Rebelling for good food, good farming and climate justice
The last few weeks have seen the UK food and farming movement unite with MPs, NGOs and Extinction Rebellion to advocate a fairer food system that is ecologically viable and climate just. Gaia’s Francesca Castagnetti reports. 17th October 2019.
The climate emergency, paired with the challenge of securing abundant and healthy food for growing communities, is demanding industrialised societies to rethink their relationship to land stewardship and food production. Agroecological farming, food sovereignty and the world indigenous movement as embodied in La Via Campesina can guide and inspire us as we seek fairer and more regenerative modes of food production and land use. We need to support the revitalisation of local seed diversity for more resilient crops, whilst simultaneously strengthening communities by rebuilding confidence in local and traditional governance systems. By collaborating with communities both in the UK and in the rest of the world, the Gaia Foundation has been leading the Seed Sovereignty Programme and supporting the We Feed the World global photographic initiative celebrating the small-scale farmers, fishers, herders and hunters who produce over the 70% of the world’s food.
In the UK, the new Agriculture Bill carries an unprecedented potential to place care for the land, small-scale farming and local food systems at the centre of British environmental, food and rural policy, and to move away from EU policies benefitting large-scale farming to the detriment of small producers. A campaign for agroecology to be included in the new Agriculture Bill is ongoing, and more than 4000 people have been writing to their MPs on the matter. On September the 10th an all-party parliamentary group on agroecology in Westminster saw the participation of the Landworkers Alliance, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Soil Association, organic farmers and growers, and the The Gaia Foundation. The event was full of participants; MPs, Lords, campaigning organisations and farmers gathered to discuss and promote the principles of agroecology and regenerative approaches to food systems. UK farmers contributed with a feast of local and organic food. Virtuous examples of agroecological farming across the country were celebrated through photos and presentations.
Following this event, the Autumn kicked off with two key dates of action for the future of small-scale farming and sustainable food systems in the UK. On the 4th October a series of movement-building workshops at the Oxo Tower in Southbank brought together a diverse crowd with a shared vision for resilient and regenerative food and farming systems that have both land and communities at heart. Topics ranged from seed sovereignty and ecological justice to food waste, from GMOs and animal welfare in a post-Brexit Britain to Fair Trade.
The workshops led up to the Good Food Good Farming march on October the 5th, a day of action to support small-scale farming and climate justice, where hundreds of people took to the streets and came together as a community to rally, share food and enjoy music and art. Happening right before the outset of the International Rebellion , the two days of social movement through workshops and the Good Food Good Farming march connected farmers and food sovereignty campaigners with Extinction Rebellion, as they prepared for two weeks of non-violent direct action for climate justice. We Feed the World also joined the Global Justice Rebellion on their site in St. James Park with an exhibition projection and a full programme of talks, art and music to share communities’ stories from around the world.
As we approach the end of the International Rebellion, after more than 1400 people have been arrested and thousands have been taking part in collective actions of demonstration, recognition and mourning for declining biodiversity and the tragic rates of environmental degradation, we need to keep alive the blazing fire of public awareness. We shall continue campaigning, supporting local economies, and sharing the stories of those who care for the land and those who feed the world.
To learn more about agroecology and the food sovereignty movement in the UK, check out the new Agroecology in Action resource from the Landworkers’ Alliance, featuring 27 inspirational examples of farmers and communities from across the UK.