Funding Global Movements… one grant at a time

By Alicia Tozour

Working closely with our partners and global social movements, Grassroots International recently awarded several grants to promote local solutions to global problems through environmentally sustainable practices, traditional knowledge and culturally appropriate models. Below are short descriptions of a few of the projects in Latin America funded in the last two months by Grassroots International.

In Mesoamerica, structural adjustment programs and neoliberal trade policies have contributed to the marginalization of rural indigenous, peasant and urban workers. Indigenous communities often lack access to resources and government services, and malnutrition is prevalent. In the Sololá region of central Guatemala, the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos (CONIC) supports women-led income generation and leadership development through local initiatives such as their Vegetable Garden Project. This project, which Grassroots International has been funding since 2008, aims to reduce infant malnutrition and diversify families’ production and consumption of fresh vegetables. With funding from Grassroots, CONIC will develop 40 vegetable gardens and organize trainings for 40 women from six communities about sustainable agriculture.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the Center to Support the Popular Movement in Oaxaca (CAMPO) supports various social, economic and environmental improvement opportunities for indigenous men and women through participation in the planning and execution of rural sustainable development, income-generation projects, and the defense of communal territorial rights and natural resources. CAMPO reaches these objectives through community workshops, technical trainings, and learning exchanges. Grassroots’ grant will help CAMPO with initiatives such as the application of 10 new appropriate technologies for small scale farmers, the creation of six regional centers for sustainable development, and the implementation of projects in three women’s organizations.

In Goiás, Brazil, agribusiness has had a detrimental effect on local communities and the environment. Industrial agricultural practices such as monoculture have led to the creation of large sugar cane plantations, which have compromised ecosystems and biodiversity in the region. The Popular Peasant Movement (MCP) works to conserve local genetic resources through an alternative model of sustainable agriculture. MCP’s Creole Seed Project has helped peasant farmers organize and implement alternative rural development policies in their communities that help generate income for families and provide technical training, while building a broader movement for seed sovereignty. With the support from Grassroots, the MCP will monitor and develop new local seed banks and seed production programs, support community organizing efforts, organize trainings and seed exchange fairs, and implement four new creole seed experiments.

Also in Brazil, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) advocates for land rights, agrarian reform, and a just society. Working closely with Via Campesina-Brazil, MST promotes small-scale food production for local and regional markets that utilize environmentally and culturally appropriate technologies. Grassroots’ grant to MST’s National Agroecology Training Program will support youth representatives from rural and indigenous communities to participate in technical and leadership training classes and share the new knowledge and practices they acquire through the implementation of agroecological systems within their communities – a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems based on traditional knowledge, local food system experiences, and the integration of practices that conserve natural resources such as soil and water.

In Honduras, the Woman’s Regional Commission of Via Campesina-Central America fights for food sovereignty, land rights, women’s economic development and gender equality. The Women’s Regional Commission is a strong advocate of land rights for women. With the exception of Nicaragua, all other Central American nations do not recognize land ownership by women. Their project will strengthen regional and national commissions, provide organizing tools, and advocate for changes in land ownership legislation. Grassroots’ grant will support the participation of 597 peasant and indigenous women in trainings and workshops on topics such as food sovereignty and agrarian reform.