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By Carol Schachet
January 23rd, 2014
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 Such thinking is out of date.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 Jonathan Leaning
December 3rd, 2013
Miriam Nobre is a Brazilian feminist activist and current coordinator of World March of Women (WMW), an international feminist movement that connects grassroots women to eliminate the root causes of poverty and violence against women. She is also an agronomist, and has completed a master’s program in Latin American Integration at the University of São Paulo (Brazil). Miriam recently received an award from Grassroots International as part of our 30th anniversary celebration in Boston. While in Boston, she talked with Grassroots staffer Jonathan Leaning about her work with the WMW and her activism.
Being a farmer is hard. This is true no matter what policies exist. The work itself is difficult, and making money from farming requires many, many factors to line up just right. Get too much rain, too dry a season, too many bugs and the crop can be destroyed. Prices might be higher, but there’s just not that much to sell. Even a big harvest when everything goes well doesn’t guarantee success. A bumper crop means that there are a whole lot of tomatoes, corn, peaches, or eggplants at the market, so prices go down.
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.
In Des Moines Iowa last week, in a stunning example of irony three genetic engineers were given the World Food Prize. The award winners are major developers of the now 20-year-old science and technology behind genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a highly contentious and potentially hazardous substitute for age-old agricultural knowledge and technology. By presenting representatives from Monsanto and Syngenta with the World Food Prize, its sponsors are attempting to elevate the status of GMOs and lend credence to the [false] argument that we need GMOs to feed the world’s burgeoning population. The truth is that most of the GMOs grown today are for U.S.
Throughout the year, leaders in the movement for land and water rights and struggles for food sovereignty have sent video congratulations to Grassroots International on the occasion of our 30th Anniversary. The compilation below is just some of them. We thank our partners and allies for their warm greetings. Together we will continue working to create a more just and sustainable world for all..
Jose Luis Patrola is a history professor, farmer, and member of the Brazilian land reform group, the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement, or MST. He lived in Haiti for three years as part of the Dessalines Brigade, an exchange of agricultural and technical cooperation between Haitians and Brazilians. In a departure from many international programs of “teaching” and “aiding” Haitians, Patrola speaks here [with Beverly Bell] about mutual learning and respect.
Strength through unity.
That is the motto on the Haitian flag, and it is being played out now in a new collaboration among the country’s leading social movements.
Each of the four largest Haitian peasant movements have storied histories individually and now collectively under the umbrella of the Group of Four (G4). In Kreyol the G4 is called “4 Je Kontre” or “4 Eyes Meet.”
A new UN report brings urgency and insights into the current food system – and touches upon the hot button question that is increasingly on people’s minds around the world: Is industrial food safe – either for people or for the planet?