Land Rights

We Are the Solution: Celebrating African Family Agriculture!

According to Grassroots International ally Fahamu, “Agriculture… remains the main source of income of a rural population generally estimated at 70% of the total population… [W]omen remain an essential link in agricultural production, accounting for 70% of food production, managing nearly 100% of processing activities, responsible for about 50% of the maintenance of the family herds and also responsible for some 60% of sales activities in the markets.” Any solutions to the problems of African agriculture, therefore, must include women. In fact, African women are saying, “We Are the Solution.”

"Pourquoi la campagne": Via Campesina Africa launches Campaign to End Violence against Women at 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar

In 2008, I was privileged to attend the 5th international conference of Grassroots International partner the Via Campesina, in Matola, Mozambique. The Via, a global movement representing over 150 million peasants and other small producers on 5 continents, has been the leading voice for the rights of small farmers and farmworkers as well as other small producers and has led global campaigns for agrarian reform, against free trade and for climate justice. At its 2008 conference, however, it launched another global campaign that a lot of people don’t yet know about. This is the Global Campaign to End Violence against Women.

New Scramble for Africa

It is the tradition at World Social Forums (WSF) to focus a considerable amount of time, energy, resources and attention on issues faced by people in the host region and country. The 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal that I had the privilege of attending was no different. Africa and African issues suffused the WSF throughout the forum.

One of these issues was the massive land grabs that are taking place all across the continent. Appropriately called the New Scramble for Africa, it is eerily similar to the mad rush by European colonial powers during the last quarter of the 19th century to divide Africa up among them.

Brazilian referendum seeks limits to land concentration

Members of the Brazilian National Forum for Agrarian Reform and Justice announced this week the results of a non-binding referendum about whether the Brazilian government should limit the concentration of land held by individuals and businesses. Voters in 23 states and the capital overwhelmingly agreed that land holdings should be limited.

"Miami Rice": The Business of Disaster in Haiti

 As we file this article, Port-au-Prince is thick with the smoke of burning tires and with gunfire. Towns throughout the country, along with the national airport, are shut down due to demonstrations. Many are angry over the government's announcement on Tuesday night of which two presidential candidates made the run-offs: Jude Célestin from the widely hated ruling party of President René Préval and the far-right Mirlande Manigat. This is another obvious manipulation of what had already been a brazenly fraudulent election. A democratic vote is one more thing that has been taken from the marginalized Haitian majority, compounding their many losses since the earthquake of January 12.

How peasant farmers feed the planet

In the northeast of Brazil, the landscape changes from dry, spiny vegetation to humid, verdant scenery dominated by sugar cane plantations. Driving through villages inhabited mostly by sugar-cane cutters is like winding through a slum in a big city. Barefoot children sell candy beneath the traffic lights, Coca-Cola signs light up bars and open-air sewage gives an indication of the pervasive poverty.
 
In the middle of a “green desert” of sugar cane (grown mostly for export), from the road I saw two adults and a young boy working in what appeared to be a tiny oasis teeming with lush fresh vegetables that shined from afar.

Referendum on Land Holding Used to Educate about Landlessness, Agribusiness

As part of a larger campaign to support the right to land, this week Grassroots International provided a $10,000 grant to boost education and organizing around a powerful national referendum in Brazil. The referendum, being organized by social movements for the first week of September, probes public opinion regarding the size of land holdings.

Although non-binding, the referendum provides an opportunity for land rights activists to educate voters about the growing problem of landlessness in the countryside caused by the expansion of agribusinesses in peasant and indigenous communities.

Reimagining Israel’s Negev

Down south in the Negev desert, the sounds of jets fill wide-open spaces. Increasing militarization is constant -- at least 80% of the land there is used for military training purposes, including weaponry development. The Negev also contains the largest petrochemical processing center in the Middle East and Israel’s nuclear facilities. Bedouin communities who call the remaining land home are routinely -- and forcibly -- displaced.

UNOSJO and Indigenous Rights Featured in The Nation

In a recent article in The Nation (“Retreat to Subsistence,” July 5, 2010), Peter Canby describes the seminal work of one of Grassroots International’s partners in Mexico, the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO). Using UNOSJO's work as an example, he explores the larger issue of of indigenous rights in Mesoamerica.