Ecuador’s Quest for Food Sovereignty and Land Reform

Source: NACLA Report on the Americas

Indigenous groups and social movements in Ecuador seek to translate the concept of “Buen Vivir” into policy.

“Es la etica del estado – It’s the state’s moral obligation,” Ecuadorian state legislator Miguel Carvajal told an audience at the National Assembly’s legislative Committee for Food Sovereignty this past summer. He was referring to the importance of supporting and protecting Ecuador’s small and medium-scale agricultural and livestock producers at a time when the Committee for Food Sovereignty was hosting a series of public forums in each province of Ecuador – an attempt to bring civil-society leaders, representatives of indigenous communities, agricultural associations, and trade unions together to debate a draft proposal for land reform in the country.

Ecuador’s land reform project, known as the Ley de Tierras Rurales y Territorios Ancestrales (Rural and Ancestral Land Law), aims to replace an earlier piece of land legislation, the Ley de Desarrollo Agrario (Agrarian Development Law), which was passed in 1994. In theory, the initiative would radically transform land tenure and property rights in the Andean country. As the consultation process between indigenous communities and the National Assembly concludes, the committee is reviewing the suggestions and critiques they have received. However, questions persist about when the proposal will be approved, as well as how – and if – the state will incorporate the diversity of demands put forth by participants and broader social movements.

Via Campesina, a transnational movement of peasant organizations and NGOs, first introduced the concept of food sovereignty at the 1996 World Food Summit. As the movement has long contended, food sovereignty represents an alternative to the food security paradigm. While food security affirms each person’s right to sustenance, food sovereignty goes a step further, seeking to also democratize access and control over resources like land, water, and seeds. The food sovereignty movement has been a vocal advocate of redistributive land reform in several countries of Latin America, while also championing a system of international exchange based on fair trade principles and democratized and decentralized food systems. Moreover, Via Campesina has long promoted agroecology, an ecosystem-based approach to managing agricultural systems that includes traditional forms of knowledge and practices. Each of these goals involves an overriding commitment to ethnic, racial, and gender equity. However, in practice, food sovereignty remains contentious and elusive, even as countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have made it a central feature of their own land redistribution projects.

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