Wednesday, May 02, 2007

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development

Newsletter #38
May 1, 2007


Message from the Editorial Team

Food Sovereignty – A tool for local development

Discovering two organizations

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union
Nepal Federation of Savings & Credit Co-operative Unions Ltd. (NEFSCUN)

Message from the Editorial Team

The question of food supply constitutes the principal subject of this issue. We are presenting an article which deals with an initiative originating from producers known as food sovereignty, and an initiative coming from consumers, the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative in Japan.

From our point of view, they are both cases of exemplary initiatives which rest on the assumption of responsibility, either by the producers, or by the consumers, themselves, in their respective communities.

In both cases, one sees an approach different from that which is dictated by globalized markets. It is encouraging and stimulating.

Editorial Team
Francisco Botelho
Yvon Poirier
Martine Théveniaut

Food Sovereignty – Tool for local development

Food sovereignty is a term originally coined by members of Via Campesina (an international movement) in 1996 to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmers', peasants', pastoralists', fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples', womens', rural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed "right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems," in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces.
At the Forum for Food Sovereignty in Sélingué, Mali, 27 February 2007, about 500 delegates from more than 80 countries adopted the Declaration of Nyéléni, which says in part:
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations. (1)

This Forum, while respecting many of the fundamental principles of the World Social Forum in terms of democratic practice and diversity, was also highly innovative. Firstly, the methodology used was highly complex and also very effective, working on a bottom-up approach and crossing themes, sectors and specific interests in such as way as to allow real in-depth participation and enhancing of ideas.

Observing the way in which the work progressed from the ‘bird’s eye’ vantage point of the interpreter’s booth, what struck me most was not necessarily the novelty of the work carried out (although there were some interesting new ideas that can be read on the Nyeleni site), but rather the appropriation of the work by the different interest groups and the strengthening of networks that had not necessarily worked together in close co-operation in the past. For example, fishing issues and pastoralists’ preoccupations had never before been pooled so effectively with women’s concerns (particularly land ownership), rights of indigenous peoples etc.

Behind all these questions lies the right of people to self-determination and control of their own forms of sustainable local development. This means a significant effort can now be made to work together to jointly fight the multinational corporations’ ever-increasing pressure, be it in terms of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), industrial aquaculture or expropriation of ancestral forests for industrial-scale farming.

Ultimately, it is only through such strengthening of international networks that truly effective pressure can be brought to bear at a local level to preserve and protect rights and achieve full food sovereignty.

Author – Judith Hitchman
Interpretor and consultant

For further information

Discovering two organizations

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union

This consumers’ co-operative in Japan is an extremely large scale example of the direct bond between consumers and producers. This co-operative of 268,400 members, most of whom are women, rests on the principle of pre-ordering collective purchases.

Therefore, foods such as rice, milk and meat are transported directly and quickly (less than 48 hours) from producers to consumers. Thus, the products are always fresh and are at reasonable prices. Moreover, there is a total assurance that the products do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), nor antibiotic vaccinations for poultry, etc.

Also, this co-operative conducts campaigns against GMOs and the respect of the environment. For example, glass bottles are used for milk.

In the next months, we will present more details on the activities of this co-operative, which I will meet in September during a study trip in Quebec. I am collaborating in organizing this event.

Author: Yvon Poirier

For further information :

Nepal Federation of Savings & Credit Co-operative Unions Ltd. (NEFSCUN)

Last March 22nd, in Montreal I met Suman Khanal, CEO of NEFSCUN. Suman Khanal is also a member of the Board of Directors of RIPESS, which we frequently referred to in previous issues.

This federation, with 19 years of existence, has over 150,000 individual members in the 450 affiliated co-operatives. The members of the federation are present in 52 of the 75 districts of Nepal. The website gives detailed information on the activities of NEFSCUN, including links with partners from several countries.

As there will soon be a Constituent Assembly in order to write a new constitution, following the mass upsurge that rolled back the king’s direct rule, the federation has deferred to later its effort to equip Nepal with a first law on Savings and Credit Co-operatives. Indeed, as such a law does not exist; the federation is not able to offer all the usual services.

With the overthrow of absolute monarchism, the capacity of the Nepalese organizations to act is facilitated.

Author – Yvon Poirier

For further information:

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin for the Portuguese translation

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Yvon Poirier

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