Categories Global, Statement, World

The future of food: the diversity of food sovereignty systems at the local level is the backbone of global food security

World Food Day 2022: ICCA Consortium’s statement of solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and local communities

Children helping in the chacra in Indigenous Kichwa Sarayaku territory in Ecuador. Photo: Wachachik

First published on 10/13/2022, and last updated on 10/16/2022

By ICCA Consortium

October 16 is World Food Day. The theme for World Food Day 2022 is ‘leave NO ONE behind’. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) acknowledges that we face “an ongoing pandemic, conflicts, a climate that won’t stop warming, rising prices and international tensions” and emphasizes that we need to work “towards a sustainable world where everyone, everywhere has regular access to enough nutritious food”.

In collective territories of life around the world, Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ governance systems and cultural practices enable them to sustainably harvest and produce diverse and nutritious foods, both wild and cultivated, year-round.

In the ICCA Consortium’s 2021 report on territories of life, several case studies shone a spotlight on food sovereignty systems. In some cases, communities that had strong food systems before the COVID-19 pandemic were able to cope relatively well, despite multiple pressures. For example, the Manobo people in the Philippines managed to produce and gather healthy food from their farms and forest and clean water from the creeks in Pangasananan, their customary territory, while mainstream food production and consumption networks across the country were completely disrupted.

In Senegal, a community of fishers from the Diola people of Lower Casamance have taken initiative to restore their estuarine territory of life and revived the food chain, with several species of fish and their predators reappearing. For more than a decade, the Kawawana community association has supported the self-mobilizing communities of eight villages, bringing together nearly 12,000 people, and improved their food systems.

In Iran, ICCA Consortium Member CENESTA has been working with communities across the country, including the Shahsevan Tribal Confederacy in the north-west, on the southern coast, and on Qeshm island, where communities are striving to sustain their fisheries, pastoralism, and dairy, and other elements of Indigenous and nomadic food systems, despite many systemic challenges.

Experiences of these communities and related movements around the world illustrate that one of the most effective ways to ensure food security at scale – whether nationally, regionally, or globally – is to support the diversity of sustainable food sovereignty systems at the local level. Such systems are sustained through a range of livelihood strategies, including nomadism, pastoralism, hunting, gathering, farming, and fishing, and across all ecosystems and regions of the world. Sustainable food systems are integral to our very survival, both historically and in the future.

However, Indigenous Peoples and traditional and local communities continue to face the effects of both historical and current-day injustices, including in the name of conservation, which directly undermine their food sovereignty systems.

Although many communities have sustained their food sovereignty systems through generations if not centuries of external pressures, the impacts of interlinked planetary and social crises are increasingly felt on a day-to-day basis, often compounding and exacerbating existing inequalities and injustices. In a rapidly changing world, appropriate recognition and support – such as mutual recognition between sovereign Indigenous nations, legal recognition through nation-state systems, or otherwise – can be a key factor in communities’ capacities to continue to do so for generations to come. This is a pressing need for the concerned communities, as custodians of the diversity of life on Earth, and for sustainable development and food security for all.

We urge policymakers at local, national, regional, and international levels to (a) divest from industries (such as industrial logging, monoculture plantations, and agrochemical companies) that directly undermine Indigenous and community custodians of territories of life and their food sovereignty systems; and (b) invest in the enabling environments for such communities and food systems to flourish on their own terms. Such enabling environments must be culturally rooted and context-specific but could include, among other things:

  • Appropriate policy and legal recognition of customary and collective governance and land tenure systems and related rights of Indigenous and community custodians (including recognition of self-declared ancestral territories of life), and institutional support to realize and uphold those rights in practice, not just on paper;
  • Decriminalization of cultural practices that are central to communities’ food sovereignty systems (such as shifting cultivation and gathering of non-timber forest products);
  • Ensuring Indigenous and community custodians of territories of life are part of decision-making processes that affect them, including equitable, inclusive, and integrated approaches to the interlinked issues of sustainable food production, nature conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • Flexible financial, technical, solidarity, and other forms of support for communities to strengthen their resilience and self-determined responses to external shocks such as extreme weather events and armed conflict; and
  • Policy, social and financial support for communities’ creative approaches to intergenerational knowledge sharing and adaptation of practices to ensure their worldviews, values, and cultures will be sustained by and for future generations.