After four years of hard work, peasant organizations and allies in Nicaragua are now celebrating the approval of a new Food Sovereignty, Food Security and Nutrition Law.
The new law mandates that government departments a) coordinate their programs to enhance national food sovereignty and food security and b) guarantee spaces for the active participation of civil society organizations in decision-making. The law creates a new position to oversee the implementation of food security programs. According to Yolanda Areas, the Womens Sector coordinator of the Association of Rural Workers (ATC), a Grassroots partner, the new law establishes a legal framework to regulate the participation of transnational companies and help local organizations and governments to restore local food culture and peasant agriculture.
The approval of Nicaraguas new Food Sovereignty, Food Security and Nutrition Law is an outstanding achievement for peasant communities throughout the region. Nicaragua, like other Central American countries, is suffering the consequences of the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement, including the growing control of transnational corporations over the national food system. Once self-sufficient in food production, Central America has become a net importer of staple foods. The undermining of peasant agriculture by large industrial operations is one of the main factors crippling the food system.
Recently, we witnessed a global food crisis that left millions without food because of shortages and high grain prices. In Nicaragua, the basic food prices rose 14% in 2008. Peasant movements such as Via Campesina in Central America have clearly laid out the connections between the global food crisis and the highjacking of the global food system by powerful corporations, including those engaged in commodities speculation.
According to Adolfo Hurtado, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization Food Security Program in Nicaragua, the new law breaks the dichotomy between development and hunger alleviation, an assumption held primarily by neo-liberal governments and the corporate sector. The goal is to strengthen the national food system from a development perspective, which means feeding the poorest while creating opportunities for the economic growth of the agriculture sector.
For peasant organizations, the approval of the new law represents an historic moment. Divided by Nicaraguas bloody civil war in 70s, peasants were able to overcome political differences in order to work together for the passage of this law. Through the Agriculture Development Roundtable, ex-soldiers from the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the Counter-Revolutionary Front (or Contras) together led the process of designing and advocating for a policy that will favor local agriculture and a stronger national food system. Currently, the Agriculture Development Roundtable includes nearly 100 national organizations and international development agencies.
Grassroots International congratulates the Nicaraguan peasant organizations for this enormous achievement and hope that other countries in Central America will follow the local peasant leadership towards a more sustainable and just future for all.