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Notes from Learning Call on Food Sovereignty in Africa and Nyeleni 2007: Forum for Food Sovereignty

July 2007

Presenter: Diamantino Nhampossa is the Executive Coordinator for the National Small Scale Farmers Union in Mozambique and a Member of International Coordinating Committee of the Via Campesina for the Africa Region. (Contact information for Diamantino Nhampossa:

Presenter: Anna Lappé is the author of the best selling book “Grub” and a past Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow.

Moderator and Presenter: Corrina Steward, Resource Rights Specialist, Grassroots International. Corrina was a participant in the Forum on Food Sovereignty along with a number of Grassroots International partners.

On behalf of Grantmakers Without Borders (GWOB), Daniel Moss introduced the call, noting that it would be chapter two for many of the people who had attended GWOB’s June conference in New York. There, we were privileged to observe a debate on the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa. Diamantino’s colleague, Mamadou Goita, came from Mali to join that discussion.

Corrina Steward began the call by describing food sovereignty:

The term food sovereignty, for those of you who are not familiar with the concept, was first coined by the Via Campesina, a social movement of farmers, farm workers and rural communities around the world, in 1996 at the World Food Summit. There is no one definition of food sovereignty and, in fact, the concept continues to evolve as more sectors and interest groups enter into the food sovereignty movement. One definition is:

“Food Sovereignty is 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 (From: Food Sovereignty: A Right For All, Political Statement of the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty. Rome, June 2002).”

And providing background on the World Forum for Food Sovereignty:

Nyeleni 2007 World Forum for Food Sovereignty was organized by the World March of Women, Via Campesina, ROPPA (W. African Small Farmers Association), CNOP (Malian Small Farmers Organization), the World Forum of Fishharvesters and Fishworkers, World Forum of Fisher Peoples and Friends of the Earth. Over 500 delegates attended from all regions of the world representing fisher, pastoralists, farmer, farm worker, women’s, environmental, youth, indigenous and consumer organizations (most of these org’s are member-based and not NGOs). Specifically, delegates sought to answer 3 questions: What are we fighting for? What are we fighting against? And what are we going to do about it?

The conversation proceeded in question and answer style:

1. How and why did you get involved in the Nyeleni Forum for Food Sovereignty? What did you go to Mali to accomplish?

Diamantino’s organization, the National Small Scale Farmers Union (UNAC) in Mozambique, is a member of the Via Campesina and will host the Via’s upcoming Congress. His goal for Nyeleni was to further flesh out regional and international definitions and action steps for food sovereignty for diverse regions. He wanted to experience the creativity and active solidarity of sister organizations around the world involved in similar struggles for rights to food, land and water. Mali was very affirming for Diamantino in the sense of seeing that there are many others around the world working within a food sovereignty framework. Anna participated in the Forum as an activist and writer to witness this historic gathering of farmers and allies and to bring back their message to a US audience through her own communications work.

2. Anna as a writer/journalist and both of you as, social activists, what were your impressions of Nyeleni? How was it different or the same from other forums/conferences that you’ve attended? What surprised you? What brought you hope? Or didn’t?

One novel aspect was that the meeting was preceded by a one day, women-only pre-conference meeting. Delegations were intentionally gender-balanced. In Diamantino’s case, one man and one woman represented their organization. Indigenous organizations were also represented. Another unique aspect of Nyeleni was that it was clearly part of a movement-building process. Nyeleni grew out of a desire to deepen working relationships among the scores of organizations represented across small producer, indigenous, women and environmental sectors. The joint work ahead is fortifying the food sovereignty movement. Nyeleni spurred much follow up work in Africa and around the world. In that sense, Anna noted that it was a great investment for funders. Not only was the event in and of itself successful for learning and networking, but organizations used the space well to strategize action steps moving forward.

3. What do you think was accomplished at Nyeleni for the food sovereignty movement globally and specifically for Africa? Where does the movement still have challenges?

Nyeleni was an important first gathering of a cross-section of allies working on food sovereignty. The Forum got this alliance off on the right foot by bringing small producers, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, women and consumers together. The challenge remains building a strong enough power base to create policy change at multiple levels – from the local to the global.

4. Turning to some current issues, how do you think the forum, action plans and regional and sectoral coordination has influenced or will influence:

a) the discussion surrounding the Gates and Rockefeller foundations’ Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)?

At Nyeleni the African region delegates agreed that they would: 1) Resist programs like AGRA that undermine small farmers livelihoods; and 2) Strengthen movements, especially the small producer movement in Africa.

Nyeleni’s synthesis report:

  • Calls for agriculture to be removed from the World Trade Organization; and rejects Economic Partnership Agreements that are currently being foisted on our people and calls for a moratorium on this process.
  • Rejects moves by transnational corporations and their international financial institutions to control seeds and demands a moratorium on the introduction of genetically modified organisms and particularly Terminator seeds into Africa.
  • States that Africa can definitely feed itself but globalization has obstructed the region’s farmers. Women who today do most of the work in food production must have all rights recognized. They are the quintessential practitioners of agroecological farming practices.

There was a question about how the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations will receive feedback from their philanthropic peers on the shape of AGRA. The response was that the GWOB debate had served as an important venue for Gates and Rockefeller to hear their peers’ perceptions. It is now up to all of us to continue to insist on civil society inclusion in the shaping of AGRA.

b) the U.S. farm and agricultural policy, including biofuel and agrofuel development?

Small producers around the world know that if US agricultural policy doesn’t shift to limit grain supply and curb subsidies to large producers, their food sovereignty efforts will only have limited impact. This was noted by many speakers who lend support to the National Family Farm Coalition’s alternative farm bill – the Food from Family Farms Act. There is great concern among small producers world wide about biofuels expansion. There was been a call for a moratorium on that expansion until the environmental and social costs can be fully assessed.

5. Lastly, what would you like to share with the funders on the call in terms of:

a) Nyeleni as a model for funding social justice and food sovereignty efforts:

Anna shared that the Small Planet Fund had provided travel support to delegates to attend the Forum For Food Sovereignty. Grassroots International did the same. As mentioned previously, since it was such an “organic” convening – emerging from a shared desire among sponsors and participants to build a global food sovereignty movement – it offers a model of how to provide seed funding to an emerging movement.

b) Possible funding opportunities and needs to effectively carry through the action plans set in Mali?

Diamantino noted that the social movement organizations in Africa working on food sovereignty seek to build their communications capacities. He pointed out that African groups like UNAC often get their information about AGRA through U.S. organizations. They have no access to information themselves or from their government. They need resources to gather and disseminate information.

A Via Campesina international congress will be held in Mozambique this spring and needs support. There will be an upcoming meeting on AGRA to be held in Mali this spring and it too could use support.

Follow up Resources from the call:

1. Women’s Forum Declaration:

2. Nyéléni Synthesis Report –

3. A book recommended by Anna Lappe – American Foundations: An Investigative History by Mark Dowie, specifically, the chapter on food

4. Additional information in response to a question from a participant: Biotech’s ties to AGRA: The Rockefeller Foundation has hired personnel from the agricultural industry to work on AGRA, such as Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the company.

5. Agenda of Via Campesina regional meeting in Durban Africa, Sept 13 – 15, 2007:




September 13th to 15th 2007, Durban, South Africa

The Africa region of Via Campesina organized its regional meeting from September 13th to September 15th 2007 in Durban, South Africa. Attending were farmers organizations that, together with Via Campesina, struggle in different ways against the negative impacts of neoliberal policies.


Previous to this regional meeting, the 1st women meeting of Via Campesina Africa was held at the same place, on September 11th and 12th 2007.


The objectives of the meeting were :


  1. Integration of new members, in view of the Vth International Conference, to be held in 2008 (with the help of bylaws adopted in Spain in December 2006, during the Mid-term Conference)
  2. Evaluation and update of Via Campesina Africa Action Plan, elaborated in Mali in February 2005
  3. Discussion about how to follow up on Nyéléni processes at the regional level
  4. Elaboration of a Via Campesina Africa position on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)
  5. Presentation of the Global Campain on Land Reform, launched for Africa in Nairobi, during the WSF 2007
  6. First Women Assembly of Via Campesina Africa, previous to the regional meeting
  7. Preparation process of the 5th International Conference of La Via Campesina, 2008


Place of the meeting : Durban, South Africa

Dates : September 13th, 14th and 15th (with the Women meeting on September 11th and 12th)

Participants/Invited organizations : (1 man and 1 woman for most of organizations)

LVC Members:

  1. CNCR – Senegal
  2. CNOP – Mali
  3. CMP – Madagascar
  4. LPM – South Africa
  5. UNAC – Mozambique


Organizations that have made an official request of membership to LVC:

  1. Plate-forme du Niger – NIGER
  2. UCACI – Ivory Coast
  3. COPACO-PRP – Democratic Republic of Congo
  4. CNOP-Congo – Congo Brazzaville
  5. UNACA – Angola
  6. CORDAP – Cameroun


Organizations in contact with LVC

  1. USMEFAN (Union of Small and Medium Scale Farmers of Nigeria) – Nigeria
  2. Farmers Union of Malawi – Malawi
  3. Mviwata – Tanzanie
  4. FEPAB – Burkina Faso
  5. FENACOOPCCI – Ivory Coast
  6. GIEPPA/STP – São Tomé e Principe
  7. – CTOP – Togo
  8. – Kenya

+ 10 people from LPM (5 men, 5 women from 5 provinces)


Translation/working languages: English, French, Portuguese







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