To what extent does Ecuador’s Organic Law of Rural Lands and Ancestral Territories contribute to food sovereignty?

Melisa Ramos-SIPAE y Plataforma por la Tierra y los Territorios Sostenibles (ENI Ecuador)
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Complementing the analysis of land and territory with a view of food sovereignty is necessary to solve the various problems currently facing the peasantry in Ecuador and throughout Latin America.

Ecuador, as many other Latin American countries, has witnessed vast transformations in legislation on land and territories. At the historical level, the 1960s presented the most active discussions.  It was the decade with highest number of changes, particularly in the finding of solutions to problems of land concentration by landowning oligarchies. The following years were also relevant, but lacked the reformist approach. The Organic Law on Rural Lands and Ancestral Territories, together with legislation regarding the promotion of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity, has provoked diverse spaces for analysis and reflection of its effects , responding to a relegated social demand over the years.

Within this context, the dialogue titled "Access to Water and Land in Ecuador from the perspective of Food Sovereignty" was celebrated in the Auditorium of the Andean University Simon Bolivar in the city of Quito. The discussion aimed to promote dialogue among academics, social organizations and public institutions. The event was organized by Conferencia Plurinacional e Intercultural de Soberania Alimentaria or COPISA -Plurinational and Intercultural Conference on Food Sovereignty-, Instituto de Estudios Ecuatorianos or IEE -Institute for Ecuadorian Studies-, OCARU, SIPAE, SENAGUA and CAMAREN.

The 'Platform for Sustainable Land and Territories' -NES Ecuador- was present, analysing the analysis of the Organic Law on Rural Land and Ancestral Territories within the framework of its outreach work and as part of its support to the drafting process of land regulations in the country.

Does the Land Law guarantee food sovereignty?

According to the Political Constitution of Ecuador, food sovereignty refers to the self-sufficiency of healthy and culturally appropriate food, the implementation of redistributive policies and the access to productive resources by peasants. These are the three dimensions policies need to be analysed in order to determine if they meet the criteria required.

In this sense, complementing the analysis of land and territories with a perspective of food sovereignty is necessary to find solutions to the diverse problems peasants currently face, including issues of low productivity for the export markets. The Land Law incorporates the topics of sanitation, agrarian contract, agricultural frontier and land regularization, all of them within a framework of productivity increase.

A crucial issue of the new Land Law - passed in 2016 and regulated at the beginning of 2017 - is the inclusion of foreign investment. However, while this opens possibilities of new transactions, there is not clarity where the limits for this type of investment lie. The only conditions are "having a productive project and presenting high levels of productivity, neglecting the emphasis on food sovereignty and agriculture security for peasant and family farming" Melissa Ramos of Corporación Sistema de Investigación sobre la Problemática Agraria en el Ecuador affirmed.

Community and ancestral territories, a pending issue in the legislation

The Land Law revitalizes the land system in relation to commercial prices, but still does not reflect a control over it. While the National Land Fund, created at the request of organizations, is registered according to the State Land Law, the operational budget needs to be yet established, as well as the maximum/minimum-permitted limits for land commercialization.

In this regard, there is an issue that requires deeper study due to its significance: the management, use and delimitation of community and ancestral territories. Although these lands are considered inalienable, third parties have rights to them. This was an issue expected to be resolved within the Land Law, but continues to be unresolved.

Similar to Ecuador, generating dialogue and participatory drafting of public policies and legislation on land and territories is still pending in all Latin America. There always are two confronted views failing to converge: agribusiness and peasant and family agriculture.

Events and spaces for analysis such as those mentioned above are highly relevant to learn from diverse experiences and different points of view at the grassroots level, which are often similar among Latin American countries.

If this article was of interest, please view the "Analysis of the Regulation of the Organic Law on Rural Lands and Ancestral Territories of Ecuador".