Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers and fishermen to share 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize

Presbyterian Hunger Program applauds winners

September 2, 2015

Youth agricultural camp at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ training center in Alabama.

Youth agricultural camp at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ training center in Alabama. —Osa Idehen

LOUISVILLE

The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), which represents a network of food producers, laborers, faith-based and social justice organizations, is recognizing two groups for its 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S. and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras will be awarded the prize Oct. 14, 2015.

The prize is given annually to organizations that provide adequate food to feed the hungry while protecting land and water rights of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide. Organizers say food production should not come at the sacrifice of family or community-based operations in favor of industrial and agricultural corporations.

In a press release, the USFSA said, “In this moment when it is vital to assert that black lives matter, the USFSA honors black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially honor them as a vital part of food chain workers, who together are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food and democratic control over food systems. 

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives grew out of the civil rights movement in 1967. It works to keep farmland in the hands of family farmers. Approximately 90 percent of its members are African-American, in addition to Native American, Latino and white, and come from 16 southern states.

“Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, air and land as well as the self-determination of a local community to grow and do what they want,” said Ben Burkett, a farmer and the federation’s leader.

To keep farms in the hands of local landowners, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; providing training in sustainable agriculture, forestry, management and marketing, as well as advocates to the courts, state and national legislatures.

The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras was created in 1979 to protect economic, social and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. Communities sustain themselves through farming and fishing. However, corporate land grabs for fuel, tourism and narco-trafficking have threatened community livelihood.

“Our liberation starts because we plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. We need to produce to bring autonomy and the sovereignty of our people,” said Coordinator Miriam Miranda. “If we continue to consume, it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It is also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, our land and communities.”

“We are thrilled to see the federation, a former grantee and close partner of ours, recognized for its decades of hard work struggling for the rights of black farmers to their land and to redress systemic discrimination as was proven in the Pigford case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, national associate with PHP. “And the choice of OFRANEH, also a former grantee, in Honduras is timely and critical as the Garifuna attempt to protect their culture, land and livelihoods from assaults coming from all sides. We send our heartfelt congratulations and prayers to the winners.”

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For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org. The Food Sovereignty Prize is presented in conjunction with World Food Day and the Churches Week of Action on Food (Oct. 11-18); learn more by clicking here.