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Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Food (In)Security - Food Security and Food Sovereignty

The challenges of institutionalizing food sovereignty.

Swift Hall
3rd Floor, Lecture Hall
1025 East 58th Street
Chicago IL, 60637

Free and open to the public.

Hannah Wittman, Philip McMichael, and Rachel Bezner Kerr discuss gaps between the framework of food security as defined by international organizations and the more challenging  grass-roots notion of food sovereignty.   Food sovereignty, as articulated by groups such as La Via Campesina, is the right of people to define agricultural and food policy, including prioritizing local agricultural production, access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. Wendell Barry once wrote, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” As advocates of food sovereignty emphasize, agriculture and food are inextricably linked.

Hannah Wittman
"Peasant Rights or Food Riots? The challenges of institutionalizing food sovereignty"

Although the human right to food has been enshrined as an international human right since the 1970s as part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it has lacked implementation and strategic focus by states, and has been actively challenged by global capital through institutions such as the World Trade Organization.  In response, global social movements have increasingly mobilized around the right to food, particularly in the face of the global food crisis in force since 2007, and language protecting the right to food has been a subject of constitutional amendment and national legislation in countries including Ecuador, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela and Bolivia.  With particular attention given to recent Brazilian civil society and government initiatives related to food sovereignty, Hannah Wittman examines the strategies and tactics of members of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina around the right to food, as related to their proposal for a food sovereignty regime supported by an International Convention on Peasant Rights.

Philip McMichael
"Food Sovereignty versus Food Security? A Global Conundrum"

Food sovereignty is a call for a paradigm change in food provisioning. As an intervention, and a global social movement, it seeks to politicize ‘food security’ -- associated as it is now with reliance on global ‘breadbasket’ regions. While food sovereignty also seeks food security, it views this from a right to food perspective rather than the right to trade perspective institutionalized in the WTO regime. The difference here represents a global conundrum – intensified by the evident failure of the food trade to realize food security, and the turn to land grabbing and enclosure of smallholders in value chains. This may well perpetuate the crisis, underscoring the incapacity to find modern solutions to modern problems, and the need to embrace paradigmatic alternatives.

Rachel Bezner Kerr
"Agroecology and food sovereignty in Malawi"
What does food sovereignty mean in practice, in a place where rural people experience persistent and high food insecurity? Dr. Bezner Kerr discussed the findings from a 12 year applied, interdisciplinary and participatory research project in Malawi that uses sustainable agricultural approaches to improve food security and nutrition. This research has resulted in strong evidence that agroecological and collaborative farmer-led research can have positive effects leading to improved levels of child nutrition, more equitable social dynamics and more sustainable agricultural practices. Dr. Bezner Kerr linked these findings to the historical, political and economic dimensions of key agricultural practices and policies in southern Africa, including debates about food sovereignty, climate change and the future of agriculture.

Continue the conversation on Twitter using #CISFoodSecurity

This event was co-sponsored with University Communications.

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