Food sovereignty, agroecology, climate justice & international solidarity
So in late October it was an enormous relief when ATC representatives Marlen Sanchez and Erika Takeo were able to undertake a speaker tour of visits and meetings in London, Bristol and Birmingham. Marlen is also the academic director of the Latin America Agroecology Institute (IALA) in Nicaragua.
At COP27 that took place from 6 – 20 November in Egypt there was at least some acknowledgement of the fact that global food systems controlled by corporations cause one third of global carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.
However, so called ‘solutions’ remain a combination of technological fixes, carbon markets, geoengineering, and creative accounting that ensure that transnational agribusinesses maintain control of the whole of the food chain.
There is no climate justice without political, economic and social justice
As well as denouncing the capitalist system, the La Via Campesina advocates ‘the right of peoples to healthy, culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems.’
The speaker tour was an opportunity for Marlen and Erika to exchange ideas, information and solidarity with organisations that form part of the Landworkers Alliance (the UK member organisation of La Via Campesina) and other likeminded organisations.
The themes of the visit were holistic encompassing food sovereignty, agroecology (especially involving younger generation), empowerment of women, land rights, climate crisis/climate justice, and above all social transformation.
The programme consisted of meetings and visits to community gardens, allotments and farmers markets, and rural and semi-urban farms; public events in London, Bristol and Birmingham; seminars at universities in Bristol and Coventry; and interviews in Bristol and London for radio and for publications.
Throughout the visit there was particular interest the work of the Latin America Agroecological Institute (IALA) in Nicaragua that provides political, ideological and technical training in food sovereignty and agroecology for young people from across Central America.
Marlen was the keynote speaker at a Nicaragua solidarity event organised by NSC and NSCAG entitled ‘Another world is possible: the example of Nicaragua.‘ Marlen gave an overview of roots of the ATC in the Sandinista Revolution, ATC’s work on employment rights and rural development, and the example of IALA providing training for young people.
Marlen and Erika, accompanied by Rita from NSC visited OmVed gardens, an organisation in North London ‘building and restoring a sustainable environment for people to reconnect with nature through food and creativity’. In the photo below they are discussing growing food throughout the winter with OmVed’s head gardener and director.
Marlen spoke to an audience of 25 academics and researchers at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute Food Justice Network and at a public event sharing Nicaraguan and Bristol experiences of ‘Food, Ecology & Sustainability’.
In addition Marlen and Erika visited Sims Hill a community supported agriculture project where they met Anna Peregro and Freya Widdicombe to discuss the work of Sims Hill, particularly access to land, agroecological growing in polytunnels and outreach programmes involving volunteers.
IN BIRMINGHAM AND COVENTRY
Their visit included a meeting with researchers and masters students at Coventry University Centre for Agroecology and Water Resilience
They also visited Five Acre Farm with Brittany Oakes, a former ATC intern now based in Birmingham, where they met head grower Becca, and grower Jessie. Both are members of the Landworkers Alliance West Midlands.
Key successes of the speaker tour
There was a lot of interest in IALAs, the unique network across Latin America, dedicated to training young people in food sovereignty, agroecology and social transformation.
The visit was an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas, information and solidarity between La Via Campesina member organisations s in two very different countries.
For Marlen and Erika it was an important opportunity to gain a better understanding of the UK context, a very different reality with enormous challenges. Marlen was particularly shocked at the way in which land ownership and access to land is such an enormous issue.
“It was a pleasure to meet Marlen and Erika and so inspiring to hear the story from Nicaragua so thank you for the opportunity….we have a lot to learn from them! Freya, Sims Hill community supported agriculture in Bristol.
‘For us this was a very important exchange, the opportunity to share with friends in England our experiences of peasant production, youth training in agroecology and the struggles we face in our land of lakes and volcanoes, struggles against the media manipulation of sectors opposed to the Sandinista Revolution and against the sanctions imposed on us by imperialism.’ Marlen Sanchez, ATC