Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On the Road to Mali

I’m sitting in Washington DC about to grab dinner with a friend before heading to Paris then Mali to attend the weeklong international conference on food sovereignty convening farmers, fisherman, union and civil society leads, and social movements from around the globe.

When I’ve mentioned this conference, the most common reaction has been, “What does 'food sovereignty' mean?” followed at close second by “So, what difference does it make?” And, coming in third? “What difference does it make to me?”

In a week from now--having met many of the 450 people from 98 countries--I’ll have a lot more to say about the concept, but here's an initial explanation. (I’ll be adding my links here on this blog to various other websites and news outlets where I’ll be posting my reflections.)

John Kinsman, a indefatigable Wisconsin dairy farmer and a founder of Family Farm Defenders, put it well when he said food sovereignty is the simple idea that farmers and fisherfolk everywhere have a right to control what they grow, how they grow it, and what they do with it. It’s also the idea that we eaters-of-the-world have the right to access to good, clean food that is affordable, too, and that farmers have the right to a fair price.

In an increasingly global market for food--a market controlled increasingly by fewer and fewer corporations with more and more power over the food chain—the food sovereignty for all of us is being seriously comprised. It is this concern about the threats to food sovereignty that is partly driving this week’s conference in Mali.