"If the community loses corn, it means that the indian campesino loses dignity. Corn is our food, and the life of our culture."
— Joel Aquino, Zapotec leader from the
Oaxacan community of Yalaag, Oaxaca, October 1994.
Food is the most basic of needs. At an individual or family level, access to food is essential to survival and the main indicator of well-being. This is also true for communities and nations, whose welfare is also largely determined by their capacity to feed their members. Either food is self‐ provided by interacting directly with the environment (farming, hunting, fishing, and animal husbandry), or it is supplied by transactions with those who do. In most cases, this means purchasing food on the market. But these transactions can also include barter, mutual support, and charity.
Over time, as markets have come to shape society's relationship with nature, food provisioning has become more complex, as fewer people provide their own food and more agricultural products come from the international market. Before the widespread penetration of markets, a family or community's access to food was largely determined by the weather and the state of the surrounding environment. No longer, however, do families, communities, and nations need to rely solely on their own harvests. They can look to other regions and nations for agricultural commodities.