Good Food and Bad Policies

Every two years, Slow Food International has a really big celebration called the Terra Madre, which is going on right now, and this year it is in Turin, Italy. The focus this year is on indigenous cultures, food sovereignty, and their relationship to the earth (link 2 below). Many proud, independent peoples around the world who had a long history of food independence have been undercut by deals their governments make to secure aid or loans from USAid, the IMF, and/or The World Bank.

I am not going to use this forum to argue whether these organizations mean well or not, but you should know how they work and the effect of their programs on the food sovereignty of a nation. Food sovereignty, first of all, is the right of a group of people to decide for themselves how to utilize their land, what foods to grow, and maintaining control over their own food systems. That covers everything from water to fishing to livestock, and of course, agriculture.

Under these programs, in order for country to borrow money from these large international groups, they must agree to certain conditions having to do with globalization and market forces. Usually, the farmer has no say, yet are required to honor the deals made by their government. That usually means forcing farmers who have traditionally grown a large variety of foods to feed their own people, to adopt large monocultures of commodity crops that feed global markets, and often benefit only first world, industrial nations like ours.

The result is a less secure food system, and many people who once fed themselves must now rely on international aid to feed their families. Others lose their livelihoods entirely. This leads to even greater poverty, facilitating a cyclical process of a nation borrowing even more money, which have even tighter conditions and restriction on the choices that peoples from these nations can make. These other conditions can range from water and utility privatization, to deals that allow large corporations to come in and exploit the now desperate workforce, or access to that nations natural resources. Then we pat ourselves on the back for “helping” these people, even when our policies created the messes that burden them in the first place.

This Week’s Harvest: Pumpkins, Kale, Arugula, Tomatoes, Peppers, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Garlic, Parsley

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