Monday, November 2, 2009

Director of the Mozambiquan Farmers Union addresses Rural Poverty

Diamantino Nhampossa’s speech at the EU Forum on Sustainable Rural Development

Link to full speech

My country – Mozambique – is one of those African countries in which the consequences of colonization, neo- or re-colonization, and structural adjustment programs are visible. There is a growing number of poor people living in rural areas without basic public services like water, health services and education, while our main urban centres are showing a concentration of wealth in the hands a small group of people. The suburbs are becoming more crowded than ever, and everyday life is a big challenge. countries have many experiences of the negative impacts of mono-culture, and of GM crops, however this same methodology is being promoted in African countries such as Moçambique – why? We must learn from the lessons of the past, and be innovative and courageous in our aid and agriculture policies. If not, the errors of the past will simply be replicated, and small holder farmers will become even more impoverished, all in the name of globalization.

It is important to recognise the difference between “development” and advancement in technological terms. Technological advancement does not necessarily equate to improved standard of living for poor rural peasant farmers – more often than not it further entrenches their impoverishment. Technology is not always the panacea.

One alternative that is left to fight poverty on the Continent is the proposal that comes from the movement of peasants, indigenous, migrants, women and rural communities, confirmed during the international forum held early this year in Mali: that is Food Sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty gives priority to local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal - fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.

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