Advocating policy reform without neglecting crucial practices (part 6 of 8)

This is the sixth post in an eight-part series about how we can transform the roles of non-governmental organizations like Groundswell to make food sovereignty a reality. Read the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth posts.

Advocate policy reform without neglecting crucial practices

Ekorural community workshop in Galtes, Ecuador.

Ekorural community workshop in Galtes, Ecuador.

Social movements in Ecuador are powerful and have had notable success in reforming major policies. Indigenous people represent the majority of Ecuador’s population and are effectively organized into local, second level and national organizations. They have demonstrated their political power by shutting down the country through strikes and even bringing down governments. The indigenous movements form a significant arm of the social movement for progressive reforms to the constitution and other laws.

“There have been important policy achievements in Ecuador,” says Steve Sherwood of EkoRural, “such as the passage of a food sovereignty law and a law to eliminate the use of highly toxic pesticides. The Colectivo de Agroecologia, which EkoRural is a part of, is a network that brings these actors together, including linking urban consumers with small scale producers. They have helped to draft and shape the food sovereignty law. It was an important landmark for us to see that it was possible to influence policy, but it also showed us the limitations of policy. Policy is just on paper. Practice depends on what people do.”

Companies representing the interests of industrialized agriculture still manage to insert themselves into the process and highjack the debate. Recent history has proven that changing policies alone is not enough. “We are supportive and are trying to influence policy. But if we do not influence what people and families actually do, how they produce and consume, then we will not have achieved enough.”

Peter Gubbels highlights the challenges created by the Ghanaian government allowing subsidized food to be dumped in the country. “This has to change if there is to be a people-centered food system in Ghana! Strengthening local food systems first requires both fair and protective trade policies that enable local farmers to sell their food production to Ghanaian consumers. There are many low-cost, economically feasible policies that Ghana could promote to improve the production, marketing and processing of local food crops. For example, government policies could support decentralized milling of locally grown rice to meet consumer expectations. They could make appropriate credit and small-scale irrigation accessible to semi-subsistence, peasant producers for dry season gardening. Appropriate forms of crop insurance for small scale farmers could be developed. Ghana should also explore systems to ensure that peasant farmers obtain a reasonable price for food crops, and promote marketing at the local and national levels.”

– Part 7 will be posted on June 21.

This segment and the rest of the article was a collaborative effort by Steve Brescia (Groundswell’s International Director), Fatou Batta (Groundswell Co-Coordinator for West Africa), Peter Gubbels (Groundswell Co-Coordinator for West Africa), Cantave Jean-Baptiste (Executive Director of Partnership for Local Development), Steve Sherwood (Specialist in Rural Innovation at EkoRural), and Bern Guri (Director of the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development).

Later this year the full text of the article will appear in a book titled “Food Movements Unite!”, which is a collection of essays by food movement leaders from around the world that all seek to answer the perennial political question: What is to be done? It will provide a sector by sector road map for bringing the tremendous transformative potential of the world’s food movements together into a powerful transnational force capable of ending the injustices that cause hunger. “Food Movements Unite!” is being edited by Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of The Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, and Annie Shattuck, a PhD candidate at the University of California at Berkeley.

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