Convergence of food social movements, IRSA reflection 1

In Lisbon, Portugal, the World Congress of Rural Sociology is currently on. It is a stimulating week with researchers from all over the world in plenary sessions as well as smaller parallel groups where results and concepts are presented and discussed. While listening to some presentations, I had to think of the book “Food Movements Unite!” edited by Eric Holt-Giménez. Leaders of the food sovereignty movement talk about the future of the movement and about the need to unite. From the academic work currently presented, there seems to be hopeful news that this is happening. Patricia Allen explained how there is “basket of social movements in convergence” around food and agriculture in the US currently. Whereas the Sustainable Agriculture coalition would talk about environmental degradation and profitability of farm enterprises and certainly not about food security and social justice in a wider sense, this move is now being made. This makes linkages possible with the Community Food Security Movement. To describe this development, Patricia used the metaphor of a tree trunk with a non-negotiable core and branches with leaves of slightly different colour.

A similar observation was made by Kevin Morgan to describe the – historical in his eyes – move of the Soil Association in the UK to widen the focus on organic to also include local. Even though this would not imply compromising organic at all, the ideological shift makes new coalitions possible. And that was not the only example. The tree trunk in the UK seems to become captured in the slogan ‘Good Food for All’.

Also Myriam Paredes talked about united efforts in Ecuador. In a session on activist social science, she showed the steps of movement convergence in Ecuador around food sovereignty which recently led to the including of food sovereignty in the new constitution of Ecuador. A remarkable success, which comes of course with new questions such as how to translate such a right in practice. Nevertheless, it seems that we may witness to paraphrase Kevin, the mainstreaming of alternative values-in-action. Amidst presentations on the deepening of environmental, food and financial crisis, this represents hope. Or as Patricia Allen put it referring to Charles Dickens, we are in the winter of despair but also in the spring of hope.

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