Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

Winona LaDuke on Redemption

Winona LaDuke on Redemption


Posted 26 September 2011, by Sacred Land Film Project, Vimeo,


Winona LaDuke on Redemption from Sacred Land Film Project on Vimeo.


Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe activist) speaks on the process of apology, redemption and healing; through the story of the Pawnee tribe and their return home to their native land in Nebraska.

This interview bite was conducted as part of our Sacred Land Film Project series, featuring indigenous communities fighting to save their sacred sites.

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Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition


Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition


Posted 20 September 2011, by Staff, Ghana News Agency (GNA),



Abokobi (GAR), Sept. 20, GNA – Women farmers in Abokobi in the Ga East District of the Greater Accra Region on Tuesday organised a traditional food exhibition in an effort to drum home the need to patronise local foods and promote women in farming.

The exhibition was organised by Rural Women Farmers Association in collaboration with Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), an NGO.

It was on the theme: “Women! We are the Solution for Food Security in Ghana”.

Foods on display included yekeyeke, abolo, mpotompoto, kpoikpoi, tugbani, banku with okro stew, fufu with variety of soups, akyeke and bankye akakro.

The exhibition was organised as part of the three-year Pan-African campaign targeted at five West African countries, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Ghana, to build a first mass rural women farmers movement managed by rural women farmers.

The campaign is aimed at educating women on the importance of traditional foods and their nutritional values.

Addressing the women, Madam Fatima Addy, Southern Sector Coordinator of RUWAG, noted that the association was formed to serve as a platform for rural women farmers to share knowledge and experiences on traditional farming practices.

“We seek to educate our members on the need to adopt safe and sound farming practices devoid of chemicals which are harmful to the human body.”

She explained that the association also served as a platform to educate members on the values of indigenous seeds and food recipes that had high nutritional value but getting extinct due to neglect.

Mr Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, said the campaign was to promote good practice and knowledge that had been known and handed down for generations in Africa.

He said those good practices and knowledge had sustained food sovereignty on the continent, to influence decision makers and promote better governance and value family agricultural production.

Mr Guri noted that the campaign would also build the organisational and individual capacities of selected rural women associations and their leaders, build awareness and empower rural women to engage in decision making processes in on-going local, regional and global campaigns.

The women would organise, mobilise and sustain an Africa-wide action oriented network for information sharing and advocacy.

“The impact of this campaign will be to ensure that the Rural Women Association have the skills to improve, promote and share their traditional agricultural knowledge and ensure that this rich knowledge is not lost and indeed promoted as an alternative to the Green Revolution Methods,” he added.

Mr Wilberforce Laate, Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD, expressed dissatisfaction about the deplorable manner in which vegetables and other crops were cultivated.

He bemoaned instances where vegetables were forced to become ripe and ready for the market before their time by the use of chemicals which were injurious to human health.

Mr Laate expressed his dissatisfaction about the use of genetically modified crops as seeds of such crops could not be replanted after harvest due to the application of chemicals.

He urged farmers to use manure for their crops instead of fertilizer because it was cheaper and devoid of chemicals.




Women of Corn


Women of Corn


Posted 20 September 2011, by Esther Vivas, International Viewpoint (Fourth International),



In the countries of the Global South, women are the principal producers of food, those in charge of working the land, safegaurding the seeds, gathering the fruit, obtaining water. Between 60 to 80% of food production in these countries is down to women, and worldwide at a level of 50%. These women are the main producers of the staple crops, such as rice, wheat and maize, which go to feed the most impoverished populations of the South. But despite their key role in agriculture and provision of food, they are, together with children, the most affected by hunger.

For centuries, rural women have been responsible for domestic chores, care of people, feeding of families, and cultivation and marketing of surplus from their gardens, and have borne this load of reproductive, productive and community work in a private and invisible domain. In contrast, the principal economic transactions of agriculture, the trading of livestock and bulk buying and selling of cereals in the market, have been carried out by men… occupying the public rural domain.

This division of roles assigns to women the upkeep of home, of health, of education and of families and gives men the management of land and machinery and most significantly the”know-how”, thus perpetuating the roles allotted as masculine and feminine which for centuries and even today persist in our societies.

Nonetheless, in many regions of the Global South, in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, there exists an evident “feminisation” of paid agricultural work. Between 1994 and 2000, women occupied 83% of new employment created in the sector of non-traditional agricultual export. But this tendency includes a marked division of gender; on the plantations, women perform the unskilled tasks such as collection and packaging, while men carry out the harvesting and planting.

This incorporation of women into the paid workplace entails a double burden for women, who continue to carry out the care of their families whilst working to obtain an income from an employment which for the most part is precarious. They can expect worse working conditions than their male counterparts and lower pay for the same tasks, therefore having to work longer to earn the same.

Another difficulty is access to land. In several countries of the South, laws deny women this right, and in those that legally concede tenure, tradition and custom impede disposition to them. However, this problem not only occurs in the Global South. In Europe, many women farmers do not have their entitlements recognised and despite working on the land like their male peers, farm ownership and payment of social security, etc is usually commanded by men. Consequently, women, on retirement, cannot count on any pension, nor have claim to assistance or to payments, etc

The degradation of farmland in these Southern countries and the increase in migration to the cities has provoked a process of agricultural disintegration. Women are an essential component of this national and international migration, engendering a disruption and abandoment of families, land, and processes of production whilst increasing the family and community burden of the women who remain. In Europe, the United States, Canada… migrant women end up taking the jobs that years back were filled by locals, reproducing a cycle of oppression, burden and ‘invisibilisation’ of care, whilst externalising its social and economic costs to the communities of origin of the migrant women.

The incapacity to resolve the current crisis of caretaking in western countries, the combined result of massive incorporation of women into the labour market, the aging of the population, and the non-existent response from the state to these needs, leads to the massive importation of female labour into domestic work and paid care, from the countries of the Global South.

In opposition to this intensive and unsustainable neoliberal agricultural model which has demonstrated a complete inability to satisfy dietary needs of people and a complete disrespect for Nature, and which is especially adverse to women, arises the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty. This deals with the recuperation of our right to determine the what, the how and the source of what we eat; that the land, the water and the seeds are in the hands of small farmers (male and female); and the fight against the monopoly of agrifoods.

And it is requisite that this food sovereignty is profoundly feminist and internationalist, and that its accomplishment will only be possible from full equality between men and women and free access to the means of food production, distribution and consumption, along with solidarity among peoples, far from the chauvinistic cries of “ours first.”

We must reclaim the role of women farmers in food and agricultural production, and recognise the part played by the “women of corn”, those that work the land. To make visible the invisible. And to promote alliances between rural and urban women, from the North and the South. To globalise a resistance… feminine.

-Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

Other recent articles:

Ecology and the Environment

The years of 9/11 – September 2011


Food crisis

The whys of hunger – August 2011

Climate change and food sovereignty caravan – April 2011



Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Posted  19 September 2011, by Staff, United States Department of State,




Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Intercontinental Hotel
New York City
September 19, 2011

Moderated by Nick Kristof

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; Nick Kristof, moderator and columnist for The New York Times; Reema Nanavaty, director for economic and rural development for the Self-Employed Women’s Association; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever; His Excellency, President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania; Kathy Spahn, president and CEO, Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Graziano Da Silva, assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, thank you very much and welcome to all.  You will have the opportunity in just a few minutes to hear from all of our distinguished panelists.  In addition to those who have been introduced, I want to recognize the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director general, Mr. Jacques Diouf.  Thank you, sir, for being here.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize a longtime friend and leader in efforts against poverty and on behalf of human dignity, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.  (Applause.)

And on a personal note, I am pleased that I will be joined shortly in this program by USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah and I’m also pleased that one of our two congressional representatives, Representative Russ Carnahan from Missouri, is here.  So welcome to one and all.

And it’s a great pleasure for me for the third year in a row to meet during the United Nations General Assembly to focus on an issue that is critical to the global economy, global health, and the prosperity and well-being of billions of people worldwide:  agriculture and food security.

I don’t need to tell this audience that while we meet here in this beautiful hotel, nearly 1 billion people are suffering from chronic hunger, and in the Horn of Africa we are seeing the devastating impact of acute hunger and starvation.

Now, at the root of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is a man-made problem.  And we are all working together to try to alleviate the suffering and to save lives, and we’re also as an international community sending a very strong plea to the group al-Shabaab, which is continuing to prevent humanitarian organizations from getting aid to the people who need it, primarily women and children.  As a result, the United Nations warns that up to 750,000 people living in famine-stricken areas of Somalia could die in the next 120 days.

Now, all of us – my country, the international community – are supporting organizations that are saving lives, and we’re going to continue to do our part and we are going to redouble our efforts to press al-Shabaab to let us help.

Later today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah will outline ways that the international community and people all over the world can get involved in supporting those who are suffering in the Horn of Africa.

As we respond to this and other immediate crises, it is imperative that we stay focused on the long-term goal of strengthening global agriculture in order to produce more food, more nutritious food, and reduce hunger.  The United Nations estimates that we need to increase global food production by 70 percent by the year 2050 in order to meet growing demand.  That is a very serious challenge.

So what are we going to do to meet it?  Well, one way that we know would yield significant results is investing more in women.  This comes down to a simple matter of numbers.  Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries.  They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops.  Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason:  they have access to fewer resources.  They certainly work as hard and they, like farmers everywhere, are at the mercy of nature.  But these women have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, less access to training and the ownership of land.

As a result, they grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle.  The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed.  If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent.  That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.

And the incomes of women farmers would increase, which means more financial security for their families and more money circulating in local economies, which in turn will help other businesses grow.  Furthermore, because women tend to devote more of their money to the health, education, and nutrition of their children, a rise in their incomes pays off over generations.

In the report provided to you today, you will find several examples of the progress that can be achieved by supporting women farmers.  In Ghana, for example, if women and men held equal land rights, and if they both had the ability to use land as collateral to make major investments like irrigation systems or draft animals, women farmers would double their profits from farming.  Multiple studies in places from Honduras to Nepal, from the Philippines to Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, find that when women are involved in the design and field testing of new technologies, those technologies are actually adopted more rapidly, which increases productivity and incomes faster.

It is for reasons like these that the United States has focused on women farmers and our Feed the Future Food Security Initiative, which is a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy in the Obama Administration.  We have worked closely with our partners, including other nations, NGOs, private sector companies, and of course the multilaterals, to help make reaching women farmers a top priority for everyone working on this issue.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States is allocating $5 million this year for a new gender program within Feed the Future.  This money will be used to fund innovative approaches to promoting gender equality in agriculture and land use and to integrate gender effectively into agricultural development and food security programs.  It will be used to expand our knowledge base.  We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that.  So we need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so we know how to remove them, so women can contribute even more.

I would urge everyone here today and everyone working in this critical field around the world to bring us your best research proposals and programs to support women farmers.  We are looking for good ideas to support.

Conversations like the one we will have here today make me hopeful that we will succeed.  We have with us a distinguished panel of experts who will help us better understand the policies, programs, laws, and societal changes we must make in order to unleash the full productive capacity of women farmers.

I’m very pleased to welcome Nick Kristof as our moderator.  As many of you know, he and his wife, the journalist Sheryl WuDunn, have written a book Half the Sky about the role of women in society.  And they write, “Women and girls aren’t the problem.  They’re the solution, along with men.”  As we will discuss today, and as the short film we are about to watch on the role of women in agriculture will underscore, that’s a reality that we need to embrace worldwide.

As I said last week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, I believe we are entering the participation age, with political transitions opening opportunities for people to shape their own destinies, and economic transformations creating new platforms for broad-based growth.  Every individual, men and women, boys and girls, everyone is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their societies.  When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.

So let us now turn our attention to the film – I think that’s the next item on the agenda – and then following the film, our moderator, Nick Kristof, will come to the podium or maybe sit here.

MR. KRISTOF:  I think I’ll – I’m lazy, I’ll sit here.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  He’ll just sit here to moderate our discussion.  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

(The film is shown.)


MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you all very much for coming.  If you’re from out of town, then welcome to New York.  We have a terrific panel, and I’m going to start by asking each of the panel members a question or two, then we’ll move onto a bit of a conversation here and then open it up to questions as well.  Secretary Clinton has to leave at 2 o’clock, and at that point, she will be succeeded by Raj Shah right here very seamlessly.  And it truly is sort of extraordinary for a Secretary of State to be hosting an event focusing not only on agriculture and food, but on a gender focus to improve that.  This is really something very new it seems to me.

And so, Secretary Clinton, maybe let me start with you, and you’ve made the economic case for investing in women to improve agriculture.  You also just gave an important speech a couple days ago for APEC on the same thing, but there’s still this gulf between this research, the evidence that you cited, the economic case, and the actual investments that happen and what actually happens on farms around the world.  So – and also I think that there’s – everybody in the room probably frankly agrees with you, but there are an awful lot of skeptics out there who think this is just kind of the latest politically correct fad.  So how do we go from bridging that evidence, that economic case into actually having an impact on the ground?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, Nick, I think that’s the stage we’re at, and I’m very pleased we are at that stage because up until now, many of us have been making the case.  We’ve made it on moral grounds, on cultural grounds, on social and political grounds, and we’ve seen progress, but I think making the case on economic grounds is what finally begins to open minds and change policies.  It is clear to us who are in this room – this is like preaching to the choir because I look out and I see so many leaders from around the world who have been working on agricultural and food issues, on gender issues, on poverty issues – it’s clear to us that the case now can be made.  We didn’t even collect data for decades.  We had no way of knowing what additional inputs provided to women farmers in Tanzania or Brazil or Bangladesh or anywhere else would actually mean.  And therefore, it was a harder case for us to make.

But since we’ve been gathering such data – and I thank FAO and other organizations that have been leaders in doing this – we can now put this movie together and talk about what happens when you have a leader like President Kikwete, who focuses on agriculture, creates corridors for agricultural productivity, and further focuses on making women more productive.  It works.  So you’ll hear from the champion architect of the Zero Hunger Program in Brazil.  It works.  So now when we go to heads of state or parliaments or international bodies and we make the case, it’s no longer that we’re making a case rooted in our sense of equality and justice and morality; we’re making an economic case that it’s going to raise incomes, it’s going to increase productivity, and given the economy in the world and given the severe challenges our food systems face, this is now an argument that can no longer be ignored.

MR. KRISTOF:  You alluded to this a moment ago when you mentioned the $5 million for research, but can you just speak briefly about what the government, what the Administration is planning to do to build that economic case and to make it at home and around the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  I can.  Let me give you a few examples.  Let me start with land reform, which is one of the most challenging issues that demands major political commitment.  If we do not have land reform that gives women co-ownership rights, gives women inheritance rights, we won’t crack the code on greater agricultural productivity because the women need to have more financial security, to be protected in case they’re widowed.  I mean, really some of the saddest stories that I’ve encountered in 20-plus years of doing this work are widows who are pushed off the lands that they tilled with their husbands.  And if we don’t protect against theft and give greater investment incentives, then we won’t get the productivity that is promised.  So Feed the Future will work on land reform.  Feed the Future will also support entrepreneurship development to encourage agricultural growth sector.

For example, in Mali, Feed the Future addresses women’s limited access to finance by providing training in financial management and completing loan applications.  I mean, it’s one thing to go to a woman farmer and say, “Gee, you could get credit.”  Well, they’ve never done that in their lives, and they’ve got to have support in understanding that.  And we know that land reform doesn’t have to be complex.  Let me just end with this one example.

In Ethiopia, the government is instituting a simple remedy:  Joint titles that have room for the names and photos of both husbands and wives.  It’s these kinds of interventions that we can draw attention to because then a woman’s photo, her name, is right there on the land title, and nobody can come and push her off her family land in the event she is widowed.

So there’s a lot of ideas, but that’s why I’m inviting this very distinguished group to give us more and better ideas, because we are open to making policy investments and research projects that will help us develop a new index to determine women’s productivity and access to resources, and to make sure that that’s then shared not only within Feed The Future and our own government, but broadly across the international community.

MR. KRISTOF:  President Kikwete, Secretary Clinton alluded to your focus on agriculture.  You also spent a lot of time in rural Tanzania listening to people.  I wonder to what extent does this make sense to you?  In Tanzania, are investments in women and agriculture going to get a better return?  What is the situation like in rural Tanzania, for example?

  Well, first, let me thank Secretary Clinton for convening this discussion and for inviting me this time.

Well, the truth of the matter is women are the major labor force for agriculture in Tanzania, I think for the rest of Africa.  They do the work of the farm, they till the farms, they take care of the farms, they hold harvest, and the men will take the crops to the market and take the money – (laughter) – and decide how to spend that money.

And for polygamist cultures of ours, the view is that very same money made another wife from the labor – (laughter) – of the one.  This is – but of course, the – of course, we are poor, but women are poorer than men in Africa.  The majority of us live in rural areas – Tanzania 80 percent.  We depend on agriculture, if we have good returns, to make an impact on alleviating poverty, then tackle the agricultural question.  Because agriculture is backward, agriculture, little use of science and technology in production.  The hand hoe, as you saw in the picture, is the dominant technology, very little mechanization, and because it’s the women who are working, then the women shoulder all this burden.

But women don’t own property in many of our societies.  They don’t own the land; the husband owns the land.  The women work on the land.  So what we really need to do to help the women, one is make sure that women have access to property.  And of course, it’s cultural, because in our country, for example, there are some societies where the girl child doesn’t inherit anything from the father.  It’s cultural.  But anyway, we’ve got to look into ways of changing some of these cultures.  Of course, some of them, we do it through legislation.  We make legislations that override the traditional cultures.  So if the lady continues to use the traditions, go to the local chiefs, she’ll be subjected to the cultures.  But if she goes to the national courts of law, then she gets these advantages.  So we’ve been trying to use the legislation to try to help women.

But of course, we need to help women get the inputs, get the high-yielding seeds, get the fertilizers, get the pesticides, the herbicides, but also benefit from mechanization.  We cannot continue to leave the women continue to till the land using the hand hoe.  Of course, it is a question of government policies on making these inputs available.  In our case, we have subsidies, subsidies for seeds, for fertilizers.  We have also studied a program of making small tractors available in the rural areas at affordable prices, where the government also subsidizes these prices.  But of course, one thing also important is credit systems; make it possible for women to access – to have access to credit so that they can get the input and so on.

MR. KRISTOF:  Mr. President, if one gives those – that kind of assistance to women, though, isn’t there a risk of a backlash among men, a sense of resentment that may undermine output?

PRESIDENT KIKWETE:  Well, of course, those who enjoy privileges will always like to – to maintain them is not easy, but I think times are changing, also, because times are changing with education, with economic realities on the ground.  You find less and less of the younger men having the inclination of becoming polygamists.  It’s more an old tradition, because it gives you – it’s many challenges.

Of course, those who remain traditional will have problems with that, but I think times are changing.  Times are changing with education and so on.  We don’t have a bigger problem now and we will not have a bigger problem in the future as more and more people have access to education and modern ways of living.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  Reema Nanavaty, this is your life’s work.  This is what you do every day in Gujarat and around India.  So can you tell us what the lessons are that you’ve learned?  What does work, specifically?  Where is there sort of robust evidence of an intervention that actually – in terms of gender, that actually does improve nutrition and improve agricultural output?

MS. NANAVATY:  Thank you so much, and thank you, Secretary Clinton.  I carry a special message from our president, whom you had met.  And when I read out the invitation, she said, “Oh, please do,” that the president is now thinking of the right thing that the world needs, and please share our experience that – how did we turn the food crisis into a development opportunity.

So what I’m going to share today in some of our lessons is the work of the 1.5 million women members that, today, I speak here on behalf of.  And I think the first and the foremost is organizing – organizing, first recognizing women as farmers, organizing them.  It’s a first, a must, and no shortcut to that.  And I think we also feel that once organizing women around work as farmers, getting meaningful productive work, then women are also, we feel, much more stable,
much more future oriented, and they build communities which are eager to take on new information, new opportunities.  And that’s what our whole experience – when we had the food crisis looming around, how we organized not a few thousand but around 254,000 women farmers.  We began from Gujarat, and this is their own agribusiness company.

So I think one lesson is that one has to invest in women, in poor, and letting them build their own agriculture based or farm-based enterprises.  And today, I think, as a result of our agribusiness initiative, we have our own brand, which touches around 1.1 million households and ensures them nutrition and food security.  We call – it is RUDI.  This is also our rural distribution network, and as a result of that, women have taken charge.  And we have around 4,000 seed banks.  We have fodder banks.  We have grain banks in 4,000-plus villages as well.

So I think this is – say that how do you integrate the financial market, the labor market, and the community market.  And it has to happen at all levels – the local, the national, and the regional and international levels.

MR. KRISTOF:  And one of the problems in development is that often something – either you experiment with something and it’ll be a wild success; you try to scale it up and it’s much less successful.  So how do you go from some kind of a small-scale success to actually scaling up the kinds of things we’re talking about so that they really work on a large scale?

MS. NANAVATY:  I think we all need to be much more tolerant, much more patient in order for women to scale up their own initiatives.  And our experience of four decades now shows that when (inaudible) in women in their enterprises, women are able to take it to scale.  I think the barriers are that the governments, the financial institutions, the private sector – everybody needs to come together and invest in women-owned, women-managed, and women-led enterprises in the field of agriculture.

Today, our RUDI is not only scaling itself in India alone, but we are taking it to Afghanistan, we are taking it to Sri Lanka, we are taking it to Nepal.  We have sisters who come from Ghana, who come from Malawi, and they all want to take it to their – into their folds.  So I think one has to invest, and basically it’s the governments, the private sector, and the financial institutions.  One – they need to invest so that women have access to and also control over land and grains and information, both.  And then they are able to integrate themselves into the mainstream markets.

One of the things I’ve learned is the degree to which business can be a huge engine for change.  And so Paul Polman, you’re from that world.  Can you talk a little bit – at Unilever – about how you go about making these kinds of business decisions and whether it is increasingly apparent in the business community that there is a real business case for these investments that put more money in the hands of women farmers, for example?

MR. POLMAN:  Yeah.  I’ll start – well, first of all, again, thanks for the opportunity as well to be here.  I’ll start with a confession.  To be honest, before I was on the panel, I really did not spend much time to look at it from an angle of women.  Now, I apologize for that, but then it became very apparent that when I looked at all the examples – I’m chairing right now a task force on the G-20 for food security, for example, leading up to the November meetings.  And the more examples I looked at, that – just the women kept popping up, and it was very, very clear that looking – not surprising, no? – looking at the programs that we are working with, that most of that is actually driven by women.

When we select things – to be honest, we are a 65 billion company; we buy agricultural materials, about 12 billion worth a year.  Fifteen percent of the world tea was our brand, Lipton, and some other things.  But it’s very clear when I called our people and I said, “Look at our tea plantations in Muvindi and – which is in your territory – or in Kericho in Kenya, the bulk of them are women.”  And then I said, “Are they more productive or not?  Because I have to be on the panel.”  (Laughter.)  And they are, so – (laughter) – so just to know.

The – and I was looking at the report we were writing for the food security, which goes to Sarkozy, and the U.S. Government has been actively involved in this as well, and getting the B-20, as we call it, the Business 20 input into the G-20.  And again, I’m ashamed to say we look at all the recommendations we make on increasing investments in agriculture, R&D, making it more sustainable, looking at nutrition as a driving factor, all the things that I’m sure you’re all well familiar with.  But again, we failed to look at it from the angle of women.

So one of the commitments I made this morning to someone – and I’ll make it here publicly – that I’ll take this report back home, and it cost me a few more hours, but we have to write it also from the angle of if we – with these statistics that the Secretary shared with us – if we could make that come alive, indeed it will go a long way to filling the gap of the 70 percent that we need in production to get to the 2050 targets.

The way we now – if I look at our programs, to be honest, from our company’s point of view, be it the small-hold farmer projects that we – that we’re having, originally a company like ours, with the volumes we need, you go to the world market, the ADMs, the Cargills, some of the origin markets, be it palm oil from Indonesia or Malaysia.  So that’s how you buy 80 percent, and otherwise, you simply cannot get the quantities you need.  But increasingly, it is important that we look at this a little bit differently and take core responsibility of some of the challenges that we’re facing on the same food, energy, water nexus that we’re talking about and going to tremendously more sustainable sourcing.

So we as a company have made a commitment to source all of our agriculturally based materials sustainably by 2020.   And that’s not an easy thing to do, and we will do that with small-hold farming.  And one of the reasons we’re sitting next to each other as a coincidence is not only finding it’s – we’re all on the same panel, but the green growth corridor in Tanzania, for example, is a wonderful example for us.  We currently work with about a million small-hold farmers.  We have made a public commitment to add another 500,000.  Again, not surprisingly, most of those will be women, and increasingly under an angle of the social, equitable, and sustainable elements of that.  And that is now becoming increasingly a part of our sourcing strategy.

MR. KRISTOF:  Kathy Spahn, one thing that I’ve learned from your organization, Helen Keller International, is that one of the keys of nutrition is not just calories, but is micronutrients.  And are we – I mean, have we become too focused on sort of quantities in trying to address this?  And do we kind of need to change the way we think about promoting nutrition and getting – and what women, indeed, need to focus on?

MS. SPAHN:  Well, first, I thank you for a question that is so near and dear to the lifeblood of Helen Keller International, but I also want to thank Secretary Clinton not only for convening this panel, but for ensuring there was a seat for civil society on the panel.  It’s very much appreciated.

And yes, we do need to take a broader view.  Calories are important.  They provide energy, but that’s not enough.  We need to ensure that foods are nutritious, and there’s a difference between food and nutrition.  You need to have food that has vitamins and minerals in it, what we call micronutrients.  A lot of staple crops that we’re talking about growing in larger quantities – maize, rice, cassava – they provide energy in their calories, but they are lacking in the micronutrients that are essential to meet the nutritional needs of very young children, and also to meet the nutritional needs of women of reproductive age.

Micronutrients like vitamin A, iron, zinc – they’re essential for physical and cognitive development.  They’re essential for the immune system to function properly.  So children who grow up deficient in those micronutrients can have really negative consequences in terms of their survival, in terms of health, in terms of growth, in terms of productivity.

Take vitamin A, which is at the core of our work, and it’s found in dark green, leafy vegetables; in orange fruits, the really good ones like mangoes and papayas; in egg yolks; in liver, vitamin A is essential to prevent blindness in young children, but it is also essential for child livelihood and child survival because vitamin A is necessary for immune system function.  So a child who gets calories that don’t have vitamin A in it is not going to be able to fight off common illnesses, whether they get a respiratory illness, they have diarrhea, a child who’s vitamin A deficient may die because their immune system can’t fight that off.  And in deference to the Secretary’s remark about the need for research and an evidence base, there is a solid evidence base about this.

Another key micronutrient that you’re all familiar with is iron.  Deficiencies in iron can result in reduced IQ in children, increased risk of maternal mortality, and decreased worker productivity from anemia.  And in times when food prices go up, what happens is that poorer families, to save money, buy the cheaper staple foods that are lacking in the micronutrients because micronutrient-rich foods – milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables – are much more expensive.  And this can have a horrible impact on growth and on health.

But there are solutions; I think that’s a key message.  There are solutions in supplementation with vitamin A, with zinc, with iron, but we also need to look, as we are today, at broader food base solutions.  So food fortification, wherein the processing of staple foods like cooking oil, you add vitamin A or in the milling of wheat flower, you add iron folate.  And then as we’ve been talking about, there is the agricultural aspect.  Homestead food production is a great example of community-based, women-centered, small-holder agriculture.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  If Kathy had her way, you would all come up and go away with a little pack of micronutrients or orange-flesh sweet potatoes or something as you left.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  And you’d be happy.  (Laughter.)

MR. KRISTOF:  Yeah.  And full of vitamin A.

Dr. Da Silva, you – in Brazil, you wrestled with and made extraordinary progress in these areas, but there must have been enormous cultural battles along the way when you did, indeed, put more emphasis in bringing women into the front.  So I wonder what lessons you can offer us from Brazil’s experience, from your effort there about how one can overcome these kind of cultural obstacles and how one avoids a backlash among men.

MR. DA SILVA:  Well, thank you for the question and thank you for an invitation, Secretary Clinton.  Yes, I would like to emphasize another – let’s say the other side of the coin – women’s not important for food production but also for food access and distribution.  This is the – perhaps the – in my opinion, the DNA of the mother.  The mother is who distributes the food in the house, especially (inaudible).  In Brazil, people that are hungry, they are hungry because they don’t have money to buy the food.  We have lots of food.  We are big exporters.  So the problem is how to access the food.  And what we did was to have a kind of cash transfer that’s more or less a Brazilian version of the food stamps.  In fact, I have spent six months in Santa Cruz, California searching for a good practice because this is another lesson.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do good things.  You just copy and adapt them.

And that’s exactly what we did.  We give to the mother a credit card – a visa credit card like that to buy food.  And why did we give her the money?  The reason that the president of Tanzania told us:  because when the man get the money from the market to the house, it disappears part of the money.  (Laughter.)  And money – mothers are sure that food first is not a slogan.  So we have been able to progress quickly in the (inaudible) and especially nutrition as we suffer from the (inaudible) in that sense.  There were resistance.  For sure there were resistance.  We – in the first moment, we made some legal consultation formally to the supreme court, and after we have been recommended to put in a law, now it’s a law in Brazil that the preference goes to the women.  So we have now around two million families receiving this kind of cash transfer, and 90, 95 percent goes to the mother.

How to avoid the resistance, involving civil society, especially organized civil society, but also the private sector.  From the beginning, from planning to implement the program and keep monitoring closely the program to – well, to find a way out of the problems.  It’s a big mistake if you try to make a pilot and then try to scale up.  As you said, this will incentivize immigration across the country from poorer areas to the cities, et cetera.  We try to do our best to do it quickly; not in a hurry, but quickly with participation of the organized society.  And it works.  And at the same time, it was very important to have the president directly involved, in fact.  This is an issue that the president should address directly his commitment, his self, to push the program.

And the whole idea of the Hunger Zero Program, let’s say the more important, is to improve local markets because when you have subsistence agriculture, poors live in poor areas, especially in rural areas.  Their – what they have is subsistence agriculture.  This is not enough to push local development.  So you have to, with the cash transfer, you give (inaudible) to improve local pushers power locally.  And you take this opportunity to implement structural programs like planting reform, like settlements, giving to the women the land rights, et cetera.  All of those things need to come together.  It’s false that you need urgency first and then structural change; you need to address both at the same time.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  At this point, we’d like to welcome Raj to join us and thank Secretary Clinton for joining us and for a really terrific engagement here.  (Applause.)
PRN: 2011/1535



The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


Posted 14 September 2011, by Frances Moore Lappé, The Nation,



Editor’s Note: Frances Moore Lappé’s essay below kicks off our forum on the food movement. Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan have contributed replies.

For years I’ve been asked, “Since you wrote Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, have things gotten better or worse?” Hoping I don’t sound glib, my response is always the same: “Both.”

As food growers, sellers and eaters, we’re moving in two directions at once.

The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years.

That’s one current. It’s antidemocratic and deadly.

There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.

Some Americans see the food movement as “nice” but peripheral—a middle-class preoccupation with farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthy school lunches. But no, I’ll argue here. It is at heart revolutionary, with some of the world’s poorest people in the lead, from Florida farmworkers to Indian villagers. It has the potential to transform not just the way we eat but the way we understand our world, including ourselves. And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.

The Work

In a farmworker camp in Ohio, a young mother sat on her bed. She was dying of cancer, but with no bitterness she asked me a simple question: “We provide people food—why don’t they respect our work?” That was 1984. She had no protection from pesticides, or even the right to safe drinking water in the field.

Twenty-five years later, in Immokalee, Florida, I walked through a grungy, sweltering 300-foot trailer, home to eight tomato pickers, but what struck me most was a sense of possibility in the workers themselves.

They are among the 4,000 mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, formed in 1993—more than two decades after Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers’ victorious five-year grape strike and national boycott. In the 1990s, CIW’s struggle over five years, including a 230-mile walk and hunger strike, achieved the first industrywide pay increase in twenty years. Still, it only brought real wages back to pre-1980 levels. So in 2001, CIW launched its Campaign for Fair Food. Dogged organizing forced four huge fast-food companies—McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Subway—to agree to pay a penny more per pound and adhere to a code of conduct protecting workers. Four large food-service providers, including Sodexo, were also brought on board. Beginning this fall, CIW will start implementing these changes at 90 percent of Florida tomato farms—improving the lives of 30,000 tomato pickers. Now the campaign is focused on supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s, Stop & Shop and Giant.

The Land

In Brazil, almost 400,000 farmworker families have not only found their voices but gained access to land, joining the roughly half-billion small farms worldwide that produce 70 percent of the world’s food.

Elsewhere, calls for more equitable access to land in recent decades have generally gone nowhere—despite evidence that smallholders are typically more productive and better resource guardians than big operators.

So what happened in Brazil?

With the end of dictatorship in 1984 came the birth of arguably the largest social movement in the hemisphere: the Landless Workers Movement, known by its Portuguese acronym MST. Less than 4 percent of Brazil’s landowners control about half the land, often gained illegally. MST’s goal is land reform, and in 1988 Brazil’s new Constitution gave the movement legal grounding: Article 5 states that “property shall fulfill its social function,” and Article 184 affirms the government’s power to “expropriate…for purposes of agrarian reform, rural property” that fails to meet this requirement. Well-organized occupations of unused land, under the cover of night, had been MST’s early tactic; after 1988 the same approach helped compel the government to uphold the Constitution.

Because of the courage of these landless workers, a million people are building new lives on roughly 35 million acres, creating several thousand farming communities with schools serving 150,000 kids, along with hundreds of cooperative and other enterprises.

Nevertheless, MST co-founder João Pedro Stédile said early this year that the global financial crisis has led “international capitalists” to try to “protect their funds” by investing in Brazilian “land and energy projects”—driving renewed land concentration.

And in the United States? The largest 9 percent of farms produce more than 60 percent of output. But small farmers still control more than half our farmland, and the growing market for healthy fresh food has helped smallholders grow: their numbers went up by 18,467 between 2002 and 2007. To support them, last winter the Community Food Security Coalition held community “listening sessions,” attended by 700 people, to sharpen citizen goals for the 2012 farm bill.

The Seed

Just as dramatic is the struggle for the seed. More than 1,000 independent seed companies were swallowed up by multinationals in the past four decades, so today just three—Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta—control about half the proprietary seed market worldwide.

Fueling the consolidation were three Supreme Court rulings since 1980—including one in 2002, with an opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas—making it possible to patent life forms, including seeds. And in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration released its policy on genetically modified organisms, claiming that “the agency is not aware of any information showing that [GMO] foods…differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”

The government’s green light fueled the rapid spread of GMOs and monopolies—so now most US corn and soybeans are GMO, with genes patented largely by one company: Monsanto. The FDA position helped make GMOs’ spread so invisible that most Americans still don’t believe they’ve ever eaten them—even though the grocery industry says they could be in 75 percent of processed food.

Even fewer Americans are aware that in 1999 attorney Steven Druker reported that in 40,000 pages of FDA files secured via a lawsuit, he found “memorandum after memorandum contain[ing] warnings about the unique hazards of genetically engineered food,” including the possibility that they could contain “unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergens.”

Yet at the same time, public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries and in the European Union they’ve helped pass mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it.

In Europe, the anti-GMO tipping point came in 1999. Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, expects that the same shift will happen here, as more Americans than ever actively oppose GMOs. This year the “non-GMO” label is the third-fastest-growing new health claim on food packaging. Smith is also encouraged that milk products produced with the genetically modified drug rBGH “have been kicked out of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Yoplait, Dannon, and most American dairies.”

Around the world, millions are saying no to seed patenting as well. In homes and village seed banks, small farmers and gardeners are saving, sharing and protecting tens of thousands of seed varieties.

In the United States, the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, estimates that since 1975 members have shared roughly a million samples of rare garden seeds.

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh—known as the pesticide capital of the world—a women-led village movement, the Deccan Development Society, puts seed-saving at the heart of its work. After the crushing failure of GMO cotton and ill health linked to pesticides, the movement has helped 125 villages convert to more nutritious, traditional crop mixes, feeding 50,000 people.

On a larger scale, Vandana Shiva’s organization, Navdanya, has helped to free 500,000 farmers from chemical dependency and to save indigenous seeds—the group’s learning and research center protects 3,000 varieties of rice, plus other crops.

In all these ways and more, the global food movement challenges a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solution to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called “industrial agriculture,” but a better description might be “productivist,” because it fixates on production, or “reductivist,” because it narrows our focus to a single element.

Its near obsession with the yield of a monoculture is anti-ecological. It not only pollutes, diminishes and disrupts nature; it misses ecology’s first lesson: relationships. Productivism isolates agriculture from its relational context—from its culture.

In 2008 a singular report helped crack the productivist frame. This report, “The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (known simply as IAASTD), explained that solutions to poverty, hunger and the climate crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping to balance the carbon cycle. Painstakingly developed over four years by 400 experts, the report has gained the support of more than fifty-nine governments, and even productivist strongholds like the World Bank.

IAASTD furthers an emerging understanding that agriculture can serve life only if it is regarded as a culture of healthy relationships, both in the field—among soil organisms, insects, animals, plants, water, sun—and in the human communities it supports: a vision lived by many indigenous people and captured in 1981 by Wendell Berry in The Gift of Good Land and twenty years later by Jules Pretty in Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature.

Across cultures, the global food movement is furthering agri-culture by uniting diverse actors and fostering democratic relationships. A leader is La Via Campesina, founded in 1993 when small farmers and rural laborers gathered from four continents in Belgium. Its goal is “food sovereignty”—a term carefully chosen to situate “those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations,” says the declaration closing the group’s 2007 global gathering in Nyeleni, Mali. La Via Campesina connects 150 local and national organizations, and 200 million small farmers, in seventy countries. In 2009 it was included among civil society players on the UN Committee on Food Security.

And in the urban North, how is the food movement enhancing agri-culture?

For sure, more and more Americans are getting their hands in the dirt—motivated increasingly by a desire to cut “food miles” and greenhouse gases. Roughly a third of American households (41 million) garden, up 14 percent in 2009 alone. As neighbors join neighbors, community gardens are blooming. From only a handful in 1970, there are 18,000 community gardens today. In Britain community gardens are in such demand—with 100,000 Brits on waiting lists for a plot—that the mayor of London promised 2,012 new ones by 2012.

And in 2009 the Slow Food movement, with 100,000 members in 153 countries, created 300 “eat-ins”—shared meals in public space—to launch its US “Time for Lunch” campaign, with a goal of delicious healthy school meals for the 31 million kids eating them every day.

An Economics of Agri-Culture

Agri-culture’s unity of healthy farming ecology and social ecology transforms the market itself: from the anonymous, amoral selling and buying within a market structured to concentrate power to a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

In 1965 British Oxfam created the first fair-trade organization, called Helping-by-Selling, in response to calls from poor countries for “trade, not aid.” Today more than 800 products are fair-trade certified, directly benefiting 6 million people. Last year the US fair-trade market passed $1.5 billion.

The Real Food Challenge, launched by young people in 2007, is working to jump-start a US swing to “real food”—defined as that respecting “human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.” Student teams are mobilizing to persuade campus decision-makers to commit themselves to making a minimum of
20 percent of their college or university food “real” by 2020. With more than 350 schools already on board, the Challenge founders have set an ambitious goal: to shift $1 billion to real food purchases in ten years.

Farmers’ markets, the direct exchange between farmer and eater, are also creating a fairer agri-culture. So rare before the mid-’90s that the USDA didn’t even bother to track them, more than 7,000 farmers’ markets dot the country in 2011, a more than fourfold increase in seventeen years.

Other democratic economic models are also gaining ground:

In 1985 an irrepressible Massachusetts farmer named Robyn Van En helped create the first US Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which eaters are no longer just purchasers but partners, helping to shoulder the farmer’s risk by prepaying for a share of the harvest before the planting season. On weekends, “my” CSA—Waltham Fields, near Boston—is alive as families pick and chat, and kids learn how to spot the yummiest strawberries. Now there are 2,500 CSAs across the country, while more than 12,500 farms informally use this prepay, partnership approach.

The cooperative model is spreading too, replacing one dollar, one vote—the corporate form—with one person, one vote. In the 1970s, US food cooperatives took off. Today there are 160 nationwide, and co-op veteran Annie Hoy in Ashland, Oregon, sees a new upsurge. Thirty-nine have just opened, or are “on their way right now,” she told me.

Funky storefronts of the 1970s, famous for limp organic carrots, have morphed into mouthwatering community hubs. Beginning as a food-buying club of fifteen families in 1953, Seattle’s PCC Natural Markets has nine stores and almost 46,000 members, making it the largest US food cooperative. Its sales more than doubled in a decade.

Producer co-ops have also made huge gains. In 1988 a handful of worried farmers, watching profits flow to middlemen, not to them, launched the Organic Valley Family of Farms. Today Organic Valley’s more than 1,600 farmer owners span thirty-two states, generating sales of more than $500 million in 2008.

The Rules

The global food system reflects societies’ rules—often uncodified—that determine who eats and how our earth fares. In the United States, rules increasingly reflect our nation’s slide into “privately held government.” But in rule-setting, too, energy is hardly unidirectional.

In 1999, on the streets of Seattle, 65,000 environmentalists, labor and other activists made history, blunting the antidemocratic agenda of the World Trade Organization. In 2008 more citizens than ever engaged in shaping the farm bill, resulting in rules encouraging organic production. The movement has also established 100 “food policy councils”—new local-to-state, multi-stakeholder coordinating bodies. And this year, eighty-three plaintiffs joined the Public Patent Foundation in suing Monsanto, challenging its GMO seeds’ “usefulness” (required for patenting) as well as the company’s right to patent seeds to begin with.

Even small changes in the rules can create huge possibilities. Consider, for example, the ripples from a 2009 Brazilian law requiring at least 30 percent of school meals to consist of food from local family farms.

Rules governing rights are the human community’s foundational guarantees to one another—and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave access to food that status. Since then, nearly two dozen nations have planted the right to food in their constitutions. If you wonder whether it matters, note that when Brazil undertook a multifaceted “zero hunger” campaign, framing food as a right, the country slashed its infant death rate by about a third in seven years.

Food Power: Only Connect

This rising global food movement taps universal human sensibilities—expressed in Hindu farmers in India saving seeds, Muslim farmers in Niger turning back the desert and Christian farmers in the United States practicing biblically inspired Creation Care. In these movements lies the revolutionary power of the food movement: its capacity to upend a life-destroying belief system that has brought us power-concentrating corporatism.

Corporatism, after all, depends on our belief in the fairy tale that market “magic” (Ronald Reagan’s unforgettable term) works on its own without us.

Food can break that spell. For the food movement’s power is that it can shift our sense of self: from passive, disconnected consumers in a magical market to active, richly connected co-producers in societies we are creating—as share owners in a CSA farm or purchasers of fair-trade products or actors in public life shaping the next farm bill.

The food movement’s power is connection itself. Corporatism distances us from one another, from the earth—and even from our own bodies, tricking them to crave that which destroys them—while the food movement celebrates our reconnection. Years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, CSA farmer Barb Perkins told me about her most rewarding moments: “Like in town yesterday,” she said, “I saw this little kid, wide-eyed, grab his mom’s arm and point at me. ‘Mommy,’ he said. ‘Look. There’s our farmer!’”

At its best, this movement encourages us to “think like an ecosystem,” enabling us to see a place for ourselves connected to all others, for in ecological systems “there are no parts, only participants,” German physicist Hans Peter Duerr reminds us. With an “eco-mind” we can see through the productivist fixation that inexorably concentrates power, generating scarcity for some, no matter how much we produce. We’re freed from the premise of lack and the fear it feeds. Aligning food and farming with nature’s genius, we realize there’s more than enough for all.

As the food movement stirs, as well as meets, deep human needs for connection, power and fairness, let’s shed any notion that it’s simply “nice” and seize its true potential to break the spell of our disempowerment.

Nation Contributors Reply:
Raj Patel, “Why Hunger Is Still With Us
Vandana Shiva, “Resisting the Corporate Theft of Seeds
Eric Schlosser, “It’s Not Just About Food
Michael Pollan, “How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System


About the Author

Frances Moore Lappé
Frances Moore Lappé just released EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want (Nation Books)…

Also by The Author

The article offers a discussion about world hunger and wealth distribution. It is argued that calls for the end of hunger fail to challenge the systems that prevent solutions. Hunger has grown 43 percent in five years in the United States. More hungry people live in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Hunger is caused by an economic system that is driven by the rule: highest return to existing wealth. Because of this system, economic inequality is worsening in most of the world.

Focuses on the status of ownership of Industry in Sweden as of February 1983. Name of the trade union which is lobbying for the passage of the ownership of industry in the hands of the workers; Type of proposal given by the workers’ organization, Social Democratic Party to industrialists in exchange of the ownership of Swedish industry; Way in which the workers would get controlling interests in Sweden’s major companies.


I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’


I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

George Petty who blazed a new wildflower trail soon to open in Jonathan's Woods. He ID'd all the wildflowers and which needed to be planted and he'll be leading wildflower hikes there. He also writes poetry about wildflowers. George is 82 and used to go on scout trips in Jonathan's Woods as a boy. (note: wildflowers were not in bloom)_BOB KARP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Staff Photo/staff photo


Posted 14 September 2011, by George Petty, The Daily Record (Gannett),



I believe the beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows, those quiet green sanctuaries where we can recover ourselves without having to buy gas or turn on a light.

Scientists tell us that even in land that has been farmed, logged, lived on, or burned over, the seeds of old native wildflowers, shrubs and trees lie buried, waiting for the trouble to pass so they can grow again. Even if science didn’t think so, I’d believe it.

Mostly because I’ve seen it happen.

Twenty-five years ago a group of my neighbors in Denville banded together to prevent developers from building condominiums in the forest around Bald Hill. They called their group POWWW, Preserve Our Wetlands, Water and Woods. Today, after a long patient struggle, 650 acres of the Beaver Brook watershed have become Morris County’s newest forest park, Jonathan’s Woods, named for Denville’s last native American.

I roamed these woods when I was a youngster. I loved the freedom to delay and discover. Flowers, trees and animals were my companions, and I could drink safely from cool woodland springs and brooks. But every year new houses consumed the edge of the forest, detergent chemicals bubbled through the water, and one by one the flowers decided not to risk the air.

The preservation of Jonathan’s Woods has given me another chance, right here near my back door. In the very same curve of the brook where I walked with my high school sweetheart, I am building a wildflower trail. With the help of friends in POWWW, we cut and drag away blowdowns, and pull out invasive species. We buy plants from specialized growers, who propagate them from wild seeds. We believe we can encourage our own seeds, that have survived under the leaves during history’s turmoil, and are waiting there for the chance to bloom again.

It’s not that we think the past was somehow more noble than we are. We know the early settlers struggled for survival, for wealth, for influence; they fought over land, a few owned slaves, in hard times they sold their woodlands to loggers.

But it inspires awe to see physical evidence in the woods of what they accomplished with hand tools and animal power; long stone fences to contain cattle, a test shaft dug in hard bedrock for iron ore, wagon roads over steep rocky hills, large old trees that once stood alone in an open field now surrounded by younger growth. Their lives were hard, and usually short; they cultivated simple homespun pleasures. We feel how easier and more convenient, how longer, safer and healthier are our gas and electric powered lives, all covered by medical and hazard insurance.

And yet we are so much the same; our heart beats, our breaths, our hungers and ambitions. When we walk through the quiet woods, the soft sounds of the rustling leaves are what those early settlers heard in the twilight of their day, whispering of our common humanity.

George Petty of Denville has been an insurance underwriter, airplane mechanic, airline flight engineer, union president, newspaper reporter, college teacher, tennis coach and a racing sailor. He is also the author of ‘Hiking the Jersey Highlands,’ published by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.Through his varied career he has always thought of himself as a poet, even when the world required him to appear otherwise. His poems have been prize-winners in national contests and have been aired on National Public Radio, appearing in Water-Stone, Two-Rivers Review and “Boulder Field,” a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, 2004.His work has taken him all over the world, but he has always come back to Denville, where he lives and writes today.


The Fringed Gentian

Walking into the October woods I look
for the fringed gentian my grandfather loved
by the spring the years have covered over,
though I remember where it was. My wistful
mother said they survive even frost, blood blue
against the dead brown in high hidden meadows,
where she and my father tramped so painfully
toward their griefs, taking almost a century to leave me,
a grizzled child searching for a small joy in the leaves.
But, of course, it’s not there, wasn’t last year either,
though my cousin says he saw one near the swamp,
the seeds are tiny and easily wash that way;
and I push through thickets and blow-downs,
relishing the knocks and scratches, the stiffening gusts
and the crackle of coming frost that remind me I’m alive,
till standing in the muck, the cool fire of age
creeping slowly over my ankles, my fingers numb
like leaves dying back from the edges,
I believe my cousin never saw a gentian here,
and only I care that it might – must – have ever been.
It’s not that I doubt there is one in these woods,
but that I know surely there is not,
and every year, following the old steps, I try to find it.
— George Petty



Resisting the Corporate Theft of Seeds

Resisting the Corporate Theft of Seeds


Posted 15 September 2011, by Vandana Shiva, The Nation,

Editor’s Note: This piece is one in a series of replies to Frances Moore Lappé’s essay on the food movement today.

We are in a food emergency. Speculation and diversion of food to biofuel has contributed to an uncontrolled price rise, adding more to the billion already denied their right to food. Industrial agriculture is pushing species to extinction through the use of toxic chemicals that kill our bees and butterflies, our earthworms and soil organisms that create soil fertility. Plant and animal varieties are disappearing as monocultures displace biodiversity. Industrial, globalized agriculture is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases, which then destabilize agriculture by causing climate chaos, creating new threats to food security.

But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto.

I started Navdanya in 1987 to address the challenge of GM seeds, seed patents and seed monopolies.

We have been successful in reclaiming seed sovereignty and creating sixty community seed banks to reclaim seed as a commons. We have proven that biodiverse ecological agriculture produces more food and nutrition per acre than monocultures, while reducing costs to the planet and to farmers.

But our efforts are like a little lamp in a very dark room. We keep the lamp of possibilities and alternatives burning. The food emergency, however, calls for a much wider response.

The food movement must become more integrated, from seed to table, from village to city, from South to North. We need to be stronger in challenging the corporate control of our food system and the role of governments in increasing, rather than stopping, the corporate abuse of our seeds and soils, our bodies and our health. Michelle Obama has an organic garden at the White House, but the Obama administration is embracing GMOs in the United States and around the world. The US-India agriculture agreement—signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh in 2005, at the same time as the signing of the US-India nuclear deal—has on its board representatives from Monsanto, ADM and Walmart. The hijacking of our food systems is the hijacking of our democracy.

That is why we have to make food democracy the core of the defense of our freedom and survival. We will either have food dictatorship for a while and then a collapse of our food systems and our societies, or we will succeed in building robust food democracies, resting on resilient ecosystems and resilient communities. There is still a chance for the second alternative.

Read the other responses in the forum:
Raj Patel, “Why Hunger Is Still With Us
Eric Schlosser, “It’s Not Just About Food
Michael Pollan, “How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System

About the Author

Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva, originally a physicist, founded Navdanya in 1987. Among her books are Stolen Harvest and Soil Not Oil….

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