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By Andre Vltchek of the Oakland Institute
September 22nd, 2008
The principle of food sovereignty places local control of food production and distribution at its core. Unfortunately, throughout the world industrial farms, corporations and the policies that benefit them take that control away from local farmers and communities. In a recent report , Grassroots International's colleagues at the Oakland Institute describe this situation and its dire consequences in Indonesia where "excessive dependence on global markets, followed by the collapse of traditional agricultural structures, as well as almost non-existent social policies, have manufactured widespread hunger in Indonesia today."
By Salena Tramel
August 21st, 2008
The Artibonite region is Haiti's rice bowl, and it could not be clearer as I traverse this lush valley. The rice fields rival those of Southeast Asia, spanning a breathtaking distance and then finally dissolving into a steep ring of mountains. A peasant working the fields is an understandably common sight around here. The more disturbing (and even more common) sight, however, is the rice imported from the US ("Miami rice") that is sold to Haitians in local marketplaces. It is unthinkable that Haitians would be forced to buy rice from the North at prices that they cannot afford in the very place they grow it.
"N'ap forme" are the first words that I hear after stepping into an open-air training center high in Haiti's Central Plateau after a nail-biting plane ride across the mountains in a four-seater Cessna. The training center is run by the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP), a Grassroots International partner. N'ap forme is the Kreyol way of saying we are training, literally, we are forming ourselves.
Since I started my internship with Grassroots International in May, I have come to realize the true magnitude of the food crisis. The way that the economic system produces and distributes food is leaving far too many people hungry and jobless. Throughout my research, I studied the effect that the crisis has had on women, and I believe that their role, though historically overlooked, is crucial to finding a sustainable solution. I believe, along with everyone at Grassroots International, that women's economic and land rights are not just rights that they deserve as people, but steps that must be taken in order to bring the world out of the food crisis.
Research presented in the Oakland Institute's recent publication "The Blame Game: Who is behind the World Food Crisis?" pokes holes through the myth that the "economic prosperity" experienced by an emerging minority in India has been a major contributor to the dramatic increase in global food prices.
Members of Grassroots International's partner La Via Campesina -- an international network of peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, women, and youth -- gathered in late June in Jakarta, Indonesia to defend their right to exist, and called for a UN Convention on the Rights of Peasants. (Below, see their final declaration)
Under intense threat from the expansion of agro-fuels in South America and Indonesia, militarization in Colombia and South Korea, and increasing food prices, rural families are voicing a predicament that affects all communities.
In late June, Grassroots partner, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) made public a document they got a hold of that showed the intention of the Rio Grande do Sul state Public Ministry to "dissolve" the MST. The document is based on a meeting, on December 3, 2007, during which the state Public Ministry decided: to outlaw any mobilization of landless workers, including marches and walks, to intervene in settlement schools, to criminalize leaders and members, and to "deactivate" all the encampments in Rio Grande do Sul.
The tidal wave of American interest in local, sustainable agriculture, and the waves of protest around the world over staggering food prices, seem to have washed over the heads of most members of Congress without them even noticing. The 2008 Farm Bill proves it.
June 24th, 2008
Partner press release from Via Campesina
About 1000 small farmers of the International movement Via Campesina, men and women from 25 different countries and 12 Indonesian provinces gathered today in Jakarta to claim the right to farm their land, the right to eat and to feed their families and communities.
They opened a five-day International Conference on Peasant Rights aiming at attracting world attention to the fate of small producers. Peasants represent almost half of the world population and are the backbone of the food system. However, their rights are systematically violated.
Friends and supporters of Grassroots International may be familiar with Hesperian Foundation, a non-profit publisher of community health education materials, best known for Where There Is No Doctor, recognized by WHO as "the most widely-used health manual in the world." With this month's publication of the long-anticipated A Community Guide to Environmental Health, Hesperian celebrates more than just the release of another book. It allows us all to celebrate and learn from the myriad ways in which people at the grassroots can and do take control over their own environmental health.