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By Nikhil Aziz
September 10th, 2009
This is the time of year when gardeners start to reap their rewards—fruits and vegetables that make for a healthy feast. But for the people of Gaza, gardens produce a serving of self-sufficiency, too.
Urban gardens usually bring to mind savvy urbanites indulging in an organic lifestyle—witness Michelle Obama and her model urban garden at the White House. Although urban gardens in the West may not be a total indulgence—Ms.
By Carol Schachet
July 24th, 2009
Major Obstacle Removed on the Steep Road toward Justice
As the calendar page turned from June to July this year, so did Haiti’s economic prospects. After years of relentless organizing by a broad range of Haitian and international activists, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund finally relented to pressure and cancelled Haiti’s $1.2 billion debt, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s debt.
Ahmed Sourani is the Director of Projects & Cooperation for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). PARC is a longtime partner of Grassroots International and perhaps the most important player in the Palestinian agricultural sector. PARC focuses its work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on rural development including food security, income generation, water rights and protecting against land confiscation by Israel; environmental protection; and strengthening women's position in society.
When plans for a Grassroots International site visit to Brazil suddenly included my name last winter, I was thrilled. Oh boy! I could visit with our partners in country and learn directly from them their struggles, their hopes. I told Saulo Araujo, Grassroots’ Coordinator for Mesoamerica and Brazil (and my to-be traveling companion) that I wanted to talk to the people who ultimately benefit from Grassroots’ funding.
Saulo listened well, I realized the first time I saw the itinerary he pulled together—no office visits to be found. Instead, we were scheduled to visit encampments, settlements, and various on-the-ground projects.
A partner of Grassroots International, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP) has been conducting trials to identify and produce the best local seeds. The Creole Seeds Project, as it is known, plays a vital role in reaching out to farmers who are being lured in by the promises of agrobusiness.
“The Creole Seeds Project is a great project because the community wants to see it to believe it. They can see the results for themselves—that our local seeds are more productive, insect resistant and produce better tasting crops than hybrids or other seeds,” said Elias Freitas Mesquita, MCP’s regional coordinator.
He added, “The seed project is like a magnet that attracts the farmers, who then build more alliances.”
Along with Saulo Araujo, Grassroots International’s Program Coordinator for Mesoamerica and Brazil, I just visited the central region of Brazil, about three hours outside the capital of Brasilia.
And the women of the Central Cerrado have gone nuts. Or, to be more precise, they have begun to process and sell Baru nuts.
These members of the Popular Peasant Movement (MPC) in Goias, Brazil, began to package their food as a collective factory with more than a dozen women (and a few men).
Last April my colleague Saulo Araujo (Program Coordinator for Brazil & Mesoamerica) and I visited Honduras. What impressed us the most was the strength and vibrancy of social movements, like our partners the Via Campesina (Central America) and COCOCH (the Honduran Coordinating Council of Peasant Organizations), and our allies like COPINH (Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) and OFRANEH (Honduran Black Fraternal Organization). And especially the strong and resilient women in the forefront of struggle. Afro-Hondurans like Leoncia and Wendy, Lencas like Pasqualita, and Mestizo women like Analina and Berta
At a candidates forum convened by the Via every single presidential candidate attended.
The US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA), created in 2005 by the Bush and Garcia administrations, came into effect on February 1st, 2009. Since this time, several protests have been held within the country by indigenous groups, peasants and their supporters. At the heart of the protests are several laws, which have been enacted, and since revoked, by the Garcia administration under the FTA.
Grassroots International's friends at the Global Development & Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University announced their award of the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought to Bina Agarwal of Delhi University, India. Agarwal is an early pioneer of research and advocacy on gender and land rights, which many of Grassroots' partners have been fighting for in the field.
Our colleagues in the Brazilian Movement of People Displaced by Dams (MAB) just sent some wonderful news that I want to share with you. After a week of intense work gathering support from Brazilian and international organizations, 14 MAB members are now free, although another four still remain in jail.
The original group of 18 activists was arrested for demonstrating on behalf of families displaced by the Tucuruí Dam in the Amazon region. The group of peasant families called on the Brazilian government to stop the mega-dam project and instead provide infrastructure projects--such as roads, schools and health clinics--and to open lines of credit for agriculture and fishing farming.