Archive for August, 2008

The Via Campesina, the largest organization of small farmers in the world, has long advocated for changes in our agriculture and trade policies. For the past decade, they have been promoting the principles of Food Sovereignty as a way forward to protect rural communities, our food system, and the planet. As a movement that originated with small farmers in the South, there is much to learn from their concerns and their proposals. In a future blog article, I’ll talk more about the overlap between the Food Sovereignty and Fair Trade movements.

For now however, I’d like to just introduce you to some of the concepts being discussed in the Food Sovereignty movement…

A few months ago, I came across a very well-written and powerful article published by Food First, entitled, “Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five key reasons why we should support the revitalization of small farms in the Global South”, by Miguel A. Altieri, President of the Sociedad Cientifica LatinoAmericana de Agroecologia and Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley. If you had any doubts about why small farmers are essential to our planet and our food system, and why we believe it is critical to support them, this article should answer any lingering questions.

I encourage you all to follow the link to his full article. Initially, I thought I might just try to summarize Altieri’s main points for those of you who might not have time to read the full article. To be perfectly honest, however, Altieri is so articulate and his points so well-made, I found it impossible to condense. So instead, and I hope he will forgive me, I’ve simply extracted many of his arguments verbatim.

Altieri identifies “…five reasons why it’s in the interest of Northern consumers to support the cause and struggle of small farmers in the South.” The following are excerpts taken directly from his article:

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On Aug. 8, Centro Presente, an immigrant organization in Boston put out the following press release:

Communities of faith and community organizations publicly denounce operations recently conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Somerville, MA – In recent days the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has conducted operations in various cities in the greater Boston area. This situation has caused anguish and uncertainty in immigrant families. “We strongly reject the presence of ICE in our communities. We denounce their tactics which we find to be militaristic, intimidating and discriminatory. We believe in and reaffirm the concept of democracy, and for this reason we make use of our legitimate right to speak up and demand respect for the human dignity of the immigrant community. A profound change in the immigration policy of the United States is urgently needed; a legal overhaul that reflects the true principles of liberty and democracy under which this country was founded,” declared Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Centro Presente and member of the Executive Committee of The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)…

In recent months, thousands of immigrants have been deported following ICE factory raids occurring with greater frequency across the United States. The largest raid in Massachusetts occurred in March 2007 in New Bedford when an army of 300 federal immigration agents raided a leather factory and arrested 350 Guatemalan and Salvadoran workers. Federal agents stormed the building and helicopters circled above the factory alerting the agents of escape routes when terrified workers tried to flee. (more…)

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All too often the impact of unfair agriculture and free trade policies falls most severely on the shoulders of women. Grassroots International is a human rights and international development organization that works alongside their partners to promote the rights of all people to land, water, and food. We would like to thank Blair Rapalyea, an intern with Grassroots, for the following article she posted on their blog about how current economic conditions are affecting women.

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.

The severity of the current food crisis has shocked people all over the world and called into question the effectiveness of a free-market economy that allows so many to starve. The privatization of resources necessary to farm and the increasing price of farming supplies is forcing small farmers to abandon their work. Big agribusinesses are making huge profits as prices rise, but family farmers don’t benefit from the increased costs. Fertilizer, land, and water sources are bought up by big companies, and land formerly used to grow food is often switched to produce only corn and grain meant to make more lucrative ethanol, taking food out of the mouths of the hungry. (more…)

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As the food we eat becomes more and more political, we begin to hear the story it tells. In too many cases, it is a story of environmental destruction and human despair.

The story of rooibos tea is no exception. It begins in the most infamous system of racial segregation in our planet’s history. The Apartheid era in South Africa was a direct extension of colonial policies designed to extract resources and profits from the land and local populations. The indigenous ethnic groups of South Africa were pushed off their ancestral homelands to make room for large-scale, colonial plantations. European magistrates and foreign businesses seized the now-famous gold and diamond deposits near Johannesburg, enslaving local populations to mine the shiny baubles that made De Beers a household name and South Africa the only “developed” nation on the continent. (more…)

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