Sunday, October 31, 2010

Food Culture Justice and Food Security: Why Global Networking is Crucial

Gris Gris Lab Herbal Garden, New Orleans, LA

I recently attended a food security conference in New Orleans, LA with three of my colleagues,from Tallahassee, Florida.  Cultural Arts Natural Design International (CANDI), The Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council, Project Food, and a Horticulture Scholar were chosen to participate in this conference. We were sponsored by the  Nathan Ballentine aka The  Man in Overalls  and the Wiley Sunshine Foundation.
Qashima Boston, Joyce Brown, Claire Mitchell and Miaisha Mitchell
We are a collaborative of grassroots organizations working to build sustainable, healthier communities that have access to fresh healthy foods and a better way of life.  Although this collaborative has varied and many strengths in their own right this conference and others like this are key to building a united front on sustaining and building healthier food systems locally as well as  around the world. We learned much in the way of organizing around food systems, policy, producers, land issues and much more. For me learning the language or the lingo of this forum was key.   So I will share at least one  new  term for me.
  • Land-trust:: A land trust is a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements.( There is much more to this definition so I would do the research on this for more information.) In relation to farm land. Some open questions I have are ; How does this actually work if someone wanted to donate land to you or your organization, if its in a land trust?
  • Food Sovereignty : "Food sovereignty" is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 [1] to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmers, peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, rural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed "right" of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces. 
  • Food Security: Food security happens when all people at all times have access to enough food that...
  1. is affordable, safe and healthy
  2. is culturally acceptable
  3. meets specific dietary needs
  4. is obtained in a dignified manner
  5. is produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just  Its everybody's business! 
    • Principles

      Via Campesina's seven principles of food sovereignty include:
    • Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
    • Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
    • Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
    • Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
    • Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World BankIMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed. and the
    • Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, oppression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
    • Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.
    Food sovereignty is increasingly being promoted as an alternative framework to the narrower concept of food security, which mostly focuses on the technical problem of providing adequate nutrition. For instance, a food security agenda that simply provides surplus grain to hungry people would probably be strongly criticized by food sovereignty advocates as just another form of commodity dumping, facilitating corporate penetration of foreign markets, undermining local food production, and possibly leading to irreversible biotech contamination Bt corn to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA is a case in point.

    The most  dynamic force of this forum was it was mostly entirely contained and designed by grassroots people and organizations. The hosts were the Community Food Security Coalition out of Portland Oregon.
    Tallahassee Collaborative Networking with a Journalist Scholar from  Senegal, Africa
    Networking was in high energy  and we made many extremely vital connections around the country and around the world.
    Malik Yakini Chairman of DBCFSN with Qasimah and Miaisha




    Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN)

    How did this conference help support our work in Tallahassee, FL?

    First and foremost lets define our communities. We may live in Tallahassee but our networks  are local, national and global, thus we have an obligation to expand our sharing to our global networks and communities. This will be done by taking this information and breaking it down. Language is key  and  real life situations and relevancy otherwise you will not  engage your community.    This is not an easy task, nor is this work done in isolation. This work must be done in collaboration as a interactive process not a let me show you how its done atmosphere. It must  involve entire communities,with the communities taking the lead, and if the powers at be want to really effect change, it will call for them to put their money where their mouth is, roll up their sleeves and join in. 

    Some of the workshops I attended were

    Engaging Youth in Food Justice and Community Building
    Deborah Leta Habib, Seeds of Solidarity
    Vanessa Lynch, Seeds of Solidarity
    Youth programs can provide young people with a safe and productive community setting to grow and transform, while cultivating food and skills for activism.  Through dialogue, this session explores key questions, challenges, and strategies for energizing existing youth food and agriculture programs to inspire and engage young people as changemakers. 
    Some of the key messages circulating in this forum was you must involve youth in from the beginning of your planning, implementation and view them as viable pieces of the puzzle not as an afterthought or to assign menial tasks.   This group explained as in many mainstream organization people seem to view working with the youth as a job rather than viewing them as having valuable insight on what is happening in their world as well. It was mainly geared toward people who actuall work with children and youth but do not know how to engage them.  Creating meaningful, relevant service learning opportunities can be challenging. When done well, they provide students with excellent, engaging experiences
    Grantsmanship Workshop with USDA
    The USDA discussed keys to  successful grantsmanship, the dos an don’ts  in proposal writing, working with collaborations, timelines, evaluation, and project sustainability.  This information was helpful and it showed the USDA wanted to help people who had not received grants before as well. The inside tips really did help.  My thoughts were on how deep the USDA roots run with FDA, EPA, United Nations, WHO etc……..(just food for thought)

     From Detroit to New Orleans  Building a US Food Sovereignty Movement
    Na Ra Barber, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
    Stephen Bartlett, Agricultural Missions
    Joaquin Martinez, Community to Community Development
    Bob St Peter, National  Family Farm Coalition? Via Campesina North America
    Karen Washington, New York City Urban Farmer
    Ben Yahola, Myskoke Food Sovereignty Institute.\
    This forum  was an action packed dynamo session. There were at least 100 people in the room.  The panel was an awesome group of people and the breakout sessions reveled so many  grassroots  strategies and experience in the room from around the world. This is  definitely a unified grassroots  international movement, and people around the world seem to be saying now is the time and reaching out to unite.

    Emerging Technologies and the Threat to a Just Food Systems
    This panel discussed the emerging technologies in the food systems such as animal genetic engineering, cloning and   nanotechnology. This was an informative session with the speakers outlining what technologies were actually happening realtime in our food systems.  We also discussed how these technologies threaten our health, animals and our environments.  What was interesting was the variety of interest attending this session, there was a chef, who was very outspoken, Monsanto was prevalent in most of the discussions and there were quite a few college students.

     Plate To Politics 
    Liz Johnson: The Whitehouse Project
    Lisa Kivirist, : Rural Women's Project
    Nevada Littlewolf : The Whitehouse Project
    This workshop explored what the key ingredients  to stir up  change in our food system. Stating that more women in leadership roles that influence agriculture and food policy change.  There were tools  and strategies shared that could help in all phases of  leadership amongst women from rallying for school lunch reform to running for office while supporting a diversity of women  activists innovators and educators. Real time issue such a structural racism and systemic methods of oppressive discrimination were were discussed by the audience.

    The highlight of the conference for me was the networking sessions during which time we met a host of exciting, movers and shakers around the country who are effecting social change around the world. One grassroots organization at a time.

    Celebrity Gardeners 
    Will Allen of Growing Power and Joyce Brown of Cultural Arts Natural Design International
     Growing Power

    Networking , Networking, ........

    Some of the Cultural connections were made after the Second Line dance from the hotel to the French Quarters Market place where the gumbo was goooooood and the music was deep ... the crowds were thick and we had beads all over out necks.....So here's a little glimpse of the second line dance if you have never experienced it
    Seafood Gumbo

    A word  from and about the host of the Food Culture Justice Conference

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