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By Lydia Simas
February 17th, 2016
Women farmers of West Africa hold a piece of Black history and ancestral knowledge to be celebrated and honored this and every month. In Africa women produce the majority of food consumed locally, and for centuries they have been the guardians of seeds, passing on local strains from generation to generation.
Grassroots International is supporting rural women farmers associations in five countries in West Africa - Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Guinea - to build connections between local associations and to strengthen the voice of rural women farmers regionally.
By From an Interview with Mamadou Goïta, Edited by Simone Adler and Beverly Bell
December 3rd, 2015
Food sovereignty can transform local, national, and regional markets to support countries’ domestic economies and allow us to create wealth, both in production and knowledge.
Building Global Food Sovereignty
Current international debates on feeding the world center on financial viability and making global agriculture profitable. Production is oriented towards international markets, which compromise the food sovereignty of many countries.
No country can survive orienting itself towards international markets because producers don’t decide the price. States give money to banks to support agroindustry, which is exploiting the population.
Traditional, small-holder peasant agriculture is done by women. Women are the ones who save the seeds – the soul of the peasant population. This is to honor what women have inherited from their ancestors: the conservation of seeds as part of their knowledge to care for the whole family and nourish their communities.
The green revolution introduced GMOs in Africa. Technicians and researchers come to tell our producers about agriculture from the outside.
Over the last decade, thousands of community leaders received training at the Central American Training Center in Nicaragua. This center, run by our partner the Association of Rural Workers (ATC) enables the Via Campesina to offer extensive training to small-farmer leaders from throughout the region in agroecology and building powerful, democratic organizations.
In this video, Maria Jose Urbina, Coordinator of the National Women's Commission of the Via Campesina and the Association of Rural Workers, discusses her work with the ATC, and the importance of land rights for rural workers and women.
People who are concerned about climate disruption and hunger are talking more and more about agroecology, that is, using ecological, economic, cultural, and gender justice principles to inform agricultural practices and systems. And those people are joining Grassroots International and our global partners in advocating for a shift toward agroecology to create a more sustainable future.
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.
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.