Workshop at the WSF 2013/ co-organised by the Via Campesina and URGENCI, with the support of RIPESS.

Speakers: Yvon Poirier, RIPESS, Comité International du Réseau Canadien de Céveloppement Èconomique Communautaire (RCDÉC), Quebec; Josie Riffaud, Via Campesina, Confédération Paysanne, France; Judith Hitchman, URGENCI, France-Ireland; N’Diakaté Fall, Via Campesina, Conseil National de Concertation et de coopération des Ruraux (CNCR), Senegal; Jean-Michel Dupont, MIRAMAP, France.

JR: The Via Campesina is active among other things in establishing new ways to provide food. But in France, small-scale peasant agriculture only represents 4% of the active population; they therefore need support to lobby and help implement food sovereignty now! There are two ways of defining food sovereignty: 1) it is an international right, fighting against the WTO’s policies, and aimed at protecting local peasant agriculture against unfair competition of big agribusiness and factory farming. 2) It is also a vision of local agriculture that is part of local solidarity networks, and that supports exchange with the Earth and all living things.

JH: URGENCI is an international network of local solidarity partnerships between producers and consumers that brings together Community Supported Agriculture initiatives everywhere in the world, with conscious consumers supporting local producer to jointly share the risks and benefits of peasant agriculture and support farming through fair prices for their produce; the money is paid up-front to producers. URGENCI’s activities are at the crossroads between food sovereignty and solidarity economy. The network builds alliances with the world of peasant agriculture and the organisations that promote other parts of the local solidarity jigsaw (complementary currencies, energy, Community Land Trusts…).

NF: The Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux (CNCR) brings together various Senegalese organisations that work for the protection of small-scale family farming in a country where 70% of the population are still small-scale farmers. Farming is the single biggest employer! Since 2000, CNCR has been running consultations to support the development of short food circuits and encourage both producers and consumers to eliminate the middlemen who are the main hurdle to determining fair prices. Since the 2008 food crisis, this process has accelerated. An example of this is bread, with a round table discussion that was organised with bakers and peasant farmers who mill the millet flour themselves as well as consumers. They jointly determined the price that they all found satisfactory. People living in cities are finding it increasingly difficult to source local products. Almost everything is imported, as these imported foods are subsidised, and therefore cheaper, so distribution networks for local produce is a major issue. This is being met be introducing many local neighbourhood shops, that are run by womens’ groups.

J-MD: MIRAMAP is the inter-regional movement of Associations to Maintain Peasant Agriculture in France. It includes 8000 families and 2000 producers. AMAPS were first created in 2001, and have three objectives: rebuild social relationships between rural and urban dwellers; producers and consumers; promote sustainable small-scale family farming, popular education (for example, to determine the price of the box, producers and consumers in a CSA openly discuss the farmer’s needs, what would constitute a fair price, the investments that the farmer needs to make etc.). Solidarity, transparency, proximity and the respect for nature are the core values of each CSA. AMAPs have had to cope with two problems as the model has spread: that of access to land (they work with Terre de Liens), and that of how young farmers can establish themselves (cope with the costs, training etc.). There is an incubator for agricultural activities in the Paris region called Les Champs du Possible (Fields of Possibilities). ( Recurrent issues are certification, availability for all and solidarity baskets.

YP Yvon spoke about a Japanese consumers cooperative that was established in 1965 by some pioneers whose objective was to improve the quality of life, following the Minamata scandal. The objective was to provide fresh, uncontaminated food. This cooperative, called the Seikatsu Club, now includes some 350,000 members, who contribute between 1-2000 USD a year each. The full presentation is available at:, It is based on a vision of overall social and political change. Out of the 21 consumer cooperatives in Japan, only 2 are involved in direct sales; one of these has now stopped operating. The Seikatsu Club continues to encourage sort distribution circuits: in Japan, 200,000 tons of the 240 000 tons of organic produce that are consumed are imported products.

During the discussion phase of the work-shop, various themes were brought up:

– The ethics of sharing

– Traditional user’s rights

– Farm seeds and the fight against GMOs

– How to avoid deviation from or recuperation of SSE initiatives? (The example of the Biocoop was mentioned. C.f. the excellent article in French La bio. Entre business et projet de société, by Philippe Baqué (dir.) Collection Contre-feux, Agone, 2012)

– The development of canteens using short circuits (in Brazil 10% of all food served in school canteens must be sourced from SSE)

– How to ensure small mixed farms are viable

But the underlying question of the 500,000 unemployed of Tunisia was the key issue in the discussion: what is their future, if not through social and solidarity economy? It could be said that it already exists, as traditional economy is based on local relationships and products. In Tunisia, 75% of farms are family market gardens of less than 2 hectares.

What mechanisms are concrete forms of organisation such as cooperatives etc. can help it to develop most effectively? And help establish productive activities that will provide employment for young people? The role of local authorities in building SSE in a way that meets each territory’s need is crucial to meet the needs expressed by local inhabitants and to relocalise jobs and ensure local food sovereignty.