Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future

Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future


Posted 07 September 2011, by Sudeshna Sarkar, Inter Press Service (IPS),



KATHMANDU, Sep 7, 2011 (IPS) – Learning a lesson from crop failures attributed to climate change, Nepal’s women farmers are discarding imported hybrid seeds and husbanding hardier local varieties in cooperative seed banks.

“I had a crop failure two years ago,” says Shobha Devkota, 32, from Jibjibe village in Rasuwa, a hilly district in central Nepal which is part of the Langtang National Park, a protected area encompassing two more districts, Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk.

“The maize was attacked by pests, the paddy had no grain and the soil grew hard. I had a tough time trying to feed my three daughters and sending them to school.”

Since her marriage 17 years ago, Shobha had been sharing farming chores with her husband Ram Krishna. However, when he left for Dubai four years ago to work as a security guard, farming became her responsibility entirely.

Though she has never been to school and can only scrawl her name, Shobha and other women in the village who share similar backgrounds, are keenly aware of changing climate and its adverse impact on livelihoods.

“Daytime temperatures are rising, rainfall has become erratic and there are frequent landslides and hailstorms,” she says.

In 2007, when World Wildlife Fund-Nepal (WWF-Nepal) launched its Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone Support Project to conserve biodiversity and enhance livelihood opportunities by integrated management of land, forest and water resources, it commissioned a study on the impact of climate changes in Rasuwa.

The study by Resource Identification and Management Society-Nepal, after consultations with villagers and analysing data from 1978 to 2007, came up with alarming findings: There was an increase in seasonal, yearly and monthly temperatures in summer and monsoon while winter temperatures were decreasing.

Even more critically for agriculture, the average annual rainfall distribution showed a decreasing trend of nearly one mm per year.

The changes were believed to have led to frequent landslides, droughts, hailstones, and windstorms. In addition, there were frequent outbreaks of diseases like jaundice, typhoid and diarrhea.

Agriculture, the mainstay of the district, was hit by loss of arable land due to landslides, pests and crop diseases.

When WWF-Nepal started consultations with villagers on how to protect water resources and crops, the women pointed out that the indigenous seeds they had used in the past were better suited to the changing weather conditions.

“The local seeds we used could withstand both excessive rain and drought,” says Chandrakumari Paneru, a 27-year-old female farmer from Bhorle village and a university degree holder in a district where almost 60 percent of the population can only sign their names.

“But we had to use hybrid seeds imported from India as local stocks were decreasing. The hybrid seeds produced a good crop one year, but the next year they would prove sterile. It led to farmers using more chemical fertilisers and the soil turned hard while health hazards increased.”

Paneru is also a member of the Mahalaxmi Women’s Savings and Loan Cooperative. In a village that has no banks, it collects small sums of money from its 200-odd members to create a modest fund that can provide loans in times of need.

“As we were running our own cooperative, we felt we could do something more on our own,” says Paneru. “So we asked WWF-Nepal to help us set up a community seed bank.”

In 2010, Paneru and another member of the cooperative, Ambika Poudel, went to visit three community seed banks in the far western districts of Bardiya and Kailali to see how they worked.

Encouraged by the seed bank they saw at Masuria in Kailali district, also run by women, they established the Bhorle Community Seed Bank, the first of its kind in Rasuwa, with Nepali rupees 80,000 (about 1,084 dollars) provided by WWF-Nepal.

Operating from a room in a one-storey building, the seed bank today stocks 68 varieties of seeds, including grains like rice, maize and millets, and vegetables like tomato, green chilli, cauliflower and cabbage. The women’s cooperative runs from the adjacent room.

Members of the bank can take loans of one to two kg of seeds and have to repay twice the amount within six months.

This year, the seed bank put up a stall at an organic biodiversity fair to explain how local seeds meant better insurance against weather swings and how the bank operated.

Unknown to the women of Rasuwa, the government of Nepal has been following their example. The department of agriculture has established community seed banks in three more districts: Sindhuli, Sindhupalchowk and Dadeldhura.

“In 2009-2010, there was a severe maize crop failure in two districts in southern Nepal, Bara and Parsa, that imported about 30 percent of their seeds from India,” says Dilaram Bhandari, chief of the seed quality control centre in the agriculture department.

“The seed banks were started to boost the replacement of quality local seeds as well as preserve biodiversity,” Bhandari explained.

While women comprise more than 50 percent of Nepal’s nearly 29 million population, in many districts their numbers are higher due to outmigration of men in search of jobs. That has led to nearly 40 percent of farming now being done by women, according to Bhandari.

In the seed banks and other cooperatives run by the government, the state policy is to ensure at least 33 percent participation by women.

“We chose Rasuwa because it is much more vulnerable to climate change, being both a mountain community and a poor district,” says Moon Shrestha, senior climate change adaptation officer at WWF- Nepal. “We had to also keep in mind the capacity of the community to adapt to the changes.

“Today, the Bhorle Community Seed Bank is not just a pilot project it is a demonstration site as well.”


Related IPS Articles

 Trekking Trails Lead Nepal Women to Empowerment
 BANGLADESH: Tribal Women Take on Forest Ranger Roles
 NEPAL: Adapting to Climate Change Can be Simple
 INDIA: ‘Seed-Mothers’ Confront Climate Insecurity
 Gender Indicators for Global Climate Funds Still an Afterthought

Related Topics

  World at Work
  Civil Society: the New Superpower
  Women in the News – The Gender Wire
  Earth Alert: Confronting Climate Change
  Nepal: Revolution to Reform
  Developing Countries Coping With Climate Change
  LDCs: Least Developed, Most to Gain


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for a photograph associated with this article.)

Liberian Women Lead a Revolution in Agriculture

Liberian Women Lead a Revolution in Agriculture

Ambassador Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Representative to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome.


Posted 24 August 2011, by Ertharin Cousin, DipNote (United States Department of State),


As we continue to respond to the heartbreaking crisis in the Horn of Africa, it’s important to keep in mind that we are able to apply some lessons learned from our long term commitment to relief and development work elsewhere in Africa. The key, it seems to me, is to respond to the disaster while also building long term solutions to broader issues. Just before I visited refugee camps along the Somalia border last week, I traveled to Liberia to look into some of our longer term programs there. It was quite an amazing visit.

I was able to view firsthand the synergies between World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programs there — programs which aim to improve the food security of Liberians as well as the Ivorian refugee populations they generously host.

Liberia has always had a special place in my heart, not only because of the American history we share, but particularly because of its future promise and potential. Liberia has just been approved as a priority country under President Obama’s flagship global hunger and food security initiative — Feed the Future — through which the United States promotes a twin-track approach to hunger: by providing emergency food assistance while simultaneously supporting efforts toward sustainable agricultural development.

The WFP and FAO programs being implemented in conjunction with the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and other partners are key in this effort, and support President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment to progress. They also ensure that the needs of refugees fleeing conflict from neighboring Ivory Coast are being met.

Our first stop was at Arjay Farms in Kingsville, Careysburg District, which is a prime example of a successful private and public partnership. Here we met two incredible women. One was Minister of Agriculture Florence Chenoweth and the other was Josephine Francis, the owner of Arjay Farms, and the president of a 2,300 strong farmers association that employs more than 50 women. Thanks to Josephine Francis, the association was awarded a grant from the Gates Foundation to carry out seed multiplication with 39 farms.

Minister Chenoweth and Jospehine Francis are the epitome of the industrious, multi-tasking, multi-talented women of Liberia.

The U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to whom I am most grateful for the truly valuable insight she provided throughout the whole visit, and I joined Minister Chenoweth and Josephine, who were working hand-in-hand in the rice paddy with local farmers harvesting an abundant rice crop. In January 2011, Liberia declared itself rice seed sufficient thanks to the assistance of the United States and FAO, which have, since 2006, provided both input and technical support for Liberia to begin rice seed multiplication.

We then traveled to Gbedine where we made a stop at the new Center for Rice Research Institute to view the new offices of WFP, FAO, and the Ministry of Agriculture. It is an example of a country-led plan working closely with the national government — something we strongly support. We also visited Purchase for Progress (P4P) and Livelihood Asset Recovery sites jointly run by WFP and FAO.

P4P aims to create market opportunities for organized farmers’ groups by using a value chain approach. While there, we followed the entire supply chain process, from rice transplanting, to harvest and post-harvest processing — including parboiling. We spoke to some of the 250 men and 125 women who make up the Dokodan Farmers Cooperative. It is one of two cooperatives awarded P4P contracts, thanks to which they were able to receive training in rice processing and packaging, and purchase the two power tillers they proudly showed us.

I am excited to see the positive changes we can bring smallholder famers under P4P, such as seed multiplication, and improved milling and processing. I am also proud to see an increased number of women doing post-harvest processing.

At and around Bahn refugee camp, which houses thousands of refugees from the Ivory Coast, we met with Liberian hosts and refugees working hand-in-hand in their villages to improve their food security. We felt the strong sense of community whereby Liberian families are paying back the Ivoirian families who hosted them during Liberia’s many years of unrest. One Liberian man told us he was hosted by his Ivorian family for nine years, and therefore felt obligated to do the same for as long as his Ivorian relatives needed. And because many of the refugee families I spoke to said they are staying put in Liberia until the situation in the Ivory Coast is stabilized, it is imperative that the programs FAO implements in conjunction WFP build resilience. At and around Bahn Refugee Camp in Nimba County we saw examples of agricultural inputs given to both refugees and host families that produced lush rice plots as well as vegetable gardens aimed at diversifying and supplementing the general food aid diet as well as generating some income to restore lost livelihoods.

Our last visit was to the USAID/Food for Peace-funded LAUNCH (Liberian Agricultural Upgrading, Nutrition and Child Health) project run by ACDI-VOCA. Education is the cornerstone of stability for a country’s economic development. At the health and nutrition site, we learned that most of the women and girls present, members of a project Care Group, averaged between the 6th and 8th grade. The young pregnant or lactating girls and women who participate in this program are being trained on the importance of proper breastfeeding and child birth spacing, and other health and nutrition topics.

Finally, I want to congratulate Liberia for receiving a $46.5 million grant from the World Bank and Minister Chenoweth for being awarded the African Prize from the President of Malawi for her work in fighting hunger.

My visit to Liberia was crowned by my private meeting with its formidable President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. What an honor.

In Liberia, as in Somalia and throughout the region, we are combining immediate relief with longer term solutions. It isn’t easy, it is never perfect, but based on what I saw on each step of my trip, we are definitely headed in the right direction and tapping into some very powerful and productive best practices.


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Monsanto and the Mortal Danger to Traditional Agriculture


Monsanto and the Mortal Danger to Traditional Agriculture


Posted 21 August 2011, by Siv O’Neall, OpEdNews,


The greatest threat to the future of food production in the world is the introduction of genetically engineered foods from the bio-tech industry. Contrary to their mendacious propagandized promises of solving the problem of world hunger through the so-called second green revolution, the bio-tech companies are instead in the process of destroying the world’s ecosystems, and thus the natural food chains and life cycles. Their goal is certainly not to solve any problem at all, but instead to fill the corporate coffers with the profits from selling their dangerous products to countries with already high mortality rates from malnutrition and starvation.

Despite its growing economy, India is still a country with enormous poverty. What is happening in India is the most visible example of what is going on in the poor countries all over the world. Giving the green light for genetically modified (GM) products, which have caused medical and financial disasters for poor farmers, is outrageous and a positive danger to Indian agriculture in general.

The farmers are lured by the promise of easy loans and increased yields to buy genetically engineered, patented seeds. They subsequently find out that they also need pesticides, chemical fertilizers and weed killers (Round-up and other ecologically damaging products). Added to the toxic and destructive nature of these products is the fact that the seeds are not suitable for non-irrigated fields, which means for most agricultural fields in India and in poverty-stricken countries all over the planet.

The Revolving Doors  

Monsanto is in the lead of these bio-tech companies, coddled by the governments in both India and the United States simply because of deep-seated corruption – the policy of the “revolving doors’ being one of the major ways these companies get favorable treatment in India as well as in the united States. People like Michael Taylor, recently appointed by Barack Obama to become the senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA, the US food safety czar, go through the swinging doors from top positions at the Monsanto headquarters to positions at the FDA and back again.

The FDA is of course supposed to look after the safety of foods produced and sold in the U.S. Michael Taylor is the person who facilitated the introduction of GM products on the U.S. market because of his close links both to Monsanto and to the FDA. [1] His corrupt dealings will have the most serious consequences on the health and economic well-being of people everywhere.[2] Even though the EU is not so easily sold on GM products, the false promises and heavy-hammer advertising by the bio-tech companies have succeeded in these products slowly making inroads in Europe too. There are, however, strong movements afoot to keep Europe free of GM products.

Labeling of GM foods

In Europe, supermarkets are filled with foods labeled as “non-GMO’ or “raised without GMO’, whereas in the U.S.A. some states have fought hard to achieve that right and the bio-tech companies are still scheming to ban, for instance, the labeling of milk as non rBGH (= recombinant bovine growth hormones, manufactured by Monsanto ).

This genetically engineered hormone, injected into the cows every other week, forces the cows to produce more milk than their bodies normally would. It has been proven, however, that this milk contains more pus, antibiotics residues and a cancer-accelerating hormone called IGF-1.

From “Bovine Growth Hormone Milk does nobody good…

“Whenever cows are forced to produce more milk, they become more susceptible to udder infections called mastitis. Mastitis is a condition which can increase the amount of cow’s pus which ends up in the milk. Monsanto’s own data shows that there is a 79% increase in mastitis (udder infections) and a resulting 19% increase in somatic cell counts (pus & bacteria in the milk).”

The United States is the only developed nation to permit humans to drink milk from cows given artificial growth hormone.

From NaturalNews :

“The official U.S. position on genetically-modified organisms, also known as GMs or GMOs, is that there is no difference between them and natural organisms. Crafted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the position set forth to the Codex Alimentarius Committee on the issue goes even further to suggest that no country should be able to require mandatory GMO labeling on food items, even though science shows that GMOs act differently in the body than do natural organisms and are a threat to health.”
Lack of information on GMOs  

Information on health hazards by genetically modified products as well as damages done to ecosystems is totally unsatisfactory. The highly toxic bio-tech products cause the destruction of the soil, kill insects necessary for traditional farming and for the ecosystems and also make weeds resistant to weed killers and pesticides. The entire food chain, ecosystems and life cycles for animals are destroyed. Added to the destructive effects of these toxic products is also the fact that essential biodiversity is sacrificed to the immediate profit of giant industrial mono-cultures which impoverish the soil and in the end ruin it.

Due to insufficient information, the mass media of course also being silent concerning the truth about GM products, people just don’t know what they are buying when they see the tempting and misleading labels on GM food products.

Another crucial problem, economic and ecological  

The Monsanto “Terminator seeds’ are, according to the Monsanto patent, not to be used for the following year’s crop.   Farmers are not allowed to replant the seeds from one year’s crop for the following year. If they violate this outrageous law, they are sued by Monsanto. Thus the thousands-year-old tradition of saving seeds and protecting biodiversity would be lost were it not for extremely important efforts underway, mainly in India by Dr. Vandana Shiva* and her organization Navdanya. Had it not been for these biodiversity-saving efforts, traditional farming methods might be doomed.

The GMO scandals in India  

The introduction of genetically engineered cotton seeds (Bt cotton) in India has led to an outbreak of farmer suicides in several states all over India. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have been hit the most drastically, but many other states such as Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, etc. have seen suicide rates rising since 1997. According to Vandana Shiva* and other reliable sources, 200,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997.  (200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide since 1997: BBC)

The fight in India now concerns the possible introduction of Bt brinjal, (eggplant). On October 14, 2009 an Indian governmental agency, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), gave its approval for the environmental release of Bt brinjal. This agency is part of the Environment Ministry.

Faced with the extraordinary public opposition to Bt brinjal, the Minister of the Environment, Jairam Ramesh, withdrew his support for the introduction of genetically modified brinjal.  

“Update: On 9 February 2010, in response to the widespread concern expressed by the public and some scientists, Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forests, announced an indefinite moratorium on the release of Bt-brinjal.

“Groups are lobbying strongly to force the Indian government to reverse its decision permanently. According to G. Nammalvar from Vanagam, a non-profit-making organisation in Tamil Nadu that campaigns in favour of ecological farming, “there is no necessity for the introduction of a Bt brinjal in India, which holds the merit of having huge biodiversity. We have 2,500 traditional brinjal varieties in India. Every community is used to consuming a particular variety, i.e. locally produced. Introduction of Bt brinjal with false claims for its advantages will contaminate the local varieties and erode the biodiversity of the vegetable that is consumed by millions.” He says that environmental activists, women’s collectives, consumers’ movements, farmers’ associations and traders’ associations would join together to resist the introduction of Bt brinjal in Tamil Nadu.

His voice of protest has been echoed across the country. On 7 November 2009 a conference on genetic engineering, farming and food, held in Mysore, called on the state government to declare Karnataka a GM-free region. “We do not want GM crops which can prove apocalyptic for mankind”, declared the conference statement. “Let us say never to Bt brinjal.”” (“Indian farmers organise to stop Bt brinjal‘)

* Dr. Vandana Shiva is a former nuclear physicist, a philosopher, environmental activist, and eco feminist. She has founded an organization, Navdanya, with organic farms all over India. If there is anybody in the world who might possibly succeed in the now worldwide fight against genetically modified agricultural products, it will no doubt be Vandana Shiva. She has written over twenty books, she lectures, she is interviewed, she travels all over the world to inform people of the deadly dangers of GM cultures and foods. She is a figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement, or counter-globalization movement, which is critical of the globalization of corporate capitalism.

“Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” — for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds. In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed.

“Navdanya has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country.” (Navdanya)

Further background on this issue:Monsanto accused of “biopiracy” by India‘ by Julien Bouissou (Le Monde) – translation by Siv O’Neall
and also:The Great Seed Robbery‘ by Vandana Shiva

[1] Largely between 1997 and 1999, genetically modified (GM)  food ingredients suddenly appeared in 2/3rds of all US processed foods. This food alteration was fueled by a single Supreme Court ruling. It allowed, for the first time, the patenting of life forms for commercialization. ( RAW-WISDOM)

[2] FIFTY HARMFUL EFFECTS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) FOODS   1. Recorded Deaths from GM; 2. Near-deaths and Food Allergy Reactions; 3. Direct Cancer and Degenerative Disease Links ( RAW-WISDOM )


Siv O’Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y. and traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Europe, and other continents, including several trips to India. (more…)

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Global Land Grab

Global Land Grab

Fear of unrest and hunger for profit are sparking massive acquisitions of farmland.

As China and others jockey for land and power, the weight of shifting empires and changing climate is threatening to crush international cooperation on ending hunger.

Posted 22 August 2011, by Terry J. Allen, in These Times,

An Egyptian demands a higher minimum wage in Cairo on May 2, 2010. In the seven months leading up to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in February, the trading price of wheat more than doubled, as nearly two dozen countries restricted food exports and choked global food supplies. (Photo by Khalee Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

A 21st-century land rush is on. Driven by fear and lured by promises of high profits, foreign investors are scooping up vast tracts of farmland in some of the world’s hungriest countries to grow crops for export.

As the climate changes and populations shift and grow, billions of people around the globe face shortages of land and water, rising food prices and increasing hunger. Alarm over a future without affordable food and water is sparking unrest in a world already tinder-dried by repression and recession, corruption and mismanagement, boundary disputes and ancient feuds, ethnic tension and religious fundamentalism.

World leaders feel the heat. Calling food security concerns “extremely significant,” a 2009 U.N. report noted, “The acquisition of land internationally is one possible strategic choice to address the challenge.”

Fortunately for nervous rulers, the strategy of growing food abroad as shelter against the fires of revolution dovetails nicely with the goals of private and public capital. Governments drawing on sovereign wealth funds, and rich investors accessing state subsidies, have negotiated deals to acquire tens of millions of acres of farmland in Africa, South America and South Asia. When they export the food to their home countries, the valuable water used to grow the crops will ride along as a free bonus.

The largest investors in foreign croplands hail from China, India and South Korea, along with Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states. What these countries have in common is that all were shaken financially or politically by the 2007-08 food crisis. And all lack sufficient land or water to ensure that they can feed their populations in the coming years—especially if, as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns, climate change continues to “exacerbate land degradation and water scarcity in many places, and to increase the frequency of extreme weather events affecting harvests.”

Raw dealing

Available for chump change and unsecured promises, land around the world is changing hands at a rate unprecedented since the Colonial Era, when white men applied the ink of nationalism and greed to redraw maps of Africa, Asia and the New World. Seated at polished tables in Europe, they deployed merchants, missionaries and armies to lay claim to cultures and continents—and to the human, agricultural and mineral resources they held.

The “new colonialism” is less like a crusade and more like an ordinary business transaction floated on a promise of “win-win.” The deal-makers include international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds and commodity traders, as well as pension funds, foundations and individuals attracted by the lure of cheap land and high profits. Even universities, including Harvard and Vanderbilt, are getting into the act, according to an extensive report by the Oakland Institute, a progressive policy think tank.

Most of the land deals occur in the private sector, “though often with strong financial and other support from government, and significant levels of government-owned investments,” according to the FAO. Conforming to this pattern and awash in oil income, the Saudi “government earmarked $5 billion to provide loans at preferential rates to Saudi companies to invest in countries with strong agricultural potential,” writes Mae-Wan Ho of the U.K.-based Institute of Science in Society, including large swaths of Indonesia and Thailand for rice, and possibly 6,000 acres for wheat in war-ravaged Sudan.

The investors are negotiating land transfers all the way from the top, with heads of states, down to tribal chiefs and impoverished landowners. Water rights, tax breaks and waivers on labor and environmental standards often sweeten the deals.

When they cannot buy land outright at prices ranging from cheap (a few dollars an acre) to stolen (“You get a bottle of Johnnie Walker, kneel down, clap three times, and make your offer of Johnnie Walker whiskey,” in one transaction reported by the Oakland Institute), investors lease vast tracts for as long as 99 years and for as little as 40 cents per acre per year.

According to the U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), some 2 billion people in the developing world depend on 500 million smallholder farms for their livelihoods. In Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, these small farmers produce about 80 percent of the food that local people consume.

But with spectacular speed, patchworks of plots that used to support local populations through subsistence farming and grazing are being amalgamated into massive industrial plantations. In Awassa, Ethiopia, a “plastic and steel structure already stretches over 50 acres—the size of 20 soccer fields,” writes John Vidal in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian.

With a 99-year lease for 2,500 acres, the developer, Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, has brought in Spanish engineers and Dutch water technology, and hired 1,000 women to pick and pack 50 tons of food a day, writes Vidal. “Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.”

Unappeased hunger

Since long before the days of Roman bread-and-circus politics, leaders have feared the threat of hungry masses. Some have even felt their pain: “[D]uring the last major rise in food prices in 2007 and 2008, [the consequences] were grave,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a May FAO gathering in Rome. “For hundreds of millions of people, the staples of life, like rice, wheat or corn, were suddenly out of reach. People who were already vulnerable fell into an even greater danger zone.” But her next sentence made clear that humanitarian concerns were not the only motivation for establishing food security. “Anger and frustration over food prices sparked riots in dozens of countries,” she said.

The years 2007 and 2008 marked a turning point for both environmental consciousness and food insecurity. Before then, agricultural land had expanded by less than 10 million acres a year. But with the pile up of evidence for global warming, no one but the ideologically blinkered could see extensive droughts and other weather-related catastrophes as flukes. Sharply diminished yields triggered exporting countries to ban or curb grain sales, pushed prices up and helped trigger a series of riots that shook dozens of countries. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned in 2008 that “33 countries around the world face potential social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices.”

By 2009, deals were being struck for 111 million acres, with 75 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a World Bank report. A year later, the bank upped the total to nearly 140 million acres.

These “land grabs,” says Lester Brown, encompass “an area that exceeds the croplands devoted to corn and wheat combined in the United States.” Brown, winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the 1987 U.N. Environment Prize, is the founder of the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute.

Then, as if out of nowhere, the Arab Spring struck this year. Longstanding un- and underemployment and repression were key triggers, but as the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies noted, a “proximate factor behind the unrest was a spike in global food crises, which in turn was due in part to the extreme weather throughout the globe over the past year.” The Pentagon’s U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review called climate change a “threat multiplier.”

In the seven months before Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was driven from power in February, the trading price of wheat had more than doubled. In August 2010, faced with droughts and wildfires, Russia had prioritized its own populations and restricted most grain exports, ensuring that prices would skyrocket. The choked supply line seriously impacted Egypt, which imports more than half its food.

By early 2011, some 21 countries had imposed export control measures including limits and outright bans on the foreign sale of particular crops.

Saudi jitters

Saudi Arabia had a ringside seat as the Arab Spring spread across the region. The House of Saud understood that national (i.e., their own) security rests on its ability to buy the quiescence, if not loyalty, of its citizens with affordable food and social welfare programs that make Sweden look like Tea Party paradise.

The sheiks had been watching the writing in the sand since the 1970s, when, after the Arab oil-export embargo, they realized their vulnerability: Just as the West was dependent on them for oil, they were dependent on others for food. The prospect of being forced to bend the stiff royal knee to Western-imposed economic pressures inspired the Saudis to apply their oil technology to drilling deep for water. Within a short period of time, using heavy irrigation, the country became self-sufficient in wheat. But unlike underground water supplies that are replenished by precipitation, fossil aquifers can be drained dry with jaw-dropping rapidity—and that is what is happening under the Arabian Peninsula.

Within a few decades, the prehistoric aquifer was almost exhausted, and by 2007, just when food riots were roiling the region, the Saudi wheat harvest had dropped precipitously. By 2016, the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture predicts the country will have to import 100 percent of the wheat it needs to feed its nearly 26 million people.

Saudi Arabia is one of 18 countries—which together contain half the world’s people—where water for irrigation is draining aquifers. But the export of “virtual water” incorporated into growing crops promises not only ecological problems, but political trouble downstream. Large-scale irrigation in Ethiopia and Sudan, for example, diverts water from the upper Nile River basin and cuts into Egypt’s already limited water supply.

Despite water woes, Sudan welcomes investors. “It’s the first country that gives us land without complicated procedures,” Mohammed Rasheed al-Balawi, a former agriculture manager of the Saudi firm Hadco, told the Financial Times. “The area is big, the people are friendly [and] they gave us the land almost free.”

Trading in human livelihoods

That characterization of terms is hotly disputed. Although both investors and host countries often refer to acquired land as under-developed or empty, the deals typically displace herders and small farmers, who are not consulted and, in any case, lack legal deeds. The World Bank estimates that between 2 and 10 percent of Africa’s land is held under formal land tenure, and most of that is in urban areas.

“The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries,” Ethiopian Nyikaw Ochalla told Vidal. The deals are done secretly. “The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands.”

As foreign investors pour in—from Arab princedoms, India, South Korea, China and other nations—hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are being relocated. Many, “viewed as ‘squatters,’ are forcibly removed with no compensation,” Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, said in a press release.

Ironically, key targets of foreign agro-investment include the world’s hungriest countries: In Ethiopia, 13 million people receive international food aid and 41 percent are undernourished. The country’s massive transfer of physical wealth to foreign corporations is overseen by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. One of the parties he controls, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, owns at least five parastatal companies and has major stakes in the agricultural products market. A carefully worded 2009 World Bank report noted that in Ethiopia “there is an impression that endowment and state-owned enterprises benefit from privileged access to policymakers and resources and are consequently able to compete on unfair terms.”

Zenawi’s regime has granted control of 1.48 million acres to foreign entities. Since 2007 it has approved at least 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects and is now offering up at least 7.4 million acres, some leased for only 40 cents per acre per year, according to the Mail & Guardian.

“Karuturi, an Indian company, which owns large swaths of the region, is heavily involved in burning forests and grasslands to make way for potential farmland” for biofuels, according to Nebiyu Eyassu reporting in Pambazuka News.

Compensation, when it occurs, can be paltry. In Ethiopia’s Gambella region alone, 45,000 families in 49 villages have been “dislocated,” Ethiopian-born writer and filmmaker Fikre Tolossa told the Commonwealth Club of California this March. “They will be resettled not too far from the lands they have been dispossessed of, so that they will be an ideal resource for cheap labor, should the need arise. After having lost their vast lands, they will end up owning a tiny piece of land: [3.2 acres] per family.”

If African men fare poorly in these deals, women often fare worse. Most of Africa’s small-scale farming is traditionally done by women who are rarely consulted about land deals. “[W]omen are more likely than men to spend the income they control on food, healthcare and their children’s education,” the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote in a 2011 report. So taking away the small plots they use to feed their families and generate income removes an important brake on hunger and extreme poverty for current and future generations.

’21st-century colonization’

Foreign investors are banking on a better outcome: up to 25 percent profits, buoyed by loose environmental and labor regulations common in desperately poor and corrupt countries. “Lack of transparency and of checks and balances in contract negotiations creates a breeding ground for corruption,” the FAO said, adding with understatement, “and deals that do not maximize the public interest.”

One of the public costs, lax environmental regulation, is a key perk for investors. If history is any guide, eventually—but not before great profits can be extracted—industrial monoculture agriculture will deplete soil and water; the perpetual chemical inputs including fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides will poison the environment; and pest and disease problems will strangle biodiversity.

But even when host governments impose contractual restrictions and protections, “there does not appear to be any significant enforcement of lease terms,” according to the Oakland Institute report. “Our agreement with government is purely commercial,” a foreign investor in Ethiopia told the Institute. “Government is charging us a rent. What we choose to do on the land for our own commercial intent is our own business. There are … no constraints, no contracts, none of that.”

The terms of Ethiopia’s land deals and how they are enforced are subject to the will of Zenawi, who was “re-elected” last year by 99.6 percent, down from 99.9 percent in 2008. The U.S. State Department has accused his authoritarian regime of serious human rights violations, including politically-motivated killings and torture by state security services. Human Rights Watch charges that “development assistance is underwriting the Ethiopian government’s repression.”

The “land grab” in Ethiopia’s Gambella and Oromia regions has elements of ethnic cleansing, says Rashid Songolo, a spokesman for Oromo Liberation Front, an Oromo people’s movement in exile. Property held by Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has been selectively sold to foreign developers, he told In These Times, “as a form of punishment and looting for those societies that sympathize with opposition political groups like OLF. The Oromos are being displaced and forced into refugee camps all over the world and into modern day slavery, because of the new 21st-century colonization.”

Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch tends to support this charge. It described Zenawi’s EPRDF party apparatchiks, including militias and spies, as deciding, based on loyalty, who gets donor-financed fertilizer, seeds, food aid and jobs. The New York Times reported that one farmer said he was told: “Unless you join the EPRDF, you could die and your family will starve to death.”

One of the largest investors in Ethiopian farmland, Saudi businessman (and Ethiopian-born) Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, is closely linked to the Zenawi’s regime and enjoys his support. Amoudi is also “close to the Saudi royal family, which sees him as a can-do guy and encourages his growing business empire in Ethiopia,” according to Forbes.

A self-made billionaire 12 times over and the second-richest man in Saudi Arabia, Amoudi grows wheat, rice, vegetables and flowers for the Saudi market on four farms in Ethiopia. His Saudi Star company leases 2,500 acres housing the Awassa greenhouse complex. In the next few years, he plans to spend $2 billion on acquiring and developing 1.25 million acres of farmland.

Amoudi, whose mother was Ethiopian, says his projects are designed “to improve the livelihood of my people and help in the development of my country, and not as some might think to amass personal wealth or siphon my country’s wealth. … I need not prove this. …

[T]hose who bear responsibility for character defamation and false allegations should learn that there are consequences for their action.”

Beyond the ‘white man’s burden’

Even Saudi oil wealth pales before China’s enormous economic engine. With $332 billion in assets, the China Investment Corporation is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. And like the Saudis, China’s concerns about growing unrest and food insecurity are factors in its increasing investment in foreign farmland.

China’s “embrace of [Africa] is strategic, planned, long-term and still unfolding,” writes Deborah Brautigam, an American University specialist in China-Africa relations. She argues that China is more concerned with economic expansion than food security, which significant portions of its leadership believe is better ensured by adequate home production.

That may be difficult to achieve. While the United States has almost 3 acres of farmland per person, China has only .23 acres. And 5,000 years of intensive farming has depleted China’s soil, industrialization has poisoned much of its water, and development and urbanization have depleted rivers and land so that even as population and per capita consumption increase, the country has lost more than 20 million acres of arable land—just since the mid-1990s.

Although it is not clear that the outcome is different because of it, China has been described (and not only for the literal reason) as being unencumbered by the old “white man’s burden” of having to couch investment as altruism or even win-win. In a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, called China “a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. … China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons [but] … for China primarily.” The high-horsed pronouncement took place, ironically enough, at a meeting in Nigeria with international oil companies—whose ventures are hardly distinguished by altruism.

In addition to Africa, China is investing in diverse cropland in Australia and New Zealand and looking to Indonesia for biofuels and to South America for soy for livestock production to feed its increasingly affluent population’s taste for meat and dairy. China’s South American interests are so extensive that some Brazilians, while crediting Chinese investment for their booming economy, fear for their autonomy.

“They are moving in,” Carlo Lovatelli, president of the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries, told Alexei Barrionuevo of The New York Times, “looking for land and reliable partners. But what they would like to do is run the show alone.”

“Some experts,” the Times noted, “say the partnership has devolved into a classic neo-colonial relationship in which China has the upper hand.” Last year 98 percent of China’s exports to Brazil were manufactured products, while almost 84 percent of Brazil’s exports to China were raw materials.

But it is not as if Brazil or other countries suddenly lost an idyllic independence. Some Brazilian farmers “say they share Chinese officials’ goal of breaking the stranglehold of international trading companies like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland,” Barrionuevo notes.

For the richer, not poorer

Over the last few decades, the United States—which long controlled industrial agriculture around the world, along with much of the global economy—has been losing ground. As the largest holder of U.S. debt, China has become, in effect, Washington’s banker, while the United States, the world’s largest grain producer, has become China’s farmer, a Forbes blog noted. Foreign agricultural land offers China a great place to invest its giant trade surplus—much of it courtesy of the U.S. consumers who buy up Chinese goods—as well as a hedge against food insecurity.

That insecurity is widespread and growing. After decades of promises and thousands of schemes, much of the world remains desperately malnourished. And now, as China, the United States and others jockey for land and power, the weight of shifting empires and changing climate is threatening to crush international cooperation on ending hunger. Over the last few years there has been “an ominous retreat from the idea of common purpose based on shared values,” said former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. “We have seen a worrying rise in protectionism, unilateral export bans, land grabs and exclusive deals that meet the food needs of the rich but not the poor.”

As fear of food insecurity mounts, even rich countries are not immune to foreign investment schemes that draw resources from one country to feed another.

A new foreign investment strategy aims to secure part of the U.S. grain harvest even before it reaches the open market, Brown told In These Times. South Korea, which imports 70 percent of its grain, has opened an office in Chicago. The public-private enterprise is planning to build grain elevators and “contract for crops directly from U.S. farmers, bypassing the large international trading firms,” he says. And “[w]ith China’s 1.4 billion increasingly affluent consumers starting to compete with U.S. consumers for the U.S. grain harvest,” Brown writes in Foreign Policy, “cheap food, seen by many as an American birthright, may be coming to an end.”

The new politics of food scarcity

Many investors say that they give back at least as much as they take. “We’ve really created something out of nothing in Africa,” said Anthony Poorter, Africa director for EmVest, the African subsidiary of Emergent Asset Management. “There are no shady deals.”

In areas with hungry people, inadequate roads and other infrastructural deficiencies, foreign capital is sorely needed to develop more rational farming operations that can promote prosperity, food security and jobs. And there is little doubt that monoculture industrial farming, genetically engineered seeds and input from pesticides and chemical fertilizers can more quickly create higher yields than small-scale subsistence farming. Properly managed, supporters of expo-agriculture argue, investment dollars can bring educational opportunities, healthcare and the possibility of safer, higher living standards to subsistence farmers and impoverished rural populations.

Some investors also believe they are serving humanity: “Unless food production is boosted 50 percent before 2050,” said Poorter’s boss, Emergent CEO Susan Payne, “we face serious shortages globally.” Her company, which “went on record in 2007 to identify food security as the next energy security,” invests in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is aiming for an annual return of 25 percent or more.

But just as international development aid schemes, such as USAID’s, conform to the geopolitical strategies and economic goals of the dispensing country, private investment is shaped by an inner imperative: the need to turn a profit. Whatever the investors promise, or however decent they are as individuals, their bottom line is the bottom line.

“There is a real risk that the current scramble for land will transfer wealth from the poor and the marginalized to those who have access to capital and markets, with deeply regressive consequences,” warned UN Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter.

And as with many previous development plans, unintended consequences may pile up the human and economic costs. The investor country’s sought-after political and food stability may translate into instability in the host country, and that in turn may boomerang back on the investors and their backers. “This [land grab] is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism,” says the Oakland Institute’s Mousseau.

Backlashes have already occurred. When word leaked that Madagascar planned to sell 3 million acres to the South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics, popular outrage quashed the deal and toppled Madagascar’s government. In the Philippines, as food prices were spiking in 2007, outcries from Filipino farmers stopped China from buying 2.5 million acres on which to grow export crops.

A pro-Oromia website warned that the situation in Ethiopia offered the “potential for a catastrophic unrest and poses a huge security headache not only for the country but for the whole world.”

These targeted peoples decry the new “land grab” as a more sophisticated incarnation of old colonialism—driven today by a tangle of factors, including climate change, population growth, fear of social unrest, diminishing water and land, trade restrictions, erosion and pollution, the volatility of commodity prices and markets, speculation, the energy crisis, agro-energy/biofuel production, the global financial crisis, carbon trading and on and on.

Private and government investors defend win-win agro-investment as part of the solution to world hunger and an important step on the path to prosperity. Reliance on the market and private profit-driven investment, they say, is an improvement over decades of failed NGO and “humanitarian” development schemes that failed to feed the planet’s almost 1 billion hungry people, or raise up the 2 billion who live on less than $2 a day.

From either viewpoint, it is clear that the geopolitics of food scarcity has undergone a major shift. Land is the new gold and mining it for export food, extracting its water to incorporate into crops and taking advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental laws are now, as Brown puts it, “integral parts of a global power struggle for food security.”

And all sides agree: When people are hungry enough, they are likely to choose the risk of revolution over the certainty of starvation. Governments that are unable to secure affordable food for their populations are vulnerable to the kind of social unrest that has long been part of history’s hunger not only for food, but for justice.

Terry J. Allen, an In These Times senior editor, has written the magazine’s monthly investigative health and science column since 2006.
More information about Terry J. Allen
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Winona LaDuke: Seizures & Militarization of Indigenous Lands & the Recovery of Native Seeds & Sustainable, Land-Based Economies

Winona LaDuke: Seizures & Militarization of Indigenous Lands & the Recovery of Native Seeds & Sustainable, Land-Based Economies

Posted 15 May 2011, by Jean Downey, Kimberly Hughes and Jen Teeter, Ten Thousand Things,

Winona LaDuke’s analysis of military seizures and ongoing militarization of indigenous tribal lands in North America sounds a lot like similar military land seizures and ongoing militarization of Hawai’i, Okinawa, Korea (Jeju Island), Guam, Diego Garcia and Columbia…

LaDuke, founding director of White Earth Land Recovery Project, and executive director of Honor the Earthleads a movement recovering traditional tribal sustainable economies based on food sovereignty. The daugher of a Korean war resister inherited her struggle against excessive militarization and military destruction of civilians and our planet.

The U.S. military is the larger consumer of oil in the world and the largest polluter. From the thousands of nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and American Southwest (and Mississippi) that started in the 1940s and 1950’s that vaporized atolls and spread radioactive contamination throughout the Asia-Pacific, to the Vietnam War-era use of napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate and poison Vietnam (and military bases in South Korea and Okinawa), to irradiation in Iraq and Afghanistan (and in Okinawa during “tests”) by depleted uranium uranium.

More than four fifths of the people killed in war have been civilians. Globally there are some 16 million refugees from war.

– Winona LaDuke, The Militarization of Indian Country

Juan Gonzalez recently interviewed the Native American (Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe)) activist and writer at Democracy Now! “Native American Activist, Author Winona LaDuke on “The Militarization of Indian Country” and Obama Admin’s “Lip Service” to Indigenous Rights”in which LaDuke connects the dots between uranium mining on indigenous lands, the thousands of experimental nuclear bombings on indigenous lands, the poisoning of indigenous land and people, and the nuclear accident in Fukushima:

WINONA LADUKE…The reality is, is that the U.S. military still has individuals dressed—the Seventh Cavalry, that went in in Shock and Awe, is the same cavalry that massacred indigenous people, the Lakota people, at Wounded Knee in 1890. You know, that is the reality of military nomenclature and how the military basically uses native people and native imagery to continue its global war and its global empire practices.

AMY GOODMAN: Winona, you begin your book on the militarization of Native America at Fort Sill, the U.S. Army post near Lawton, Oklahoma. We broadcast from there about a year ago in that area. Why Fort Sill? What is the significance of Fort Sill for Native America?

WINONA LADUKE:Well, you know, that is where the Apaches themselves were incarcerated for 27 years for the crime of being Apache. There are two cemeteries there, and those cemeteries—one of those cemeteries is full of Apaches, including Geronimo, who did die there. But it is emblematic of Indian Country’s domination by military bases and the military itself. You’ve got over 17 reservations named after—they’re still called Fort something, you know? Fort Hall is, you know, one of them. Fort Yates. You know, it is pervasive, the military domination of Indian Country.

Most of the land takings that have occurred for the military, whether in Alaska, in Hawaii, or in what is known as the continental United States, have been takings from native land. Some of—you know, they say that the Lakota Nation, in the Lakota Nation’s traditional territory, as guaranteed under the Treaty of 1868 or the 1851 Treaty, would be the third greatest nuclear power in the world. You know, those considerations indicate how pervasive historically the military has been in native history and remains today in terms of land occupation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Winona, in your book, you go through a lot of these takings of land and what it’s been used for. Obviously, the nuclear accident following the tsunami in Japan has been in the news a lot lately, but you talk about the origins of the United States’s own nuclear power, the mining of uranium, the development of Los Alamos Laboratory. Could you talk about that and its connection to Indian Country?

WINONA LADUKE: You know, native people—about two-thirds of the uranium in the United States is on indigenous lands. On a worldwide scale, about 70 percent of the uranium is either in Aboriginal lands in Australia or up in the Subarctic of Canada, where native people are still fighting uranium mining. And now, with both nuclearization and the potential reboot of a nuclear industry, they’re trying to open uranium mines on the sacred Grand Canyon.

You know, we have been, from the beginning, heavily impacted by radiation exposure from the U.S. military, you know, continuing on to nuclear testing, whether in the Pacific or whether the 1,100 nuclear weapons that were detonated over Western Shoshone territory. You know, our peoples have been heavily impacted by radiation, let alone nerve gas testing. You’ve got nerve gas dumps at Umatilla. You’ve got a nerve gas dump at the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation. You have, you know, weapons bases, and the military is the largest polluter in the world. And a lot of that pollution, in what is known as the United States, or some of us would refer to as occupied Indian Country, is in fact all heavily impacting Indian people or indigenous communities still.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You also talk about the radiation experimentation in Alaska in the 1960s in your book. I don’t think—very few people have heard of that. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

WINONA LADUKE: Yeah. You know, I was an undergraduate at Harvard, and I remember I used to—I researched all this really bizarre data, but there was this project at Point Hope, where the military wanted to look at the radiation lichen-caribou-man cycle, of bio-accumulation of radiation. And so, they went into the Arctic. You know, there’s widespread testing on native people, because we’re isolated populations. We’re basically—you know, most of us in that era were genetically pretty similar. It was a good test population, and there was no accountability. You know, testing has occurred, widespread. But in that, they wanted to test, so the village of Point Hope was basically irradiated. Didn’t tell the people. Documents were declassified in the 1990s. And all that time, this community bore a burden of nuclear exposure that came from the Nevada test site, you know, and in testing those communities.

You know, Alaska itself is full of nuclear and toxic waste dumps from the military, over 700 separate, including, you know, perhaps one of the least known, but I did talk about it in this book, The Militarization of Indian Country, VX Lake, where they happened to forget about some nerve gas canisters, a whole bunch of them, and they put them out in the middle of the lake, and they sank to the bottom. And then they remembered a few years later, and then they had to drain the darn lake to go get all these—you know, all the nerve gas, VX, out of the bottom of the lake. And, you know, they renamed it Blueberry Lake, but it’s still known as VX Lake to anybody who’s up there.

And, you know, the unaccountability of the military, above reproach, having such a huge impact on a worldwide scale, having such a huge take at the federal trough, the federal budget, and in indigenous communities an absolutely huge impact in terms of the environmental consequences of militarization.

In Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming, LaDuke explores these not only exploitative, but also sacrilegious actions perpetrated upon indigenous peoples. The U.S. military nuclear bombed Western Shoshone land over 1,000 times. The U.S. military also repeatedly bombed Kaho’olawe after turning the holy Hawaiian island into a bombing range, destroying sacred shrines and cracking the aquifer before Congress placed a moratorium on the bombing.

Awá Indigenous Peoples mobilize against construction of military base in Columbia. Image: Fellowship of Reconciliation

Indigenous Jeju Islanders protest the construction of a nuclear military base at Gangjeong Village, on the southern coast, the site of South Korea's only natural dolphin habitat. The signs read "No naval base on the Island of Peace." More on the ongoing protest at No Base Stories of Korea

Okinawa rally on Nov. 8, 2010 to protesting U.S. plans to build a new base at Oura Bay, an environmentally sensitive habitat of the Okinawa dugong (manatee). Image:

The 1954 U.S. "Castle Bravo" thermonuclear hydrogen test bombing of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago destroyed the home of the indigenous inhabitants, rendering what was left of the islands unfit for human life. Senator Tomaki Juda describes the devastation ("equal to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs") in "Bikini and the Hydrogen Bomb."

Sacred Native American (Shoshone) land at the Nevada Test Site, the most nuclear bombed place on earth. The image is from Carlos DeMenezes' 2005 documentary, "Trespassing." The film features Japanese radiation survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, describing their participation in the global nuclear abolition movement at the Nevada Test Site. Examining the intersections of indigenous rights, land rights, uranium mining, nuclear testing, and the disposal of nuclear waste, the film explores the extraordinary efforts that indigenous activists — in solidarity with Hibakusha, atomic veterans, environmentalist, and nuclear abolitionists, and — have undertaken, to protect sacred lands, the air, the water, and people from desecration by further weapons testing and nuclear waste.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, Okinawan protection of the dugong, a totemic animal declared a National Monument and Chamorro protection of Pagat, an ancient ancestral village, are both best understood within sacred contexts. The U.S. military proposal to destroy the last habitat of the Okinawa dugong to make way for a port for destroyers equipped with missile systems may be compared to a proposal to raze the Vatican to build a nuclear missile complex. Similarly, the U.S. military proposal to turn Pagat into a live fire range may be compared to turning Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, into a live fire range.

Dsrespect for indigenous issues in the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world stem from parallel disrespect for Native American tribes that LaDuke charts in detail in this call to honor our planet and ancient first peoples and cultures. Revitalized indigenous gardens are not just about “food,” but also about remembrance and renewal of a worldview that recognizes the miraculous web of life.

The perspectives of traditional food movement supported by LaDuke (that, not surprisingly, dovetails with the international Slow Food Movement) are being increasingly vindicated by the mainstream: The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Report, a joint project of the U.N. and the World Bank, among other agencies brought together 400 experts who worked for 4.5 years to explore the most efficient, productive, and sustainable strategy for feeding the world. Their conclusion: the world must shift from chemical- and fossil-fuel dependent agriculture to non-toxic, sustainable practices. The study recommended small-scale and mid-scale agroecological farming as the only hope for feeding the world safe, healthy food, without destroying our increasingly limited natural capital.

More on the White Earth Land Recovery Project:

We work to continue, revive, and protect our native seeds, heritage crops, naturally grown fruits, animals, wild plants, traditions and knowledge of our indigenous and land-based communities; for the purpose of maintaining and continuing our culture and resisting the global, industrialized food system that can corrupt our health, freedom, and culture through inappropriate food production and genetic engineering.

Sustainable Tribal Economies, cover

Petition: Save Jeju Island/No Naval Base

(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article.)

Mother Earth News Fair draws eco-experts to Seven Springs

Mother Earth News Fair draws eco-experts to Seven Springs

Nationally and regionally known keynote speakers bring unique perspectives to 2nd annual sustainability event

Posted 03 August 2011, by Staff, PRWeb (Vocus Inc.),

Tokeka, Kan. (PRWEB) August 03, 2011:  After welcoming a capacity crowd of 10,000 to the first Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania last year and thousands more at the Fair in Washington this spring, the magazine will look to do the same Sept. 24-25 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, Pa.

Dozens of hands-on workshops will cover organic gardening, real food, renewable energy, small-scale livestock, green building and remodeling, DIY projects, natural health, green transportation, and related topics. Mother Earth News staff will lead the sessions, along with green lifestyle and rural living experts.

Nationally known keynote speakers will offer attendees a broader perspective on today’s environmental issues.

Organic farmer Joel Salatin will offer plain-spoken rebuttals to industrial agriculture’s claims. Salatin runs Polyface Farm, which was featured in the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc., and he has written several books.

Joan Dye Gussow will share how a flood-induced crisis and a crop of sweet potatoes taught her a new set of lessons about her soil. Often called the matriarch of the local food movement, Gussow is an author and the Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita of Nutrition and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François will show attendees how to bake delicious homemade bread using recipes from their best-selling book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Actor, activist and author Ed Begley Jr. will describe how he has “greened” his life and show how others can do the same. This keynote is presented by Envirolet.

Frances Moore Lappé will challenge attendees to let go of paralyzing thought traps that blind the human race to environmental solutions. Lappé is the author of Diet for a Small Planet and 17 other books.

Dan Chiras, Ph.D., will discuss how reactions to global climate change and energy shortages will determine our success as a species. Chiras is a visiting professor of environmental science at Colorado College, author of 30 books and director of The Evergreen Institute.

Bryan Welch will draw on themes from his book Beautiful and Abundant, which focuses on how to create a collective, positive vision for a sustainable future. Welch is a farmer, author and the publisher of Ogden Publications, the largest media company serving the sustainability community.

Jerry DeWitt will show how a new culture of sustainability is reshaping urban and rural landscapes. DeWitt served as director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and is a National Center for Appropriate Technology board member.

Veteran homesteader Philip Ackerman-Leist will share practical skills with a lighthearted spin for beginning homesteaders.

Jenna Woginrich, an author, farmer and blogger, will show attendees that even people with 9-to-5 jobs can live more self-sufficient lives.

In addition to workshops, the Fair will host a seed swap, children’s activities, a green shopping pavilion, vendor and livestock demonstrations, musical acts, and local and organic food options. The Fair is sponsored by Ball Jar, Bon Ami, Central Boiler, Envirolet, Organic Valley and Seventh Generation.

For information about event sponsorships, contact Allison Stapleton at astapleton(at)ogdenpubs(dot)com. For exhibit space, contact Mellissa Crouch at mcrouch(at)ogdenpubs(dot)com.

About Mother Earth News
Mother Earth News ( is the Original Guide to Living Wisely. Topics include organic gardening, do-it-yourself projects, cutting energy costs, using renewable energy, green home building and rural living.

About Ogden Publications Inc.
Ogden Publications Inc. ( is the leading information resource serving the sustainable living, rural lifestyle, farm memorabilia and classic motorcycle communities. Key brands include Mother Earth News, Natural Home & Garden, Utne Reader, Capper’s and Grit. Ogden Publications also produces environmentally friendly housewares through Natural Home Products LLC, and provides insurance and financial services through its Capper’s Insurance Service division.

Envirolet is sponsoring Ed Begley Jr.’s keynote address, Live Simply So Others Can Simply Live.

Is Technology Neutral? Stewart Brand vs Winona LaDuke

Environmental Debate Excerpts:

Stewart Brand vs Winona LaDuke


Is Technology Neutral? Stewart Brand vs Winona LaDuke

Posted 25 July 2011, by Earth Island Journal TV, YouTube,

Brand explains why he thinks “technology is neutral and the people promoting it are neutral.” Says over-interpreting people’s intentions blinds us to evidence that doesn’t match our agenda. LaDuke counters that what Brand’s promoting is amnesia. She doesn’t agree that everybody comes with “a clear moral history.”

The GMO debate: Stewart Brand vs Winona LaDuke

Posted 25 July 2011, by Earth Island Journal TV, YouTube,

Environmental thought leaders Stewart Brand and Winona LaDuke debate GM crop. Brand says “a combination of genetic engineering and organic farming really is the future of food.” LaDuke says it’s far more complex. “The reality is that hunger issues have to do with colonisation, lack of access to land, the theft of seeds… and …consumption issues.”

Peter Coyote responds to Brand and LaDuke

Posted 25 July 2011, by Earth Island Journal TV, YouTube,

Peter Coyote challenges Stewart Brand’s hypothesis that “we are like gods”, positing instead that human beings are “idiot savants”