By Nikhil Aziz
April 20th, 2007
The 17th of April is International Peasants' Struggle Day, established after the massacre of 19 landless peasants belonging to the Landless Movement (MST) in Brazil on the 17th of April 1996 which occurred during the second conference of the Via Campesina in Tlaxcala Mexico. Many of Grassroots International's partners, including the MST are members of the Via Campesina, and Grassroots directly works with the Via as well.
In commemoration of International Peasants' Struggle Day, the Via Campesina and its allies are organizing activities and actions all over the world. Peasants and friends will rally around the demands that the Via posted on its website.
Article three in a three issue series on biofuel in Brazil.
The memorandum of understanding between Brazil and the United States signed during the visit of President Bush to Brazil early this month has been under intense scrutiny. For one, the high U.S. tariffs on Brazilian ethanol make the initiative unrealistic for now. But speculative investors are already rushing to expand the "green desert", as activists have taken to calling the vast areas of monocrops like sugar cane, soybean and castor seed that bring high profits for agribusiness and industry at the cost of rural livelihoods and biodiversity. This expansion takes land and water rights and the possibility of a dignified livelihood away from rural families.
In the wake of President Bush's visit to Guatemala as part of his 5 nation Latin America tour, the National Labor Committee (NLC, New York) and the Center for Studies and Support for Local Development (CEADEL, Guatemala) just released a joint report "Harvest of Shame" that details the exploitation and human rights violations of children in Guatemala.
Foreign Policy in Focus (a joint project of the Institute for Policy Studies and the International Relations Center) recently invited Anuradha Mittal (of the Oakland Institute) and Gawain Kripke (of Oxfam America) to debate free trade. Anuradha was also on a recent panel with Colin Rajah (of the National Netowrk on Immigrant and Refugee Rights) titled, "A Perfect Storm: U.S. Trade, Agriculture and Immigration Policies Undermining Human Rights" that Grassroots International organized at the International Human Rights Funders Group conference in January 2007.
Women of Via Campesina Brazil in Honor of International Women's Day Occupy a Cargill-owned Sugar Mill in Sao Paulo
Grassroots International has received this report from our partners in Brazil. Part of a week-long series of actions honoring International Women's Day and protesting the upcoming visit of President Bush, the women of Via Campesina Brazil and the MST have occupied a sugar mill in the state of Sao Paulo that was recently purchased by Cargill - one of the five largest agricultural transational corporations in the world.
Today, March 6th, Grassroots International received an announcement from the Via Campesina Brazil. The women of the Via Campesina Brazil are honoring International Women's Day by organizing land occupations and protests against large Brazilian and transnational corporations who own and exploit huge tracts of Brazilian land and labor for monocultured cultivation of trees for cellulose for export. The women refer to these huge tracts of land planted only with such trees as the "green deserts" of Brazil - green deserts because they produce no food and very little employment, and are also environmentally damaging. Please read the announcement of our partners below:
February 28th, 2007
Nyéléni Village, Selingue, Mali
We, more than 500 representatives from more than 80 countries, of organizations of peasants/family farmers, artisanal fisher-folk, indigenous peoples, landless peoples, rural workers, migrants, pastoralists, forest communities, women, youth, consumers, environmental and urban movements have gathered together in the village of Nyéléni in Selingue, Mali to strengthen a global movement for food sovereignty. We are doing this, brick by brick, have been living in huts constructed by hand in the local tradition, and eating food that is being produced and prepared by the Selingue community. We give our collective endeavor the name “Nyéléni” as a tribute to and inspiration from a legendary Malian peasant woman who farmed and fed her peoples well.
Peasants Cannot Do it Alone, Need Strong Alliances with Consumers, Environmentalists, Indigenous Peoples and Others
Peter Rossett, from the Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM), is a member of Grassroots International's Resource Rights Advisory Group. He was in Mali for the Nyeleni Food Sovereignty Forum this month and in a piece that was first posted on the Nyeleni website, he stressed the need for different sectors to collaborate, pointing out that "It is clear that the peasant sector cannot change the food system alone; it needs strong alliances with consumers, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, women, fishermen and even herders."
Joao Pedro Stedile, an MST leader and member of Grassroots International's Resource Rights Advisory Group participated along with his colleagues at the Nyeleni Food Sovereignty Forum. While there he spoke with Radio Mundo Real about how the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank do not represent the interests of ordinary people and argued that international trade must first and foremost meet the needs of people not corporations. The interview originally appeared on the Nyeleni website.
Today I facilitated a sub-work group of the Access and Control of Natural Resources thematic working group focused on the environmental aspects of the struggle for food sovereignty. It gave me a great opportunity to hear experiences and learn about the values that different cultures place on natural resources.