On food sovereignty for all

The phrase ‘food sovereignty’ is one that can leave some shaking their heads in confusion – what is it, and why does it matter?

Members of the General Assembly Committee on Social Justice Issues (Committee 9) were advised to “think of food sovereignty as food democracy,” as they began to discuss Overture 09-09, “On Food Sovereignty for All,” which the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta brought to the assembly.

The committee approved the overture, which now will go to the full assembly for its consideration Wednesday as part of the committee’s consent agenda.

The overture is a request to pray for those within the food systems of the United States and overseas – those who “devote their lives to feeding people but who are often undercompensated and lacking respect.” It also urges the church to study issues of food justice regarding fairness and sustainability through a biblical and Christian lens.

The overture urges support for food sovereignty initiatives such as “sponsoring community gardens, hosting farmers markets, community kitchens, market gardens” and promoting purchase of locally and sustainably grown food.

Most of the committee’s discussion centered around item six of the overture, which calls for Presbyterians to join with partners “working to end large-scale land grabs and return unfairly obtained land to communities.”

Overture advocate Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, explained to the committee the need for such support of international partners, particularly in Africa.  “In the past two years land the size of France has come under a 99- year lease to other countries to ship food back to their own countries,” Farrell explained. “Countries are also doing this for palm oil or bio-fuel – and in so doing, this is moving a lot of small farmers off their land.”

Some of those being displaced are Presbyterians, as in the case of Cameroon, where church partners contacted the PC(USA) when land more than 200 square miles was leased to a US investment group, forcing local farmers off their land.

The Social Justice Issues Committee voted to amend the original overture, removing the language referring to ‘return unfairly obtained land to communities.’ As amended, the overture passed overwhelmingly in committee.

Erin Dunigan

Erin Dunigan is a freelance writer, photographer, and pastor who lives in a small coastal community in Baja California, Mexico when she is not following her wanderlust out into the world.