Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
By Mina Remy
April 24th, 2013
When you hear “seed bank” what comes to mind? Is it perhaps a vault or a deep freezer stocked with seeds? Yes, Grassroots International partner the Union of Agricultural Work Committees’ seed bank has those, but what I saw and heard was so much more than that. UAWC’s seed bank also assists farmers while protecting local agricultural biodiversity across the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) – literally preserving their seed sovereignty amidst the occupation.
Cicero Guedes, a former sugar cane cutter turned land rights activist, worked in Campo dos Goytacazes, a settlement in Brazil. There he organized with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to help families achieve what he had received: legal claim to land as part of Brazil’s agrarian reform movement.
For his tireless work, Cicero was murdered, shot more than a dozen times while he rode his bicycle to the fields. His assassination seemed intended to send a message to other would-be land rights activists: organize and you will pay the ultimate price.
By Sara Mersha
March 30th, 2013
For 37 years, March 30 has been celebrated as Palestinian Land Day, a day of action for land rights. On this date in 1976, Palestinians inside Israel mobilized to protest Israel’s plans to take 2,000 hectares of land from Palestinian communities in Galilee. Six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces, and hundreds more were injured and arrested. Though the repression was severe, people around world celebrate this date as an important moment in history, bringing Palestinians together in a common struggle for their rights to land wherever they live.
The future success of global social movements depends largely on cultivating the next generation of activists. With the support of Grassroots International, local groups around the world are organizing creative social, political and environmental awareness programs explicitly engaging youth. Below are a few highlights from some of the grants we made this past year.
Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories (oPt) has not only physically dominated the land that supports the Palestinian people but also the vital water resources that feed the land. The natural cycles and recharging of these important water resources have been altered by the systematic confiscation and control policies imposed by Israel that deny Palestinians’ right to the water resources in the oPt. Drought-induced water scarcity, poor sanitation conditions and low economic development further add to the hardship of water-starved Palestinians.
For the past year, Stop the Wall and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (both Grassroots International partners) have been working diligently with their Palestinian and Brazilian allies to fulfill the call issued in 2011 at the World Social Forum in Dakar. Then, participants expressed a desire to hold a thematic World Social Forum to explore ongoing social injustice in the occupied Palestinian territories; and to formulate an international response from the peoples of the world since states have either been unwilling or unable to provide pathways toward a just peace.
Before I arrived at Grassroots International (nearly a year ago), I thought I understood the hardships imposed on Gaza. I knew about the imposed siege, had read and heard of the Turkish flotilla of 2010 and other humanitarian attempts to reach Gaza. I even knew about loss of acres of farmland, inadequate access to potable water, shortage of medicines, shortage of building materials, and periodic bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces.
The tiny motorboat’s engine coughs a couple of miles offshore and whirls to a stop. Gazing out over the aquamarine Mediterranean waters, I feel high from the fumes of cheap Egyptian diesel and the smell of sea salt. “Let’s get in,” says Mahfouz Kabariti, a fisherman, stripping down to swim trunks and diving overboard. A Palestinian friend who is a medical student also came along for the ride. We eye each other cautiously. She winks, and we both jump in the water, fully dressed, our long pants weighing us down. It’s a perfect Friday afternoon. From out here, the ubiquitous bullet holes in buildings are invisible and Gaza City looks like a coastal resort town.
Waiting for my visa interview on a dusty embroidered couch at the Afghan Embassy in Cairo, minutes turned into hours. I had recently decided to spend International Women’s Day in the countryside outside of Kabul, to learn from women there as they work towards a better Afghanistan. My mind wandered as I prepared for the journey, and I found myself reflecting on the meaning of a day set aside to celebrate women. Memories drifted through the past few years where I had spent International Women’s Day with Grassroots International’s partners in Palestine and Haiti. Years apart and worlds away, the experiences were bound by song.
Gaza Strip, 2009