Hello Readers! Today I am writing to you about the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize that happened this week in Des Moines, Iowa that I watched on foodsovereigntyprize.org and that is still available to watch. The Food Sovereignty Prize spotlights grassroots activists working for a more democratic food system. The honorees are being recognized for promoting food sovereignty by:
• Raising public awareness, organizing on-the-ground action, and/or developing and implementing programs and policies,
• Recognizing the importance of collective action in bringing about social change,
• building global linkages into their work, and
• Prioritizing the leadership of women, indigenous peoples, people of color, migrant workers and other food providers marginalized by the global food system.
The Food Sovereignty Prize was first awarded in 2009 as an alternative to the World Food Prize founded by “the father of the Green Revolution,” the late Norman Borlaug. While the World Food Prize emphasizes increased production through technology, the Food Sovereignty Prize champions solutions coming from those most impacted by the injustices of the global food system. In honoring those who are taking back their food systems, the Food Sovereignty Prize affirms that nothing short of the true democratization of our food system will enable us to end hunger once and for all.
The Food Sovereignty Prize was developed by the International Links Committee of the Community Food Security Coalition and is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.
Two years ago in 2013 one of my brothers in the movement, Blain Snipstal was honored at the Prize on behalf of La Via Campesina an international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature. This year the honorees of the night where the Federation of Southern Cooperatives & the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American ones. The Federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 16 Southern states, approximately 90% of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White. The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14% to 1% in less than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned instead of corporate-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and advocates to the courts and to state and national legislatures.
The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. OFRANEH brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, promotion of Garifuna culture, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.
To start off the night the head of the Trinity United Methodist Church owner gave a bilingual welcome with their sister church then the pastor sang a song with churches women’s chorus. Next a lady named Barb from Iowa talked about her family farm and the crisis of big cooperate agriculture taking over starting in the 1980s and is still going on today. She says that is why we’re all here to fight for food sovereignty.
This transitioned into a black South African farmer who talked about the apartide in his country in the ‘90s and the democracy that soon came in ’94 with the first black president Nelson Mandela. As well as women farmers and farm workers not being treated equal and being promised that by 2016 all the land that was taken from black South African farmers would be given back but only about 6% has been given back so far. He says change in democracy can be hard but that seeing some of the things small farmers in the US are doing to bring change will inspire his people.
Once he was done talking previous honorees where brought up MST- the Movement of Landless Workers in Brazil, Family Farm Defenders and Family Farm Coalition before the 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize winner Federation of Southern Cooperatives took the stage. One of the host of the event came up and read a little bit about the Federation and why they were nominated for the prize. He started by saying “keeping land in the hands of family farmers & fighting structural racism that has kept farmers off the land is a key goal of the Federation. Born 1967, out of the civil rights movement and to keep farms black and family owned the Federation has been supporting land based co-ops, training in sustainable ag, forestry and advocating for farmers in the courts in the state and national legislature. Through the Federation the USDA finally settled with 1000s of families of black farmers who were forced off their land, with corrupt and racist USDA officials dening farmers access to credit and programs farmers need to survive.” “Though made up of mostly African American farmers the Federation is made up of Native Americans, Latinos, and white farmers and farmer co-ops across 16 southern black farmer states.
The Federations work and lessons may be more important as over 100 years ago black farmers owned and operated over 14% of farms across the US but today, only 4.4% of farm land across the US is owned by black farmers. Ben Berkett a farmer and Mississippi Association of Co-Ops director and National Family Farm Coalition president said “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting man kind and family farmers. Everything where about is food sovereignty, the right of every person on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self determination of community to grow and do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life, it’s what we have done always.”
After that intro on the Federation Mr. Cornelius Blanding the new director of the Federation gave a speech after receiving his award. He said this during his speech “thank you Food Sovereignty Prize, thank you to prize makers and thank you to advocates of food sovereignty.” He says he got to listen in on some comity meeting and heard some talking about co-ops and land which got him excited. “In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement collided with the co-op movement as there where a lot of land owners who experienced racism. People in Tennessee couldn’t get gas due to racism so they started co-ops, women in Alberta, Alabama one of the poorest counties tried to register to vote and had to form worker co-ops, Sweet Potato growers in Louisiana couldn’t sell their produce had to form co-ops. 22 co-ops came together in 1967, to create the Federation which is truly a land based grassroots movement from the people forming co-ops out of need. Co-ops is a big thing we work on but also land which is the bases for everything. In 1910 there were roughly 15 acres of land owned by 1018 black farmers before the turn of the century 1992 farmers only owned 2.3 million achers of land which alarmed them so much they thought there would be no more black land owned by the year 2000.
We say All Land Matters but we especially wanna say that Black Land Matters! It matters in the south, it matters in this work and it should matter to this world. We’re going to keep fighting to save this land and all land matters land is the bases of food sovereignty .Thank you to the Federations Board of Directors, the staff that work to fight land loss daily and to black farmers and co-ops on behalf of them I accept this award. Also want to honor our co-winner the black fraternal organization of Honduras because it’s truly when we all start to work together and see the value of land and see how important this work is and how global this movement is that will start making some movement on food sovereignty and the democratic control of land. So again I say thank you and let’s keep up the fight.”
Once his speech was over the next winner of the award came up with some of the other previous winners like Community to Community and Grassroots International. Then the second winner of the award The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) took the mic with a translator. A women from the community and her translator said that OFRANEH was started in 1978 as an organization for the Garifuna people in defining their cultural and land rights with the aim of achieving survival of a distinct culture. First grassroots org to meet the needs of their people. They are Afro-Indigenous people with their own language, culture and spirituality located on the Atlantic and Caribbean coast with 43 communities and women play important roles in their community. In their culture women are very powerful and as women we give life & pass the culture down and are also on the frontlines defending our ancestral lands.
The Garifuna representative honored the millions of campesinas, campesinos, and afro decadences all fighting to defend the land and the right to produce their own food. This award is very important as we need to honor the farmworkers both women and men because these are the ones handling our food but these are also the ones in criminalization, persecution just for defending their land and the right to grow food. We are living on this plant and this plant is in turmoil and is in crisis not just a political or economic crisis but a cultural crisis based on our style of life based in the US, and we need the style of those living in the US but we don’t. The right to food access is a human right our communities have been misplaced and destroyed to build mega projects which are also hurting the plant. That is what we are fighting for. There is a lack of recognition of the black communities around the world.
To close out the awards the raging grannies sang a song about world peace and reliance.
This year’s Food Sovereignty Prize awardees where very inspiring and brought hope for me in these dire times. My favorite moments of the night where when Mr. Blanding said that All Land Matters but especially Black Land Matters. It was powerful statement because just the same way our bodies are under attack our farms and food supply is under attack as well.
It kind of goes back to the argument that most black youth of today are not about to go out and become a farmer due to the negative stigma of slavery, and those that do are being denied the land to farm on or it’s stolen from their families.
Another really great highlight from the night was hearing about the women powered organization of the Garifuna people and how women are held in such high regards in their culture. Their representative was so nice and said some powerful things about their access to land in Honduras. My favorite thing she said goes back to what Mr. Blanding said about lack of black land and what was kind of the theme of the night is that in the black communities worldwide there is lack of recognition. Even the guy from South Africa talked about the apartite and then the land that was owned to the black South Africans that has not been givin back.
All this to say that land is the one key to pretty much everything. Without it there would be no farmers, meaning there would be no food and then the human raise would just parish. To be honest it’s not that hard of a concept and to think the government wants to own a basic human needs. Sad.
Anyway that’s enough for now.
Till Next Time Support Your Local Farmer!