Black and Afro-Indigenous Farmers Will Share 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize*
By Lisa Griffith
In this moment when it is vital to assert that Black lives matter, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance honours Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen, and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially honour them as a vital part of food chain workers, who together are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food, and democratic control over food systems.
In 2015, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance’s two prize winners are the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S., and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. The prizes will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American ones. The Federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 16 Southern states, approximately 90% of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.
The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14% to 1% in less than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned instead of corporate-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and advocates to the courts and to state and national legislatures.
Ben Burkett, co-founder of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Mississippi farmer, said,
“Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self-determination of a local community to grow and do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”
The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change.
The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. OFRANEH brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, promotion of Garifuna culture, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.
Coordinator Miriam Miranda said, “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. We need to produce to bring autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.”
The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of October 14 in Des Moines, IA, at the Historical Building. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but imbalanced access to wealth means inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agro-ecology.
The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labour, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Grassroots International, and the Small Planet Fund.