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Natural Resource Governance around the World

Agrarian Reform in the Context of Food Sovereignty, the Right to Food and Cultural Diversity: Land, Territory and Dignity

Issue Paper # 5. International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD)

Written by: International NGO/CSO Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC)

Writing date:

Organizations: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC)

Type of document: Research Paper



In this paper, which provides a civil society perspective on agrarian reform and rural development, we develop the concept of food sovereignty as an overarching framework or paradigm. Food sovereignty essentially defines the policy package that would be needed so that policies of agrarian reform and rural development might truly reduce poverty, protect the environment, and enhance broad-based, inclusive economic development. The most fundamental pillars of food sovereignty include the recognition and enforcement of the right to food and the right to land; the right of each nation or people to define their own agricultural and food policies, respecting the right of indigenous peoples to their territories, the rights of traditional fisherfolk to fishing areas, etc.; a retreat from free trade policies, with a concurrent greater prioritization of production of food for local and national markets, and an end to dumping; genuine agrarian reform; and peasant-based sustainable, or agroecological, agricultural practices.

We develop the human rights aspects of food sovereignty–and how food sovereignty implies agrarian reform–through an analysis of the right to adequate food, and of the right to land that rural social movements claim. We then analyze different agrarian reform polices in the light of food sovereignty, calling for a new redistributive land reform that defends and/or restores indigenous territories and respects and balances the needs of diverse rural peoples.

We highlight the issues raised by diversity by examining the perspective of indigenous peoples with regard to territory as a more inclusive and important concept than mere land, and the right to self-determination of peoples in their territories, and by looking at the situation in West Africa, where conflicting traditional practices and State-led agrarian polices can pit local, endogenous communities against colonists, colonists against the State, and farmers against cattlemen and nomadic pastoralists. In other words, while civil society organizations and social movements call for genuine redistributive agrarian reform in the context of food sovereignty policies, such programs must be designed through processes in which local communities take leadership, and which address the needs and demands of diverse constituencies, including but not limited to indigenous peoples, traditional fisherfolk, nomadic pastoralists, migrants, peasant and family farm cultivators, forest peoples, rural workers, and others. We end with a set of guidelines or recommendations to orient future agrarian reform policies in the context of food sovereignty.

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