Food Security or Food Sovereignty: the Case of Land Grabs

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Food Security or Food Sovereignty: The Case of Land Grabs
The last decade has witnessed a serious change in the distribution and accessibility of food. In 2010 Ethiopia was home to 2.8 million people in need of emergency food aid; yet this country had concurrently sold more than 600,000 hectares of agricultural land to transnational companies that export the majority of their produce (Reuters, 2011; Economist, 2009; Green, 2011). Ethiopia remains a country facing great food insecurity, which is a lack of access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food (WHO, 2011); a paradigm that focuses upon the financial and distributive aspects of providing food. Although Ethiopia is just one of many countries facing this dilemma, it illustrates how the issue of food sovereignty is becoming increasingly as important as that of food security. This paper will address the role that sovereignty plays in light of mass foreign acquisition of land in countries which face high levels of food insecurity. The importance of food security and food sovereignty will be exemplified within the context of ‘land grabbing’ in a demonstrative case study of Ethiopia. Security or Sovereignty?

The difference between food security and food sovereignty may seem like mere semantics, but in the hyper-globalized world wherein transnational companies may privately own significant portions of arable land in countries facing food insecurity, it is not just a matter of word play. When these companies choose to export the entire crop grown on such lands and when the farmland has been taken from uncompensated smallholder farmers. Disparity of wealth and land ownership is not a new phenomenon. However, the degree to which agricultural lands are owned within areas of food insecurity makes food sovereignty as vital a factor as food security. An analysis of these concepts and their global implications is pressing, as over 963 million people do not have enough to eat. Most of them live in developing countries, and sixty-five percent of them live in only seven countries: China, India, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia (FAO, 2011). Furthermore, each year more people die due to hunger and malnutrition than to AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined (Global Food Security, 2011a). The World Food Summit, held in 1996, declared that ideal food security includes the global population, whereby all people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, encompassing both the physical availability and the economic access (WHO, 2011). The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child both stipulate that it is the intrinsic right of all people to have access to food (United Nations, 1948; United Nations, 1990). However, the responsibility to enact these rights rests mostly on the nation-state, not the international community. On the other hand, some argue that repeated affirmations of human rights within the international realm do imply some global responsibility (Riddell, 2007). The theoretical ideal is, therefore, that food security exists when all people in all places have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Clearly that theoretical aim has not been met. Furthermore, if current mechanisms are not facilitating the aim it may require consideration of entirely new models of how countries engage with one another (Pogge, 2002). Typical measurement of food security is limited to a specific place, such as a nation, city or household. USAID (USAID, 2011) uses the household as a measurement, whereas the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programs are nationally operated, thus limiting the global goals and human rights to the nation-state. Food insecurity also exists in differing levels. One person may be facing a temporary bout of food insecurity, called “transitory”, while another may be consistently facing it, known as “chronic” food insecurity. Chronic food insecurity...
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