Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to access healthy and culturally appropriate food that is ethically and sustainably sourced. The Food Sovereignty movement comes from the bottom up; starting with farmers, fishers, and indigenous peoples most impacted by hunger, poverty, and climate change. Food sovereignty is intrinsically linked to climate change; when droughts, floods, and fires occur, food supplies are disrupted. First framed by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina at the World Food Summit in 1996, food sovereignty is rooted in the ongoing global struggles over control of food, land, water, and livelihoods.
Themes of food sovereignty and food security have been reoccurring throughout our Creative Environmental Leadership program. We listened and collaborated with our partners and realized the need to specifically address this issue through an 8-session exploratory course.
Together, we covered food systems, the global context of farming, climate change, nutrition, and the relationships between culture, gender, and food. To begin, the participants created a map of their communities’ food systems. By doing this map, they identified elements (and their interactions), barriers, and additional resources of their food systems, and at the same time, they polished their participatory research skills.
Our 11 partner organizations joined us virtually from across Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, and Nicaragua). The virtual format provided the opportunity for peer exchange and the creation of stronger conservation networks with other members of their field from different cultures.
The participants learned about the social, historical, and theoretical issues around food systems, shared culturally significant dishes, and discussed the gender dynamics within the food systems. They discussed native foods and cross-learned with one another.
We saw significant changes in the participants’ attitudes, knowledge, leadership skills, and relationships. Throughout the course, the participants constantly questioned their role in the configuration of food systems and proposed specific actions at both the professional and personal levels to achieve food security and food sovereignty in their regions.
By identifying current narratives and the socio-historical process behind issues such as gender disparities, undernourishment, the depletion of natural resources, the impacts of industrial food production, a culture of overconsumption, and the current climate crisis, participants were able to imagine actions to transform current scenarios and create sustainable and fair food systems and societies.