By Haidee Swanby
The Food Sovereignty Movement is a dynamic movement that revels in relationships with family and community and the living territory in which we are embedded. It embraces complexity and open-ended learning. It is also guided by aesthetics – for example, images and narratives featuring the colours, textures and varieties of seed are a common mobilising motif, conjuring deep seated pride, knowledge and a sense of belonging, the favourite foods, people and celebrations which the seeds are connected to and much more. The Rural Woman’s Assembly (RWA), a coalition of Southern African rural women, goes so far as to declare themselves “the Guardians of Land, Life, Seed and Love”. Yet, I ask myself, what place does love have in Southern African Development Community (SADC) policy negotiations on Plant Breeders’ Rights or Plant Improvement, for example? The outcomes of such negotiations dictate regional laws, budgets, infrastructure, extension and national programmes. They create a societal blueprint for our relationship with seed, playing a crucial role in the kind of wider food systems that are made possible by that blueprint. Having engaged in those policy developments, I am certain that love is not a credible topic of discussion for our lawmakers.
My personal experience in the African and global food movement over the past two decades has been unbelievably rich. I have been privileged and humbled to learn from men and women who think out of the box, with juicy brains and deep humanity; learnt from farmers and scientists about ecology and how humans partner with an incredible variety of human and non-human actants in the production of food; had
the privilege of staying in the homes of farming families in many African countries while tasting the fruits of their labour; learnt about the multitude of ways that people operate within the politics of their communities and about the rituals and taboos that maintain pristine islands of biodiversity in landscapes destroyed by extractivism. My friends have taken me to the source of the Nile, to see the little red foxes of the Ethiopian Bali mountains and treated me to home cooked cuisine in their homes. I know what people need when they travel from home by train, plane and various automobiles, to participate in activist environments, learning and policy spaces. I have also been exposed to many new environments, cultures, knowledges and worldviews that push me to perpetually examine my own history and beliefs, and my
social positioning as a white South African woman on a continent where locations on the basis of gender, race, nationality, class and sexuality are incredibly complex.