One of the tracks of the recent REAS congress in Saragossa that brought together over 600 people for 3 days, was a full day’s workshop on food sovereignty and solidarity economy, attended by about 40 food sovereignty activists. It focussed specifically on how these two key concepts can be brought together a local level, and the many different dimensions that can be implemented by Local Authorities to regenerate and relocalise the economy, create sustainable employment and provide both food security and food sovereignty for all. At a time when the industrial food system is undermining people’s health and food security, it is essential to refocus our attention on local short chain food production and distribution in all its many forms, and ensure local food sovereignty is implemented as an essential dimension of solidarity economy.
As someone who has been working on these questions for several years, I believe this workshop was a watershed moment. It was the first time that these concepts have been taken up and developed so completely at grass-roots level. The methodology was participatory and very well prepared in advance, and ensured that all ideas were captured on paper. The outcome should be a booklet for supporting local food policy implementation and the realisation of food sovereignty. Participants included members of the Via Campesina and Urgenci.
The individual entry points per se were not new: they covered local food policy councils, allotments, community gardens and CSAs, public procurement, governance of land planning and use, small-scale local processing linked to peasant agriculture and sustainable job creation, as well as access to land for youth and transmission of farms to new farmers, incubator training schemes for new farmers and more… What was new to me was the collective bottom-up determination to make it happen as a coherent and systemic approach.
When the outcomes have been duly written up we will find the means of translating them into other languages and making sure they can be shared. Hopefully it will also lead to more comprehensive work through a European programme and further dissemination.
[Judith Hitchman – Urgenci and member of the RIPESS Europe Coordination Committee]