Lexicon of Sustainability: Food sovereignty
Editor’s note: This is the second in a weekly installment of images from Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton’s Lexicon of Sustainability. We’ll be running one image every Friday this winter, so stay tuned. If you have your own sustainability terms, you can add them yourself to the Lexicon of Sustainability.
Xuyen Pham’s Garden
East New Orleans, La.
After Xuyen Pham lost her New Orleans home to Hurricane Katrina, she turned the property into a farm to feed her community. She fled Vietnam with her husband and children at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. After months in Southeast Asian refugee camps they were moved to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. The family was eventually sponsored by a hotel owner in Oklahoma, but the cold proved too much so they moved yet again, settling in the “Mary Queen of Vietnam” community in East New Orleans.
This farm is surrounded by houses (we are right in the middle of a suburban housing tract in East New Orleans).
Xuyen stands amidst taro plants in her home garden. The plant stems are a base ingredient in traditional soups and congees found on most Vietnamese dinner tables. By growing taro and other vegetables, she keeps Vietnamese traditions alive in her community.
Xuyen’s definition of “food sovereignty”:
The ability of community members to control food access (both effluent and influent) independent of outside food sources (such as supermarkets). Members of the community grow traditional fruits and vegetables and fisherfolk go shrimping, fishing, and crabbing to sell at local stores, the local Saturday farmers market, and most importantly, to feed their families and community members.
Xuyen is also a participant in a local New Orleans East aquaponics project. The project is being implemented by MQVN Community Development Corporation and was established originally by fisherfolk displaced by the BP oil drilling disaster as a way to create jobs and to ensure adequate food access in New Orleans East (a USDA-identified food desert). In the near future, she and her husband, with the help of MQVN Community Development Corporation, will construct greenhouses and an aquaponics growing system on their farm plot.
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