Decolonisation and Food Sovereignty in Europe thoughts from the edges

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Summary of group discussion in preparation for Food Sovereignty Forum in Europe, written by Mama D and Colin Anderson.

Look in a mirror, look around you – what kinds of people are in your midst? Think about this when you are at food sovereignty gatherings in Europe – How diverse is the movement and whose voices are being heard?

How can we widen the relevance of the food sovereignty movement so that food Sovereignty can build solidarity with the widest diversity of people(s) –  But how do Food Sovereignty activities manage to avoid the political territory that is inherent in the unjust framing and appropriation of it as a concept by the Global North? How do food sovereignty struggles link up with related struggles – for example against racism, against patriarchy, against poverty, etc.?

Intergenerational planting of the 'three sisters' at May Project Gardens, London

Intergenerational planting of the ‘three sisters’ at May Project Gardens, London

A group of about fifteen participants in the UK food sovereignty movement came together in the UK preparatory meeting for the European Food Sovereignty Forum – an international gathering coming up in 10 days in Cluj (Romania). We debated, amongst many other things, how to advance decolonization (of the food system(s), of the lifeworld in general). Some rough notes from the discussion on decolonization and food sovereignty are as follows:

  • The dominant or mainstream food system(s) – industrial, corporate, neocolonial – is built on the oppression of others and food systems, and indeed the global economic system, has been built on colonial history
  • Those with the most privilege are impacted the least by the harms of the industrial and colonial food systems, yet have the most power and often benefit the most from the solutions.
    • If agroecology is a solution, did the thinking and praxis, and indeed the most pressing necessity for it, not come first from the margins…now transferred from South to North?
  • Indeed, food sovereignty activism and organizing doesn’t always (or even rarely) incorporate intersectionality, race, class, gender, income. Do the absence of these not create contradictions within a movement which was based on alerting the world to the complex inequalities and injustices experienced by people of the Global South and people in the margins, wherever they are to be found?
  • In-post Brexit era, fascism and racism is growing in the UK – and indeed the world-over: this makes it increasingly difficult to speak out on food justice issues without a fear of ‘system push back’ upon the person speaking.
    Community Food Growers Network visit Strood's youngest farmer and give support

    Community Food Growers Network visit Strood’s youngest farmer and give support

  • The withdrawal of the UK from Europe (it is feared) may lead to an amplification and deepened continuation of the UK’s colonial foreign policy and the extractive relationship with the global south as well as affecting the food systems which relate to an expression of food sovereignty of people of the diaspora within Britain and Europe as a whole. What about our ‘diets of resistance’?
  • The problematisation of the food sovereignty narrative through an emphasis on decolonization has emerged in the debates in the UK food sovereignty movement, from the perspective and voice of activists from “non-dominant” groups.
    • We don’t want to dominate anything, we are children of humanitarian integration with life and we assert our identities as ones which are valuable on the Earth, within and inhabiting our difference,and not simply as ones whose identities or experiences are simply waiting to be assimilated.
      Caribbean Seeds and foods: old species for new lands: Strood Allotment harvest, 2016

      Caribbean Seeds and foods: old species for new lands: Strood Allotment harvest, 2016

  • It is important to challenge the narrative and practices of food sovereignty and local food when it does not consider how the food we produce and eat is linked to past and ongoing processes of colonisation
    • ‘linked’ is a massive understatement. How and what we eat is significantly derived from the practice and process of the global enslavement and colonization of the majority world peoples by the minority global North through the means of guns, germs and extraction!
  • Look in a mirror, look around you – what kinds of people are in your midst? Think about this when you are at food sovereignty gatherings in Europe – How diverse is the movement and whose voices are being heard
    • But…although this works as an image, it also makes visual identity, the primary expression of how colonialism oppresses others? We must not forget that colonialism is also there in the language, the forms/processes and it is implicit in the whole organization of the forum, through the institutionalisation of particular ways of thinking about the world, about the Earth …

To what extent are these kinds of conversations about decolonisation taking place as a part of food sovereignty narrative and practice in other parts of Europe? What resonance will these critical questions have with others? How can we address these thorny issues while also staying focused on a politics of the possible, on strengthening existing food sovereignty work, while diversifying and broadening the narrative and struggle. But, one does not wish to strengthen a struggle, one wishes to gain victories and elevate one’s thinking and action beyond struggle and into the realm of solidarity and collective leadership based upon equity…

Some great links can be made to the US Food Justice movement. A nice backgrounder here:

Also, a good book here:

And also to work in Canada (and elsewhere) on Indigenous Food Sovereignty



and Malik Yakini also has done a lot in the field in the United States concerning food justice: …

Dawn Morrison is a wonderful thinking and practitioner on indigenous food sovereignty.

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