April 24 is the actual date of Ireland’s Easter Rising. It is also now the date for what is fast becoming a dispersed national gathering, one timed to coincide with this 100th anniversary.
On this date, people all over Ireland will gather to eat meals where they live, to reflect food sovereignty.
Indeed this will become a meet, eat, and tweet moment, with social media being used to circulate photographs of what a food sovereignty meal looks like.
The plan is for people to take a pic of the meal and send it out via social media.
They will use a searchable link — a hashtag, #FoodSov — and link to a document called Ireland’s Food Sovereignty Proclamation.
This is all happening on April 24, all over Ireland and anyone can get involved in this decentralised, diverse activity.
But what is food sovereignty? It’s about people regaining control over food and farming. On one level, it really is that simple.
It’s about communities having a chance to engage with local food producers, to support them to feed their locality sustainably.
Food Sovereignty doesn’t necessarily demand an end to exports. But it does stake a claim that local people have a right to locally produced food, food that’s good for them, affordable and produced with care for the environment.
The momentum for this food sovereignty proclamation came from the Afri famine walks in Mayo, and a gathering to coincide with it.
This food sovereignty assembly is what led directly to this food sovereignty proclamation. The April 24 gatherings are unorganised — it’s completely up to people to do as they see fit.
As a concept, food sovereignty emerged first in the mid 1990s. Its real momentum developed through the global La Via Campesina movement.
This organisation represents a diverse array of food producers mostly in the global south — that’s the economically poorest parts of the world, mostly the places outside of Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
La Via Campesina wanted to help protect peasant farmers — that’s people who supply locally to support their families — fisherfolk, landless labourers, pastoralists, small farmers and others under threat from land grabbing, resource depletion, monocultural mega plantations, and more.
Food sovereignty also emerged as a concept to frame good food produced by people with a history, a culture and a way of working with nature. Agroecological — ie organic — methods have always been the affordable norm for food sovereignty producers.
An early formal definition of food sovereignty spoke of “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems”.
All of this might seem a million miles from Ireland, nestled as it is into north west Europe, exporting billions of euros worth of agri-food products each year.
But it doesn’t have to be — completely — that way. More and more people do want affordable good food for all — not just for the middle classes — locally produced.
To take just one example, we’ve seen a rapid rise in food gardening, with GIY initiatives, community gardens and allotments emerging in many places.
Beyond this, in various ways, people are expressing their desire to connect with each other and their surrounds — their local producers and their environs — through food.
Meantime, we import €5bn of food a year. Do we really need to import so much? Is rapid farm and retail consolidation really working for rural Ireland? Could better developed local/regional markets help farmers?
On April 24, you can join this discussion and this emerging, organic movement. It’s as simple as meet eat and — if you like — tweet. For more, search #FoodSov on twitter.
For the Food Sovereignty Ireland Proclamation, just type those words into a search engine.
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