Grassroots International partner Via Campesina receives prize

At a gathering of food and trade activists from around the United States and Canada, Grassroots International's partner, the Via Campesina, receieved the 2009 Food Sovereignty Prize for its relentless struggle for the rights of peasants and small producers of the world and against the disastrous neoliberal system of industrial agriculture. The award was received during the annual conference of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) held in Des Moines, Iowa, October 10-13. Grassroots International was among those who attended the event, along with several of our partners and allies.

In front of hundreds of delegates, Dena Hoff from the North American region and Edgardo García from the Central American region were awarded the prize. Introducing the prize, Molly Anderson, president of CFSC, highlighted the international leadership of the Via Campesina in the movement that aims at creating a more democratic food system to solve the growing problem of hunger around the planet.

Dena Hoff, a farmer from Montana and vice president of Grassroots' ally the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), also received an award for the Via Campesina at Grassroots International's 25th Anniversary celebration last year in Cambridge, MA.

Edgardo García, leader of the Association of Rural Workers (ATC) from Nicaragua, thanked all present for their solidarity and called for the implementation of the deep-seated changes required for Food Sovereignty. The ATC is a long-time Grassroots International partner. The spirits of all at the conference were raised when Edgardo read a message from Rafael Alegría, leader of the Via Campesina Central America in Honduras and also the National Front of Resistance against the Coup, calling for concrete solidarity from the North American people with the heroic struggle of the Honduran people. “This prize will accompany the peasant and popular struggle in Honduras.”

It is symbolic that this prize awarded to the Via Campesina should be given only days before the opening of another event in the same town: the World Prize for Food awarded to individuals for their notable contribution to biotechnology in agriculture. This prize was first established by the Nobel prize laureate Norman Borlaug also known as “Father of the Green Revolution.”

The Food Sovereignty prize is the first one awarded by CFSC during an annual conference. The decision to call it a prize for Food Sovereignty and to give it to the Via Campesina recognizes the fact that La Via Campesina was the first to present the concept of Food Sovereignty as an alternative to the neoliberal model of food production and consumption – a system which increases hunger, destroys peasant ways of life and displaces indigenous peoples, and which has allowed food production and distribution to be controlled by a handful of multinational corporations, which is currently leading to a crisis that threatens the whole world.