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By Lydia Simas
April 16th, 2015
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.
By Gail Bambrick
March 30th, 2015
We share planet Earth with nearly 7.3 billion people. By 2050, there will be 9.6 billion of us, according to the United Nations. That’s a gain of one person every 15 seconds—or about 74 million more people each year—and each another mouth to feed.
Some claim we need to increase world food production by 70 percent to avoid future shortages, especially in developing countries, where the greatest population increases are expected over the next 35 years. Are they right? It’s a question that many, including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Population Institute, are raising.
In August, five young men showed up at Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, New York, where I work as educator and food justice coordinator. It was the first day of a new restorative justice program, in partnership with the county’s Department of Law. The teens had been convicted of theft, and, as an alternative to incarceration, chose this opportunity to earn money to pay back their victims while gaining farm skills. They looked wary and unprepared, with gleaming sneakers and averted eyes.
“I basically expected it to be like slavery, but it would be better than jail,” said a young man named Asan. “It was different though. We got paid and we got to bring food home. The farmers there are black like us, which I did not expect.
Think of the seed as the first link of the food chain. If this prime component is compromised, the chain becomes untenable. What’s more, if corporate interests control seeds, we are all subjugated to their agenda at every subsequent link of the chain. In fact, the preponderance of GMO and copyrighted seeds from agribusiness laboratories and mono-cropped fields already determine to a frightening degree the foods we can buy and eat. To counter these billion dollar agro-corporate interests, seed sovereignty activists have sought strength in their greatest resources — their knowledge and collective power.
This spring, Grassroots International was invited to participate in a project of the Kindle Project called the "Indie Philanthropy Initiative." For more information about the project, visit indph.org. The interview below includes reflections from Nikhil Aziz and Sara Mersha.
How do you do your funding and please describe your organization’s approach and process, explaining how it is different from conventional philanthropy.
Rose Edith Germain of the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movement (MPNKP) tells us, in her own words, why training is the life blood of organizations. She also speaks to the vitality of partnerships and the power of food sovereignty to create lasting change.
Haiti is a place where you can fall “upside down” in love with the Haitian people and culture. It is also the place where everything you knew before – including about philanthropy and development – can get turned on its head. In fact, Haitians have a phrase for that: “Tet Anba,” literally “head below,” or “upside down head.”
That’s what happened to me and my husband Jim over the last five years. Before the earthquake struck, we knew very, very little about this country, except for what we had read in the life-changing book Mountains Beyond Mountains, about the founding of Partners in Health in Haiti.
The recent article, GM scaremongering in Africa is disarming the fight against poverty, published in the Guardian’s PovertyMatters Blog on 21 July 2014, is a thinly veiled attack on those of us in Africa and elsewhere who are deeply skeptical of the supposed benefits that genetically modified (GM) crops will bring to the continent. Based on a report by London-based think-tank Chatham House, it represents paternalism of the worst kind, advancing the interests of the biotechnology industry behind a barely constructed façade of philanthropy.
On April 21, a Mexican judge dealt a blow to the efforts of agricultural behemoth Monsanto and other biotech companies to open the country to the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize. The ruling upheld the injunction issued last October that put a halt to further testing or commercial planting of the crop, citing “the risk of imminent harm to the environment.”
In a fitting tribute to Mexican surrealism, Monsanto had accused the judge who upheld the injunction of failing to be “impartial.” I don’t know if the presiding judge smiled when he denied Monsanto’s complaint, but I did.
I had just arrived in Mexico to look at the GM controversy, and I could tell it was going to be quite a visit.
For too many people and communities around the world, the dominant agricultural model is causing economic hardship, the destruction of biological diversity, and the exploitation of earth’s ecological commons. It is a model based on the commodification of life. We can no longer continue the status quo that enables multi-national corporations to corner our food system and our seed commons. Every element that is foundational to life (food, water, land, air) is under threat of privatization and marketization by an economic order that seeks to profit and own our common wealth.