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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 Simone Adler
February 11th, 2016
Who we are fighting for is every single peasant farmer – more than 200 million – on the planet. People are eager to join hands in building a global voice.
Transnational corporations are pushing policies in African countries for industrial farming and the use of GMO [genetically modified] seeds, while grabbing our land and [stealing] our natural resources. No one should come and tell us how to produce food.
In Via Campesina, we believe in controlling our land and seeds and producing the healthy food that we want, the way we want.
The January 2010 earthquake provided a perfect opportunity for many to come and do business in Haiti. Even prior to the earthquake, Bill Clinton led the discussion on developing Haiti through corporate investment. President Martelly turned that approach into a credo: “Haiti is open for business.”
We understand the pretext for this so-called development. The concept of extraction isn’t very well known in Haiti, but the country has had a long history of pillaging by colonial and imperial powers.
Everybody originated with indigenous ways of living and the way of Mother Earth.
The real role of women is in the seed. It is the women who harvest, select, store, and plant seeds. Our seeds come from our mothers and our grandmothers. To us, the seed is the symbol of the continuity of life. Seed is not just about the crops. Seed is about the soil, about the water, and about the forest.
When we plant our seeds, we don’t just plant them anytime or anywhere. We listen to our elders, who teach us about the ecological calendar. The seed follows this natural ecological flow. When it bears another seed, that one is planted and the cycle continues.
If you cut the cycle of the seed, you cut the cycle of life.
Recolonization is happening. There is a second scramble, not just in Africa, but across the global South. Corporations started it. We need to name and shame these corporations – Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, and the program promoting them, AGRA [A Green Revolution for Africa] – to take this battle to the next level.
The wars [of conquest of Africa] have not actually ended – the artillery has just transformed into a different type against us farmers today. All of us are fighting.
One of the common themes coming from the streets of the Climate Justice Summit in Paris (and not heard in the offical government negotiations) is a clear linking of capitalism's insatiable appetite and climate disruption. Two Grassroots International partners offered these reflections.
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.
Our farmer-managed seed systems in Africa are being criminalized and displaced by a very aggressive green revolution project of corporate occupation by big multinational companies. This violent agrarian transformation is facing profound objection.
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.
On October 14, in Des Moines, Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, run by African-American farmers of the southern United States and to OFRANEH - the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña).
The next day, hundreds of distinguished international guests will also gather in Des Moines, Iowa as Sir Fazle Hasan Abed accepts the World Food Prize in the name of BRAC - the world's largest non-governmental rural development agency.