As we have shared throughout this Earth Day blog series, human activities and environmental impacts are deeply linked — especially in food production and distribution. While it is important to ensure that all people in developing countries have access to nutritious foods, it also matters where that food comes from and who owns the distribution channels. Over time, systemic food inequality can lead to persistent poverty, malnutrition, and disenfranchisement.

This concept of food sovereignty explains the interconnected relationship between people in developing countries like Haiti and the unique environmental challenges they face. Sustainable agriculture must not only focus on preventing soil erosion and deforestation in this mountainous country, but also empowering rural farmers and their trading partners to locally control the production and distribution of food. Due to centuries of colonization and imbalanced power relationships, many developing countries have to depend on subsidized grain imports from developed countries; this has wiped out markets for locally grown crops since the imports are less expensive than local options. Relying on foreign shipments to feed their citizens makes developing countries particularly vulnerable to changes in global trade, politics, and conflicts; it also strips individuals of their livelihoods, political voice, and ability to improve their communities.

Instead of focusing on food security alone, governments, NGOs, and businesses must partner with farming communities in countries like Haiti to restore local control over food. By investing in sustainable agriculture, local markets, and community-led organizations, we can restore food citizenship in rural Haiti. By having the tools and power to decide how food is grown and how it is sold, individuals can earn a living, ensure equity in food access in their communities, and improve local public infrastructure. Having enough food to eat is not enough to ensure equitable, lasting food systems around the world — food must be produced and distributed by local decision makers to ensure environmental and economic sustainability.

Learn more about the six principles of food sovereignty:

Six principles of food sovereignty

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