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Posts Tagged ‘small farmers’

On Christmas Eve 2014, journalists working at the Guardian received the following email from their editor,  Alan Rusbridger.

It read:

“Colleagues,

This time next year I won’t be the editor of the Guardian: indeed, well before that I’ll have stepped down.

I’m not at all depressed. This is the right time to be moving on. But I do have an urge to do something powerful, focused and important with the Guardian while I’m still here. And it will be about climate change.

Sometimes there’s a story so enormous that conventional journalism struggles to cope with it, never mind do justice. The imminent threat to the species is the most existentially important story any of us could imagine telling – for our sakes, for our children and for their children. But, as journalists, we also know that we sometimes tire of telling, and that people tire of reading.”

Rusbridger’s email sparked a series of discussions among his team, eventually leading them to take on, “The Biggest Story in the World:  The Race to Save the Earth.”  The journalists began focusing on stories that would motivate readers and listeners to understand the desperate need for urgent action.  In March 2015, they initiated a full-fledged campaign, entitled Keep it in the Ground.  Based on the work of Bill McKibbon, who founded the 350.org climate campaign that launched the divestment movement, the Guardian is calling on the world’s biggest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest from fossil fuels; and to encourage others to follow suit … before it is too late.

It now appears that the work of Bill McGibbon, 350.org, the Guardian, and many other activist organizations and individuals is growing exponentially.  On September 22nd, the Guardian ran an article, “Institutions worth $2.6 trillion have now pulled investments out of fossil fuels,” in which they announced that a coalition of 2,000 individuals and 400 institutions have pledged to shift their assets from coal, oil and gas companies to tackle climate change.

“Scientists agree that most existing coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below the internationally-agreed danger limit of 2C. This means that, if action on climate change is successful, the vast majority of fossil fuels will be unburnable and the companies owning those reserves could crash in value. Many coal companies have already seen their share prices crash as limits on carbon emissions get stricter…”

“…The fossil fuel divestment movement, aimed primarily at stripping legitimacy from fossil fuel companies, has grown faster than even the divestment movement that targeted apartheid South Africa and it is backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

The list of institutions and individuals who have pledged to Divest-Invest continues to grow and the heat is on, so to speak, to gather as many pledges as possible before the COP21 Climate Talks in Paris this December.  In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, who just took the Pledge for himself and his foundation, “Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants, and we must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris.”

Here closer to home in the U.S., we at Equal Exchange have seen first-hand, not just the brutal storms that have devastated parts of the Northeast, the droughts and wildfires that have ravished the West, and all the other evidence of climate change in our own communities, but sadly the impact that unpredictable weather patterns and unusual climatic occurrences are wreaking on our farmer partners across the Global South.  So many of the advances that our farmer partners have been able to achieve through our work and the Fair Trade model, are tragically disappearing.  In fact, the livelihoods – and in some cases, the very existence – of many small farmer co-ops is now threatened.

But, there’s even more exciting news since this Guardian article was published! Equal Exchange has joined a coalition of 18 environmental and social justice organizations working with Divest-Invest to encourage individuals to join this growing movement.  While the work will continue on, we have all agreed to step up our efforts, through October 18th to collect as many pledges as possible. As of this morning, the number has grown to 24,868! 

And so, for the sake of our farmer partners, ourselves, and families, and the health of our planet, we invite you to join us to take the Divest-Invest Pledge. Whether you are a thousandaire, a millionaire, or have no money at all, taking the Pledge NOW sends a strong message!

Read more here about our initiative and ways you can help.  Click here to take the Pledge.

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“It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.”

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

 

As the world’s governments, scientists, farmers, industry representatives, and activists get ready for the next round of UN climate talks in Paris this December, hundreds of declarations, statements, proposals, and treaties are being drafted to address the dangerous situation in which humans have gotten ourselves and our planet. There are many proposals out there but two pathways are clear: First, we must divest from the fossil fuel industry in all its facets (mining, drilling, burning, etc.), and instead invest in renewable energy sources.   And secondly, we must break away from industrial agriculture, and in its place invest in small scale, organic, regenerative farmers. Ultimately, any path toward a climate change solution is going to require that we work together to rebuild and reshape our economy. It is more than time to move away from our current system which encourages and rewards corporate greed and control and work to create a new, solidarity economy, of co-operatives and socially responsible businesses, that places people and the planet above profit.

 

Equal Exchange is proud to launch our new Climate Justice Initiative, focusing on this two-fold approach: Soil not Oil. Our farmer partners are doing their part. Read what Equal Exchange is doing and how you can join us to help our partners mitigate, adapt, and build resiliency all while taking steps to help combat the greatest challenge we may face in our lifetimes and those of future generations.

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“If we genuinely want to tackle the climate change crisis, the only way we have to go forward is to stop industrial agriculture.”
Henry Saragih, General Coordinator, Via Campesina

Global talks adressing climate change began this week in Copenhagen. Among the politicians, activists, scientists and others attending the talk are representatives of Via Campesina, the largest international movement of small farmers. The above quote is excerpted from a speech presented in Copenhagen by Henry Saragih, Via Campesina’s general coordinator. He concludes his speech by saying, “In short, by taking agriculture away from the big agribusiness corporations and putting it back into the hands of small farmers, we can reduce half of the global emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Ironically enough, just as these talks are going on and the links between big agriculture and global warming are becoming increasingly more evident, the U.S. Senate is about to hold confirmation hearings on Islam Siddiqui as the U.S. Trade Office’s Chief Agriculture Negotiator. Siddiqui is the current vice president for Science and Regulatory Affairs with Crop Life America, a pesticide and biotechnology trade group known for aggressively pursuing and protecting the interests of agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow. This position will enable Siddiqui to keep pushing chemical pesticides, inappropriate biotechnologies, and unfair trade arrangements on countries that do not want and can least afford them. The appointment also shows how much influence corporate agriculture and biotech firms have on our national policies.

Saragih’s full speech is reprinted below.

To take action in blocking Siddiqui’s nomination, click here.


Why we left our farms to come to Copenhagen

Speech of Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina – Opening of Klimaforum – Copenhagen Dec 7

*         Tonight is a very special night for us to get together here for the opening of the assembly of the social movements and civil society at the Klimaforum. We, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, are coming to Copenhagen from all five corners of the world, leaving our farmland, our animals, our forest, and also our families in the hamlets and villages to join you all.

*         Why is it so important for us to come this far? (more…)

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Congress may vote on HR 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, as early as this week. Equal Exchange, a member of the National Organic Coalition, has been working hard with other allies to make amendments to the bill before it is voted upon in Congress this week. Although many pieces of the legislation have been improved through this process, there are still concerns.

 

In particular, the bill includes a $500 annual inspection fee for all farmers that do processing on their farms. This means that large corporate farms (that have a far greater impact on consumer food safety) and small family farms will be responsible for paying the same inspection fee. We are particularly worried that charging all producers a $500 fee, regardless of their impact on food safety concerns, their size, or the nature of their processing, will place an undue hardship on many of the small coffee farmers with whom we work.

 

Many farmers have a small depulper on their farm which is used to take the pulp off the coffee cherry after it has been picked. The coffee is then fermented, washed and dried before it is sent to a dry mill to have the final layer of chaff removed prior to export. It is unclear whether these farmers will be subject to this processing fee, but there is no doubt that many small-scale coffee farmers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa will not be able to afford this additional expense. (Many small coffee farmers make less than $1000 year and as it is they already must pay the costs of organic certification, Fair Trade certification, and any other additional certifications that their co-op uses. )

 

Below is a press release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union which discusses some of the concerns about the current version of the Food Safety Bill and further information taken from materials written by Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA.  We are asking for people to call their representatives today and tomorrow to urge them not to pass a Food Safety bill which will adversely impact organic agriculture and small farmers.

 

Thanks for your concern.

 

 

Press Release

 

For Immediate Release: July 23, 2009
Further Information: 
Mick McAllister (303.283.3537)

 

Congress About to Hand Over “Food Safety” to Agri-business

 
 Concerned by the sudden rush to pass the Food Safety bill (HR 2749), Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Kent Peppler sent a message to the congressional delegation from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming: “Now just a dang minute!” (more…)

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International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year to recognize the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. Equal Exchange is proud to support women-centered projects through our work with small farmer co-ops. Today we’re highlighting a few of them. From income diversity to leadership training, these projects represent the ways in which organizing can bring opportunity.

New Women’s Initiatives at the Tierra Nueva Co-op in Nicaragua

Agueda Ordenana, member of the Tierra Nueva Women's Commission

Agueda Ordenana, member of the Tierra Nueva Women's Commission

By Susan Sklar, Interfaith Program Manager

At the Tierra Nueva Union of Co-operatives in the Boaco region of Nicaragua,  some new initiatives are helping women to improve their economic conditions.  Delegates from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Equal Exchange traveled to Nicaragua this past January to visit Equal Exchange´s coffee farmer partners.  Members explained how they are trying to help women become active participants in the co-operative.

In Nicaragua, there’s a common understanding that the ownership of land belongs to men; when a woman marries and inherits land from her father, her husband automatically assumes control over it.  But Tierra Nueva, a union of 600 small coffee and honey farmers, is making an effort to change gender relationships and inequitable practices.   In 2006, Tierra Nueva applied for a grant to conduct a gender survey among its farmers. The focus groups and interviews documented what was already widely known: that the participation of women in Tierra Nueva farming co-operatives was extremely limited. As a direct result of these findings, Tierra Nueva created a gender policy program that was officially approved by the membership in October.  It formally authorized the actions of the Women’s Commission, which is composed of five female representatives from the various primary coffee co-ops. (more…)

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Njari, Tanzania, 2006.  A meeting held by the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union

Njari, Tanzania, 2006. A meeting held by the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union

As the year 2008 comes to a close, the world must cope with a recent assertion made by the Food and Agriculture Organization that “one billion people will go hungry around the globe next year for the first time in human history…”

This shameful scenario was presented in the December 28th issue of The Independent: “The shocking landmark will be passed – despite a second record worldwide harvest in a row – because people are becoming too destitute to buy the food that is produced….the growth in hunger is not occurring, as in the past, because of shortage of food – but because people cannot afford to buy it even when it is plentiful.”

Theories abound as to why the world is in this predicament and what should be done to regain control of the global food economy. Meantime, consumers in developed countries are learning more about the sometimes vast and unsustainable supply chains that bring them their food, and are questioning the enormous resources consumed to maintain this system.    One movement, which gained national attention in the US with the publication of Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, focuses on changing our eating patterns to be less global.  “Locavores” recommend turning to urban gardens, supporting farmers’ markets, and even keeping a few chickens in the back yard.  In short:  Buy Local.

But growing one’s own food, buying local and adhering to 100-mile food diets only offer partial solutions to the growing food crisis. As valid and important as these strategies are, we must also pursue other paths if we are going to restore balance to the food system and exonerate ourselves from such an unforgiveable crime as having allowed one billion people to go hungry.

If the primary problem is not a food shortage, but rather the gap between what food costs and what hungry people can afford to pay, then we must analyze the economic and political institutional failures which have created this situation. We need to redraft our trade agreements to keep workers in sustainable jobs in the U.S. and farmers productive on their fields in the Global South. For small farmers in this country, as well as consumers, one way forward is to organize now to radically change the next Farm Bill.  It’s great to see these movements gathering momentum to make dramatic changes in our agriculture and trade policies.

Where does Fair Trade Fit In?

But through all the news and the commentary about the food crisis, the problems and solutions, where is the mention of Fair Trade?  Why is the voice of Fair Trade so absent within the food sovereignty movement?

It’s as if Fair Trade has fallen off the social justice map. Is Fair Trade just a fad – a naive notion that “all a consumer has to do” is “look for the seal” and the world will be a better place? Can it really be that the achievements gained and lessons learned through Fair Trade have nothing to offer the current discourse about local farmers, sustainable agriculture, and the food crisis?

The Fair Trade movement has helped millions of farmers worldwide, assisted farmer organizations, and educated consumers in the North about the injustices of our trade system. After all, it was developed in response to the huge systemic injustices facing producers in the Global South. Small farmers simply can’t compete with large landowners, plantations, and family estates. The landowners have all the connections to the same oligarchies that acquired wealth and power by enslaving generations of farmers after appropriating their land. Many of these same landowners now run the countries, make the laws, own the banks, run the exporting companies, and pocket the profits.

Fair Trade was very successful in raising awareness of this situation. Alternative traders and other activists found innovative and creative ways to “introduce” producers and consumers to each other, to build bridges between cultures. The movement educated consumers, inspired many to learn, engage and take action. Fair Trade offers market access, credit and fairer prices to millions of farmers, enabling peasant farmers to become co-operative business owners with increasing political and economic power.

Of course, if Fair Trade is barely mentioned amongst those concerned with food security and food sovereignty, try searching through the conversations about Fair Trade within the movement itself. Inspired? I don’t mean to offend, but the dialogue can get tiring. “Fair Trade,” “Whole Trade,” “Direct Trade”,  “Beyond Fair Trade” — does the Fair Trade movement have nothing more to offer consumers and activists than rivalries between roasters; who makes more trips to source; who knows their farmer partners better?

Fair Trade must join in discussions about our industrial food system, the plight facing small farmers in the US, and the governmental policies that created the industrialized food economy in which we all are forced to participate.  We need a rich debate within the movement about these larger issues that affect small farmers and consumers.

Bringing it All Together

Some of us are thirsting for a deeper level of conversation. Personally, I want to see Fair Trade raised alongside the “buy local” and agriculture and trade policy reform strategies. Gains have been achieved and lessons learned. Why isn’t the Fair Trade movement influencing – and being influenced by – the food sovereignty movement?

Fair Traders need to get back into the ring or we will lose the advances the movement has made. It’s time to tone down the marketing rhetoric and return to the educational goals of our mission; find new ways to talk with consumers – and each other – about our work and why we’re doing it. Most importantly, we need to continue creating innovative new strategies, and joining others, to fix the huge injustices in our food system and large scale destruction of the planet.

I also think that “locavores”, who talk about the need to support small farmers, community development and sustainable agriculture, should consider expanding their lens to include mention of small farmers in the Global South. As long as consumers continue to drink coffee and tea, and eat chocolate and other foods not grown in our country, let’s remember that the struggles of these small farmers are as challenging and as critical as those in the U.S. And while small farmers participating in Fair Trade are not in our own backyards, they are trying to maintain, and strengthen their own local communities. Their food security depends on their ability to remain organized in co-operatives; to receive the higher, “fairer” prices they deserve; and ultimately, on the agriculture and trade policies we enact here in Washington.

By the same token, when we talk about the role agri-business has played in dictating agriculture, economic, and trade policies, it would be powerful to highlight alternatives. If the large-scale mechanized farming favored by agribusiness – with its reliance on fossil fuel, pesticides, genetically modified organisms, government subsidies, and factory farms – is the problem, which businesses within the food system are offering solutions?

Certainly small farmers are central to our vision of a greener and more just food system.  But it is important also to recognize the significance of the food co-operatives, locally-owned natural food markets, independent restaurants and cafes, which shine as visible examples of those who are building an alternative day after day. 

Why is there so little mention of these independent and co-operative businesses in food security circles?   Many alternative trade organizations, and worker-owned co-operatives are demonstrating that businesses can have a social mission; reasonable profits can be made and shared more equitably amongst workers and farmers; business can be conducted through strong relationships based on mutuality, transparency and integrity; and of course that healthy food can be produced sustainably.

These organizations – producing, manufacturing, distributing and selling us our food – are walking the walk. They are demonstrating through action that alternatives do exist. Positive models are out there. And the more we can highlight, replicate and create additional independent, local and co-operative businesses, the more success we will have building the type of food system that the food sovereignty movement and all the locavores, fair trade and agriculture policy activists are promoting: a food system based on the principles of solidarity, sustainability and co-operation.

Our movements for a greener and more just food system could benefit by engaging more with each other. Ultimately, the more we challenge, learn from, influence and highlight the contributions each movement is making, the stronger and more successful we will be in our ultimate goal of fixing a broken food system. Let’s unite, deepen and strengthen our movements. With the threat of one billion people facing hunger and food security in 2009, it’s a change we can’t afford not to make.

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Once again, I’d like to thank all of you for your thought-provoking comments to Nick’s post, “Co-operatives: The Democracies of our Economy?” Many interesting issues were raised relating to the current financial meltdown and the roles and responsibilities of corporations and governments. Another common theme that many of you discussed was the question of the size of these institutions and the degree to which power has been corrupted as more and more of it gets retained in the hands of a few.

So I’d like to ask you all a question which might seem a bit naïve…

It seems like we all agree that small is better. Andrew quotes Schumacher:  “for a large organization to work, it must behave like a related group of small organizations.” Nick writes, “Bigger is not better, and the further removed corporations become from their clients, the less democratic, and quite frankly, human they become.”

So here’s the question. (more…)

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