A light shining on Cluj – Nyeleni Europe Forum for Food Sovereignty


Participants discuss strategies to advance food sovereignty in Europe

Last week the second Nyeleni Europe forum for Food Sovereignty was held in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The Forum brought together different delegations from European countries and beyond representing producers, consumers, NGOs and researchers involved in the Food Sovereignty movement. The Forum set out create new initiatives and ties among people in opposition to the dominant food paradigm.

A strong emphasis was given to the environmental and social aspects of current food systems and how agroecological practices could cope with the shortcomings derived with solidarity and ecological sound solutions. Translated into multiple languages, the Forum was organized to highlight people’s diversity and cultures.

The Forum started with very inspiring interventions from representatives of different grassroots organizations who stressed the importance of changing our food systems. The five day Forum was divided into four thematic topics:

  1. production and consumption,
  2. distribution,
  3. work and social conditions,
  4. natural resources and commons, and
  5. public policies.

On the first day, the 700 participants divided into groups to address issues related to these themes, focussing on identifying recent achievements and future opportunities. In these thematic groups participants noticed a growth of the European food sovereignty movement, notably in terms of the growth of initiatives such as CSAs. They also recognised new challenges such as the lack of infrastructures for communities food processing and the need to overcome existing obstructive policies and new trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA.


Romania women welcome us to their village with a shot of Palinka

The outcomes of these sessions were further discussed in sessions dedicated to policy convergence at the local, national, European and global levels. Within these discussions on policy convergence, working groups identified important policies, policy spaces and principles for engagement, while also highlighting successful initiatives to take inspiration from.

Based on the outcomes of these sessions the organising team defined six different groups of actions:

  1. Land, water and fisheries in the hands of people;
  2. Migrants, agriculture, food culture rights;
  3. Peasants’ agroecology;
  4. Alternative trade systems vs. global corporate power;
  5. Territorial markets and food distribution systems;
  6. Common food and farming policies.

Within such groups the participants were encouraged to come up with action points and campaigns to bring forward after the forum. Among the outcomes, participants discussed the development of a pan European campaign to contrast supermarket power by occupying supermarkets but also sensitizing customers and proposing local alternatives. It was also discussed the creation of a network of progressive retailers that would, based on shared values, map European alternative retailers and facilitate the interchange of information perhaps leading to gain more power, visibility and legitimacy.

Within the Forum there were also several excursions where it was possible to visit local peasant communities. Throughout the forum, there was also time set aside for open spaces where participants could propose their own programme.


Romanian shepherd. His livelihood depends on accessing common pasture lands that surround the village.

The Forum was very intense but inspiring and we were treated to traditional meals cooked and served by volunteers from a cooking collective.

The Forum saw many people coming together from different background bringing many successful examples and willingness to change our food systems. This generated vibrant discussions and space for future initiatives. The website nyelenieurope.net provides links, initiatives and last developments about the European Food Sovereignty movement. Keep tuned for more info to come.

Alberto Serra – alberto.serra(a)wur.nl

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About FoodGovernance

Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London (2014). Jessica’s main research focus concerns the practices and politics of participation in food policy processes, particularly the relationships (formal and non-formal) between governance organizations, systems of food provisioning, the environment, and the actors engaged in and across these spaces. More specifically, she maps the diverse ways that actors participate in policy-making processes, analysing how the resulting policies are shaped, implemented, challenged, and resisted, and she theorizes about what this means for socio-ecological transformation. Participation and engagement is at the core of her approach. In turn, she is active in a broad range of local, national and international initiatives with the aim of better understanding participation processes with a view towards transitioning to just and sustainable food systems. She is involved in several research projects including ROBUST, HortEco & SHEALTHY. Jessica is published regularly in academic journals. She recently co-edited the Handbook on Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems (2020). Her other books include Food Security Governance: Civil society participation in the Committee on World Food Security (2015) and an edited volume called Sustainable food futures: Multidisciplinary solutions (2017). Jessica has received several awards for her teaching and in 2017 she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Wageningen University (shortlisted again in 2018 and 2019, longlisted in 2020). With the funds she has received for these awards she launched a story-telling workshop for students and faculty, with storytelling trainer, Emma Holmes. Jessica is on the Editorial Board of the journal Sociologia Ruralis and is an advisor to the Traditional Cultures Project (USA). She is a member of the Wageningen Young Academy and sits on the Sustainability Board of Experts at Wageningen University.