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Food Sovereignty Prize

Each year, the International Links Committee of CFSC selects a prize winner who:

  • promotes food sovereignty by raising public awareness, on-the-ground action, or developing and implementing programs and policies
  • recognize the importance of collective action in bringing about social change
  • recognizes global linkages in food sovereignty work, and
  • demonstrates clear recognition of the importance of women in agriculture and food issues

What is Food Sovereignty?

We understand food sovereignty to go well beyond ensuring that all people have sufficient food at all times to meet their physical needs. The concept was put forward first by La Vía Campesina at the 1996 World Food Summit.

Communities achieve food sovereignty when they democratically control what they eat, how it is raised and by whom, and how profits in the food system are distributed. Food sovereignty encompasses the rights to food, adequate nutrition and resources necessary for each person to be able to feed him or herself with dignity and in culturally appropriate ways. Fulfilling these rights requires community action to overcome barriers imposed on some people because of gender, income, race, religion and class. Under conditions of food sovereignty, food is produced using sustainable practices and never used as a weapon or denied because of social conflict.

2011 Prize Honorees Announced!

People worldwide are taking back their food systems. They are fighting for their land and waterways, teaching others how to grow food, reclaiming vacant lots and developing distribution systems. And they are doing this all while simultaneously creating jobs, providing fresh food, preserving the environment, building rural-urban connections, and revitalizing their communities. In recognition and celebration of these struggles, which are part of the global movement for food sovereignty, the 2011 Food Sovereignty Prize Selection Committee is honored to announce the winner and honorable mentions of the Third Annual Food Sovereignty Prize.

The 2011 Food Sovereignty Prize Honorees will be recognized on November 6 at the 15th Annual Conference of the Community Food Security Coalition in Oakland, CA. The award ceremony will be held in conjunction with the first ever Food Sovereignty Fair. This event will be open to the public and will highlight food justice and food sovereignty work happening in the Bay Area and across the globe. The Prize is supported by the Small Planet Fund, the Lawson Valentine Foundation, the Community Food Security Coalition, and WhyHunger, with in-kind support from additional organizations. Past onorees include the Via Campesina international peasant network and the US-based Family Farm Defenders.


The Landless Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil has been a leader in social action for agrarian reform and food sovereignty for over 25 years. MST organizes landless workers to reclaim idle land, obtain legal title, and use the land productively. Through these efforts, more than 350,000 families have been settled on over 17 million hectares of land, with an additional 90,000 families organized in encampments and awaiting titles. These actions have called both domestic and international attention to unequal land distribution and to the need for agrarian reform, food sovereignty and gender equity. Additionally, the MST has established over 1000 schools serving over 150,000 students, and through its cooperatives has created 900,000 new jobs in the area of agriculture alone. In areas of MST settlements, social health indicators from infant mortality rates to school attendance tend to be exponentially better than in other parts of rural Brazil. Through international learning exchanges and service brigades, such as e.g., the MST inspires and shows solidarity with communities working towards food sovereignty across the globe.

Honorable Mentions:

Movimiento Campesino a Campesino (Farmer to Farmer Movement) is a movement originating in Central America in which poor smallholder farmers innovate and share farming methods that are both productive and sustainable. For thirty years, Movimiento Campesino a Campesino - now with several hundred thousand farmer-promoters - has helped farming families in rural villages improve their livelihoods and conserve their natural resources. The farmer-promoters involved in this movement show that given the chance to generate and share agroecological knowledge freely amongst themselves, smallholders are perfectly capable of developing sustainable agriculture, even under highly adverse conditions. Since its inception, Movimiento Campesino a Campesino has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, improving the farms and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

South Central Farmers began their fight for food sovereignty when their urban farm in South Central, Los Angeles, CA, was threatened with destruction by developers in 2006. The farm had existed for 14 years as an urban oasis, where predominately Meso-American families grew vegetables and herbs that were part of their traditional diet. The farmers protested the destruction and drew national attention to their plight and to the importance of food sovereignty in urban areas. Although the 14 acres in South Central were bulldozed in 2006, the South Central Farmers have continued to advocate the restoration of traditional, local, and organic foods in the diets and lifestyles of displaced indigenous people and other ethnic-minority populations through rural and urban farming. The farmers have expanded their work by developing the SCF Cooperative, which is a worker/farmer owned co-op that began growing vegetables on 10 acres and is now producing on 80 acres California's central valley.

The Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK) has trained thousands of small-scale farmers in agroecological farming. Its founders established G-BIACK in Thika, Kenya precisely because the region suffers some of the most difficult conditions in the country, including ongoing drought, high rates of HIV/AIDS, hunger, and food systems crippled by years of conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture. GBIACK hosts a demonstration farm, community library, seed bank and classroom. They work with the most marginalized communities, including widows, people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, women, and poor farmers. GBIACK's ongoing programs, combined with additional workshops such as animal husbandry, beekeeping, and water conservation, empower communities to build food systems free from corporate control and rooted in self-determination, local knowledge, and ecological sustainability.

2010 Prize

CFSC is pleased to award the Family Farm Defenders with the 2010 Food Sovereignty Prize. They received the prize at the 14th Annual Conference, Food, Culture & Justice in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Since 1994, Family Farm Defenders has worked tirelessly in the name of food sovereignty for farmers, fishers and laborers around the world. Read more about Family Farm Defenders below.

In addition to the Prize, Honorable Mentions have been awarded to the following organizations:

The 2010 Food Sovereignty Prize is generously supported by the Small Planet Fund, the Lawson Valentine Foundation and WhyHunger.

About Family Farm Defenders

Family Farm Defenders works to create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system based upon democratically controlled institutions that empower farmers to speak for and respect themselves in their quest for social and economic justice. FFD has worked to create opportunities for farmers to join together in new cooperative endeavors, form a mutual marketing agency, and forge alliances with consumers through providing high quality food products while returning a fair price to farmers. When La Via Campesina coined the term "food sovereignty", FFD was among the first groups to adopt, use and publicize it. They have worked tirelessly in the name of food sovereignty for farmers, fishers and laborers around the world. Their campaigns are many and range from seeking fair prices, wages and working conditions for everyone growing, catching and harvesting food to opposing irradiation, cloning, national animal identification system, milk protein concentrates, bovine growth hormone and genetic engineering to securing local food systems, fair trade and climate justice. Their board's executive director, John Kinsman, travels and is recognized internationally for his advocacy for justice and dignity, but they also strive to develop new leaders and spokespeople. Their efforts to reconnect consumers with food providers - local and international, urban and rural, younger and older - are exemplary and worthy of respect, replication and recognition.

About the Honorable Mention Recipients

The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) is a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to build food security in Detroit's Black community by: 1) influencing public policy; 2) promoting urban agriculture; 3) encouraging co-operative buying; 4) promoting healthy eating habits; 5) facilitating mutual support and collective action among members; and 6) encouraging young people to pursue careers in agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, bee-keeping and other food related fields. Since its inception, DBCFSN has focused its energies in three main areas: urban agriculture, policy development and co-operative buying.

ROPPA (The Network of West African Peasant and Agricultural Producers' Organizations) is rooted in a long tradition of social organization in West Africa. The formal network was born in 2000 to fight against decades of official policies that have penalized rural people, 80% of the region's population. Its members are the national peasant platforms of 13 West African countries, bringing together all food providers - including pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk - to develop common positions and action: some 50 million family farmers in all. ROPPA's mission is to defend the interests and the social and cultural values of West African food providers and their communities, and to build solidarity with food sovereignty movements throughout the world.

The Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty seeks to apply culturally appropriate protocols and ancient ways of knowing through a consensus-based approach to critically analyzing issues, concerns and strategies as they relate to Indigenous food, land, culture, health, economics, and sustainability. Based in British Columbia (home to 98 First Nations), the WGIFS was initiated in 2006 with a conference at Enow'kin Centre in the Interior of BC. This conference set the tone for future work, highlighting the traditional values of respect and collective responsibility for maintaining both traditional foodways and the natural elements in which they are embedded. It also emphasized cooperation and inclusiveness, overcoming the historical tensions between the two host nations and welcoming supportive "settlers." Since that time, the WGIFS has been engaged in leadership development, organizing throughout BC and supporting the creation of several regional groups, participation in international gatherings, and the launch of a e-list and website on Indigenous Food Systems.

2009 Prize

CFSC presented an award for the 2009 Food Sovereignty Prize to La Vía Campesina at the conference From Commodity to Community: Food Politics and Projects in the Heartland in Des Moines, Iowa on October 11, 2009.

The Prize was awarded to the international movement La Vía Campesina because the organization has significantly promoted food sovereignty by raising public awareness and working in communities throughout the world.

Additionally, Honorable Mentions were awarded to Community Alliance for Global Justice (United States), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya), and the Toronto Food Policy Council (Canada).