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The Landless Workers Movement wins the Food Sovereignty Prize

July 2011

The International Links Committee of Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) announced the Landless Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil as the recipient of the 2011 Food Sovereignty Prize. Grassroots International congratulates our longtime partner and celebrates their accomplishments in promoting community-led initiatives for land and food rights in Brazil, and leading the struggle worldwide.

The prize is awarded annually to the organization that best:

  • promotes food sovereignty by raising public awareness, on-the-ground action, or developing and implementing programs and policies
  • recognizes the importance of collective action in bringing about social change
  • recognizes global linkages in food sovereignty work, and
  • demonstrates clear recognition of the importance of women in agriculture and food issues

Past winners include the Family Farm Defenders and the Via Campesina, of which the MST (and the FFD through the National Family Farm Coalition) is a member.   According to CFSC, the MST was chosen to receive the prize because their network has excelled in: 

  • Promoting food sovereignty by raising public awareness, on-the-ground  action, and developing and implementing programs and policies;
  • Recognizing the importance of collective action in bringing about social change;
  • Recognizing global linkages in food sovereignty work; and
  • Demonstrating clear recognition of the importance of women in agriculture and food issues.  

  Latin America’s largest popular movement, the MST has been at the forefront of social action for comprehensive agrarian reform and food sovereignty. The MST works with landless peasants to identify and settle on underutilized land, gain legal title to the land and bring it into productive use. Through the MST’s efforts, more than 350,000 families have been settled on 17 million acres of land and currently another 89,840 families are living in encampments, awaiting settlement. The MST is also one of the most powerful peasant and landless workers movements and plays a vital leadership role within the Vía Campesina.  “Food cannot be a commodity – that has to be included as one of our principles of food sovereignty. Food must be a right for everybody,” said Joao Pedro Stedile, an MST leader and member of Grassroots International’s Resource Rights Advisory Group.  The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to MST at the 15th Annual CFSC conference “Food Justice: Honoring our Roots, Growing the Movement” to be held November 4 – 8, 2011 in Oakland, California.  The award ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 6 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm.  The Community Food Security Coalition is a national coalition of more than 600 organizations dedicated to building food systems that are healthy, sustainable, just and democratic by building community voice and capacity for change. We are committed to ending hunger, promoting public health, and supporting sustainable agriculture through policy advocacy, education, research and organizing. CFSC expects 1,200 people to attend our 15th Annual Conference.    In addition to the MST, the 2011 Food Sovereignty Prize awarded honorable mentions to: Campesino a Campesino Movement, South Central Farmers, and GBIAC (Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya).   What is Food Sovereignty?  First put forward first by the Via Campesina at the 1996 World Food Summit, food sovereignty goes well beyond ensuring that all people have sufficient food at all times to meet their physical needs.  As spelled out at the2002 Forum on Food Sovereignty in Rome, food sovereignty “ includes the right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, 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.”  The Principles of Food Sovereignty call for:

1. Food for People

2. Valuing Food Providers

3. Localizing Food Systems

4. Making Decisions Locally

5. Building Knowledge and Skills

6. Working with Nature  

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