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By Lydia Simas
March 5th, 2014
Women in rural India play a major role in food production. Over 80 percent of women in rural India work in agriculture, from sowing to harvesting crops to collecting and caring for seeds to caring for livestock collecting water. The role of men in agriculture tends to be limited to plowing, applying pesticides, and the business side of farming (like marketing). Although women are the backbone of agricultural production, they are not formally recognized as full-fledged farmers but rather as “farm laborers,” with the tasks they perform put in the category of “unskilled labor.” Without formal recognition as farmers, women don’t have access to credits, compensation and relief benefits offered by the government. And that’s something that the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective wants to change.
The food crisis of 2008 led to a broad agreement in the agricultural development community that the lack of appropriate investment in agriculture had been a key contributing factor to unstable prices and food insecurity. The crisis coincided with an increase in land grabbing in many parts of the world, but especially in Africa. It is in response to these events that the idea of developing some criteria on agricultural investments came up in international policy and governance arenas.
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of Haiti’s Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) muses, “In the old days, Haitian peasants never sold seeds; seeds were for sharing and exchanging.”
Today the old ways have been pushed aside. Seeds have become big business.
This assault on the basic human right to food commercializes and commodifies one of life’s most essential assets. It jeopardizes human health, threatens the global food supply and steals away the livelihoods of small farmers around the world.
Food sovereignty within several African countries is on the verge of a complete neo-colonial take-over, critics of a recent agricultural initiative being developed by a new G8 alliance warn.
According to a Guardian report published Tuesday, the G8's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative, supported by the Obama administration, has connected African leaders with major agribusiness corporations in an effort to map out a plan for agricultural development on the African continent in the coming years, which will loosen export and tax laws, award "huge chunks of land" for private investment and change seed laws to benefit international corporations and their GMO products.
The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
By Nikhil Aziz
November 22nd, 2013
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.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that 9.8 million people in and around the city of Tacloban in the Visayas region of the Philippines have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and that at least 660,000 of the affected people were forced from their homes. And authorities fear as many as 10,000 people have died. With the continued threat of landslides and flash floods from additional storms, it is crucial that survivors get access to clean water, food, and shelter as soon as possible.
The article below orginally appeared in La Jicarita: An online magazine of Environmental Politics in New Mexico following a presentation by Leonardo Maggi (from the Movement of People Affected by Dams) and Sara Mersha (from Grassroots International).
The $10-billion proposed canal would divert water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea in an effort to save the later from “environmental degradation.” The project is a partnership between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Grassroots International partners the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Stop the Wall are among the signatories to the statement below that calls for a halt to the project. Palestinian organizations cite both political and environmental reasons for their calls to stop this water and land grab that would impede Palestinian rights.