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By Carol Schachet
January 23rd, 2014
The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
By Mina Remy
January 22nd, 2014
The occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) faced one of the worst winter storms seen in decades last month. The West Bank experienced record snow fall, which municipalities were ill-equipped to handle. While Gaza was spared much of the snow, the Strip received a devastating wintry mix of freezing rain, strong winds, and bitter cold that paralyzed an area considered a humanitarian crisis long before the storm.
On New Year’s Day, 20 years ago, a group of indigenous peoples, known as the Zapatistas, occupied several municipalities of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Not coincidentally, that same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas considered the free trade agreement and the neoliberal political system that spawned it to be a death sentence for indigenous peoples in Mexico. The magnitude of the Zapatista uprising was due to the participation of different indigenous groups which joined forces to change a system that was marginalizing and exploiting them.
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.
The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) announced the redistribution of land last month to 140 indigenous and peasant families. The families were part of the largest violent eviction in the recent history of Guatemala in March 2011 when non-state actors, police, military forces and the government forced nearly 800 indigenous Q’eqchí families of their land without notice, destroyed their crops and burned their homes.
Jose Luis Patrola is a history professor, farmer, and member of the Brazilian land reform group, the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement, or MST. He lived in Haiti for three years as part of the Dessalines Brigade, an exchange of agricultural and technical cooperation between Haitians and Brazilians. In a departure from many international programs of “teaching” and “aiding” Haitians, Patrola speaks here [with Beverly Bell] about mutual learning and respect.
Strength through unity.
That is the motto on the Haitian flag, and it is being played out now in a new collaboration among the country’s leading social movements.
Each of the four largest Haitian peasant movements have storied histories individually and now collectively under the umbrella of the Group of Four (G4). In Kreyol the G4 is called “4 Je Kontre” or “4 Eyes Meet.”
Twenty years after La Vía Campesina International was founded, the global network of rural organizations has agreed to a new worldwide action plan based on small-scale farming and agro-ecology, food sovereignty, and self-determination of communities. At the same time, the group is reaffirming its stance against transnational corporations, industrial agriculture and agri-business.
The embattled northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. Yet in the midst of this brutal dry spell, one farmer settlement is brimming with abundant vegetables, fruits and crops.