As I wandered through the streets of Caracas on my first trip to Venezuela nine years ago, a huge urban farm in the midst of concrete high-rises caught my attention. It wasn’t tucked away on a side street or in a residential area, but was right out in the middle of the bustling downtown. I asked a local walking by if he could tell me anything about the farm—whose initiative was it, how long had it been there, who farms the land? With a matter-of-fact shrug he said, “Es parte del proceso.” It’s part of the process. Part of what process, I wondered. Did he mean Venezuela’s broader process of political and social transformation, the Bolivarian Revolution? Or did he mean the efforts to transform Venezuela’s food system? Later, I would learn that the two concepts were inseparable.
Now having followed the processes unfolding in Venezuela for nearly a decade, I often reflect back on this early moment for the meaning behind that simple exchange. In the US, where I’m from, there are also inspiring community food projects, which are local manifestations of the alternative food system that many hope for, dream about, and painstakingly work toward. Yet these still remain pockets of change in an otherwise broken system—in the US and globally—where profits come before people, good food is a privilege for those who can afford it rather than a right for all, and food production comes at the expense of farmers, workers, the environment, and human health. There is often talk of ‘scaling up’ positive models of food system change as a way forward, but there are few blueprints or examples as to how this might be done.
In a handful of countries, however, such as in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, there are national efforts to create systemic change in food and agriculture—and their advances and setbacks hold valuable lessons. Among these is Venezuela, which is home to one of the most fascinating experiments in food and agriculture today. The crux of Venezuela’s experiment is an attempted 180° shift from a situation of food dependency, with high rates of imports controlled by a few powerful companies, to one of food sovereignty, in which the country is able to feed itself from its own food supply and people have greater control over the food they eat and produce…. (see the full article at Solutions)