Venezuela and Food Sovereignty

September 12, 2009 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

The July-August issue of Monthly Review was devoted to the global food and agricultural crisis.

Its very sober, but necessary, reading on the inability of capitalist industrial agriculture to feed people who need it most. But the magazine also included a number of articles that discuss the inspiring resistance movements striving to achieve food sovereignty.

One place where this struggle is making ground is in Venezuela. The excerpt below points out the agroecological changes in Venezuela’s food system are linked to the overall revolutionary process reshaping the country.

The full article by Christina Schiavoni and William Camacaro is here.

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It is important to place Venezuela’s food sovereignty efforts within the context of the Bolivarian Revolution, as the two are inextricably linked. The following are four core principles of the Bolivarian Revolution that figure heavily into efforts for food sovereignty:

Bolivarianism: The Bolivarian Revolution is named for Símon Bolívar, who led struggles for independence from colonial and imperialist forces throughout much of Latin America in the early 1800s. To this day, Bolívar represents a vision for a liberated and united Latin America. In Venezuela’s struggle for food sovereignty, Bolivarianism points to a food system free of corporate control, neoliberal economic policies, and unfair trade rules. Internationally, Venezuela is forging alternative systems of trade and cooperation that promote the integration of Latin America and support each country’s right to food sovereignty.

Socialism of the Twenty-First Century: This involves building new social and economic systems based on equality, social inclusion, shared wealth and resources, and true participation of all members of society. In terms of food and agriculture, this means returning the means of production to the people through agrarian reform and cooperatively run farms and food-processing factories, as well as the treatment of food as a basic human right rather than a commodity for profit.

Endogenous Development: Meaning “development from within,” this implies first looking inside, not outside, to meet the country’s development needs, building upon Venezuela’s own unique assets. This means valuing the agricultural knowledge and experience of women, indigenous, Afro-descendents, and other typically marginalized campesino (peasant farming) populations as fundamental to Venezuela’s food sovereignty. This also means preserving Venezuela’s native seeds, traditional farming methods, and culinary practices.

Participatory Democracy: This form of governance empowers citizens to play a direct role in politics, having a say in decisions that impact their lives. In Venezuela, it is facilitated by community councils, of which there are over 35,000 (and growing) throughout the country.10 Community councils and other forms of citizen organizing are enabling communities to monitor their food needs, shape food policies, and take control over their local food systems, much as local “food policy councils” in the United States strive to do.

Venezuela’s new constitution, adopted by popular referendum in 1999, laid the foundation for food sovereignty through several key articles. For example, article 305 states:

The State shall promote sustainable agriculture as the strategic basis for overall rural development, and consequently shall guarantee the population a secure food supply, defined as the sufficient and stable availability of food within the national sphere and timely and uninterrupted access to the same for consumers….Food production is in the national interest and is fundamental to the economic and social development of the Nation.

Article 306 addresses rural development and support for agricultural activity, while article 307 addresses land issues, establishing the basis for passage of the Law of the Land in 2001, a critical instrument for Venezuela’s agrarian reform.

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Entry filed under: agriculture, agroecology, Food sovereignty, Venezuela.

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