Food Sovereignty

A New Rights Framework for Food and Nature?

Author: Hannah Wittman
Volume 2, Number 1 (2011)

Community garden in Venezuela growing food in a local fire station. The food used to make meals for firefighters on shift, as well as for the local community. Supported by the state organization CIARA with training, resources, and tools (photo by Global Justice Now via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0).


Food sovereignty, as a critical alternative to the concept of food security, is broadly defined as the right of local peoples to control their own food systems, including markets, ecological resources, food cultures, and production modes. This article reviews the origins of the concept of food sovereignty and its theoretical and methodological development as an alternative approach to food security, building on a growing interdisciplinary literature on food sovereignty in the social and agroecological sciences. Specific elements of food sovereignty examined include food regimes, rights-based and citizenship approaches to food and food sovereignty, and the substantive concerns of advocates for this alternative paradigm, including a new trade regime, agrarian reform, a shift to agroecological production practices, attention to gender relations and equity, and the protection of intellectual and indigenous property rights. The article concludes with an evaluation of community-based perspectives and suggestions for future research on food sovereignty.

is assistant professor of environmental sociology and Latin American studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She conducts collaborative research on local food systems, agrarian social movements, and agrarian citizenship with the Landless Rural Workers Movement and La Via Campesina in Brazil and with local networks in British Columbia. She has published articles in the Journal of Rural Studies, Journal of Peasant Studies, the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Land Degradation and Development and Human Organization, and is co-editor of Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community (2010) and Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems (2011).

Access article on Berghahn Journals