By: Karla Díaz Parra

The crisis caused by COVID-19 has brought to light other crises in the country, including the problems faced by many families to access food, the expensive role played by intermediaries, the increased cost of imported products due to the rising price of the dollar, and the challenges for small-scale farmer families to get their products on the market.

Without a doubt, priorities change in times of crisis. Now, our priority is having something to put on the table and share with our families. In these circumstances, we invite others to reflect on the concepts of food security, sovereignty, and autonomy, and to learn how Amazon communities face this situation.

The social and environmental crises have continuously demonstrated the essential role of agricultural production. This was the case in the 1970s crisis when the first reflections on food security took place, the main concern was guaranteeing food availability.

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This concern for food availability pushed to the margins discussions on who produced the food, who has access to this food, and how it is produced. The concept of food sovereignty arose from these questions in the 1990s, understood as “the Right of the people, their countries, or Unions of States to define their agricultural and food policy, without third country dumping. The right of small-scale farmers to produce food and the right of consumers to decide what they want to consume and, how and who will produce that food” (Via Campesina, February 13, 2004).

Although this concept is widely accepted by social organizations, it continues to be based on a state perspective. The concept of food autonomy looks to leave behind this framework and adds a new element to the discussion: the communities’ role and their self-managed food production practices. Hence, the discussion goes beyond the State figure and is rooted in ancestral and traditional practices using self-management and self-care models for seeds, knowledge, and the communities.

Unfortunately, the country’s rural policies have been contrary to these concepts. In Colombia there has been a continuous discouragement of the small-scale farmer economy, favoring monocrops – as was seen with the ZIDRES and subsidies and tax stimuli for crops such as sugarcane, oil palm, and corn for the production of biofuels; as well as incentives for large-scale ranching. In addition, there is a violent dispossession of rural communities, a lack of comprehensive rural reform that offers legal security guarantees to remain in the territories, and there is a lack of  rural goods such as roads, access to potable water, irrigation systems, credit, and markets.

Similarly, economic interests that seek to create a seed monopoly have been privileged, instead of traditional growing and exchange methods. Also, national agricultural production has been sacrificed in the different FTAs, by creating competition between national products and lower priced imported products.

Acknowledging the importance of food in a crisis, like this one, must lead us to consider the essential nature of the small-scale farmer economy and the need for structural change in this country. In this context, we believe it is fundamental to think about:

  1. Giving priority to local agricultural production to feed the population, access for small-scale farmers and those without land to water, seeds, and credit.
  2. The Countries’ right to protect itself from agricultural and food imports that are too cheap; to maintain agricultural prices that are tied to production costs.
  3. Recognizing the rights of small-scale farmers who play an essential role in agricultural production and the provision of food.
  4. Strengthening fair trade networks between rural and urban spaces, seeking a direct relationship between producers and consumers, respecting peoples cultural food habits, giving priority to sustainable agriculture with natural or organic inputs, organic agriculture that supports the conservation of water, soil fertility, and which advocates for equal land distribution that is self-managed by the farmers.

This article uses reflections proposed by Dora Lucy Arias (May 21, 2009) published by the Grupo Semillas:

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