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By Karen Keating Ansara
August 14th, 2014
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.
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.
Barbara Polk traveled with other Grassroots International supporters to Honduras and Guatemala in the fall of 2013. The article below provides an overview of the trip and her experiences.
December 19th, 2013
By Lydia Simas
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
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.
Carlos Henríquez can talk about fertilizer for hours. He knows what mix of ingredients will help certain crops grow better, the right “recipe” for creating well-balanced compost and fertilizers, the best ways to keep moisture in the soil even in dry spells.