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Beyond Expectation: Participating in a Radical Food Movement Event (Food Sovereignty)

Greater than Expectations

This was not my first event on food justice – I had been to dozens. Yet, this one Sunday in July, coming out of Chingford station, walking through woodland that happened to be slippery,slopey and still, I weaved my way to Organiclea, a workers food growing cooperative on the edge of London, to attend a food justice event that went far beyond expectation. Organised by the food sovereignty movement, the gathering exuded warmth, embraced aparticipative ethos that helped draw out inspiration and wisdom, and produced many moments of humour – it felt a bit like coming ‘home’.

The event was attended by around 100 people – drawing fresh-faced participants, with gentle natures, and who seemed to have vision along witha maturity that enabled them to be good listeners. Whether I expected it, or not (as was the case!), this was a special gathering.

Introducing Food Sovereignty..

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The aim of this event was to further develop the Food Sovereignty Movement – For those who are new to the term (and I too am learning), “food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems”. The movement emerged through mobilisations of small-scale farmers around the world and its ethos can be captured in six pillars:


  • focuses on food for people
  • values food providers
  • localises food systems
  • puts control locally
  • builds knowledge and skills
  • & works with nature
(Conveniently(!), these pillars have a strong resonance with several of WIN’s s core strands: in particular with earth & community, a deep democracy, climate justice, and engaged surrender.)


Beyond theory: Embodying the pillars

Although the above pillars theoretically articulate a set of principles, it was uplifting to experientially know that this event was an embodiment of them. Much of the delicious food we were served was produced locally and in season, there were plenty of opportunities to share ideas and knowledge, the event was facilitated with awareness and humour, and we were in a food growing project managed through cooperative principles.    


Ideas from small groups

To give an example of one of the sessions on the first day,through sub groups we considered, ‘What needed to change?’

After a storming of ideas, a range of discussion and a gathering of the threads that were emerging, our group of around six came up with three key strands: as to ‘what needs to change’:
1) TIME: the fact that the dominant economic system has a monopoly on people’s time;
2)  LAND: The dominant structures restrict (through costs and policies) peoples access to land – in our small group discussion, we also touched on the fact that so much of income can go into paying for a roof over our heads (which feeds into point 1); and
3) VISION: We need more people to have the vision to create an alternative reality: more sharing of skills, knowledge and stories.

This was a two day event and due to pre-existing commitments I attended the first day only – on the second, there were sessions on co-developing actions and strategies.


Leaving Affected..

Through the day, I met some people whom I already knew – people from Brighton, from Earth Activist Training & permaculture, and anti-GM Food campaigning; I heard stories of how people had left the usual 9-5 treadmill, had lessened their expenditures (I spoke with two people who lived on a boat and one in a truck), and had stepped into a place of greater freedom and possibility; I felt affected by the presence of such wonderful people; I prayed zuhr (Islamic midday body-prayer) in a massive greenhouse between rows of edibles, and I left feeling exhilarated, inspired, and looking forward to sharing my experience with and beyond WIN, and excited as to what comes next for myself and grassroots activism, as the juice of this movement expands and spills into the wider consciousness and strands of activism in the UK, Europe and the world.

© Muzammal Hussain


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