The global pandemic and an increasingly volatile climate are threatening food systems like never before. At a time when real solutions for equitable and resilient food systems should be front and center in global dialogues, grassroots movements around the world have been repeatedly disappointed by the sidelining of farmers’ voices and frontline communities, first at the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September and then at the UNFCCC Climate COP26 in November. The year and a half leading up to UNFSS, convened by the Secretary General of the UN General Assembly, Dr. António Guterres, was marred by tense debates, controversy and boycotts.

In advance of the Summit, our grantees, along with farmer movements around the world, voiced their outrage that the Summit would be led by individuals and institutions who actively promote industrial corporatized agriculture —sidelining the voices of farmers—and prop up ‘solutions’ that cater to corporate interests and further entrench inequality. Large scale mobilization around the Summit elevated the visibility of global grassroots opposition to industrialized agriculture and food systems, and also offered some key opportunities to uplift agroecology as a real solution for healthy, sustainable and just food systems.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, critiqued the Summit’s shortcomings in a video, produced with assistance from The 11th Hour Project.

Thoughts from Our Grantees

We welcome investment in agriculture on our continent, but we seek it in a form that is democratic and responsive to the people at the heart of agriculture, not as a top-down force that ends up concentrating power and profit into the hands of a small number of multinational companies.

Million Belay, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

This corporate takeover reflects the belief that large agribusinesses are essential for providing food, have interests aligned with those of the public, and are better equipped than governments and civil society to set the rules and policies that shape our food systems.

“But food is a common good, and access to it is a fundamental human right. That is where discussions should begin.”

Sofia Monsalve, FIAN International (Project Syndicate)

There’s no doubt that the current global food system needs a massive overhaul.  It is being torn apart by inequality, environmental destruction, the climate crisis, worker and human rights abuses, all of which were laid bare by the COVID pandemic. But peasant movements have a viable alternative…one where the needs of most of the world’s food producers and consumers are put at the centre of the food system, where their voices are heard and where sustainability and the climate are the main concerns.

Henk Hobbelink, GRAIN and Elizabeth Mpofu, La Via Campesina (The Guardian)

Agroecology offers the ability to do what governments, corporations and aid agencies have failed to do: end hunger.

Raj Patel, IPES-Food (Scientific American)

The 11th Hour Project funds investigative journalism through The Guardian’s Our Unequal Earth series, which also reported on the controversy surrounding the Summit, particularly the farmer boycotts of the event, and ran an op-ed from the UN Special Rapporteur about how the Summit failed to offer real solutions for people. 

The mobilization and visible opposition to the Summit—and to corporate-controlled food systems—is making it harder for the promoters of industrial agriculture to ignore the demands for a new paradigm for food systems centered on human rights. Coming off the Summit, our partners will continue to amplify their voices and visions for a just food future, and work to make those visions a reality.