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By Sara Mersha
May 22nd, 2015
It is rainy season in Haiti – or at least it is supposed to be rainy season. But the rains didn't come in April, and it has only rained a few times in May. All the rice seeds they saved up to buy, and all the time they took to plant the seeds and care for the plants – it's all gone. They lost them because the rains haven't come, and the government never finished the irrigation project it had promised them. But the bigger reason is climate disruption.
Small-scale food producers and global movement leaders gathered in Mali earlier this year to lay out a plan to transform and repair our food system and the rural world that has been devastated by industrial food production. Their declaration (below) spells out specific values, strategies, challenges and next-steps to not only feed the world, but also address climate change by advancing agroecology.
Hosted by Grassroots International grantee CNOP (the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations) and La Via Campesina, among several other leading agroecology organziations, the International Forum on Agroecology outlined agroecology is a key form of resistance to the commodification of food and seeds, and moves toward a healthy planet.
Grassroots International recently participated in the 2015 Just Giving Conference sponsored by EDGE Funders Alliance. Entitled “Better. Not More: Towards a Just Transition,” the conference worked to create a space within philanthropy to explore the deeper philosophical ideas that animate contemporary politics, economy, and culture. Within this space, participants were encouraged to consider four goals for the transition to a just economy: 1) Decommodify nature; 2) Reimagine work; 3) Liberate knowledge; and 4) Democratize wealth.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of getting to spend time with Maria da Graça Samo and Helena Wong while they were in town for a Grassroots International community event. Graça (from Mozambique) is the International Coordinator of the World March of Women, and Helena is the National Organizer for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ).
The Caribbean Court of Justice, Belize’s highest appellant court, ruled that the Maya Indigenous People of southern Belize have rights to lands they have customarily used and occupied. The Court affirmed that these traditional land rights constitute property within the meaning of the provisions of the Belize Constitution that generally protect property free from discrimination.
After almost a decade of legal struggle, the April 20th judgement finally upholds the rights of the indigenous Maya to their ancestral lands.
Grassroots International has supported he Maya Leaders Alliance, a lead plaintiff in the case and community voice for indigenous rights and cultural.
People from community organizations, immigrant groups, longtime Grassroots supporters and folks wanting to connect local social justice work with international movements filled the room on Monday night. On the floor at the center of a big circle of filled chairs was an arrangement of candles, flowers, seeds, soil and flags representing the vibrant social movements present in the room, both from the local Boston area and from as far as Mozambique and Nicaragua. We were all together to celebrate the upcoming International Day of Peasants Struggle (April 17), to hear two powerful women speak about international movements for peasants’ and women’s rights, and to make local-global links.
Grassroots International is hard at work across the U.S. and beyond putting issues such as climate justice, food sovereignty, resource rights, Palestine, women’s leadership—even when they are controversial or unpopular—into the limelight.
Spreading the word is a key strategy we use to advance resource rights, particularly when it comes to connecting our Global South partners to sources of solidarity, funding and support, and making changes in policies here in the U.S. We do more than give grants; we build solidarity right here in the U.S. for our partners and their social movements. It is also a key reason why funders and donors choose Grassroots International as a vehicle to support them.
According to our partner the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), approximately 10,000 families in the city of Altamira in Brazil will be directly affected by the flooding and subsequent lake created from the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam. Meanwhile Norte Energia, the company responsible for this mega-project, has only built 4,100 poorly-constructed houses for the displaced without any other infrastructure like schools, medical facilities, and public transportation for the displaced communities. These are only a few of the reasons is why hundreds of people came together on March 11 to protest against the Belo Monte dam.
Grassroots International celebrates the courageous work of frontline women defending the human rights of peasant and indigenous women around the world. One of these women is Yazmín López, a national coordinator for the Council for the Integral Development of the Peasant Woman (CODIMCA). A partner of Grassroots International, CODIMCA is the lead organization for the Women’s Regional Commission of La Vía Campesina–Central America, and one of the first peasant women-led organizations formed in Honduras with the explicit objective of reclaiming women’s land rights. Below is an excerpt of my interview with Yazmín.
What inspires you to work for women’s rights in Honduras?
In the United States we’ve spent months zeroing in on the reality of police brutality against Black people. We’ve been grateful to see and take part in a growing movement that addresses structural racism—pointing out that Black people are disproportionately more likely to die at the hands of police, face institutional racism, and breathe more polluted air.
In the Black nation of Haiti, too, there has been a systematic dismissal of the value of Black lives and US policy has been deeply implicated in interventions that slaughter the interests of Haiti’s people in favor of a narrow elite.