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By Carol Schachet
April 22nd, 2013
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.
Thousands of small farmers joined students, activists, unionists , human rights advocates and others at the World Social Forum in Tunisia last week. Among the many demonstrations and calls for action, the plea for seed sovereignty resonated with the peasant organizers who have seen their lands and livelihoods threatened by the “Green Revolution” and the incursion of industrial agriculture.
By Nikhil Aziz
January 11th, 2013
Bhoodevi (second from left) is a young Savaara woman from Srikakulam district (county) in Andhra Pradesh (AP) state in India. Her name means Earth Goddess or Mother Earth. The Savaaras are an Adivasi (ɑːdɪˈvɑːsi/ literally, earliest inhabitants) indigenous group that straddle the forests and hills in the border regions of modern day AP and Odisha states in east-central India. In Srikakulam they along with the Jataapus form the core of the indigenous population.
In rural areas like Seu Lazaro’s community in the state of Goiás, Brazil, vendors of genetically modified seeds used to drop by with wide smiles and black suitcases full of samples and colorful catalogues. Their dusty cars, parked in the middle of the road, are a map of their sales route across miles of unpaved, bumpy roads. According to Seu Lazaro, these vendors (often trained agronomists) go from house to house trying to convince peasant farmers to buy seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides by promising lush crops and a good return in the investment.
Those promises convinced Seu Lazaro’s father to use GM seeds, who then convinced him.
In anticipation of World Environment Day today, June 5, 2012, Haiti’s Minister of Environment, Joseph Ronald Toussaint, and the Martelly government proclaimed June Environment Month in Haiti. The theme for this year’s month-long celebration is, “A Green Economy for an Environmentally Viable, Sustainable, and Just Haitian Society.” As part of Environment Month, a member of the ministry’s cabinet indicated that the ministry would like to hold a general State of the Environment Conference with stakeholders on June 7-8, 2012.
Yesterday I spoke with two members of Brazil’s Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in Sao Paulo City. MAB is an inspiring organization formed by families who have been displaced by mega-dams in Brazil. Grassroots supports MAB in the organizing of displaced families, or atingidos, so they can collectively defend their land, water and food rights.
Nyéléni, Mali – 19 November 2011
Away from the televised and broken streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti hosts some scenic worlds. Down south, there are remnants of cloud forests that fade into blue skies, and in the north cacti twist out of rust desert soil. The eye takes in lime green rice fields in the central valleys that give way to steep rings of mountains. Most of the people who live there are counting on humble rural livelihoods. They find an enormous source of dignity in their peasant identities. Little by little, their work breathes life back into a country that they vow to make self-sustaining once more.