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By Nikhil Aziz
March 22nd, 2011
Rivers are sacred in many cultures and central to the World’s early civilizations, from Mesopotamia and Egypt to India and China. Perhaps this was on his mind when Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, famously (if ironically) called mega dams the “temples of modern India.” He would have been more prescient in calling them “temples of doom” given the enormous human, environmental and economic costs of these behemoths. In India alone, since independence, by some estimates nearly 50 million people have been displaced.
According to Grassroots International ally Fahamu, “Agriculture… remains the main source of income of a rural population generally estimated at 70% of the total population… [W]omen remain an essential link in agricultural production, accounting for 70% of food production, managing nearly 100% of processing activities, responsible for about 50% of the maintenance of the family herds and also responsible for some 60% of sales activities in the markets.” Any solutions to the problems of African agriculture, therefore, must include women. In fact, African women are saying, “We Are the Solution.”
It is the tradition at World Social Forums (WSF) to focus a considerable amount of time, energy, resources and attention on issues faced by people in the host region and country. The 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal that I had the privilege of attending was no different. Africa and African issues suffused the WSF throughout the forum.
One of these issues was the massive land grabs that are taking place all across the continent. Appropriately called the New Scramble for Africa, it is eerily similar to the mad rush by European colonial powers during the last quarter of the 19th century to divide Africa up among them.
Make no mistake: Haiti needs seeds and food. Following last January’s devastating earthquake, it’s been all hands on deck in the small island nation—but decision-making on rebuilding is very often in all hands but Haitian hands.
Since long before the earthquake, Haiti has been known as the Republic of NGOs and is bound by more free trade agreements than any other country in the hemisphere. And this kind of outside intervention has failed Haiti time and again—especially since last year’s unprecedented disaster.
By Salena Tramel
January 12th, 2011
Sheer numbers never convey the magnitude of a disaster because they leave out the human stories. News reports offer constant access to images and analysis, but the suffering can just seem too distant at times. And then there are those other times when it hits personally, all in one dreaded moment.
For me, that moment came when I got word that Flo McGarrell, a friend and fellow student of Haitian Creole died in last year’s earthquake when a hotel collapsed on him in Jacmel. As survivors began a weeklong search for Flo’s body, everything about what was going on in Haiti felt painfully close to home—even from half a world away (I was in Jerusalem at the time). Each story became Flo’s story.
Gilberto and Natalia Silva are in their mid-thirties. Married and parents of a beautiful little girl, Geovanna, they exude hope for the future. “In life, nothing comes easy,” Natalia says as she works tirelessly in the kitchen. Gilberto nods in agreement from the other corner of the room.
Down south in the Negev desert, the sounds of jets fill wide-open spaces. Increasing militarization is constant -- at least 80% of the land there is used for military training purposes, including weaponry development. The Negev also contains the largest petrochemical processing center in the Middle East and Israel’s nuclear facilities. Bedouin communities who call the remaining land home are routinely -- and forcibly -- displaced.
In a recent article in The Nation (“Retreat to Subsistence,” July 5, 2010), Peter Canby describes the seminal work of one of Grassroots International’s partners in Mexico, the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO). Using UNOSJO's work as an example, he explores the larger issue of of indigenous rights in Mesoamerica.
Nestled between Haiti’s turquoise Caribbean waters and the foothills of the northern mountains, is a large plot of land close to the town of Limonade. Here at the height of planting season a group of peasants is hard at work. Claudelle Sensmyr, 36, quietly sprinkles handfuls of seeds down row after row of prepped soil. "I just started farming a few months ago," she told me, brushing off her hands and looking up. "I’m from Port-au-Prince," she added shyly and then motioned to the other farmers, "Many of us are."
In the wake of the earthquake that left most of urban Haiti in shambles six months ago, more than 500,000 survivors fled cities like Port-au-Prince and Jacmel to rural areas like Limonade.
After tireless campaigning by the indigenous people of Guatemala and international solidarity organizations, including Grassroots International, the Goldcorp Marlin Mine has been ordered to shut by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This is a huge victory for local Mayan residents who have fought for the past six years to hold Goldcorp accountable for appalling social and environmental problems caused by the mine. Grassroots International supported their struggle for justice by funding indigenous representatives to attend meetings with allies in Canada and the United States as well as hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.