Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Published on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 by The Huffington Post
Food Sovereignty Chronicles

by Eric Holt Gimenez

Beyond the din of the World Cup in Johannesburg, and just south of the protests of the ill-fated G-20 Summit in Toronto , the U.S. Social Forum was in full swing. So much so, that I didn't get a chance to blog while at the event! Nevertheless, on the 3-day drive back from Detroit to Oakland, CA, I managed to chronicle some of the path-breaking work activists at the forum did on food sovereignty. Here is the first installment:

We are making the road trek back from Detroit to Oakland, pushing steadily through that great green sea called the Midwest. It is staggering to think that Monsanto--who owns the patent on over 90% of the U.S.'s genetically engineered corn seed--has its profit-producing patent locked tightly in to pretty much every single corn plant we will see for the next three days...

I'm coming back from the USSF, the 2nd US Social Forum. Held in Detroit (Atlanta hosted the first), it was quite an experience, not just because it brought 15,000 activists together--but because of Detroit. I'd never spent time here and had only the bombed-out images from Michael Moore's documentaries to rely on for first impressions. The bad news is that Moore's images are real; during the USSF's opening ceremonies, we marched through the city's center, a surreal patchwork of attractive squares and bustling high-rises, checkered with empty buildings, open lots, for-lease signs and homeless people everywhere.

The good news is that Detroit still rocks--because of the people. Coming from the cooler-than-thou state of California, Detroiters are disarmingly warm and friendly, even when under siege from thousands of activists from across the U.S. They are also turning many of their empty lots into community gardens to provide fresh, healthy food (and a bit of income) to its beleaguered citizens. Behind Detroit's green islands lay not Monsanto's patents, but a growing people's movement for food justice and economic democracy.

Another Detroit is Happening! On my first morning at the forum, I went to a reception held by D2D--Detroit to Dakar, a coalition looking to link social movements in the US with their African counterparts. Malik Yakini, chairman of the Detroit Black Food Security Network welcomed activists to Detroit by pointing out the historical connections between the city's African-American community and African struggles for national independence and anti-apartheid. Linking the Detroit Black Food Security Network's efforts to build local community food systems in African-American communities to the Social Forum's international struggle to for a better world, he claimed: Another World is Possible; Another U.S. is Necessary; and Another Detroit is Happening!

Actor-activist Danny Glover stopped in between takes to provide encouragement to the gathering. Glover, the head of TransAfrica Forum, reminded participants that social movements in the countries of the Global South are struggling hard against the devastating impacts of U.S. corporations and U.S. foreign policy. There were plenty of international activists at the Forum who'd come to share information about the abuses of U.S. power and to see if their U.S. counterparts could help do something about it.
The U.S. groups have their hands full as well. Our country now has nearly 50 million hungry people. The parallels--and differences--between the work of food justice groups in the U.S. and the demands of Food Sovereignty groups of the Global South are striking, and Detroit is an emblematic venue for their meeting. The recent moves by big developers to develop industrial agriculture in Detroit not only threatens to displace the grassroots efforts of African-American communities, they also reflect the global industrial trends seeking to bring the world's food systems under a single corporate roof. The massive land grabs taking place in Africa, the displacement of local seeds with GMOs, and the violent dislocation of peasant communities to make way for industrial plantations in the Global South are not far removed from the urban realities of Detroit.
Copyright © 2010, Inc.

Eric Holt Gimenez, Ph.D. is a food system researcher and agroecologist. He is the Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. He is the main author of a new book on the world food crisis: "Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice" from Food First (


The contribution of agroecological approaches to meet 2050 global food needs
Groundswell International | June 30, 2010 at 9:56 am | Categories: Cooling the Planet (Climate Change), People-Centered Food Systems (Food Security), Uncategorized | URL:

The article below was posted on Food First's website. It covers the recent international seminar “The contribution of agroecological approaches to meet 2050 global food needs”, which brought together agroecology experts, decision makers at national and international levels, and representatives of farmer organizations. The event was held in Brussels on June 21 and 22 under the auspices of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Professor Olivier De Schutter. Mr. De Schutter makes an airtight case for a global policy shift toward agroecological production.

Right to Food: “Agroecology outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security,” says UN expert

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

BRUSSELS (22 June 2010) – “Governments and international agencies urgently need to boost ecological farming techniques to increase food production and save the climate,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, while presenting the findings at an international meeting on agroecology held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June.

Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned experts on agroecology, the UN expert urged the international community to re-think current agricultural policies and build on the potential of agroecology.

“One year ago, Heads of States at the G20 gathering in Italy committed to mobilizing $22 billion over a period of three years to improve global food security. This was welcome news, but the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment in agriculture is not how much, but how,” Olivier De Schutter said.

“Today, most efforts are made towards large-scale investments in land – including many instances of land grabbing – and towards a ‘Green Revolution’ model to boost food production: improved seeds, chemical fertilisers and machines,” the Special Rapporteur remarked. “But scant attention has been paid to agroecological methods that have been shown to improve food production and farmers’ incomes, while at the same time protecting the soil, water, and climate.”

The widest study ever conducted on agroecological approaches (Jules Pretty, Essex University, UK) covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares: the average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete examples of ‘agroecological success stories’ abound in Africa.

In Tanzania, the Western provinces of Shinyanga and Tabora used to be known as the ‘Desert of Tanzania’. However, the use of agroforestry techniques and participatory processes allowed some 350,000 hectares of land to be rehabilitated in two decades. Profits per household rose by as much as USD 500 a year. Similar techniques are used in Malawi, where some 100,000 smallholders in 2005 benefited to some degree from the use of fertilizer trees.

“With more than a billion hungry people on the planet, and the climate disruptions ahead of us, we must rapidly scale up these sustainable techniques,” De Schutter said. “Even if it makes the task more complex, we have to find a way of addressing global hunger, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources, all at the same time. Anything short of this would be an exercise in futility.”

The experts gathering in Brussels identified the policies that could develop agroecological approaches to the scale needed to feed the world in 2050. They based their work on the experiences of countries that have pro-agroecology policies – such as Cuba or Brazil – as well as on the successful experiences from international research centres such as the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, and on the programmes of La Via Campesina, the transnational peasant movement, which runs agroecology training programmes.

“We can scale up these sustainable models of agriculture, and ensure that they work for the benefit of the poorest farmers. What is needed now is political will to move from successful pilot projects to nation-wide policies,” the UN Special Rapporteur said. In conclusion, he announced that he would ask the Committee on World Food Security – what should become in time the ‘Security Council’ for food security – to work during its October session on the policy levers to scale up agroecology. “This is the best option we have today. We can’t afford not to use it.”