Family Farm Defenders (Kansas Chapter)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Local to Global Advocates for Justice would like to announce the creation of a new email list,, aspiring to be an open space for people of black African descent to strategize and explore organizing led by and for black people to achieve Black food and health justice and Black food sovereignty. To join the email list, please email with "please add me to the blackfoodsovereigntylistserve" in the subject line of the email.
The three main goals of the listserve are to: 1) identify the systems of problems that result in disproportionate levels of hunger and food related illnesses in our communities as well as the decline of farm livlihoods for black farmers; 2) brainstorm and share successful policy initiatives for resolution and; 3) conclude with clear next steps on how we can build our collective power to work for our goals. This email list is designed to be a dialogue and open space focused on participant knowledge, sharing and engagement.

More Information:

I. The State of Black Food and Health Justice and Black Food Sovereignty
"The key to understanding and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities is to acknowledge that they are not the result of individual behaviors. Instead, poorer health outcomes and ethnic and racial disparities in health are the result of social determinants of health care status. Therefore, the elimination of health care disparities requires solutions based on social justice.

Social justice is the fair distribution of society's benefits, responsibilities and their consequences. It focuses on the relative position of one social group in relationship to other social groups in society, as well as on the root causes of disparities and what can be done to eliminate them. Thus, eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities may necessitate altering social policies, social systems and social institutions in order to remove unequal treatment and outcomes in the United States' health care system." (
Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk. (Hunger Stats, United Nations World Food Programme, Hunger kills more people than AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Combined every year. (Id.) Poverty and hunger are closely linked with poverty being the greatest indicator of hunger. (Resources/fact sheets/ American poverty.pdf) Education is the greatest indicator of poverty. (Id.)
One in four or 25% of African Americans live below the poverty level, compared to about 1 in 8 or 12.5 % of all Americans. (Id.) Similarly, one in four or 25 % of African American households is hungry, compared to about 1 in seven or 14% of all American households. Black children suffer hunger at higher rates than do adults. Almost 35% or a little more than one third of all African American children are hungry. (Id.)
As well, poverty is the main indicator of health and quality of health care. (National Health Care Disparities Report (2005), Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, US Department of Health and Human Services pp. 131-132.) Consequently, black Americans who experience poverty at greater rates than the overall US population suffer many diseases at greater rates that the overall US population and are less likely to receive adequate health care. (Id.)
Black Americans suffer high blood pressure, a major risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure, at a rate of 40% greater than that suffered by white Americans. (“A Strategic Framework for Improving Racial/Ethnic Minority Health and Eliminating Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities,” US Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, MD: Office of Minority Health, January 2008.) Black Americans are twice as likely to die from strokes as white Americans. (Id.) Black Americans are also 2.1 times as likely as whites to suffer from diabetes and much more likely than whites to experience complications from diabetes, such as amputation of lower extremities. (Id.)
Black Americans are more likely to die from cancer than any other racial and ethnic group in the US. (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures for African Americans, 2007-8) Black American men are 50% more likely to have prostate cancer and are more likely than any other racial group to suffer colorectal cancer. (The Commonwealth Fund, “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare: A Chartbook,” 2008.)
15% of Black Americans suffer from adult onset diabetes compared to 8% of the white population. (Id.) Because of reduced access to health care, treatment for these diseases is significantly lower among black than white people. (Id.)

African American females are disproportionately affected by hypertension (44.4%), followed by 41.4% of African American males, 31.5% of white males and 28.1% white females (National Center for Health Statistics (2011). National Center for Health Statistics (2011). Health, United States, 2010: With Special Feature on Death and Dying. Hyattsville, MD. Retrieved from on March 4, 2012.
Even when treated, hypertension leads to death more frequently in black people than white people. In 2005 the rate of death (per 100,000 people) from hypertension was 51.0 in black men, 40.9 in black women, and 15.1 in both white women and white men (Flack et al., 2010).Flack, J.M., Sica, D.A., Bakris, G., Brown, A.L., Ferdinand, K.C., Grimm, R.H.,… Jamerson, K.A. (2010). International Society on Hypertension in Blacks. Management of high blood pressure in Blacks: an update of the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks consensus statement. Hypertension, 56(5), 780-800.

Globally, black people experience poverty and hunger at higher rates that do whites as well. In 2000, 50% of the world’s poor were Africans. (The Challenge for Africa, Wangari Maathai, p. 10) 28% of the worlds hungry or 238 million people live in Sub Saharan Africa. (Poverty Facts and Statistics, The only larger portion of the world’s hungry live in South Asia. (Id.)
More than 80% of diabetes deaths in the world occur in low and middle income countries which includes all of Sub-Saharan Africa. ( Around 27-28% of all children in poor countries are underweight or stunted of which Sub Saharan African and South Asia account for the bulk of the deficit. (Poverty Facts and Stats, Id.) If current trends continue, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for Africa will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. (Maathai at 6.)
In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in 6 children dies before his fifth birthday comprising half of the world’s child deaths largely due to conditions largely associated with hunger. (Maathai at 6.)
Racial disparities in access to land for farming is well documented as well. European Colonial governments forcibly removed and displaced African people from arable land to make way for colonial settlers, exactly as was done to native peoples in North America, and this forced removal and displacement of Africans has not been rectified as of today. (Id.) Europeans or their descendants own almost all the land in the Americas, almost all the good land in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, and most of the best land in many African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya.
While in 1920, over 14% of U.S, farmers were African American, as of 2007, less than 2% of U.S. farmers were Afro-descendants. (National Black Farmers and Urban Gardner’s Conference) In Kenya, 10 percent of the population, both black and white farmers, owns 73 percent of all arable land. In South Africa, 16 percent of the population, made up of whites, owns 87 percent of all arable land. In Zimbabwe, 4,500 white farmers - or a mere .03 percent of a population of 13 million Africans - own 73 percent of all arable land. In Namibia, another country in South West Africa, whites who make up about 6 % of the population own about 50% of arable land.(Maathai at 227.)

II. Black Food and Health Justice and Black Food Sovereignty
Food Justice is:
communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals. People practicing food justice leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities and a healthy environment. (Just
Health Justice:
recognizes that there are numerous socio-economic factors (social determinants of health) that affect an individual’s and a community’s health status. The idea of social determinants of health is based on substantial research that the social and physical environment greatly influences a person’s health. Health justice addresses the fact that in order to attain physical and mental health at the individual and community level, we must address issues of equity, access, and justice as they relate to particular social, physical, political and economic environments. Health care services are one important element in attaining health, but health services alone cannot eliminate inequities such as poverty, racism, and gender-based violence. Without attention to and efforts aimed at the complex realities of individuals’ lives, we cannot hope to achieve good health and wellbeing for all.
Food Sovereignty is:
the people’s truly democratic, just and sustainable, supreme control over their food and agriculture. It is a doctrine that the International Small Farmers and Peasant’s Movement, la Via Campesina, introduced to the world in 1993 although indigenous communities used the phrase before 1993. Food Sovereignty has seven principles:
1. Food: A Basic Human Right. The basic human right to healthy nutritious, culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people—especially women—ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender , religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agrochemicals.
4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
5. Ending Corporate Control over our Food and Agriculture. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for Trans National Corporations is therefore needed.
6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness, The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism against smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
7. Democratic Control. Smallholder farmers and consumers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular must be granted direct and active decision making on food and rural issues. (Family Farm Defenders Via Campesina’s Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty.)
II. Why Food Sovereignty rather than Food Security?
(This discussion is taken from the Alliance for African Food Sovereignty announcement of its formation.)
In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an international organization, defined their objective of achieving food security as:
a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
The US government uses a similar statement. While this objective sounds good, it has been misused to justify policies that only prioritize yield and the delivery of food to consumers by any means. Food security, has become divorced from consideration of how that food is produced and by whom, i.e., ‘food justice’ and ‘food sovereignty.’ “Food security” is misused to encourage the industrialization and corporatization of agriculture, food aid, the use of genetically modified seeds, the shifting of food production from diverse crops for local markets to monocultures for export and the liberalization markets where small producers are put out of business by subsidized imports.
For example, “Food Security: is the stated objective of the most recent Green Revolution in Africa being aggressively promoted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA promotes expensive , subsidized fertilizers, pesticides and hybrid seeds, which are not economically and environmentally sustainable. AGRA puts the private sector in charge of seed supply and replaces local and public seed systems.
Policies based on “Food Security” have failed to protect consumers around the world from soaring food prices. Under Food Security practices prescribed by the US and other governments, businesses and the FAO, world hunger is actually growing. Under the Food Security doctrine, food has become a commodity for maximizing profits for a few rather than a source of nutrition for the people as mandated by Food Sovereignty. Never before was the inequity of the global food system more starkly evident than during the Food Crisis of 2007-2008. As people around the world starved, agribusiness and commodity traders reported record profits.
It is clear that the doctrine of food security on its own has failed to meet the needs of the people for a source of nutrition and is destroying our environment. Real food security must be based on food sovereignty, the people’s truly democratic, just and sustainable, supreme control over their food and agriculture.
This model of food sovereignty, not food security, is what is needed, one that works with farmers and consumers, communities, soils and biodiversity, on which actual food production depends. Instead of focusing only narrowly on food production like the doctrine of Food Security, Food Sovereignty serves all elements—farmers, communities, ecosystems, climate, markets and consumers—involved in food and agriculture. It is a holistic approach, mutually enhancing at every level, bringing coherence, justice and environmental and economic sustainability to food and agriculture. (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa)
III. “Organizing for Justice”
At the US Community Food Security Coalition Policy Conference this past May 2011 held in Portland Oregon, the opening plenary: Leading the Movement for Food Justice: Analysis, Organizing and Power for Policy Change, moderated by Makani Themba Nixon of the Praxis Project, was the only session to receive a standing ovation during the four day conference. In that plenary, presenters: Jaron Browne, POWER San Francisco; Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; Rodrigo Rodriguez, South West Organizing Project, and Kolu Zigbi, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, discussed and gave strong examples of powerful organizing work by poor and people of color to achieve policy goals. Policy is broadly defined as any actions, agreements and laws that directly improve people’s lives in concrete ways.
In October 2011 at the 2nd Annual National Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference hosted by B.U.G.S, Black Urban Gardeners, in the Bronx, New York, a small coalition of black food and agriculture activists , Anan Lololi of the AfriCan Food Basket in Toronto, Canada, Ayenay Abye of Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) in Washington D.C., USA and Maria Whittaker of Global Advocates for Justice (GAJ) in Mission, Kansas, USA collaborated to present a workshop on Black Organizing for Power and Dignity: Visions of Black Food and Health Justice and Black Food Sovereignty in order to provide an open space to build strategy across and within black communities for food and health justice and food sovereignty.
Given the deep inequities that exist in American society and the world, it is important to continue this conversation, go deeper and broader, so we can build strategy across and within black communities for food and health justice and food sovereignty.
This email list serve is designed to continue the “organizing for justice” spirit of the US Food Security Coalition plenary and National Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners workshop and provide a space for we black folk to explore “organizing” for Black food and health justice and Black food sovereignty to address the disparities that exist in the US and around the globe for people of African descent and improve the lives of the poorest and most disenfranchised of our people in material and concrete ways.

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