Section 4: Reclaiming the Fields

This section attempts to collate the many strategic ideas from my reading and experiences and conversations.

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Overview

Why focus on food? A statement from the Incredible Edible Todmorden, a project says, “If you eat, you’re in.” I believe radically organizing the food system is about leverage, and as stated at the Nyeleni Forum, food sovereignty is "a first step towards broader change in our societies." 

'Occupy, Resist, Produce': The Role of Social Movements

 As identified in section 3 it is clear the political arenas need to be challenged. From my learning I believe that building alliances with social movements is integral to the reality that agroecology wil be implemented and social justice achieved on a broad enough scale to challenge industrial agriculture.

 I have therefore looked at social movements in the global south and exisiting campaigns in the north to identify areas of action: 

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Resisting

Joanna Macy recognizes the need for ‘holding actions’ that is defensive focuses while part of working for solutions. Areas include resisting:

  • The commodification, financialisation & patenting of our commons
  • The corporate control especially of seeds & other forms of life including genetic modification
  • Harmful imposed governmental, multilateral and financial policies
  • The expansion and power of supermarkets
  • The exploitation of all those producing food

"It’s the same handful of companies—seven groups, in total, worldwide—that monopolize agricultural trade, and control research and biotechnology, and are tightening their ownership of the planet’s seeds.”

- João Pedro Stedile, Landless Battalions 

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Reclaiming

  • Squatting land: land occupations have been an effective tool for groups such as MST that have now 350,000 thousand peoples with access to land. They say that they need large numbers to have any chance of success and the main aim is to occupy unused land.
  • Land re-distribution is a massive need and how to access land is still being explored in the UK by groups such as The Land is Ours and RTF.
  • The UK has one of the highest land concentrations in the world with over 60% of land being owned by 1% of people.
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Relearning

  • How to grow, process & distribute food ecologically
  • Re-embracing and promoting knowledge of cooking & food processing through education & sharing of skills
  • How to connect with the land, after hundreds of years of displacement & industrialization in the UK. 
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Rebuilding

  • Equitable and ecologica models of prduction
  • The markets & organization of food chains and webs
  • How we can make decisions collectively and democratize the food system 
  • Cooperative, collective, real-needs orientated small scale production
  • the food infrastructure for smallholder farmers
  • The role of urban and pre-urban agriculture

There is no ‘one size fits all’ food system, they are culturally appropriate to place.

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Learning from the Global South

The below are movements and organisations working for food sovereignty. At the Food Sovereignty day I was invited to speak at in London I met organisers from the below. Their passion, dedication and connection to the land moved me greatly and I continue to read about their work, thinking what lessons can be gained for a UK movement.

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MST, Brazil

The MST or Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra is a mass movement in Brazil which is responsible for over 2,500 land occupations, with about 370,000 families - families that today settled on 7.5 million hectares of land that they won as a result of the occupations. Through their organizing, these families continue to push for schools, credit for agricultural production and cooperatives, and access to health care. (From Friends of Brazil)

They also lobby for wider policy reform. "The problem is that land is used to grow commodities, not food. This is why we need agrarian reform," said Delwek Matheus.

They have an inspiring education model including the National Florestan Fernandes School, where they combine theory and practice of everything from political organsing to agroeocology.

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ACTAF, Cuba

Dr Roberto Arturo Caballero Grande who I met from the Cuban Association of Technicians on Agriculture and Forestry described the situation in Cuba and the circumstances that supported the widespread implementation of agroecological practices. He emphasised encouraging farmers to adopt agroecology out of conviction rather than due to resource access (fertilisers and so forth) to make it sustainable.

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UNAC, Mozambique

Luis Machanga, from the National Peasants' Union of Mozambique described the "The current food system is like a straitjacket. Food Sovereignty is a liberation" 

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MONLAR, Sri Lanka

Sarath Fernando from Sri Lanka's  Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform was a kind gentle man whose connection to the landscape echoed through his language as he described to me his forest garden and canopy of mangoes. "We need to work with nature to let the land regenerate. There is no other way of feeding our people (speaking on agroecology)".

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"A people that cannot produce its own food are slaves; they don’t have the slightest freedom."

- José Martí

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