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Unity: A Vision for the Future of Food and Family Farming

February 2006

This week, Grassroots is participating in a series of events that we helped the National Family Farm Coalition organize in Washington, D.C..

I was in D.C. on Monday for an exciting public forum (you can see aPDF of the program here), hosted by the NFFC and featuring speakers from many other members of the Via Capesina, including Pedro Christoffoli, a representative of Grassroots’ partner, the MST.

Leaders of the movement of family farmers and farm workers from all over the United States met with leaders of farmer and peasant movements from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Mali to talk about the right of people everywhere to have enough food, to be able to choose how and where that food is produced and to have a dignified livelihood.

The simple truth that these farmers from all over the world reiterated is that our global agricultural system is broken. It’s a system in which food is treated as merchandise, not as the source of life, where increases in grain production go to feed cattle for export while local people starve.

Farmers around the world have been watching the breakdown of the system for years. “People have to realize that farmers are like canaries in the mineshaft, and they need to start listening,”? George Naylor, President of the NFFC said.

“We’ve got agrarian policies that support a model of agriculture that doesn’t serve the countryside or the city, that destroys the environment, and that, in the case of Brazil, even results, to this day, in brutal slave labor,” Christoffoli said. The only ones who benefit from these policies are large multi-national agribusiness companies that control food trade and processing markets.

This week, some of the participants in the conference are meeting with representatives in congress and with other NGOs and movements that are interested in social justice, in clean and healthy environments and in human rights, while others have traveled to Montreal for the North American Via Campesina meeting. Others have gone back to their farms (or like me, back to my keyboard) to continue the work that we share, building the U.S. food sovereignty movement and struggling together for global justice.

At the forum on Monday, Badrul Alam, director of the largest peasant movement in Bangladesh and a member of the Via Campesina’s international board, put the struggle in perspective: “The people who oppose food sovereignty have money, which is powerful. But we have something even stronger: the power of hope and the power of unity.”

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