Right to Food and Nutrition WatcThe new Right to Food and Nutrition Watch has just been released, shedding light on the control businesses have over food systems and policies.

Commonly referred to as ‘corporate capture’, the control exerted by businesses has skyrocketed. Particularly present since the food-price volatility crisis shook the world in 2007/08, this reality is putting human rights at great risk.

As demonstrated by the diverse predicaments the world has faced in the last decades, the present economic model is unable to guarantee the conditions for national governments to fulfill their human rights obligations. Likewise, it appears to give priority to corporate interests over the realization of peoples’ rights, especially the right to food and nutrition. In a world where 795 million people will continue to suffer from undernourishment while half a billion keep suffering from obesity, communities worldwide see the prevention of corporate capture as a critical issue.

The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch, a renowned annual civil society-led peer publication, launched today at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, analyzing some of these key issues. Entitled “Peoples’ Nutrition Is Not a Business”, it will put nutrition under the spotlight, exposing the impact of business operations on peoples’ livelihoods. Nutrition will be assessed from a human rights perspective, going beyond the mere measurement of nutrients in food and human bodies and considering the socio-economic and cultural context in which human beings feed themselves.

This year, WhyHunger is thrilled that Jess Powers, Director of the Nourish Network for the Right to Food, has written an article for inclusion in the publication titled, “The Right to Food in the US: The Need to Move Away from Charity and Advance Towards a Human Rights Approach.” In it she discusses that frontline alternative approaches must also push for comprehensive and integrated food and agriculture policy to advance the right to adequate food and nutrition.

Commenting on the publication, Flavio Valente, FIAN International’s Secretary General, says: “This year’s edition describes peoples’ struggle to retake ownership of their lives and bodies from transnational corporations. Here, nutrition is not confined to medical and technical domains, but extended to critical political and systemic dimensions that can ensure diverse, wholesome, sustainable and culturally adequate diets. The Watch uncovers the subtle but appalling corporate abuse and impunity around the human right to food and nutrition, and provides a series of recommendations for States to prevent and punish initiatives that hamper the enjoyment of human rights”.

“Peoples’ Nutrition Is Not a Business” delves into the competing visions of nutrition, the causes of malnutrition and the policy responses, both behind the scenes and in the public sphere. Considering the specific adversities women and girls face in their everyday lives, the Watch also draws attention to the link between the right to adequate food and nutrition and the full realization of the rights of women and girls. “After all, corporate capture affects women and girls’ effective participation in political, economic and social life, and impedes their role in the transformation of unequal gender-based power relations,” Valente concludes.

Read and share the full publication today! 










This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

There is a certain mindset which says that science and technology have all the answers, swooping in from above to solve every agricultural problem that is preventing us from feeding the world, especially in the face of an ever expanding population, climate change and global warming. They will solve the growing problem of hunger and starvation throughout the world with a series of tech-fixes that will save millions of lives. Trust us they say. We are the smart people and we are here to help you, just do as we say.

This top down series of tech- fixes has been the dominant method of development for decades. Science and technology experts know what to do and all that “poor” farmers need to do is follow their lead. Many of these experts are well meaning and dedicated. Many others are just out to make a buck, or more likely a fortune. And their top-down, technological, agribusiness-led development approach is neither feeding the planet, nor befitting communities or the environment.

There is another way. It starts from the bottom up, listening to the needs of small farmers all over the world but also listening to what they already know, what resources they already have and then how they can be better organized to make the most with what they know and can learn.

Agroecology is spreading through farmer-to-farmer and community-to-community dialogues and learning exchanges. It relies on the knowledge and experiences of millions of small and medium sized farmers who grow food and take care of the land. It is a continuing dialogue of learning and practicing agriculture. More than that, it is an empowering way of life that brings together whole communities of varying sizes as well as ethnic and religious backgrounds. It empowers women in ways that have changed centuries of gender bias and exclusion.

Agroecology is the backbone of a larger movement known as Food Sovereignty that supports the democratic control of food systems and the right of all people to grow, consume and sell healthy foods of their choice For example, it resists governments and agri-businesses forcing farmers to grow rice in parts of India that have traditionally grown millet or forcing farmers off their land through illegal deals between corrupt governments and ranchers or mono crop conglomerates that result in “land grabs.”

The 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize is honoring two peoples organizations dedicated to making change and bringing justice from the grassroots in the bottom-up approach, despite fighting against the dominant development model that was destroying their communities.

domestic-2-300x225The Federation of Southern Cooperatives has worked since 1967 in 16 States in the U.S. to keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily, but not exclusively, black farmers. Black farmers have withstood decades of discriminatory and racist practices by the US Department of Agriculture, which finally settled for billions of dollars with farmers and their families who were forced off their land. Today, only .4% of farmland in the U.S. is operated by black farmers; over 98% is operated by whites.

To deal with the threats to farming families posed by the government, the Federation promotes land-based agricultural cooperatives, where it provides trainings in a variety of skills and helps farmers survive and stay on the land, especially through fights for justice in local courthouses, state legislatures and in the halls of Congress.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post.




To support our partner, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance’s Month of Community PowerWhyHunger will act in solidarity and invite you all to do the same as organizations across the US mobilize against privatizing land and water, work for democratic control of our food system. Learn more about this important initiative and how you can join below.


The United States Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), an alliance of 37 organizations working for the right to food for all communities, is coordinating the Month of Community Power to Reclaim the Commons this October, which spotlights local communities’ resistance to the privatization of food, water, land, oceans, and the greater Commons (land, water, seeds and open space) that are being privatized at an alarming rate. An estimated 20 actions are expected to take place across the United States, led by communities fighting for the rights to produce their own food and for the rights of food producers. The USFSA’s member organizations and allies believe that land and water are common resources that should benefit the people, especially to provide food for those most in need — not exploited for private profit or corporate gain.

The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) kicked off the month of actions on September 30th, with a demonstration at the New England Fisheries Management Council meeting at the Radisson hotel in Plymouth, MA. This action’s goal was to defend the ocean commons against policies of privatization and consolidation of shared resources.

“In New England and elsewhere we believe that Main Street fisheries are better than Wall Street Fisheries. We know that farming policies driven by Wall Street have allowed for consolidation of our farmlands with grave ecological, social, and economic impacts. These policies are now being replicated in fisheries and it should stop,” said Ed Snell, a fisherman from Portland, ME and a member of NAMA.

Throughout the month of October, groups across the country are taking action to the fight for their communities’ rights to access common resources and to participate directly in making the decisions about who controls our land, water, and food.

In Philadelphia, a coalition of community gardeners, Soil Generation, is working to increase and to protect existing gardens in the city with over 30,000 vacant lots and is organizing community land access trainings during the Month of Action.

In Montana, members of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), representing 30,000 farmers throughout the country, organized a campaign to prevent a coal mine from displacing farmers and ranchers.

In Alaska, the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign is organizing a petition to the US government to stop mining in Southeast Alaska that would destroy pristine fishing grounds in both the US and Canada.

And in San Antonio, the Southwest Workers Union is continuing to organize low-income workers and families in the community around land and food at the Roots of Change organic community garden.

The goal of the Month of Community Power is to amplify the voices of diverse community-based organizations and leaders from across the nation, working to put a stop to further resource grabs and privatization schemes.

“Small farmers are only increasing. We aren’t going away,” says Chukou Thao of the National Hmong American Farmers, a member organization of NFFC.

A full list of actions and resources can be found at the USFSA website and stories and updates from local organizations can be found at the Month of Community Power Facebook group.


farmer profile

This is the 3rd and final profile in a 3-part series. Story and photos by Siena Chrisman.

Roger Allison raises beef calves with his wife, Rhonda Perry, on rolling pastures in the hills of central Missouri. Their cattle graze on lush grass and cool themselves in a valley pond in the heat of the summer. Industrially-focused farm professionals suggest that beef cows should be sold at age ten because they stop producing calves; on Roger and Rhonda’s pastures, cows still calve at twice that age. “And once a cow’s lived that long and taken care of us,” says Roger, “well, then we’re just running a nursing home.” At age 26, cows #3 and #100 are living out their days on the farm with nothing to do but graze and sleep. “They say it’s bad management, but that’s how we do it. They talk about how you’ve got to treat your livestock just like a piece of machinery… but why be a farmer if you’re going to do that?”

Roger and Rhonda have spent their lives fighting for the survival of family farms like theirs in the face of “expert” advice and a policy framework that has come to favor and incentivize large corporate farm operations. Roger is the Executive Director and founder of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) and Rhonda is Program Director; along with helping to manage the organization, Roger tends to the cattle on the farm. He was a major force in the last powerful progressive farmer-led movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and his many stories range from working with Jesse Jackson to the corporatization of the local electric coop to the proliferation of herbicide-resistant superweeds. The connecting threads are his deep care for people, animals, community and land, and his willingness to fight for them.

farmer profileRoger first began Missouri Rural Crisis Center as part of the North American Farm Alliance, in 1985, though he was an organizer long before. “We had raised hell in Missouri since the 1970s,” he says. “We put thousands and thousands in the streets and in front of courthouses,” calling for a fair price for farmers—”parity, not charity,” as the protest sign had it: a guaranteed price based on the cost of production rather than hand-outs. Other protests were for civil rights and against South African apartheid. Shortly after its founding, MRCC was instrumental in a protest that occupied the parking lot of the Chillicothe, Missouri, USDA office for 145 days. In the short term, the protest aimed to force out a county supervisor who was unlawfully foreclosing on farms; on a larger scale, it aimed to pressure Missouri lawmakers to pass the farm credit act that would address the rapid rate of farm foreclosures in rural America. In the end, the supervisor was disciplined and transferred, and President Ronald Reagan signed the Agricultural Credit Act into law in 1987—a bill Roger calls “the most progressive piece of legislation since the New Deal.”

Despite Reagan’s signing of the Credit Act, Roger’s political allegiances were elsewhere: he worked with Jesse Jackson on his campaigns in 1984 and 1988, because Jackson was the only presidential candidate to address farm issues, as he built his diverse “Rainbow Coalition.” In an unexpected alliance, rural, mostly-white Missouri counties caucused for Jackson in both his campaigns, along with Black urban counties, university students, and others—because he addressed the farm crisis as a social justice issue. Farmers were a critical voting bloc, but had been ignored for years. “When there’s someone willing to stand up and fight,” Roger says, “there are votes there.”

Continue reading on WhyHunger’s Digital StoryTelling Website.

About the Author
Siena Chrisman has worked on sustainable food and farm issues for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in Civil Eats, Modern Farmer and Grist, among other outlets. Formerly an organizer and writer with WhyHunger, where she was director of the online Food Security Learning Center and manager of the Connect Blog, her current freelance research and writing focuses on commodity farmers, livestock and farm policy. Siena was raised on raw milk in rural Massachusetts, and now lives in Brooklyn.

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