Food Security in a Sovereign State

Food Security in a Sovereign State and “Quiet Food Sovereignty” of an Insecure Population: The Case of Post-Soviet Russia
01 January 2013
Paper

In this paper we argue that Russian discourses on and practices of food sovereignty strongly diverge from the global understanding of this concept. We distinguish two approaches to food and agriculture that are crucial for understanding food sovereignty à la Russe.

In this paper we argue that Russian discourses on and practices of food sovereignty strongly diverge from the global understanding of this concept. We distinguish two approaches to food and agriculture that are crucial for understanding food sovereignty à la Russe. The first one is what we term ‘food security in a sovereign state’. This approach is close to the traditional food security concept and refers to the conceived necessity to produce sufficient food for the population domestically, instead of being dependent on food imports. This type of food sovereignty is to be realized by large-scale industrial agriculture, which further development is actively supported by the Russian government. It has the additional function of a potential political weapon in international relations, via growing grain exports and grain market power. The second type of food sovereignty we term ‘quiet food sovereignty’ of an insecure population. It is enacted by the population’s self-provisioning of food through production on household plots, as a coping mechanism. We show that these small-holdings are quite productive, and in general have similar yields as individual private farms (which make up a relative small sector) and large-scale farm enterprise. However, household plot production, which still has a symbiotic and sometimes adverse relation with large farm enterprises (and agroholdings), is grossly overlooked and even downplayed not only by the Russian government, but also by the small-scale producers themselves. We conclude that an emergent food sovereignty movement will be most likely a ‘Via Kremlina’, rather than a ‘Via Campesina–type. The dominance of large scale enterprises, the minimal government support for small-holders, and the existence of a large number of scattered, fragmented and still ignored household producers, do not yet provide much prospect for a ‘food sovereignty movement from below’ in Russia, in spite of emerging eco-villages and some indigenous movements that struggle to keep their traditional food systems intact.

Max Spoor Professor of Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University; Visiting Professor, Barcelona (IBEI); Guest Professor, Nanjing (NJAU). Professor Spoor’s research is on transition economies in Asia, such as Vietnam and China, and in Eastern Europe, regarding rural and environmental issues, poverty, and inequality.

Natalia Mamonova PhD candidate, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University, The Netherlands. Natalia Mamonova’s PhD-research is on land grabbing in the post-Soviet countryside, land conflicts, responses by the local population, and rural social movements in Russia and Ukraine.

Oane Visser Assistant Professor and Senior Researcher, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Professor Visser recently gained a prestigious ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant for his research on land grabbing, financialization, poverty and social movements in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (2013-2017).

Alexander Nikulin Professor and Director, Center for Agricultural Studies of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia. Professor Nikulin specializes in economic and agrarian sociology, history of the peasantry, and the current state of farming in Russia.

Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.