Food sovereignty and the new economy

Food security and food sovereignty at first glance may appear as one and the same thing. However, upon further interrogation, the former refers to a more technical approach to providing adequate and nutritional food whilst the later is more political.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is achieved

When all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle.

Food sovereignty on the other hand encompasses

The right of peoples, communities and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food sovereignty means the primacy of people’s and community’s rights to food and food production, over trade concerns.

Food security is intricately linked to the economy at global and local levels, and it has been argued that food security brings economic growth and not the other way around. A closer examination of the above definitions pushes us to think more about the food systems, how these are arranged and how they relate to new economy principles. The new economy promotes healthy and resilient human communities and ecosystems for present and future generations. When linked to food systems, some of these principles entail:

  1. Sustainable approaches to food production and accessing food, respecting natural limits in order to have a healthy and resilient natural world
  2. Democratisation of food supply chain, allowing for a multiplicity of production methods, seed types, ownership etc.
  3. Ensuring economic progress by making adequate investments in research, education, physical infrastructure, and technology, in relation to food.
  4. Localizing control of food production and distribution allowing communities to sustain themselves in more efficient and equitable ways.
  5. Ensuring that livelihoods are adequately supported and provided for.

This therefore requires a shift in values to those that promotes prosperous communities, individual happiness, and a healthy and resilient natural world.

About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.