Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP)
By Salena Tramel
January 27th, 2011
Make no mistake: Haiti needs seeds and food. Following last January’s devastating earthquake, it’s been all hands on deck in the small island nation—but decision-making on rebuilding is very often in all hands but Haitian hands.
Since long before the earthquake, Haiti has been known as the Republic of NGOs and is bound by more free trade agreements than any other country in the hemisphere. And this kind of outside intervention has failed Haiti time and again—especially since last year’s unprecedented disaster.
By Salena Tramel
January 12th, 2011
Sheer numbers never convey the magnitude of a disaster because they leave out the human stories. News reports offer constant access to images and analysis, but the suffering can just seem too distant at times. And then there are those other times when it hits personally, all in one dreaded moment.
For me, that moment came when I got word that Flo McGarrell, a friend and fellow student of Haitian Creole died in last year’s earthquake when a hotel collapsed on him in Jacmel. As survivors began a weeklong search for Flo’s body, everything about what was going on in Haiti felt painfully close to home—even from half a world away (I was in Jerusalem at the time). Each story became Flo’s story.
The United Nations designates December 10 as International Human Rights Day. At Grassroots International, we give special recognition to the efforts of our partners and allies around the world—but for them, it’s just another day in the trenches to realize these rights as communities in action.
From the Middle East to Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa and Asia, our partners engage in determined struggles for resource rights—the human rights to land, water, and food. Despite enormous obstacles like land grabs, poisoned water, and decreased access to local food, our partners build local solutions to solve problems from the bottom up.
Haitian peasant leader, Chavannes Jean Baptiste, put it best: “Haiti is going from disaster to disaster.” He was talking about debilitating disease among displaced people in squalid living conditions, tropical storms destroying agricultural land, and international aid programs undermining local organizing.
La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement representing small farmers, landless workers, fisherfolk, rural women, youth and indigenous peoples, with 150 member organizations from 70 countries on five continents, has denounced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s recent acquisition of Monsanto Company shares. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 1994 by Microsoft founder William H. Gates, and today exerts a hegemonic influence on global agricultural development policy. The Foundation channels hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that encourage peasants and farmers to use Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) seed and agrochemicals.
Some of the most important lessons I know about grassroots organizing come from the poet Wendell Berry, who advises, “Invest in the millennium; plant Sequoias.”
Only six months ago, Haiti was violently shaken by an earthquake, killing nearly 300,000 and leaving the country reeling from its latest disaster. With help from responsive and generous donors, Grassroots International has been able to provide support directly to community-led organizations -- the people on the front-line of helping rebuild.
Grassroots International recently supported a delegation of Haitian social movements to attend the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. This diverse group represented several of our partners and allies on the ground in Haiti and offered them a unique networking and educational platform.
By Alisa Pimentel
Among the almost 20,000 activists gathered in Detroit for the US Social Forum this week are several Grassroots International partners and allies. Grassroots International regularly provides funding to our partners and allies to participate in movement-building and leadership development gatherings.
No one denies that Haiti needs seeds and support this planting season, as the population still faces steep challenges since January’s devastating earthquake. Many thousands have fled urban areas for the countryside, taxing already strained resources and causing many rural communities to re-purpose for food the seeds set aside for planting.
But is any seed a good seed? No, says Chavannes Jean-Baptiste and other Haitian activists. Chavannes is the executive director of Grassroots International partner the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP).