The Food Sovereignty Movement in Venezuela

Food sovereignty is a relatively new concept, originally coined and defined by the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, in 1993. This report is an in-depth study of how Venezuela is transforming its economy and empowering its citizens thru nine distinct features of Social Production Enterprises – the antidote to neoliberalism. Also see Cuba’s agroecology movement: Sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty

By Anna Isaacs, Basil Weiner, Grace Bell, Courtney Frantz and Katie Bowen

Venezuela Analysis, Part 1 and Part 2.

Food sovereignty is a relatively new concept. Originally coined and defined by the international peasant movement, Via Campesina, in Mons, Belgium in 1993, it is:

“The RIGHT of peoples, countries, and state unions to define their agricultural and food policy without the “dumping” of agricultural commodities into foreign countries.  Food sovereignty organizes food production and consumption according to the needs of local communities, giving priority to production for local consumption. Food sovereignty includes the right to protect and regulate the national agricultural and livestock production and to shield the domestic market from the dumping of agricultural surpluses and low-price imports from other countries. Landless people, peasants, and small farmers must get access to land, water, and seed as well as productive resources and adequate public services. Food sovereignty and sustainability are a higher priority than trade policies.”[1]

Via Campesina, in its definition, clearly states certain specific issues that deserve more attention in relation to Venezuela’s current recovery of its food sovereignty. These issues are absolutely essential, not only in guaranteeing that local food needs be met by local food production, but also in protecting the cultural heritage of people who have invested generations upon generations in the same land.

All over the world, where people have had land in their families for centuries, the land is being lost because of the dumping of heavily subsidized, imported foods onto their local markets. Farmers cannot compete and must give up their land. With those losses goes pride and the hope for locally based and supported food systems. Rising numbers of farmer suicides are the ultimate result of a system of global trade that strips away the land, its products, cultural heritage and pride. People are dying because they cannot afford to eat and farmers are dying because they cannot afford to feed.

Some of Venezuela’s obstacles to food sovereignty include: the speculative market that formed around buying and selling land; the transformation from individual landowners to conglomerate companies, and farmers to farm workers; and technology that has made a small farmer’s way of life economically unsustainable.

Read full posts at Venezuela Analysis, Part 1 and Part 2.

6 responses to “The Food Sovereignty Movement in Venezuela

  1. Wonderful, helpful article. The government here is working in reverse, removing food systems in place, breaking down networks, getting rid of farmers, focusing on export and import by multinationals, with the hope to eliminate all food sovereignty and food security.

    The food shortages mentioned in your article as odd except during wars and natural disasters, may be being caused intentionally by the MNC in order to destabilize governments and reap the benefit of prices they can hike to any level they wish.

    It is hard not to wonder at the compassion and sanity of Venezuela’s move to feeding itself and the multiple ways people are free of government control and yet can get government help, in amazement. It exposes the cruelty and insanity of what is happening here.

    • Agree totally, Carl. I gain much hope from learning about what V is doing. And you are no doubt correct in your analysis that food instability is used to destabilize governments [not friendly to multinational corporations].

      How much work is being done to restore food sovereignty in V explains why Obama is building up US military bases in Colombia and Honduras – no doubt, US corps seek to thwart any and all competition.

  2. What an inspirational article: thank you for some of the most forward-looking pieces of writing I have read in ages.
    The ownership of land and the economic framework in which it is cultivated has always driven the way industrial economies can reduce food production to a series of increasingly remote price-driven transactions. As steam power gave European and American traders access to markets and alternative sources of commodity crops in the nineteenth century, so capital ensured the dependence of urban populations on increasingly distant food.
    This intimate relationship between energy use and economic power has been around for a couple of centuries or more, fuelled by successive fossil energy sources: coal and now oil. Your analysis picks up the crucial linkage of energy, money and increasingly remote food sources in industrial societies.
    This has not gone undocumented in earlier years, though. Food sovereignty has been an issue for social commentators for at least one and a half centuries.
    I am two thirds through reading a book called ‘Where Shall We Get Meat?’ published in 1866 by Joseph Fisher, a Quaker living in Waterford, Ireland. Google “where shall we get meat” + “joseph fisher” and follow the Google Books link. Fisher makes the link between food and land. He was an ardent advocate of small family farms: pp 189/190 suggests that Victorian England could have established Irish agriculture on the model of Dutch farming of the day, to the benefit of all concerned. But such economic insight went unheeded then, as now.
    When European states like France turn their backs on family farmers (this is not a particularly recent development, either) then it is time to wonder why politicians think people can eat euros instead of food.

    • thanks for the kudos, Peter. One of the most interesting ideas raised in the article, to me, was that of decentralized socialism. I’ve often struggled with embracing socialism (or populism), given how Russia so thoroughly starved its masses thru it. But the key, I now realize, is in decentralizing it.

      Writer Tom Robbins said something like, you can’t win the war, but you get points for slowing or halting the concentration of power anywhere.

      This book you refer sounds fascinating – that we’ve been dealing with these same issues for so long is amazing – disheartening, too. But, like Milan Kundera said, The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

      thanks for your comment.

  3. The government should not be side stepped by these private companies who do not want to cooperate and are more concerned with their profits than the well being of the people. Food self sufficiency is right direction for further economic growth.
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  4. This is a No-Brainer. Non-GMO genetics are designed for yield, with no compromise for standability or drydown. Products are always carefully chosen to match trait rotation systems, IRM refuge areas, and premium markets. Thanks for your blog! Let the world know!

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