Full report from the Food Sovereignty gathering in Hedben Bridge

Read Kindling’s Helen Woodcock’s full report from the event.

Last weekend was the UK’s 2nd Food Sovereignty gathering, bringing together over 200 people from across the UK: well established farmers and growers, new entrants to farming, buyers, NGOs/ campaign organisations, academics, activists (and loads more!).

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.

Food sovereignty proposes an alternative food system that creates practical, sustainable and democratic solutions to the failed industrialised food model. It is an approach developed by smallscale food producers in the global South that has become a global movement.

The gathering was particularly exciting for us, as we were around for the birth of the UK Food Sovereignty movement. I was lucky enough to get to go to the Nyeleni forum in Austria in 2011 as part of the little UK delegation. It was a really inspiring moment – being in the presence of 400 landworkers, activists, campaigners, NGOs from across Europe (and a few from further afield). All working towards the same vision of creating a fairer and more sustainable food system for all. And all using the same language to talk about food and the change needed as we do (something which we hadn’t come across much before).

Over various discussions (and organic beers) the little UK delegation hatched a plan for a UK event, and in 2012 the first UK gathering happened at Organic Lea in London with around 70 or so people (thanks to a lot of hard work from a few of the delegation – for which we can take no credit!). Out of that gathering was born the Land Workers Alliance (part of the international peasant movement Via Campasina, along with the Scottish Crofters), which has been a really active and inspiring of the last three years – campaigning for the rights of small producers at both a UK and European level.

It felt that this second gathering – with three times the number of people as the first – shows a really exciting spreading of the vision of food sovereignty and growth of the movement.

The weekend involved a wide range of workshops: how TTIP will affect food and farming, why land matters, food poverty, permaculture, engaging local communities, tours of local sites and lots lots more.

My favourite session was the plenary looking at what the movement should do from now on (which was a surprise as these sorts of discussions can go round and round in circles). But I was in a great little group with people from Growing Communities, Organic Lea, Ecological Land Co-op and Land Workers Alliance (LWA), and all of us were hungry for action (and felt a bit workshoped out!).

So we proposed that the movement should work on developing a national Food Policy (as the UK doesn’t have one!), and co-ordinating an enormous consultation to feed into it. This might sound a bit ambitious (or maybe dry depending on how you look at it), but the Australian Food Sovereignty movement has recently successfully completed a consultation and report – which was apparently hugely successful and inspiring.

The LWA had already run a workshop at the gathering about developing a food policy based on the 6 principles of food sovereignty. They plan to continue this, but want the consultation to be much wider – reaching different sectors (not just producers) and communities.

So we felt like a co-ordinating role would be a really useful and relevant role for the food sovereignty co-ordinating group to take on, and the consultations could be something that everyone involved in the movement could actively do in their own groups and communities (so watch out – Kindling will be doing one at some point!).

We were aware that this was quite a big ask of a small group (without any paid workers, everyone being too busy already, and not knowing if the co-ordinating group that put all the hard work in to make this gathering happen were continuing), so we proposed raising funds to employ someone (or a few people) to co-ordinate it all and started the process by raising £50 on the spot (for which we received a big cheer!). We asked everyone to put in a couple of pounds to fund a few days for someone to write a funding bid to get resources to make it happen.

Lots more to do and watch this space!

Posted in National Food Sovereignty Gathering 2015