2020 has been a year like none other in living memory. For Australians, the year commenced with the Black Summer, or rather continued from the horror fire season that started many months earlier across the east coast. Just as the air cleared, a new plague in the form of coronavirus arrived, and we swapped our N95 masks for surgical ones. As I write this, my family in Oregon and California have recently had to choose which kind of mask to wear depending on the day.
I won’t apologise for this realistic and grim account of the cascade of crises in which the world finds itself. We must look at each crisis, examine its source, identify the interrelations between them, and do everything in our collective power to reverse the damage our species has wrought, and work tirelessly and together for a liveable future. This is not a drill.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the industrial food system is a menace to society.
What I wrote back in March still holds true – local food systems are more resilient to shocks like the current pandemic, but we are not immune. Loss of access to abattoirs and farmers’ markets have hit many small-scale producers hard, but there is a quiet revolution of micro-processing facilities emerging, and farmers’ markets have shown they are well up to the task of running COVID-safe markets. Small-scale farmers have also demonstrated their flexibility and resilience as hundreds more got on board with Open Food Network to sell their produce online, and collaborate with other growers for efficient distribution. Producers were (mostly) ready for the surge of interest in local food that we’ve witnessed through COVID as eaters everywhere worried that little bit more about the origins of their food, its potential role in climate and pandemic chaos, and acted accordingly by increasing demand for local food produced and distributed in ethical and ecologically-sound ways.
AFSA responded in multiple ways to support our members and the food sovereignty movement locally and globally. We launched our popular series of Solidarity Economies Sessions online to show that a post-capitalist future is not a distant dream – there are people everywhere working on alternative economic models built on trust, transparency, and fairness. We’ve enjoyed conversations with a range of fascinating people who are active in their own optimism – ‘active optimists’ – and been inspired by all that is happening to localize economies across Australia. You can see the full series on AFSA’s new Youtube channel! Talks to date have included conversations with:
- Building a Community-supported agriculture farm with AFSA
- Building Collaboration with Open Food Network
- Building Co-ops with Friends of the Earth & Earthworker Alliance
- Belonging Economies with Artist as Family
- Permaculture Solidarities with David Holmgren of Melliodora
- Building Community-owned Value Chains with Food Connect
- Growing Solidarity Farmers with Farmer Incubator
- Empowering & Connecting Communities with Cultivating Community
- Supporting New Economies with New Economies Network Australia
AFSA is also excited about a new project we’re working on with some allies in the movement to establish an Agroecological Action Research Network (AARN), which aims to connect researchers, farmers and educators, to promote their work in transforming Australian food and agriculture systems, and to support the development of agroecology farmer field schools.
We believe that knowledge can translate into power and action. Participatory research can inform our understanding of the agroecological innovations happening on farms already, and inspire new ideas of what is possible on farms and off.
Food sovereignty asserts that people and communities should be the primary decision-makers shaping our food and agriculture systems, and we are working to equip people with the necessary information to make those decisions.
You’ll read more of what we’ve been up to in the following sections co-written by our National Committee members, including our Legal Defence Fund work, the early work of the newly-established Farming on Other People’s Land (FOOPL), and our heavy international advocacy load.
AFSA turned 10 this year, and we had hoped to get the band back together to celebrate our achievements as an organisation that has supported and actively contributed to the growth of the food sovereignty movement in Australia and globally, but a global pandemic stops for no celebration. We hope we will be able to activate the plan to converge next year and acknowledge and applaud the hard work, passion, vision, and care of the 61 former and current members of the National Committee and other volunteers who have donated so much time to the cause. For now, the current Committee members would like to thank the following people who have made AFSA what it is today:
AFSA Committee, Staff & Volunteers 2010-2020
|Robert Pekin||2010 – 12|
|Fran Murrell||2012-13, 2017-18|
|Brooke ‘Sparkles’ Murphy||2013-14|
|La Vergne Lehmann||2017-18|
|Pi Wei Lim||2017-18|
|Sarah de Wit||2017-19|
Viva la revolución!
Tammi Jonas, President
Dan Cordner, Treasurer
The challenges many of us have faced as a result of the Black Summer and COVID-19 have also impacted AFSA – in our ability to have fundraising events, and to get the planned follow up to our successful Farming Democracy book off the ground.
Nevertheless, AFSA still reported a small net profit (approx. $2,000 at time of writing this report).
With regards to AFSA’s accounts and finances, it’s been a year of slow but steady progress. As with any volunteer run organisation, it’s challenging keeping on top of the ever-changing superannuation and ATO rules and regulations, but this year we’ve been able to bring AFSA up to date, with all outstanding IAS/BAS lodgments completed, and all of our superannuation obligations fully met.
We have had a very successful year with regards to membership income, which saw a 15% improvement on budget. The increase in member revenue is across all membership pools, being farmers, allies and organisations. Over and above our membership proceeds, we also received more donations than expected, with $1,738 raised.
Thankfully AFSA benefitted from a few financial windfalls in early 2020 – with us being eligible for the first round of JobKeeper and the cash flow boost, minus accounting fees to compile and lodge all documentation (+$30,156). JobKeeper allowed us to keep our Administration Assistant Amida fully employed at this critical time as we transitioned to online events, and as we work towards improving membership engagement, online access and content.
That’s where the highlights end unfortunately. We experienced significant net negative budget variations with not being able to complete and launch Eating Democracy (-$10,000). Sales of Farming Democracy were down on budget aspirations (-$6,200). And with the Food Sovereignty Convergence not being feasible to run as an in-person event, we’re expecting a zero-net impact, as this event is run as an at-cost event.
Nick Holliday, Memberships Officer
As a campaigning organisation, AFSA’s strong voice on policy and individual issues is directly related to the size of our constituency.
Whilst we know that huge numbers of farmers and eaters support our cause, the challenge will always be converting them into financial members to lend their support to our campaigns in a material and political sense.
Traditionally, AFSA has recruited best around events and campaigns, which have been hampered by external forces this year. However, our Solidarity Economies online series generated significant interest and large numbers of new memberships.
Significant effort has been expended this year in streamlining a number of membership processes. We’ve developed and endorsed a paper membership form so that new members can be recruited on the spot at events (admittedly this would have been more useful had events still been possible). We’ve also undertaken work on the membership portal on our website, though technical issues are not yet completely resolved.
Importantly, the Committee has developed a proposal to regularise the membership year, in line with most other membership-based organisations. If approved by the AGM, this will move all our members to a common renewal date, which will allow us to better track and follow up financial and unfinancial members to ensure membership is retained from year to year.
Our membership at AGM last year was 257 and now stands at 291. In a time of financial and social hardship where we’ve been unable to run events, this is a remarkable achievement – we recognise the hard work of our volunteers and activists in achieving this!
Legal Defence Fund
Airlie Morris, Legal Advisor
The LDF this year has continued to provide legal advice and support to small-scale farmers in need, and to take members’ needs forward in multiple submissions to government inquiries and regular interactions with members of government at all levels.
The LDF gave or made 28 advices and appearances on behalf AFSA or individual members, eight of which were the result of direct approaches from individual farmer members in times of real legal need. These ranged from planning problems and legal action by local councils, to providing legal advice on the closure or restriction of supply chains such as farmers’ markets and farmgate sales as a knee-jerk reaction by regulators to the pandemic.
On the proactive side the LDF has partnered with FOOPL in the provision of advice and drafting of share farming agreements and it has been heartening to be able to gather a range of “best practice” agreements and clauses that we will be turning into a useful information repository for FOOPLers going forward.
In addition, the LDF submitted to the below government or regulatory body enquiries. A highlight was AFSA being chosen to appear before the Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee of the Australian Senate in July where we presented on AFSA’s 2019 submission in relation to the Identification of Leading Practices in Ensuring Evidence-Based Regulation of Farm Practices that Impact Water Quality Outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef.
|Date||Regulator||Submission Title and Summary|
|28/10/19||Hepburn Shire Council||Local Laws #2 (proposing severe curtailment of various local laws around food growing, animal numbers, food foraging, tip salvaging etc)|
|1/11/19||Agriculture Victoria||Property ID Reforms (provenance and transparency in horticulture – proposed introduction of biosecurity ID’s)|
|8/11/19||Australian Senate Enquiry||Submission in relation to the Identification of Leading Practices in Ensuring Evidence-Based Regulation of Farm Practices that Impact Water Quality Outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef|
|2/12/19||Hepburn Shire Council||Submission on Draft General Local Law No 2 – Community Amenity and Municipal Places(proposing severe curtailment of various local laws around food growing, animal numbers, food foraging, tip salvaging etc)|
|6/2/20||FSANZ||Primary Production and Processing Requirements for high-risk horticulture|
|14/2/20||FSANZ||FSANZ Soy Leghemoglobin Permission – Impossible Foods (comment on FSANZ failure to take into account health issues with genetically modified “fake meat” and food labelling concerns)|
|15/6/20||Australian Senate Enquiry||Submission on Growing Australian Agriculture to $100 Billion by 2030|
|23/6/20||FSANZ||Submission on A1199 Food derived from Innate potato lines V11 and Z6 (GM potato chips)|
|28/8/20||Hepburn Shire||Submission to the Hepburn Planning Scheme Review (key topics being agriculture, biodiversity, significant environments and landscapes, water, built environment, sustainable development, Daylesford abattoir, community engagement)|
|11/9/20||APVMA||Joint submission with Gene Ethics on the review of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines regulatory regime|
|17/9/20||ACCC||Response to the ACCC’s Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry|
Farming on Other People’s Land (FOOPL)
Ant Wilson, Chair of FOOPL
Farming on Other People’s Land (FOOPL) was established at the 2019 AGM of AFSA in Brisbane. The brainchild of former AFSA Committee member Phil Stringer, FOOPL aims to support and encourage new farming ventures on existing farms and underutilized land, and to advocate for easier access to land for those who wish to farm in an ethical and ecologically-sound manner, and inform the wider community of benefits in doing so.
We acknowledge that in Australia all non-Indigenous people are farming on other people’s land, and are striving to find ways to improve Indigenous access to land, to form solidarities to decolonise agriculture, and to pay the rent.
Due to COVID, the inaugural meeting of the FOOPL Advisory Committee was not held until 14 September 2020. Its membership currently consists of AFSA National Committee members Ant Wilson (Tellurian Fruit Gardens/Harcourt Cooperative), Tammi Jonas (Jonai Farms & Meatsmiths), and Dan Cordner (Bellasato Farm), AFSA Legal Advisor Airlie Morris, and Katie Findlay (Harcourt Cooperative), Nadia Baxter, and Tanya Massy of Farmer Incubator.
We have been offered a $50,000 donation to fund the project, and are in the process of finalising the administrative aspects of managing the donation transparently and fairly.
FOOPL’s current focus is to collate share-farming agreements into general categories or ‘types’ of agreements. These will form a resource base for AFSA members. We will then develop a set of ‘guiding principles’ to help people write their own agreements – ie. What are all the bases that need to be covered for a generic agreement?
We are also investigating the potential to collaborate with Farmer Incubator (and other similar organisations) where AFSA can provide legal and government lobbying support.
AFSA in the Global Food Sovereignty Movement
The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC)
AFSA has been a member of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) since 2013, which collectively represents more than 6000 organizations and 300 million small-scale food producers around the world. The global movement of peasants La Via Campesina (the largest social movement in the world), of which AFSA is also a member, is the IPC’s largest member.
AFSA is one of the coordinators for the Asia Pacific region of IPC, and also a coordinator of its Working Group on Agricultural Biodiversity.
Through our IPC membership, we participate in meetings of many of the Rome-based agencies of the United Nations, including the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and its Committee on Agriculture (COAG), the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (CGRFA), the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), as well as regional meetings of ASEAN ministers for agriculture.
This year the focus has been sharply on the alarming loss of biodiversity within and to no small degree because of agriculture, with planning well underway on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Our President Tammi Jonas was in Rome for these meetings as the pandemic began to ravage Italy in February, highlighting in real time the role of biodiversity loss and encroachment of remote forests in the emergence of novel diseases.
This year has also seen a strong focus on livestock production within many UN bodies, with repeated calls to adopt One Health approaches to reducing the risks in intensive livestock production. There has been a parallel reluctance on the part of the world’s biggest livestock and feed producers (Brazil, Argentina, the US, Australia, Canada…) to formally acknowledge the inherent public health risks created by confining genetically identical animals in unhealthy living conditions, including the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) caused largely by the practice of feeding livestock antimicrobials as growth promotants.
The world’s shift to meeting via Zoom has been both a blessing and a curse for these meetings. On the one hand, we get to eat dinners at home and stay with our families with the satisfaction that we are not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. However, most of the meetings are held on Rome timetables – Tammi attended an entire week of COAG meetings from 5pm to midnight and does not wish to repeat that experience anytime soon. The online meetings also both improve access for some while inhibiting it for others. Many find it easier to attend because we don’t need to leave our farms to have our voices in the meetings, but those with poor access to internet (such as many of our comrades in India and Africa) struggle to meaningfully participate.
The UN Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism / Committee on World Food Security
Anisah Madden, International Liaison
Since 2013, AFSA committee members have been participating in the Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism (CSM), for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security. The CSM is an autonomous platform that allows grassroots food producers organisations, Indigenous Peoples, and social movements from across the world to directly participate in UN food and agriculture policy discussions with governments through their national, regional, and global organisations and networks.
The CSM platform provides a space for the majority food producers of the world, who are also the most affected by food insecurity, to push for public policies based on respecting human rights (particularly women’s rights) and pushing for public policies that support food sovereignty and agroecology. Although international policy spaces are challenging and complex, the organisations participating in the CSM recognise the crucial importance of being at the table (rather than on the menu) for these discussions. Nothing About Us, Without Us is the guiding principle of the CSM.
Since the creation of the CSM in 2009, participating organisations have successfully influenced a range of important food and agriculture policy guidelines and recommendations.
In 2019, Anisah Madden, AFSA International Liaison (2018-2020) actively participated in three CSM Working Groups: The CSM Agroecology Working Group, the CSM Food Systems and Nutrition Working Group, and the CSM Monitoring Working Group. Her participation in these working groups involved a dialogue between discussions at the international level and food and agriculture policy issues in Australia. As AFSA is a small-scale farmer-led organisation, we were able to bring the experiences and voices of our members into the CSM and reinforce international advocacy for a more sustainable and equitable food system.
Our contributions included:
- Writing a direct submission on agroecology in Australia as a contribution to the CFS policy process on “Agroecological and Other Innovations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems that Enhance Food Security and Nutrition”
- This submission was also integrated into the CSM collective submission to this policy process http://www.csm4cfs.org/csm-written/
- Writing a direct submission on food systems and nutrition in Australia –emphasising the interdependence of human and planetary health, as a contribution to the CFS policy process on “Food Systems and Nutrition”. http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/activities/discussions/cfs_food_systems_nutrition
- This submission was also integrated into the CSM collective submission to this policy process. http://www.csm4cfs.org/working-groups/nutrition/
- Writing a direct submission on “Monitoring the Use and Implementation of CFS policy outcomes”. Our contribution highlighted how three sets of CFS policy recommendations, published in 2016, were used by AFSA to successfully advocate for scale-appropriate regulations for small scale livestock and poultry farmers in Victoria. http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/activities/discussions/CFS-smallholders-fsn
- This submission was also integrated into the CSM collective submission to this policy process. http://www.csm4cfs.org/working-groups/monitoring/
- Contributing to the CFS High Level Panel of Experts Report “Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems” that will inform the CFS policy process on Youth in 2021/2022. AFSA National Committee member and WA farmer Melissa Charlick also contributed to our submission to this report.
In January 2020, Anisah became a co-facilitator of the CSM Youth Working Group. The Youth Working Group is a dedicated space for young (under 35 years of age) agroecological food producers, food and agriculture workers, and other young activists from all regions of the world to exchange views, initiatives, and experiences and build political strategies to realise human rights and food sovereignty. The Youth Working Group emphasises youth agency, leadership, responsibility to community, and the plurality of youth perspectives. The CSM Youth Working Group is currently preparing to engage in a CFS policy negotiation on youth in agriculture and food systems. To find out more, see http://www.csm4cfs.org/working-groups/youth/ To find out how to participate in the working group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Writing a submission to contribute to a discussion on the establishment of an International Digital Council for food and agriculture http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/activities/discussions/digital_council
- Attending the launch of the UN Decade for Family Farming in Rome, as a member of LVC and IPC.
La Via Campesina
On the 6th and 7th of October, members of AFSA virtually attended the La Via Campesina South East and East Asian Regional Meeting. Over two days, the various members presented reports of what had happened in-country over the past year. Updates were shared, from the advocacy for agrarian reform in Indonesia to the problems commodity crops present for small-scale farmers in Malaysia and a shrinking agricultural industry in Japan.
Additionally, direct impacts of Covid-19 were shared: military intervention in Thailand meant the transportation of food across the country was affected; imported food supplies in Korea were threatened; and online options promoted by the government in Cambodia aren’t necessarily available for resource-poor farmers and indeed eaters.
At the same time, inspiring stories and programs were shared from across the region including the creation of youth and women’s peasant mentor programs, and AFSA shared the work we are doing with Farming on Other People’s Land (FOOPL), with the aim to share the resources we compile, and the proposed Agroecology Action Research Network.
Most importantly, we were able to stand in solidarity with our neighbours in the region and advocate for the place of peasants and small-scale food producers in our societies.
Thank you to all our members and allies in Australia and around the world for the part you all play in helping to radically transform our food and agriculture systems. We hope this finds you all as well as possible in these challenging times, taking time to reflect on the root causes of the current the pandemic and other crises we face, and actively being part of the solutions.
The 2019-2020 AFSA National Committee and staff: Tammi, Katie, Ruth, Dan, Anisah, Nick, Ant, Ray, Amy, Mel, Amida, and Airlie
 Connecting Smallholders to Markets; Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food Security; and Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?