Concepts and Definitions

Concepts and Definitions

Following, we will present some definitions, concepts, and terms relevant to our guide. Since these concepts are heavily used in studies, policies and even mainstream media, our aim is to clarify their differences. This allows us, as consumers and producers, to reflect on how some can benefit our collective purpose of becoming self-sufficient and resource independent while others might weaken such efforts and keep us dependent on unjust and controlling systems of production and consumption 

  • Food Sovereignty vs. Food Security 

According to the latest estimates by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1.6 million Palestinians are food insecure. The UN defines food security as a means to “ensure adequate availability of, and reasonable prices for, food at all times”. Furthermore, food security is a situation “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.[1] Food security therefore focuses on being able to access food. However, where does this food come from? Who grows it? And is this production local, or  imported from thousands of miles away? Are farmers’ rights to access resources secured? Needless to say, food security follows a consumption-driven economy and a neoliberal approach to solving the food crisis globally. 

Food sovereignty is a concept that departs from the managerial, market-driven concept of food security. La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, articulates how food sovereignty serves as a holistic all-encompassing concept:

“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.” It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users.”

Food sovereignty principles align closely with those of Palestinian farmers, producers and many understand the unsustainable and destructive nature of the market-driven economy and mass agricultural production driven by global greed of multinational corporations and the threat it poses to local livelihood and small-scale producers. In publications on food sovereignty in Palestine, the Palestinian researcher Ubay Aboudi[2]and the environmental specialist George Kurzum [3]highlight how the Israeli occupation is seen as the ultimate threat to food sovereignty, by prohibiting Palestinians from claiming their rights over their lands and resources. Respecting farmers’ decisions and farming choices is essential, where food sovereignty promotes production for the local market, ensuring that high-quality produce is available to all Palestinians as a priority. As both state, food sovereignty is an emancipatory concept that aims to liberate the agricultural sector from its colonial chains and work collectively to achieve liberation of the land and people.

  • Fairtrade

Many Palestinian local products are being produced, packaged, and marketed according to international fairtrade standards. This allows local producers to earn more money while maintaining certain environmental and health standards. Fairtrade focuses on commodities that have a market in the West. Traditionally, the most exportable item from Palestine has been olive oil, but now under the fairtrade label exports have now expanded to include many local products such as dried herbs, soaps, olive wood carvings, coffee, spices, etc. Many Palestinian businesses have invested in promoting themselves as fairtrade exporters and this trend is increasing, especially in the food and crafts sectors. Unfortunately, due to the rise of donor-funded projects that invest in high yield and cash crops, such produce is replacing traditional chemical-free and seasonal produce that used to be grown. 

The premises and conditions of Fairtrade certification are in essence benign, as they offer a progressive alternative to mass production and commit to ensuring producers receive their fair share of the profit from their produce. However, operating and producing for a flawed capitalist system is proving to be counterproductive, especially when considered in the Palestinian context of   systematic dispossession inherent in settler colonial rule, where land and water are securitised and seized from the control and ownership p of the indigenous population. In the Palestinian context, the fairtrade system creates a standardization mentality that dismisses many baladi products that fall short of complying with international standards for various reasons. This is worrying as farmers’ ultimate aim becomes to comply with these regulations rather than the conservation and protection of a balanced ecosystem and the continuation of the use of traditional farming methods and indigenous seeds. Moreover, it caters to an international market, mainly European and American, promoting high-quality products for export, leaving Palestinians with cheap and low-quality imports. 

  • Baladi produce

Hearing that a product is baladi is like music to our ears. It means the product is local, made from local sources (whether cheese, eggs, bread, fruits or vegetables). It ensures that the produce is fresh, as local as it can get and that it is produced the traditional way, which usually means no chemicals,   slow preparation and a rich and distinctive taste. 

  • Organic

Organic implies farming methods which rely on fertilisers of organic origin, and biological pest control (instead of chemical based pesticides), and sometimes uses limited amounts of chemicals in specific periods, referred to as safe farming. Certified Organic farming is regulated and follows international standardisation. It came as an alternative approach to the heavy use of pesticides, fertilisers in traditional monoculture farming, which had detrimental effects on soil fertility, ecosystem biodiversity and human health and wellbeing. However, orienting one's agricultural activities towards receiving certifications has many shortcomings and limitations as they remain internationally controlled and are market-driven, therefore not based on local needs and aspirations of producers, especially in the global south. 

  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) 

CSA represents a partnership between farmers and producers, highlighting the act of sharing roles and responsibilities through farming. It celebrates local production, and the transparent relations between farmers and consumers. It usually involves a group of consciously aware consumers who are interested in knowing where their food comes from. They might invest in a specific farm or pay seasonal membership to receive the season’s bounty in a box at their doorstep. It aims to build community, cut food waste, preserve local crops and seeds, and support local small-scale farmers. 

  • Monoculture/ industrial agriculture 

Industrial agriculture is an approach to farming that focuses on maximising production, minimising cost and producing crops that are easily sold in the market. Industrial agriculture relies on economic and technological tools to increase production and may involve genetic modification to enhance the characteristics of certain crop varieties; longer shelf life, drought resistance, etc. This poses a risk to the environment as well as the health of humans and animals. This agriculture is also resource intensive, requiring access to large areas of land, water sources, heavy use of fertilisers and pesticides, and a monopoly over seed distribution and propagation. In Palestine, this means heavy reliance on Israeli (and foreign) seeds and chemicals, commercialisation of agriculture to ensure profit, resulting in low quality of produce. Moreover, this leads to the systematic weakening of small-land owners and producers who have to compete with cheap Israeli produce filling our markets, in addition to the monopoly of big companies on mass production of essential produce. 

  • Agroecology:

Agroecology is the backbone of Food Sovereignty. It is defined by Saad Dagher, who is considered  by farmers and activists in the field, the father of Agroecology in Palestine, as “an agricultural philosophy and application that considers and respects natural systems; it nurtures all forms of life on earth and works in harmony with the ecosystem, without causing any harm to its essential elements -soil, water, air, biodiversity and human beings. It restores life through the restoration of those elements, to produce healthy food for the wellness of humans and animals. It is agriculture, without materialistic, mental and psychological poisons.” 

Agroecology is derived from the rich traditional agricultural knowledge and practices of farmers and peasants worldwide. According to the Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology:

“Agroecology is the answer to how to transform and repair our material reality in a food system and rural world that has been devastated by industrial food production and its so-called Green and Blue Revolutions’. Among its principles is ‘putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the people who feed the world”[4]

Agroecology depends on the use of local production inputs, including seeds, and it rejects the use of any chemicals or genetically modified seeds, therefore goes perfectly in line with baladi production.