Strength from the communities


Have you ever wondered where the food you have consumed today comes from? Is it industrialized, processed or of organic origin?

Someone once posted a photo on a social network and described it like this: “I have harvested a radish that is a radish.” At first, I did not understand the phrase, but after thinking a little about that post I realized that they were very right. Today we do not know how the majority of foods that both men and women have on our table to enjoy; quality fruits, legumes and vegetables have been produced. Some people call this food security but it is actually food sovereignty.

For this article, which is coordinated with the Lagun Artean organization, we interviewed Awex Mejía Cipriano, representative of the Ceiba Association and member of the National Network for the Defense of Food Sovereignty in Guatemala (REDSAG), so that she could go into a little more detail about the topic.

Mejía is a young Mayan and activist who assures that it is essential to talk about food sovereignty due to the prevalence of the capitalist system and racism that imposes new ways of thinking, being and consuming. This has led to the dispossession of land, water, seeds and knowledge of indigenous peoples, violating the human right to food, and exacerbating poverty and hunger in the majority population in Guatemala. “It is essential to address the defense of food sovereignty and demand compliance with all the human rights of indigenous peoples,” she says.

The Ceiba association advocates from various spaces to encourage and promote the issue. Among the main projects that Ceiba implements in the communities are: the promotion of agroecology from ancestral knowledge and practices to contribute to the care of biodiversity. Promote sovereignty as a political action for the defense of the body-land territory, from technical, management and advocacy actions at the municipal, departmental and national level. Each of the processes prioritizes organization, participation and strengthening of knowledge to promote and defend food sovereignty from the family and community level.

Production and connection

According to the International Peasant Movement called La Vía Campesina, food sovereignty is defined as “the right of people to produce their own food, nutritious and culturally appropriate, accessible, produced in a sustainable and ecological way, it also encompasses the right to decide their own food and production system.” Thus, it can be said that food sovereignty goes beyond just the search of indigenous peoples to access food, but rather recognizes that indigenous peoples and peasant communities have the right to establish from their worldviews the way of producing their food, the way of consuming them and deciding what tools they will use, having as a central axis the complementarity and reciprocal care of Mother Earth, explains Mejía.

In contrast, food security is defined as the availability and access to nutritious foods that people must have, guaranteeing that these are stable at each stage of human development to ensure their integral development.

Therefore, talking about food sovereignty and food security does not imply talking about synonyms, rather it suggests a complementarity between both concepts. Food sovereignty guarantees the right of indigenous peoples and peasant communities to maintain ownership of their lands, access to water, the protection of native seeds and to apply their knowledge in food production from their worldviews; prioritizing the care of Mother Earth, conservation and protection practices to guarantee the availability and access to healthy and nutritious food (food security), without creating an external dependency that deteriorates food systems and violates the human right to food, she emphasizes.

Indigenous peoples and peasant communities have historically developed their own food systems, which has allowed them to guarantee the availability and access to healthy and nutritious foods. They apply ancestral and scientific knowledge from their worldviews, which is why it is necessary that when the causes of hunger and poverty are addressed, the imposed food system must be questioned along with the realities of the community, and that food practices for food production and access mechanisms are revalued from a supportive and fair approach for everyone.

In the case of Guatemala, the central government and state policies do not recognize food sovereignty, since the issue is addressed only from the perspective of food security, where a series of policies and projects are developed that are implemented by government ministries and entities, focusing solely on the availability and access to food without addressing the structural causes of hunger and poverty, she describes.

However, as activists promote food sovereignty it has also been defended by communities and civil society organizations as a political commitment to demand land ownership in indigenous peoples, access to water, and the non-privatization of seeds and crops. ancestral knowledge as fundamental elements to move towards food sovereignty.

Complementarity with the land

They say that the land should belong to those who work it, but in Guatemala, this does not apply because natural assets have been dispossessed and exploited. The communities defend the land and everything it provides, not only a resource but goods, because it is a whole.

The organizations see it as essential to recognize that food sovereignty must occur from the communities, because they are the ones who know the ways and means to promote and defend it, and it is necessary that children and youth recognize its importance so that more community spaces are generated to carry out exchanges of knowledge around the promotion and defense of food sovereignty. Municipal policies that prioritize the promotion of the topic and the oral transmission of food systems, mainly the milpa system, must be followed up.

“Hunger and poverty cannot continue to be a strategy of domination by the elites, the dispossession and plundering of indigenous territories must stop, food sovereignty must be recognized as a human right that States must guarantee,” Mejía points out.

Laws that threaten

At the community level, the threat of the Monsanto law is being socialized, as are community agendas of food sovereignty that promote the conservation of native seeds and the rejection of GMOs, promoting native and Creole seed houses to promote their conservation.

Likewise, efforts continue to be added to create visibility material that informs the population about the implications of the Monsanto law. Together, spaces for dialogue and advocacy promoted by Redsag are linked to the rejection of this law that sought to privatize seeds and genetically alter them.

With the same intensity of struggle and resistance, the women of Lucha Campesina of Euskal Herria, the Basque Country, in Europe, also propose an agroecological model for food production with a fair, sustainable and healthy approach.

According to the leaders, the fight for food sovereignty in this country is a fight that seeks to raise awareness among social and political agents to promote this model. May the transition from industrialized to agroecological be to improve the living conditions of all.

They assure that historically women have been and are guardians of this production model, that industrialization is inevitable but that it is necessary to make a transition to a healthier model and support the peasant.

Both communities, Guatemala and the Basque Country are connected through the defense of the territory and the ancestral production of their food. Now we know that everything starts from the self-appropriation of knowledge to achieve food sovereignty. We can even have a garden in the patio of the house or consume local food.