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By Carol Schachet
August 9th, 2012
Today [August 9] is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The United Nations pronounced this day to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. Today also gives us an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions that indigenous people have made to improve world issues.
Grassroots International proudly supports indigenous organizations from Mexico to Brazil to Mozambique to Indonesia – groups engaged in ongoing organizing to protect their rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
This summer, a group of Grassroots International supporters and allies participated in a delegation to Pernambuco, Brazil. There they saw first-hand the resilient and powerful work of the Landless Workers Movement, the Movement of People Affected by Dams, and the Via Campesina. Along the way, delegates talked with with small farmers, families living in encampments waiting for land, and indigenous communities working to protect their ancestral lands from the incursion of impending dams.
Below is a blog from Peggy Newell, one of the delegates and a Grassroots International supporter, offering her reflections on the journey.
Traveling to Not That Brazil, by Peggy Newell
By Janet Redman
June 19th, 2012
In rural areas like Seu Lazaro’s community in the state of Goiás, Brazil, vendors of genetically modified seeds used to drop by with wide smiles and black suitcases full of samples and colorful catalogues. Their dusty cars, parked in the middle of the road, are a map of their sales route across miles of unpaved, bumpy roads. According to Seu Lazaro, these vendors (often trained agronomists) go from house to house trying to convince peasant farmers to buy seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides by promising lush crops and a good return in the investment.
Those promises convinced Seu Lazaro’s father to use GM seeds, who then convinced him.
Yesterday I spoke with two members of Brazil’s Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in Sao Paulo City. MAB is an inspiring organization formed by families who have been displaced by mega-dams in Brazil. Grassroots supports MAB in the organizing of displaced families, or atingidos, so they can collectively defend their land, water and food rights.
In a hidden corner of pesticide-laden sugar cane fields in Northeast Brazil, Grassroots International’s staffer Saulo Araujo discovered a tiny oasis of agricultural diversity. “Lettuce, cauliflower, beets, carrots, beans, corn,” pointed out farmers Rubem and Maria dos Santos, members of the Landless Workers Movement. “We grow almost everything we need to feed ourselves and to sell in the local market.”
“Anytime a new wall is built, hundreds of acres of forest and fertile land for food production is flooded. Anytime a new wall is built, a river dies. The death of the rivers is the end of our livelihood” - José Josivaldo, Movement of People Affected by Dams, National Coordination body member
The hugely profitable business of building dams has taken the Amazon region by storm. One hundred-forty new dams will be built in the Amazon in the next years. The lion’s share will be in Brazil, spurred on by its booming economy, but the Amazonian regions of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guyana and Guyana are also targeted by the industry.
According to a local proverb, bad news arrive arrives fast. So it was with the announcement that Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff will end the popular and effective One Million Cisterns Program in the country’s semi-arid regions.