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By Carol Schachet
January 23rd, 2014
The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
By Mina Remy
January 22nd, 2014
The occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) faced one of the worst winter storms seen in decades last month. The West Bank experienced record snow fall, which municipalities were ill-equipped to handle. While Gaza was spared much of the snow, the Strip received a devastating wintry mix of freezing rain, strong winds, and bitter cold that paralyzed an area considered a humanitarian crisis long before the storm.
Land grabs -- the large-scale and sometimes shady acquisition of massive tracts of land by powerful financial interest -- have become a serious problem in the Global South. As a result, peasant farmers, particularly in indigenous communities, are being driven from their ancestral lands. Fortunately, a growing and increasingly well-organized movement of resistance to land grabs is fighting back --and succeeding. The following story, from Grassroots ally GRAIN, shows how one community leader and his community are pushing back against the grabs.
Since our office is in Boston, Grassroots International takes special satisfaction with the ouster of Veolia from running Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad system here. Veolia’s operation in the occupied West Bank has made it a consistent target of human rights organizations, including Grassroots International and our allies. We join with other members of the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, which initiated the “Derail Veolia” campaign. While we celebrate this moment, we recognize the importance of continuing to push for the MBTA and MassDOT to recognize human rights as part of its decision-making – including both international concerns as well as the need to ensure good jobs and local hiring.
On New Year’s Day, 20 years ago, a group of indigenous peoples, known as the Zapatistas, occupied several municipalities of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Not coincidentally, that same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas considered the free trade agreement and the neoliberal political system that spawned it to be a death sentence for indigenous peoples in Mexico. The magnitude of the Zapatista uprising was due to the participation of different indigenous groups which joined forces to change a system that was marginalizing and exploiting them.
By Lydia Simas
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
By Claire Gilbert and Mina Remy
The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) announced the redistribution of land last month to 140 indigenous and peasant families. The families were part of the largest violent eviction in the recent history of Guatemala in March 2011 when non-state actors, police, military forces and the government forced nearly 800 indigenous Q’eqchí families of their land without notice, destroyed their crops and burned their homes.
Grassroots International and its partners in the We Divest coalition join activists from around the country in congratulating TIAA-CREF for taking a step toward living up to its motto, “Investment for the Greater Good”. “TIAA-CREF has made a move in the right direction by divesting its Social Choice Fund of Veolia stock given that Veolia's business model and practices have consistently put profit over people -- whether privatizing water resources around the world, or enabling Israeli occupation and segregation in the West Bank. This is a victory for all those concerned with human rights and justice,” said Nikhil Aziz, Executive Director of Grassroots International.
Read the full press release below.