Organiclea welcomed friends from Ehne Bizkaia (Basque Farmers Union) and the Landworkers’ Alliance on a beautiful day in late October. The visit was part of a knowledge-sharing exchange to enable community producers from both England and the Basque region of Spain to share their experiences in the struggle for food sovereignty. Ehne Bizkaia are also members of the powerful peasants’ organisation La Via Campesina.
The concept of food sovereignty is about people reclaiming the food system from big business. We believe that food is not just another commodity, people have the right to high quality food, produced in a socially and ecologically responsible manner. Building knowledge and skills is a key principle of food sovereignty so it was exciting for us to host the Ehne Bizkaia delegation. The delegation included growers, small livestock holders, a trade union organiser, and a journalist for the trade union.
Some of the key points and themes arising from our conversations included:
• The importance of small producers feeding themselves and their communities with high quality food. Our food system should provide nourishment for all people, rather than deliver profits to shareholders.
• 50 years ago 90% of people in the Basque country lived off the land as small producers, now with the trend of increasing commercialisation, less than 1% of people live off the land as producers. There is continued resistance from small producers to defend their livelihoods and communities’ right to local, low impact and nutritious food.
• The concepts of agro-ecology and food sovereignty are key to a socially and ecologically just food system.
• The policies of the EU reward and subsidise big business and harm small producers.
• The importance of local food chains, and the challenges community growers face in accessing affordable and suitable sites for growing.
In the evening the Community Food Growers’ Network hosted a dinner at Wolves Lane Community Greenhouses, where members of Ehne Bizkaia also spoke. They did not mince their words – we are being poisoned through poor quality food that is also destroying the planet. But, we heard, we still have the knowledge of how to grow, and we must share this knowledge with others and fight for dignity in our lives. Food can be a powerful tool for social change and we must organise to build a new world.
In the struggle for food sovereignty, international solidarity is essential. We intend to build on the connections we made.