Food Sovereignty Activists Gather in Seattle for International Award Ceremony

by Cliff Cawthon

The “typhoon” that was expected to damage the region shut down activity for many, but storm warnings did not deter activists involved in the global food sovereignty movement from gathering in Seattle last weekend to celebrate.

On Saturday, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance hosted the 8th Annual Food Sovereignty Prize, an alternative to the World Food Prize; which recognizes organizations on the front-lines of the issue, and operates through an environmental justice and anti-poverty lens.

Due to the storm, local organizers moved the ceremony to a house in Madronna. This year, two organizations were honored for their work: the Farm-workers Alliance of Florida and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.

I was able to speak with Simone Adler, the Organizing Director with the Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ). Simone discussed the importance of the language of the movement: “food sovereignty is the language we like to use because, for us it’s about putting the control back in the hands of the producers, the farmers, and those who should have control over what we eat and what we grow. I can definitely see this rippling out nationally and locally.”

Heather Day, the Executive Director of CAGJ, commented that her groups work is mostly educational on the local level, and solidarity based, supporting organizations, such as, Got Green – the South Seattle based environmental justice organization- and being a platform for activists to connect with the international movement.

Last Thursday, the honorees and supporters of the Seattle based CAGJ and AGRA Watch, held a protest in front of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation is a primary donor to the World Food Prize. CAGJ has denounced the World Food Prize ceremony for awarding organizations that promote GMO’s, biotechnology, and projects that have faced criticism for increasing food insecurity.

According to organizers, Saturday’s Food Sovereignty Prize celebration sought to focus on projects and solutions resulting out of community organizing.

One such project is being headed up by Naim Edwards, an organizer for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network who came to co-MC the event Sunday and described some of the work that is being done in Detroit:

“Unfortunately, Detroit and Michigan’s economic crisis has caused a tremendous need for work around eviction, water, education, transportation, and etc…has increased a demand for my work as a service job for youth programs, hosting events around education, how to eat better, and around producing food.”

Naim gave further details on his project, “a 7 acre farm in the city, and it has an internship program, which has a business component with training that teaches people how to produce food as a revenue or supplemental revenue stream”.

The featured speakers from the Farm-worker Association of Florida and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, which operates in 40 different countries, said that the work that they were doing isn’t removed from actions of political and community players here in Seattle.

Bern Guri, the Executive Director of AFSA told me that his organization works with governments, NGO’s and particularly, local and small farmers to provide alternatives to big agribusiness.

Guri cited the Gates’ foundation and other promoters of bio-technical agricultural solutions as obstacles rather than solutions to the issue of poverty which affects so many on his continent, “with hundreds of years of experience, [our farmers] are scientists in their own right….their machines aren’t supposed to take us out of poverty, it’s for profit, it’s not about our food system, it’s not about taking 50 million [people] out of hunger”.

At the conclusion of the event, The Community Alliance for Global Justice welcomed local community organizations and allies, including, Familias Unidas Por Justicia (Families United for Justice) Union, Not One More Deportation to join their food sovereignty program.

For more information on CAGJ or the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance you can go to

Featured photo courtesy of Community to Community Development