News Release

Award in Iowa: Black Farms Matter


On Wednesday, in Des Moines, Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, run by African-American farmers of the southern United States and to OFRANEH — the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña).

A new piece by Eric Holt Gimenez, the executive director of Food First, contrasts these organizations with the dominant view of agriculture: “Over the last four decades we have consistently produced one and one half times enough food for every man, woman and child on the planet. Yet, over a billion people are still hungry and malnourished because they are too poor to buy food. … Because a focus on growth allows us to ignore the problems of inequity, exploitation and the growing disparity of wealth in the world. It allows us to ignore the issue of resource distribution — and its corollary: re-distribution. Eighty-four individuals now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. The growing wealth gap is causing hunger.”

BEVERLY BELL, bev.otherworlds at
Bell is a writer and organizer on food sovereignty, coordinator of Other Worlds, and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She works with the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance and is available for interviews and can arrange interviews with representatives from the recipients.

She said: “The [work of the] Federation of Southern Cooperatives is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the U.S. have fallen from 14 percent to 1 percent in less than 100 years.”

Ben Burkett, co-founder of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Mississippi farmer, said, “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self-determination of a local community to grow and do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”

Bell said: “The grassroots organization OFRANEH was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change.”

Miriam Miranda, coordinator of OFRANEH said: “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. There is a big job to do in Honduras and everywhere, because people have to know that they need to produce to bring the autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.”