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By Leah Penniman
March 27th, 2015
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.
By Jovanna Garcia Soto
March 24th, 2015
Grassroots International celebrates the courageous work of frontline women defending the human rights of peasant and indigenous women around the world. One of these women is Yazmín López, a national coordinator for the Council for the Integral Development of the Peasant Woman (CODIMCA). A partner of Grassroots International, CODIMCA is the lead organization for the Women’s Regional Commission of La Vía Campesina–Central America, and one of the first peasant women-led organizations formed in Honduras with the explicit objective of reclaiming women’s land rights. Below is an excerpt of my interview with Yazmín.
What inspires you to work for women’s rights in Honduras?
International Women’s Day (March 8) celebrates the power and struggle of women all over the world. There are so many stories of women’s strength, inspiration and bold leadership in the work of our partners and grantees. Eighty-eight percent of the groups that Grassroots International supports work to promote women’s rights. Here are just some of the women-led projects that we have supported over the past year.
Humanity cannot solve its problems with one hand effectively tied behind its back. Yet, given the state of women’s rights globally, this is metaphorically the case. One of the guiding principles of Grassroots International's work is the recognition and support of women’s agency in the struggle for justice and liberation – not just to advance women’s leadership (though that is a goal) but also because women’s engagement and leadership are necessary to push us all forward.
In the United States we’ve spent months zeroing in on the reality of police brutality against Black people. We’ve been grateful to see and take part in a growing movement that addresses structural racism—pointing out that Black people are disproportionately more likely to die at the hands of police, face institutional racism, and breathe more polluted air.
In the Black nation of Haiti, too, there has been a systematic dismissal of the value of Black lives and US policy has been deeply implicated in interventions that slaughter the interests of Haiti’s people in favor of a narrow elite.
Contrary to Western assertions, Africa is not a blank slate.
Africans have a long history of vibrant culture, politics, economics and agriculture. However, since Europe’s first encounter with Africa through present day, international “decisionmakers” have approached the African continent as though it was devoid of people along with history. Africa is imagined out of context, and those projections become the basis for policy.
In our times, the battle for Africa is being waged one plot of agricultural land at a time. Control of Africa’s food system is being wrested away from peasant farmers and being turned over to agribusinesses such as Monsanto under the guise of agricultural development.
The toxic oil spill in eastern Montana oozed onto the land of one of Grassroots International’s partners and a fierce voice for food sovereignty and environmental justice. Now her denunciations of the gluttonous crude industry and on behalf of small farmers and the environment are reaching far and wide, but at a terrible price.
Grassroots International and our global partners are leading the way in developing sustainable solutions to the biggest challenges facing our world. From farming cooperatives and seed banks, to passing laws that protect ancestral lands and defending the human right to land, water, and food, together we take on big struggles and win important gains. Below are just some of the successes achieved in 2014 with support from Grassroots International, standing up to challenge poverty, climate disruption and human rights abuses.
Moving Towards an International Declaration on the Rights of Peasants
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.
Below is part one of a three-part blog series highlighting the Brazil Agroecology Learning Exchange. Grassroots movement leaders and small farmer organizations sent representatives [24 people from 6 countries] to join Grassroots International staff in Goias, Brazil to participate in the eight-day exchange. The first of our series of blogs unpacks the phrase “Agroecology Learning Exchange” and why it is essential to creating a more sustainable food system.