Nyéléni Europe Forum on Food Sovereignty
Last week, Board member Dr. Chelsea Marshall participated as a delegate in the second European Forum on Food Sovereignty, held 25-30th October in Cluj, Romania. Chelsea joined other Scottish and UK delegates at the largest-ever food sovereignty gathering to discuss how to improve our food systems in Europe.
Food Sovereignty and Scotland The Bread
Scotland The Bread is a community-owned action research organisation dedicated to bringing the bread supply under equitable local control in the interests of responsible land use, sustained rural livelihoods and healthier citizens.
Specifically, we research grain varieties that combine greater nutrient density with environmental resilience under low-input farming and train community bakers in the skills required to turn these grains into truly nourishing bread.
The power and potential impact of Scotland The Bread derive from the insight, based on many years of commercial baking practice, organic farming and academic study, that only if we attend to the whole process can we improve public health in a way that respects the overlapping claims of economy, society and environment.
It was such an honour to have attended the Nyéléni Europe Forum on behalf of Scotland The Bread. I had the great opportunity to meet and share learning with our own Scottish delegates – Mags and Fergus from Common Good Food, Elly from the Jack Kane Centre, Evie from Leith Community Crops in Pots, Reuben from Locavore and Frances from the University of Edinburgh – and to hear more about their interesting and ambitious work throughout Scotland.
We formed part of a wider UK delegation of 35 producers, smallholders, consumers, cooks, researchers, activists and committed individuals who traveled from across Scotland, England and Wales to share their experiences at the Forum. Finally, our delegation joined more than 500 others from 42 countries for five days of workshops, discussions, field trips and informal discussions that aimed to bring forward the work from the 2011 food sovereignty forum held in Krems, Austria.
Participating in the Nyéléni Forum has affirmed my belief that Scotland The Bread has a key role to play in strengthening and supporting a movement for a more just food system in Scotland and beyond.
Here are a few things I want to share with our membership…
Throughout the week, participants gathered in daily plenary sessions and then divided into working groups to discuss the most pressing issues for food sovereignty across Europe. By the end of the Forum, we had identified a series of campaigns and actions to improve our current food systems.
With nearly five full days together, the Forum was organised to encourage as much sharing and exchanging of ideas and strategies as possible.
At various points, we gathered in working groups according to:
- Thematic interest (models of food production and consumption; food distribution; the right to natural resources and the commons; work and social conditions)
- Policy level for action (local; national; European; global)
- Constituency group (producers; consumers and urban movements; NGOs; workers and trade unions; researchers; traders and processors; marginalised peoples; new peasants)
- National delegation
As priority issues were identified, emerging ideas for campaigns and actions were considered and refined by sub-groups. These smaller groups drew on the experiences and networks of the delegates to identify concrete strategies for improving food systems across Europe.
Sub-groups worked according to the following themes:
- Agroecology and seed saving
- Alternative trade systems vs. global corporate power
- Common Food and Agriculture Policy
- Land and water in the hands of the people
- Migrant, agriculture and food workers’ rights
- Territorial markets and food distribution systems
Towards the end of the week, the UK delegation met to discuss how the experiences from the Forum will inform and help to build our food sovereignty discussions at home.
Our sessions as a UK delegation revealed that while our work in many areas of food justice is strong and established, ‘The Food Sovereignty Movement’ in the UK is still in formation. Many of the delegates expressed a desire to build on the momentum of our shared experience in Romania to support each others’ work once we returned to the challenges of our daily work. These discussions also raised important questions about how we will take forward the learning from the Nyéléni Europe Forum in a UK context, with Brexit on the horizon and a specific colonial history to acknowledge in the context European and global relationships.
What was clear was a commitment from the delegates to support and learn from the diversity of perspectives and experiences that came together last week in another step on our journey towards food justice.
I am sure the lessons I’ve learned from this experience will continue to filter through my work over the coming months and years, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been involved in these discussions.
I’d like to thank Celia Nyssens at Nourish Scotland for coordinating the Scottish delegation, and Jean Blaylock, UK Food Group, and Rachael Taylor, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at the University of Coventry, for their support coordinating the UK delegation.
Finally, many warm thanks to the growers, producers and kitchen volunteers who nourished our discussions with local and delicious meals throughout the week. It was grounding to have a steady supply of real bread to anchor our meals throughout.