In the sixth chapter of the book, “Food Sovereignty in Canada,” Dawn Morrison tries to define food sovereignty while avoiding the conventional definition of the phrase. Morrison’s need to explore the concept of food sovereignty and how it relates to the cultures of the Canadian people makes him avoid the conventional definition of the term. The definition that Morrison adopts is based on the methods of cultivating, harvesting techniques and the types of foods that indigenous communities in Canada have used in the past. Morrison holds that unique food systems and people’s relationships with land in various traditional territories shape indigenous food sovereignty. The need to uphold cultures and relationships to food systems shape the concepts of indigenous food sovereignty. This concept reflects the approaches that people use to access food and their relationship with land. A response to Morrison’s assertions focuses on his definition of indigenous food sovereignty and how it differs with food sovereignty movement in Canada as discussed below.
Morrison (2011) defines indigenous food sovereignty as the strategies that aim at supporting indigenous communities in their struggle to maintain traditional farming, hunting, gathering, fishing and distribution practices. The concept of indigenous food sovereignty highlights the efforts towards supporting indigenous communities in a country to sustain their farming activities the way they have done it several years before they came into contact with the European settlers. This concept also provides communities with the framework for rebuilding and transforming food systems based on a just and ecological model that ensures food is available for all as it was in the past.
The above definition seems adequate based on the author’s idea of food sovereignty. The fact that the definition refers to traditional methods of farming and distribution practices is an indication that it considers the indigenous abilities of communities towards achieving food security. However, the definition seems contradictory when it says that food sovereignty efforts should aim at transforming industrial food systems. The suggestion to transform these systems means that food practices will change to follow another approach that might be different from the traditional methods that indigenous communities used to access and distribute food. According to Kovach (2009), if communities abandon their traditional food practices, they will not be adhering to the concept of indigenous food sovereignty.
Also, the fact that transforming food systems and practices will require stakeholders to use modern technologies is an indication that such transformation will not conform to the traditional indigenous standards but to modern practices that are non-traditional. Such conformity deviates the definition from the focus of indigenous practices towards modern food practices. Thus, Morrison’s (2011) concept of indigenous food sovereignty seems similar to the conventional definition even though he claims otherwise.
Morrison (2011) proposes indigenous eco-philosophy as one of the approaches that show the differences between indigenous food practices and systems and the Eurocentric food practices. Land, water, animals, plants, knowledge and values constitute the aspects of food practices that one can use to differentiate between indigenous food systems and Eurocentric practices (Morrison 2011). Indigenous eco-philosophy allows indigenous people to have a dignified relationship with the mentioned aspects. On the other hand, the Eurocentric definition of indigenous food sovereignty asserts that people can control nature and such ability is not limited. Based on this philosophy, indigenous foods are the ones that are cultivated and harvested within the boundaries of traditional territories. Such foods are not cultivated using mechanized means but traditional approaches (Kovach, 2009). This aspect of definition is convincing since it shows how traditional view of indigenous food sovereignty differs with the worldview of the same concept. It forms the basis of highlighting the differences and why indigenous communities may differ with organizations that may seek to invest in a country’s food systems. However, it overlooks the fact that people can use mechanized approaches to cultivate and harvest indigenous foods. If one uses mechanized means to plant and harvest local foods, such foods do not cease from being indigenous. But according to Kovach (2009), such practice deviates from the concept of indigenous food sovereignty since the individual uses a Eurocentric approach.
Based on the principles of indigenous food sovereignty, Morrison (2011) asserts that the principle of sacred sovereignty is achieved when people consider their interdependent relationship with plants, water, animals, and land as sacred responsibilities. Morrison (2011) also proposes participation of communities as a principle that should lead to indigenous food sovereignty. This participation allows communities to make their voices heard regarding their relationships with food, land, plants and water. Self-determination is also a principle that can define indigenous food sovereignty. This principle gives communities the freedom to cultivate, gather and harvest indigenous foods while considering their sacred relationship to the ecosystem (Kovach, 2011). These principles are essential in that they highlight the considerations that communities should make for them to achieve food sovereignty.
Indigenous food sovereignty is different from the indigenous food sovereignty movement in that the former is a concept while the latter is an organization. The former highlights the principles and concepts that make indigenous food sovereignty a success while the latter is an organization focused on sensitizing the community in Canada about the importance of indigenous foods. Whereas indigenous food sovereignty is concerned with sustaining traditional approaches of cultivating and harvesting, the food sovereignty movement is concerned with the efforts towards food security in Canada (Levkoe, 2014). As such, indigenous food security is a concept that the movement seeks to implement by bringing communities together to get their suggestions regarding food security in Canada.
Another difference between indigenous food sovereignty and the food sovereignty movement is that the former focuses on a particular community to empower its food practices while the latter strives to bring together communities to air their views regarding food security. Morrison (2011) holds that food sovereignty movement in Canada strives to achieve cross-cultural participation where communities discuss their indigenous food practices and how they can use such systems to achieve food security. The indigenous food sovereignty movement is an advocacy group that aims at understanding indigenous food practices. On the other hand, indigenous food sovereignty concept is an idea that aims at enabling communities to understand their traditional food practices and how they can go back to such practices for better health and food sovereignty.
In conclusion, Morrison’s assertions are convincing and help one to identify the definition of indigenous food sovereignty and the activities of the food sovereignty movement. Although the definition of indigenous food sovereignty succeeds in highlighting the considerations that communities need to make to achieve such sovereignty, it fails by suggesting the transformation of food systems and practices. Such failure is because transforming food systems will make them non-indigenous hence thereby contradicting the focus of the definition. The difference between food sovereignty and food sovereignty movement is that the former discusses the concepts that can be used to achieve indigenous food systems and production practices while the latter gives voice to communities regarding their views on food security.
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