Food sovereignty is a hugely important issue to farmers and consumers, not only in Latin America, but around the globe. Simply put, 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 is a means for the production and consumption of food that puts the rights of communities, cultures, and the environment above corporations, and strives to ensure that everyone around the world has access to healthy and local foods. The current way in which food is produced and consumed is hugely wasteful. According to Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant organisation, almost half of all greenhouse emissions come from the food industry – between deforestation, production, transportation, processing, refrigeration, and waste.
Still, this system cannot provide for all, and this is particularly visible in Latin America. Mexico for example is one of the world’s most obese countries, with 70% of adults classed as overweight, and 30% as obese. Nevertheless, 36% of children do not have enough to eat, with almost 14% going so hungry that they fail to grow properly. Many small farmers throughout Latin America have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands, and are forced to abandon traditional food crops such as corn and beans, for “cash crops” like sugar and coffee. Many others are forced to work on huge plantations for part of the year, resorting to subsistence agriculture once the harvesting season is over and these jobs are no longer available.
Fortunately, food sovereignty is a natural point of linkage from Ireland to Latin America, and an area in which we all, as ethical consumers, can make an impact. The vast majority of the food we eat in Ireland was not grown here, but imported from many miles away. By increasing food sovereignty everywhere, we all stand to benefit through supporting local economies, lowering price fluctuations, and lowering transportation costs. LASC has been an active campaigner in this area, building links with organisations like Via Campesina, to educate the public about food issues. In addition to solidarity and education campaigns, LASC has been a keen supporter of local movements, including gardening and allotment initiatives, land and food cooperatives, and local seed banks. Food sovereignty has also formed a key component of several Latin America Weeks, and was the main focus of these events between 2009 and 2011. In this way, LASC has sought to connect the local to the global, to both raise awareness, share perspectives, and build solidarity.