Food sovereignty: shifting debates on democratic food governance

Abstract

This article develops the concept of food sovereignty while it critically reflects on its present status and future trajectories. The concept of food sovereignty provides an alternative framework for solutions to the human and ecological consequences of industrial food systems. While the concept of food sovereignty gains traction at international levels, including at the United Nations, its lack of conceptual clarity contributes to a variety of often diverging interpretations. This frequently constrains practical implementation and weakens its potential as an alternative paradigm to food governance. At the same time, food sovereignty thought is shifting beyond its initial agrarian focus to embrace whole food systems, which includes the role of consumers and urban areas.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    ‘Most food in the world is grown, collected and harvested by more than a billion small-scale farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk. This food is mainly sold, processed, resold and consumed locally, thereby providing the foundation of people’s nutrition, incomes and economies across the world’ (Windfuhr and Jonsén 2005, p. v).

  2. 2.

    Programa Nacional de Alimentación (Edelman 2014).

  3. 3.

    Small-scale farmers deliver as high as 90% of all food production in African countries (Holt-Giménez 2009). Globally, family farmers produce 80% of world’s food, constitute 98% of all farms, and work on 53% of all agricultural land. About 84% of those farms are smaller than two hectares (FAO 2015; Graeub et al. 2016).

  4. 4.

    One of the drivers of these debates is a series of conferences organised at Yale University (2013) and the International Institute of Social Studies (2014) which captured academics and activists’ concerns with food sovereignty, resulting in special issues of the Journal of Peasant Studies (2014), Globalizations (2015), and Third World Quarterly (2015).

References

  1. Agarwal, B. (2014). Food sovereignty, food security and democratic choice: critical contradictions, difficult conciliations. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1247–1268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alonso-Fradejas, A., Borras, S. M., Holmes, T., Holt-Giménez, E., & Robbins, M. J. (2015). Food sovereignty: convergence and contradictions, conditions and challenges. Third World Quarterly, 36(3), 431–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Altieri, M. A., & Toledo, V. M. (2011). The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(3), 587–612.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ayres, J., & Bosia, M. J. (2011). Beyond global summitry: food sovereignty as localized resistance to globalization. Globalizations, 8(1), 47–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Beauregard, S. (2009). Food policy for people: Incorporating food sovereignty principles into state governance. Los Angeles: Urban and Environmental Policy Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bernstein, H. (2004). “Changing before our very eyes”: agrarian questions and the politics of land in capitalism today. Journal of Agrarian Change, 4(1–2), 190–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bernstein, H. (2014). Food sovereignty via the “peasant way”: a sceptical view. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1031–1063.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Burnett, K., & Murphy, S. (2014). What place for international trade in food sovereignty? Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1065–1084.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Carlson, J., & Chappell, M. J. (2015). Deepening food democracy. Washington, D.C.: IATP.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Chaifetz, A., & Jagger, P. (2014). 40 years of dialogue on food sovereignty: a review and a look ahead. Global Food Security, 3(2), 85–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Chappell, M. J., Wittman, H., Bacon, C. M., Ferguson, B. G., Barrios, L. G., Barrios, R. G., et al. (2013). Food sovereignty: an alternative paradigm for poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation in Latin America. F1000Research, 2, 235.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Clapp, J. (2014a). Food security and food sovereignty: getting past the binary. Dialogues in Human Geography, 4(2), 206–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Clapp, J. (2014b). Financialization, distance and global food politics. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5), 797–814.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Clapp, J. (2015). Distant agricultural landscapes. Sustainability Science, 10(2), 305–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Clark, P. (2016). Can the state foster food sovereignty? insights from the case of ecuador. Journal of Agrarian Change, 16(2), 183–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cleveland, D. a., Carruth, A., & Mazaroli, D. N. (2014). Operationalizing local food: goals, actions, and indicators for alternative food systems. Agriculture and Human Values, 32(2), 281–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Coley, D., Howard, M., & Winter, M. (2009). Local food, food miles and carbon emissions: a comparison of farm shop and mass distribution approaches. Food Policy, 34(2), 150–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. De Schutter, O. (2010). Report submitted by the special rapporteur on the right to food. Geneva: U.N. Human Rights Council.

    Google Scholar 

  19. De Schutter, O. (2013a). The agrarian transition and the “feminization” of agriculture. In In food sovereignty: A critical dialogue. New Haven: Yale University.

    Google Scholar 

  20. De Schutter, O. (2013b). Plenary Session. In Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue. New Haven: Yale University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFr6BepLdjE.

  21. Deininger, K. (2011). Challenges posed by the new wave of farmland investment. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(2), 217–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Deininger, K., & Xia, F. (2016). Quantifying spillover effects from large land-based investment: the case of mozambique. World Development, 87, 227–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Dekeyser, K., & Korsten, L. (2015). Local urban food policies in the global food sovereignty debate. In Local Urban Food Policies in the Global Food Sovereignty Debate. Ghent: City Ghent and University Ghent. https://stad.gent/sites/default/files/article/documents/Bijlage%20Food%20Smart%20Cities%20Seminar%20Essays%20juni_2.pd.

  24. Desmarais, A. A. (2007). La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the power of peasants. London: Pluto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Duncan, J. (2015). Global food security governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed committee on world food security. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Edelman, M. (2014). Food sovereignty: forgotten genealogies and future regulatory challenges. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 959–978.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Edelman, M., Weis, T., Baviskar, A., & Jr, S. M. B. (2014). Introduction: critical perspectives on food sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 911–931.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. FAO. (2011). The role of women in agriculture. Rome: FAO.

    Google Scholar 

  29. FAO. (2015). The state of food insecurity in the world 2015. Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: taking stock of uneven progress. Rome: FAO.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Foo, M., & Teng, P. (2017). agriculture at the crossroads: bridging the rural urban divide. Food Security, 9(2), 401–404.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Francis, C., Lieblein, G., Gliessman, S., Breland, T. A., Creamer, N., Harwood, R., et al. (2003). Agroecology : the ecology of food systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 22(3), 99–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. García Trujillo, A. (2015). The hefty challenges of food sovereignty’s adulthood—Synthesis paper. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue canadienne des études sur l’alimentation, 2(2), 183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Godek, W. (2015). Challenges for food sovereignty policy making: the case of Nicaragua’s Law 693. Third World Quarterly, 36(3), 526–543.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Graeub, B. E., Chappell, M. J., Wittman, H., Ledermann, S., Kerr, R. B., & Gemmill-Herren, B. (2016). The state of family farms in the world. World Development, 87, 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hall, R., Edelman, M., Borras, S. M., Scoones, I., White, B., & Wolford, W. (2015). Resistance, acquiescence or incorporation? An introduction to land grabbing and political reactions “from below”. Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(3–4), 467–488.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Holt-Giménez, E. (2009). From food crisis to food sovereignty: the challenge of social movements. Monthly Review, 61(3), 142–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hopma, J., & Woods, M. (2014). Political geographies of “food security” and “food sovereignty”. Geography Compass, 8(11), 773–784.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hospes, O. (2014). Food sovereignty: the debate, the deadlock, and a suggested detour. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(1), 119–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Iles, A., & Montenegro de Wit, M. (2015). Sovereignty at what scale? An inquiry into multiple dimensions of food sovereignty. Globalizations, 12(4), 481–497.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Jansen, K. (2014). The debate on food sovereignty theory: agrarian capitalism, dispossession and agroecology. Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(1), 213–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Kappeler, A. (2013). Perils of peasant populism: why redistributive land reform and “food sovereignty” can’t feed venezuela. In Food sovereignty: A critical dialogue. New Haven: Yale University.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Kloppenburg, J. (2014). Re-purposing the master’s tools: the open source seed initiative and the struggle for seed sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1225–1246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Kneafsey, M. (2010). The region in food - Important or irrelevant? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(2), 177–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Lee, R. P. (2013). The politics of international agri-food policy: discourses of trade-oriented food security and food sovereignty. Environmental Politics, 22(2), 216–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. LVC. (1996). Food sovereignty: A future without hunger. The right to produce and access to land. Rome: LVC.

    Google Scholar 

  46. LVC. (2017). Who are we: Regions. https://viacampesina.org/en/who-are-we/regions/. Accessed 17 July 2017.

  47. Martínez-Torres, M. E., & Rosset, P. M. (2010). La Vía Campesina: the birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(1), 149–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Martínez-Torres, M. E., & Rosset, P. M. (2014). Diálogo de saberes in La Vía Campesina: food sovereignty and agroecology. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 979–997.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. McKay, B., Nehring, R., & Walsh-dilley, M. (2014). The “state” of food sovereignty in Latin America: political projects and alternative pathways in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1175–1200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Mckeon, N. (2014). Food security governance: Empowering communities, regulating corporations. UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  51. McMichael, P. (2014). Historicizing food sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 933–957.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. McMichael, P. (2015). The land question in the food sovereignty project. Globalizations, 12(4), 434–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Meek, D., Bradley, K., Ferguson, B., Hoey, L., Morales, H., Rosset, P., & Tarlau, R. (2017). Food sovereignty education across the Americas: multiple origins, converging movements. Agriculture and Human Values. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-017-9780-1.

  54. Ng, M., Fleming, T., Robinson, M., Thomson, B., Graetz, N., Margono, C., et al. (2014). Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2013. The Lancet, 6736(14), 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Ngcoya, M., & Kumarakulasingam, N. (2016). The Lived experience of food sovereignty: Gender, indigenous crops and small-scale farming in Mtubatuba, South Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change, 17(3), 480–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Nyéléni. (2007). Nyéléni 2007: Forum for Food sovereignty. Sélingué: Nyéléni Committee.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Obenchain, J., & Arlene, S. (2015). Food policy: Looking forward from the past. Florida: CRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Palacios-Lopez, A., Christiaensen, L., & Kilic, T. (2017). How much of the labor in African agriculture is provided by women? Food Policy, 67, 52–63.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  59. Park, C. M. Y., White, B., & Julia. (2015). We are not all the same: taking gender seriously in food sovereignty discourse. Third World Quarterly, 36(3), 584–599.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Patel, R. (2008). Stuffed and starved: The hidden battle for the world food system. New York: Melville House.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Patel, R. (2009). Food sovereignty. Journal of Peasant Studies, 36(3), 663–706.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Patel, R. (2012). Food sovereignty: Power, gender, and the right to food. PLoS Medicine, 9(6), 2.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Patel, R. (2013). The long green revolution. Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(1), 1–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Pelletier, N., Audsley, E., Brodt, S., Garnett, T., Henriksson, P., Kendall, A., et al. (2011). Energy intensity of agriculture and food systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 36(1), 223–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Peters, C. J., Bills, N. L., Wilkins, J. L., & Fick, G. W. (2009). Foodshed analysis and its relevance to sustainability. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 24(1), 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Robbins, M. J. (2015). Exploring the “localisation” dimension of food sovereignty. Third World Quarterly, 36(3), 449–468.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Rosset, P. M. (2003). Food sovereignty: global rallying cry of farmer movements. Institute for Food and Development Policy, 9, 1–4.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Sage, C. (2014). The transition movement and food sovereignty: from local resilience to global engagement in food system transformation. Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(2), 254–275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Saldivar-tanaka, L., & Krasny, M. E. (2004). Culturing community development, neighborhood open space, and civic agriculture: the case of Latino community gardens in New York City. Agriculture and Human Values, 21(4), 399–412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Scherb, A., Palmer, A., Frattaroli, S., & Pollack, K. (2012). Exploring food system policy: a survey of food policy councils in the United States. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(4), 3–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Schiavoni, C. M. (2015). Competing sovereignties, contested processes: Insights from the Venezuelan food sovereignty experiment. Globalizations, 12(4), 466–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Schiavoni, C. M. (2017). The contested terrain of food sovereignty construction: toward a historical, relational and interactive approach. Journal of Peasant Studies, 44(1), 1–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Soper, R. (2016). Local is not fair: indigenous peasant farmer preference for export markets. Agriculture and Human Values, 33(3), 537–548.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Tabuchi, H., Rigby, C., & White, J. (2017). Amazon deforestation, once tamed, comes roaring back. The New York times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/business/energy-environment/deforestation-brazil-bolivia-south-america.html?_r=1.

  75. Trauger, A. (2014). Toward a political geography of food sovereignty: transforming territory, exchange and power in the liberal sovereign state. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1131–1152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. UN. (2016). The World’s Cities in 2016. New York: UN.

    Google Scholar 

  77. UNDP. (2008). The challenge of rising food prices and food insecurity: What do human rights have to do with it? http://hrbaportal.org/archives/insights/the-challenge-of-rising-food-prices-and-food-insecurity-what-do-human-rights-have-to-do-with-it. Accessed 17 July 2017.

  78. UNHR. (2010). The Right to Adequate Food. Geneva: UNHR.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Weis, T. (2007). The global food economy: The battle for the future of farming. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  80. WHO. (2016). Global report on urban health: Executive summary. Geneva: WHO.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Windfuhr, M., & Jonsén, J. (2005). Food sovereignty: towards democracy in localized food systems. UK: ITDG Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Zezza, A., & Tasciotti, L. (2010). Urban agriculture, poverty, and food security: empirical evidence from a sample of developing countries. Food Policy, 35(4), 265–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Ziegler, J. (2008). Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development. Geneva: U.N. Human Rights Council.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lise Korsten.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dekeyser, K., Korsten, L. & Fioramonti, L. Food sovereignty: shifting debates on democratic food governance. Food Sec. 10, 223–233 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-017-0763-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Food sovereignty
  • Food governance
  • Social movements
  • Food systems
  • Food security