School of Built Environment and Development Studies Seminar

Title: ‘Food sovereignty and the family farm: lessons from Bolivia’.

Speaker: Mvuselelo Ngcoya

Time: 12h30 – 13h50, 20 May 2015

Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN. Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963 

In 2009, Bolivia incorporated food sovereignty in the Constitution of Bolivia. The Food sovereignty is primarily concerned with smallholder farmer control over decisions about the cultivation, distribution and consumption of food, as well as about the governance of our larger food system. It stresses that food producers be treated as ends in themselves rather than as a means to the making of profit (La Vía Campesina 1996). The concept highlights democratic control of food by smallholder producers, collective rights, and ownership of resources by identifying the power dimensions inherent in food and agriculture (Fairbairn 2012).  Article 255 of the Bolivian lists food sovereignty as a guiding principle for Bolivia’s international relations: “Food security and sovereignty for the entire population; the prohibition of importation, production, and commercialization of genetically modified organisms and toxic elements that harm health and the environment.” In that spirit, President Morales in a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2013 excoriated capitalist “fast food” for causing cancer and other diseases, and called it “a great harm to humanity.” Yet, as some observers have noted (Cockburn 2013), the conceptualisation of food sovereignty is heavily contested in Bolivia by both the state, civil society organisations, and small-scale farmers. As campaigns for food sovereignty gain momentum in South Africa, what lessons can we draw from the Bolivian experience? This paper reports on research and fieldwork conducted among small-scale farmers, government officials, international organizations, and NGOs in La Paz, Bolivia in late 2014 and early 2015. 

Mvuselelo Ngcoya is Academic Leader for Development Studies in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies. His areas of interest include indigenous knowledge systems, specifically, attitudes towards and access to indigenous foods in KwaZulu-Natal. He studies the local and global significance of ubuntu, especially the contested social and political uses of this worldview.  His background in International Relations theory sustains an old flame of interest in the relevance of Frantz Fanon to understanding international politics, and U.S. policy towards Africa. Prior to joining UKZN, Mvu taught at American University in Washington D.C. and worked as a research analyst for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Africa Action. Born in Phatheni, Richmond, he dabbles in poetry, runs, plays and coaches soccer, and struggles through Spanish classes during his spare time.

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