Food prices around the world are surging. Local organic farmers across the nation are less affected by the growing rise in food price swings precisely because they consume much of what they harvest, and they sell the rest to local markets. These farmers have achieved at the household level a “food democracy,” and what the small farmer coalition, Via Campesina, calls “food sovereignty” at a national level.
A country has “food sovereignty” when its people consume safe and nutritious food largely grown by their own small farmers. Significantly fewer countries sustain this sovereignty today than a generation ago. The reigning development model pushed by World Bank and other experts has left many countries exporting more cash crops like flowers and gourmet vegetables, and importing more of their staple foods. But there is more to food sovereignty than freedom from imports. In richer countries, food purchases make up a relatively small percent of household budgets. Here in the United States, we spend an average of only seven percent of our budgets on food, although that number rises in poor urban neighborhoods.
Between July of last year and this January alone, the price of wheat has doubled. Indeed, the cost of food has now passed the record levels of 2008, when angry citizens staged huge protests in dozens of countries. Currently, protesters across the Middle East include lowering food prices among their demands. When prices go up even a bit, millions more people starve.
In Tunisia and Egypt, the average person spends more than a third of their household budget on food, and thus more people feel food price hikes daily in the pits of their stomachs. The food markets in poorer nations feel the consequences of these price hikes immediately.
While millions are suffering as the result of volatile development models, the food emergency of 2011 can convince more countries to reject conventional “wisdom” that says exporting and importing more is the right path to food security.
There are food sovereignty lessons to be learned from countries all over the world who don’t rely on exporting or importing as their means of survival. Countries that rely on their local roots; crops and local businesses seem to be not as affected by the spiraling prices. In addition, there is evidence that, as food costs have risen people are returning to native-grown crops in place of expensive imported food.
Reports support that the world will not stop hunger and climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.” In many countries like the Philippines, local farmers growing healthy and chemical-free foods are on the rise and are taking over increasing shares of local and national markets. It is time to say “no” to food vulnerability and to reinvigorate rooted farms all over the world.