promote a more democratic, community-based food system.

The G4 alliance represents over a quarter-million Haitians. Its relationship with the South American peasant leadership is intended “to rebuild Haiti’s environment, promote wealth and end poverty” in that country, which continues to feel the devastating effects of the major earthquake that struck the island in 2010.

“We wanted to honor that relationship,” Charity Hicks, of the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, one of the groups behind the Food Sovereignty Prize, told IPS, referring to the partnership between G4 and Via Campesina.

Hicks’ organization is just one member of the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), the group offering the award. USFSA aims to “end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system”, as well as to connect “local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty”.

Hicks lauds the partnership between the Haitian peasant union and the South American groups as an example of food sovereignty organizations from different regions “sharing knowledge and skills, respecting ecologies and creating food democracy”.

Food democracy, she explains, refers to “bottom-up, communal and cultural approaches to deal with hunger and poverty.”

In addition, the G4 union stood out for a decision made in 2010 by one of its member groups, the Peasant Movement of Papaye, to reject a substantial donation of hybrid seeds by U.S. mega-producer Monsanto following the earthquake.

“Denying the [Monsanto] seeds represented significant opposition to what the corporate food system is doing by trying to control our food,” Lisa Griffith, of the National Family Farm Coalition, another member group of the USFSA, told IPS.

The opposition to Monsanto was especially important in the decision to award G4, Griffith says, because the Food Sovereignty Prize acts as an alternative to the World Food Prize. That annual award was given this year to, among others, Robert Fraley, a high-ranking Monsanto executive.

The World Food Prize, according to its website, is the foremost international food award, intended to reward “the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.”

According to Hicks, however, there is reason to question the merits of the prize.

“The World Food Prize represents a way for corporations to give themselves awards for the notion of using technology in order to feed the world,” she says.

Indeed, one of the many corporate sponsors behind the prize is Monsanto itself.

On the other hand, food sovereignty groups, according to Griffith, offer an important alternative to the corporate producers because they have “a much stronger understanding of what their communities want to produce and want to eat.

“These communities don’t need to be taken over by corporations who profess to know better about what [the communities] want,” Griffith says.

Hicks adds that, counter to the values of the corporate food system, food sovereignty “affirms peoples’ democratic right to food, restores their traditional relationship with food and the environment and rejects the commodification of nature.”

Constitutional aim

Along with the announcement of the G4 as the winner of this year’s award, the prize also lauded the work of three additional nominees for their work in promoting the values of food sovereignty.

The Basque Country Peasants’ Solidarity (EHNE), which was one of the groups responsible for the founding of Via Campesina, represents 6,000 members in the Basque region. It received mention for, among other things, its work with young farmers.

The National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali, with around 2.5 million members, was also recognized for its advocacy work in support of democratic agricultural policies. In part due to its efforts, Hicks says Mali is now one of the first countries to have enshrined food sovereignty in its national constitution.

Finally, the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective (TNWC) stood out for its work empowering women in the South Indian state.

“Through the [TNWC], 100,000 marginalized women are organized, many in unofficial worker unions or small collective farms, to strengthen their food sovereignty and thus their broader power,” the USFSA noted in a statement.

Following on Tuesday’s announcements, a formal awarding ceremony for the Food Sovereignty Prize will be held on October 15 at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of the American Indian, in New York City. Representatives of each of the four groups will be flown in and will accept modest monetary gifts on behalf of their organizations.

The venue, Hicks says, was chosen for symbolic reasons, in order to “honor indigenous communities worldwide”.

Food Sovereignty Prize Honors Grassroots Initiatives in Haiti, Brazil, Basque Country, Mali and India


[Alliance for Food Sovereignty US | Food Sovereignty Prize | Turn the Tables on the Food Crisis]


Press release

August 13, 2013

NEW YORK CITY—Five innovative grassroots groups from across the globe working for democratic access to land, seeds, water and food have been honored with the 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance announced today.

Winners of the fifth annual Food Sovereignty Prize were chosen from among more than 40 inspiring projects creating on-the-ground solutions to hunger and poverty, said the alliance, a network of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer advocacy organizations.

Top honors go to the Haitian Group of 4 (G4) and the South American Dessalines Brigade, an international peasant-to-peasant collaboration working to rebuild Haiti’s seed, soil and agricultural systems.

Honorable mentions were garnered by Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective of India; National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali; and Basque Country Peasants’ Solidarity of the Basque Country in Europe.

"The Food Sovereignty Prize symbolizes the fight for safe and healthy food for all peoples of the earth,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, G4 Executive Committee member. “It’s a fight that must be waged both locally and globally, and requires deep solidarity among all organizations fighting for food sovereignty."

Flavio Barbosa, of the South American Dessalines Brigade, added: "Receiving this prize for the partnership between the Group of 4 and the Dessalines Brigade is an incentive for others to participate in long exchanges such as the one we are experiencing in Haiti. And it charges us with even greater responsibility to continue our defense of peasant agriculture and agroecology as a way to produce sustainable, healthy chemical-free foods accessible for all."

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance will present the awards at a ceremony in New York City on October 15, 2013, at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The ceremony will be hosted by WhyHunger and feature keynote speaker Shirley Sherrod, former USDA regional director and longtime advocate for family farmers. The evening will also feature musical entertainment. Subsequent events with the Food Sovereignty Prize honorees to highlight issues of food sovereignty in the US will take place in Des Moines, Iowa, and Detroit, Michigan, on October 16-21.

Since its launch in 2009, the Food Sovereignty Prize has garnered international attention for its recognition of community-based efforts that promote food democracy. In contrast to the World Food Prize, which emphasizes increased production through technology and this year rewarded scientists from transnational biotechnology corporations Monsanto and Syngenta, the Food Sovereignty Prize honors organizations and movements around the world fighting for the right to food for all people and dignity for those who put food on our plates.

“With this prize, we’re honoring real-world, sustainable solutions to poverty, social instability and food insecurity,” said Montana farmer Dena Hoff, North American Co-Chair of La Via Campesina, the first winner of the Food Sovereignty Prize in 2009. “With 40 nominations from 21 countries and a selection committee comprised of food justice activists, community leaders and academics from the US and Canada, the Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes effective and inspiring examples of communities making creative and truly lasting change in their food security--and in their democracy.” Hoff is the Vice President of National Family Farm Coalition, a founding member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

2013 Food Sovereignty Prize Honorees: Snapshots and Background

Winner: Group of 4, Dessalines Brigade/Via Campesina, Haiti & South America

In 2007, Haiti's largest peasant organizations—Heads Together Small Farmers of Haiti (Tet Kole), the Peasant Movement of Papaye, the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movements, and the Regional Coordination of Organizations of the South East Region—joined forces as the Group of 4 (G4), a national alliance to promote good farming practices and advocate for peasant farmers. The G4, representing over a quarter of a million Haitians, invited South American peasant leaders and agroecology experts to Haiti to work cooperatively to save Creole seeds and support peasant agriculture. Together, the G4 and the Dessalines Brigade, as it became known—named for 19th- century Haitian independence leader Jean Jacques Dessalines and supported by La Via Campesina—have collaborated to rebuild Haiti’s environment, promote wealth and end poverty. The partnership also provided immediate and ongoing support to the victims of the 2010 earthquake, and the Group of 4 made global headlines when they rejected a donation of hybrid seeds from Monsanto.

Honorable Mention: Basque Country Peasants’ Solidarity (EHNE), Basque Country

In Europe’s Basque Country, the struggle for food sovereignty is embedded in a broader struggle for political and cultural autonomy. A founder of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina in 1993, EHNE continues to be at the forefront of innovative and political food sovereignty approaches. Locally, EHNE offers its more than 6,000 members educational and economic support; its youth program has helped young people return to farming; and it is working to build new relationships between the countryside             and regional cities. Due in part to the Basque Country’s vibrant network of small farms, cooperative business and strong local food system, all supported by EHNE, the region has weathered the financial crisis better than much of Europe.

Honorable Mention: National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP), Mali

CNOP is composed of 11 federations of farmers' organizations on a national scale, representing the interests of nearly 2.5 million farmers and peasants. Family farming, primarily by small producers, is the dominant farming model in Mali; CNOP’s mission is to strengthen the structure of farming organizations and build their members’ capacity to influence agricultural policy. CNOP was the prime contractor for the development of Mali’s first agricultural policy, passed by parliament in September, 2006, which made Mali one of the first countries to put the principle of food sovereignty into law. In February, 2007, CNOP hosted Nyeleni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, in Mali, and has led the hard fight against land grabbing and for the rights of small farmers.

Honorable Mention: Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective (TNWC), India

In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as in much of India, women have little social, economic or political power, and often struggle to feed their families. Lowest-caste Dalit women, indigenous, and widowed women face even greater hardships. Through the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, 100,000 marginalized women are organized, many in unofficial worker unions or small collective farms, to             strengthen their food sovereignty and thus their broader power. In addition to organizing locally and nationally on issues from their own families’ food security to land rights to opposition to genetically modified seeds, the Collective encourages cultivation of native millet varieties – the hardy traditional grain is nutritious, drought-resistant, and easier to grow in the region than wheat or rice.

For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org


La Via Campesina
International Peasant Movement
Jakarta, Indonesia
www.viacampesina.org