Nikhil Aziz's blog
By Nikhil Aziz
April 18th, 2014
Thirty plus years after Grassroots International was founded, one of the twin crises that led to its founding -- the civil war and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa -- is back. The context is, of course, different. Eritrea today is an independent state. And what was then an inspiring liberation movement is now a repressive regime. But one significant element now and then is still the same. A massive human-made disaster in the shape of nearly a million refugees (out of a total national population of 4-5 million)!
Agroecology is not just a way of doing agriculture but, equally importantly, a way of thinking about agriculture holistically, systemically, and ecologically. Along with respect for nature -- the soil, water, seeds, etc. -- there is equally respect for the people (especially women) engaged in agriculture, including their knowledge, experience, leadership and rights. It is a way of thinking about and doing agriculture that is fundamental to addressing pressing global problems like hunger and climate change.
Whether it’s life imitating art or the other way around, the assault so dramatically captured in the Hollywood blockbuster film Avatar (2009) is not pure fiction. The reality is that countries and corporations that are hell-bent on extracting every last resource from the earth continue their relentless assaults on indigenous people, their land and waters, their cultures and ways of life, Whether it’s Afro-Brazilians on the Sao Francisco river in Brazil, Dongria Kondhs on Niyamgiri mountain in India, or Lencas in Honduras’ Rio Blanco territory, they all are facing not only the threat of displacement and devastation but violence, intimidation and even, in some instances, assassination.
Ingredients: 183 member organizations. 88 countries. 5 continents. 500 representatives of 200-plus million women and men. Numerous allies from movements of women, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, environmental/climate justice activists and more. One global peasant movement. All with fearless commitment to social, economic and gender justice.
Our Palestinian partners frequently tell us: “To stay – and, frankly, to exist – is to resist.” I heard this same message during the 3rd International Youth Assembly of La Via Campesina (LVC). In a world where the ability to live a dignified life as a small farmer is increasingly challenging whether in Iowa or Indonesia the act of staying, and in some cases “going back” to the land is an act of resistance and courage.
This June, I traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia for the Via Campesina’s – a Grassroots partner – 6th International Congress. The Via’s International Women’s Commission kicked off the Congress by organizing the 4th International Women’s Assembly for two days from June 6-7.
On this International Day of Peasants’ Struggle, we recognize the courage, tenacity and absolute necessity of grassroots struggles across the world for rights to land, life and dignity.
And we recognize that all-too-often peasants continue to face threats, repression and even death. In fact, that is why this day was first commemorated, following the murder of 19 peasant land rights activists in Brazil in 1996.