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Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP)
By Jonathan Leaning
February 22nd, 2012
From all corners of the world, small farmers, indigenous peoples and human rights activists have been percolating solutions upward to advance their rights to land, water and food. With 2011 behind us, Grassroots International celebrates some of the victories and inroads that took place last year, all with funding from Grassroots International and our supporters. Below are just some of the highlights.
Haitians, whether in Haiti or the diaspora, will always remember where they were on January 12, 2010, when tragedy shook us to our core. Devastating images emerged from Port-au-Prince after the earthquake that brought to mind cinematic depictions of the aftermath of a blitzkrieg. I had to constantly remind myself that an earthquake did this, not indiscriminate bombing. In the days that followed my heart wanted a seat on the next airplane to Haiti, but my mind grounded me on a simple fact: I had no medical training and my presence could not give the kind of help that was immediately needed. But I wanted to do something…
By Salena Tramel
October 13th, 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.
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.
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.”