Food sovereignty’s potential to address poverty and hunger by creating sustainable peasant led agri-food systems: a case study from the Brazilian food acquisition programme in Mirandiba, Pernambuco.
University of Southampton, School of Civil Engineering and the Environment,
Food sovereignty is an alternative agricultural and rural development paradigm advocated by the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina. This investigation analyses food sovereignty through a historical cross-scale analysis focusing on the livelihoods of peasants in the sertão in North-Eastern Brazil. The overall aim is to assess the implementation and local effects of a policy, which is based on three food sovereignty principles, and determine in what ways and to what extent it promotes food sovereignty in practice. The three food sovereignty principles considered were support of peasants and small-scale family farmers, prioritisation and support of local food systems and commerce and promotion of agroecology. The policy analysed is the Brazilian government’s Food Acquisition Programme (FAP), as implemented in Mirandiba, Pernambuco by the NGO Conviver from 2005-2008. The analysis involved an assessment of the production and earnings by 359 participating families from 18 poor rural communities, as well as detailed case studies of the livelihood strategies of 14 families from two communities. A number of policy debates are explored, including rural poverty, food security and sustainable agricultural and rural development, to which this research provides three main contributions. Firstly, a new framework to explain the process of marginalisation of peasants through the influence of five mediating factors. Secondly, this framework helps deconstruct misconceptions about peasants and thereby provides support to La Via Campesina’s defence of ‘peasants’ and their livelihoods. Finally, as the first known indepth study of the implementation of the FAP on a local level, this investigation contributes to fill a gap in the research and literature on the operation and local impacts of both the FAP and governmental food procurement programmes more generally. This thesis argues food sovereignty can be achieved locally even within a context of general globalisation, through policies such as governmental food procurement programmes. The investigation concludes that food sovereignty is being pursued in areas of Brazil through the FAP and other progressive policies and movements, which are enabling peasants to improve their well-being, food security, self-esteem and to forge an adequate livelihood. The FAP is also contributing to the development of local food commerce systems and the promotion of agroecology both in Mirandiba and Brazil
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