Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Food Forum has begun (and we have Internet!)

We made it to Nyelini--the Forum for Food Sovereignty I'm attending near Bamako, Mali! After a multi-day journey, everything is up-and-running here--we even have Internet (as you may have surmised).

I will spend the next few days learning from the more than 500 delegates, from more than 90 countries, here to discuss the concept of food sovereignty and figure out ways to work together to promote the political and economic concept throughout the world.

At the opening ceremony, as the dust settled from the day’s heat, you could hear the murmuring of translators: Behind me a Sri Lankan delegation hunched together to listen to the translation of a West African pastoralist; beside me an Algerian listened into her earpiece to indigenous youth activist from Jakarta share his stories about the loss of traditional culture; nearby I heard the Korean delegation's translator interpret the presentation from an American fisherman who made the connection between his loss of livelihood and the globalization and industrialization of fishing. From the front of the amphitheater, four people simultaneously translated the testimony into the forums official languages: Bombara, Spanish, French, and English. The delegates represent North America, Latin America, Asia, South Asia, Africa, Europe; every major language in the world; every major religion. The morning welcome session ended with the co-coordinators, arms draped across each other’s shoulders, saying: if we as Iranian and Americans can get along, any of us can.

The delegates are divided into working groups from six sectors, including farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous, migrant workers, consumers and urban movements. Throughout the meeting, women’s rights, environmental concerns, and the importance of youth development and participation in the movement will be woven into conversations about seven chosen core topics: trade and local markets; technology and local knowledge; access to and control of resources; sharing territories; conflict, war, and occupation; social conditions and forced migration, and production models to promote food sovereignty.

Over the course of the next five days, these sectors will engage in dialogue around three key questions: “What is it that we’re for?” “What are we fighting against” and, “What can we do together?” By the fifth day, organizers are working toward a united statement about the shared goals.

I'll be writing missives from the Forum throughout my time here and posting here where you can find them. The first one should be up this afternoon at my brother's news site:

I'm off to attend the session about trade and local markets. More soon...