Challenges to Food Security

Winter 2003-2004
Juvelina Palma, one of four delegates from MOFGA’s sistering organizations in El Salvador, gave a keynote speech at the Common Ground Country Fair about problems associated with “free” trade. The speech was translated at the Fair by Todd Little-Siebold of College of the Atlantic.

2003 Common Ground Country Fair Keynote Speech

A few years ago, when a Salvadoran woman from the Bangor-Carasque Sister City program was visiting Maine, some MOFGA members spoke with her and discovered that small farmers in El Salvador and Maine share some of the same problems – and are working on similar solutions to those problems. “We decided,” said MOFGA member Paul Volckhausen, in introducing Juvelina Palma’s keynote speech at the Common Ground Country Fair, “that it would be good for us to work together as farmers and as organizations working with farmers. So two and a half years ago, we began a sistering relationship with MOFGA and two organizations in El Salvador, CCR and CORDES, which work with farmers there in similar ways that MOFGA works with farmers here.” CCR is the Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango, and CORDES is the Foundation for Communal Cooperation and Development of El Salvador.

Paul and his wife, Karen, have been deeply involved in the sistering relationship and had dreamed of bringing a delegation of farmers and organizers to the Common Ground Fair. “And it’s finally happened,” said Paul. He thanked Maine Initiatives, the Unity Foundation and the individuals who contributed to bringing the delegation to Maine; and he acknowledged the Beehive Collective, which presented the delegation and its organizations with a mosaic. The Collective will deliver and install the mosaic in El Salvador.

“We had hoped to bring a delegation of six people here,” continued Volckhausen, “but the two people who were actually farming were not able to get visas. The U.S. embassy denied their visas because they were farmers and didn’t have much income. They [the embassy] were afraid that the farmers would not return home, even though we guaranteed them that they would.”

Volckhausen then introduced Juvelina Palma, who, as part of the guerrilla war in El Salvador, worked as a seamstress, even while she was a single mother of six children who was also pregnant at the time. (Her husband was among many citizens who were rounded up and killed by the government.)

With the signing of the Peace Accords, Palma became part of the community of San Jose las Flores and is now a member of the municipal council, a member of the directiva of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front), and a member of the directiva of CCR, where she works with the women of the CCR. She delivered her keynote speech at the Common Ground Country Fair on Friday, September 19, 2003, with Todd Little-Siebold of College of the Atlantic translating.

The Challenges to Food Security Posed by Neoliberal Globalization

By Juvelina Palma

We are very happy to be here with our sisters and brothers of MOFGA. My name is Juvelina Palma, as they have told you already, and we are a delegation that has come to join with our brothers and sisters here at MOFGA. The delegation is composed of Ernesto Morales, Marisol Ramirez, Santiago Serrano and myself. We feel very strongly that we’re happy to be here with our MOFGA family. We are very happy to be here at this beautiful and happy fair. And on behalf of the delegation, I’m thankful to everyone who’s here together with us.

So now I’m going to turn to my official comments, entitled “The Challenges to Food Security Posed by Neoliberal Globalization.”

That which begins with the lack of respect for the dignity of a single human life ends too quickly with disaster for entire nations. All humans that inhabit this planet have the right to a life full of dignity, and the fundamental condition to achieve dignity is sovereignty and food security for all.

The fight against social, political, economic and cultural exclusion converts into one of the most powerful forces to inspire social movements to work for the construction of a more just and humane society. In a world that daily witnesses deepening inequality between human beings, our vision and our actions cannot remain passive before the reality of injustice that transcends the barriers between countries and confronts us in two worlds: one of misery and one of opulence.

Neoliberal globalization has made poverty and food insecurity a reality for millions of people around the world. The United Nations’ most recent reports on human wealth reports that the income of the richest 1% is equal to the income of the world’s poorest 57 percent. The divide of inequality between rich and poor is every day greater. The richest 5% of the world’s population earns 114 times more than the poorest 5 percent. The concentration of wealth in few hands is obliging 300 million people in the world to live on less than 1 dollar a day.

This new form of neocolonialism – called neoliberal globalization – advances by giant steps, creating free trade areas for large transnational businesses around the world, creating areas where they can trade without obstacle. The interests of domination and concentration of capital leave in [their] wake destruction and contamination of the environment.

The reality of social exclusion gives rise to forced displacement of the world’s people, depriving them of the right to live in their homes of origin in front of the declining opportunities that they face. It is apparent that development is possible for a few, while the vast majority will live in conditions of underdevelopment and poverty. The advance of this new form of neocolonialism in the hands of transnational corporations puts in grave danger the sovereignty and self-determination of all people.

This new mercantilism obliges the reduction of the functions of the state and leaves open the way for large transnational capital to impose regulations that without a doubt serve only their individual, particular interests. [The results of] this unlimited drive for riches that the large corporations have [are that] one day they install themselves in a certain country, the next day they move on to whatever country offers them the best conditions for profit, without respect for labor rights or those of human beings and development itself. The assembly plant maquiladoras (sweatshops), the capitalist organizations, are an example of this type of development, where the conditions of work convert into a second slavery.

Now in the beginning of this new millennium … in the era of technological advancement, the development of civilization should drive us toward real human development, putting people as the central axis of this process. [However, in reality], thousands of peasants see themselves obliged to abandon in a forced manner the arena of their survival – agriculture – [in the face of] this lack of viable policies to support alternative development for this sector. This leaves them in a situation of misery and hunger in their world. In Latin America, millions of campesinos (peasants) have migrated to the United States and other countries in search of better conditions of life, bringing along with it huge consequences in terms of disintegration of families and the loss of human resources for the development of underdeveloped countries.

The voraciousness of markets renders impossible free competition with equal conditions, given the reality that always the most powerful will survive, leaving at a disadvantage small competitors. According to the World Food Program, this reality presents itself both within and among countries. For this reason, there cannot be food security in the world as long as the face of social exclusion is expressed through malnutrition that millions of children suffer around the world. There cannot be food security while the life expectancy in many countries of the world does not surpass 40 years. For this reason, our fight should get underway to defeat hunger and misery – the principal enemies of humanity – and not to waste resources that destroy other human beings.

We need a globalization based in solidarity, inclusiveness and social justice, a globalization capable of encouraging models of development that stimulate productive life and the enjoyment by all of the world’s inhabitants of the benefits that society can provide. If we can achieve the goal of food security, it is possible to guarantee all of the population an adequate and healthy diet, which has both quality and quantity of food and allows them to satisfy their needs in terms of both calories and nutrients.

In the name of our two organizations, CCR and Fundacion Cordes, thank you very much for listening to my talk. We also want to tell you that we’re in solidarity in fighting against the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Here at MOFGA today [in the Social and Political Action Tent], there will be people … collecting signatures against the policies [of FTAA]. You can come close to these people and sign up, because we too in El Salvador are also collecting many, many signatures against this free trade initiative. There is also information about fair trade in the Social and Political Action Tents. Thank you very much.

Our thanks to Todd and Christa Little-Siebold of College of the Atlantic for their translation of this speech.

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