Food sovereignty education across the Americas: multiple origins, converging movements

Abstract

Social movements are using education to generate critical consciousness regarding the social and environmental unsustainability of the current food system, and advocate for agroecological production. In this article, we explore results from a cross-case analysis of six social movements that are using education as a strategy to advance food sovereignty. We conducted participatory research with diverse rural and urban social movements in the United States, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia, and Mexico, which are each educating for food sovereignty. We synthesize insights from critical food systems education and the political ecology of education in analyzing these cases. We compare the thematic similarities and difference between these movements’ education initiatives in terms of their emergence, initial goals, expansion and institutionalization, relationship to the state, theoretical inspirations, pedagogical approach, educational topics, approach to student research, and outcomes. Among these thematic areas, we find that student-centered research on competing forms of production is an integral way to advance critical consciousness about the food system and the political potential of agroecological alternatives. However, what counts, as success in these programs, is highly case-dependent. For engaged scholars committed to advancing education for food sovereignty, it is essential to reflect upon the lessons learned and challenges faced by these movements.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A review of the Journal of Peasant studies—one of the central journals in agrarian studies—shows only several articles that focus on the connections between food sovereignty and education, and these few have just been published in the last 2 years (Meek 2015a; Tarlau 2015a). Considering other fields, it is clear that the linkages between agroecology and education have received extensive attention, but not in the context of food sovereignty (Lieblein et al. 2007; Francis et al. 2013; Hilimire et al. 2014).

  2. 2.

    There is not enough space in this article to outline how each researcher collected and analyzed data, but for more information about some of these research methods please see Meek (2015a, b) and Tarlau (2015a).

  3. 3.

    Some of the authors had already published research on the themes that had emerged, such as political economy (Meek 2015a), and horizontal pedagogy (Rosset 2015a).

  4. 4.

    These Cuban pro-peasant programs include: distribution of land, crop insurance, the National Programs for Urban Agriculture and Suburban, for Production of Biological Inputs, for Animal Traction, for Production of Organic Matter, the Forum Movement on Science and Technology, the Growing Popular Rice Program, the Participatory Plant Breeding Program, programs to acquire farm animals, to achieve decentralized self-sufficiency in dairy products, to redesign curricula, to produce special programs on TV and radio and newspaper coverage (Machín Sosa et al. 2013).

  5. 5.

    Even before the PT took power, in 2001, the federal government passed national guidelines for Educação do Campo. This was due to a coalition of agrarian social movements and the rural union movement, who put pressure on the federal government to embrace these policies.

  6. 6.

    Others teachers are from private schools recognized by the SEP, and a few teach at autonomous schools.

Abbreviations

ANAP:

National Association of Small Farmers (Cuba)

CaC:

Campesino a Campesino (Cuba)

CPATI:

Colonia Pirai Agroecological Technical Institute (Bolivia)

EBUFFS:

East Bay Urban Farmer Field School (USA)

FW:

Food Warriors (USA)

LabVida:

Laboratorios para la Vida (Mexico)

MACaC:

Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology Movement (Cuba)

MST:

Landless Workers Movement (Brazil)

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Acknowledgements

Each of the authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of the farmers and activists with which we worked. Bradley’s work with EBUFFS was financially supported by the AFRI project: Food Dignity.

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Meek, D., Bradley, K., Ferguson, B. et al. Food sovereignty education across the Americas: multiple origins, converging movements. Agric Hum Values 36, 611–626 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-017-9780-1

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Keywords

  • Food sovereignty
  • Critical pedagogy
  • Education
  • Critical food systems education
  • Political ecology of education
  • Social movements