Yearly Archives: 2009

Permaculture in Nicaragua

Back in October, I attended a permaculture workshop at a retreat center in upstate New York. I learned all about food forests, grafting, sheet mulching and many other agro-ecological farming techniques about which I knew little. I was surprised—and delighted!—to learn that many of these techniques are being implemented in the developing world, too.

Hundreds of local farming families in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua were left jobless and in danger of starvation when the corporate coffee plantations that employed them closed due to the sudden collapse of coffee prices in 1999 and 2000. One community-based organization, Fundación Denis Ernesto González López (FUDEGL), saw the coffee bust as an opportunity to help local farmers gain a foothold in the Nicaraguan agriculture market.

With support from AJWS, FUDEGL now trains hundreds of farming families each year in eco-agriculture techniques like crop diversification and soil conservation. It employs a full-time agronomist to teach methods like permaculture, in which complementary ecosystems work in tandem to raise efficiency. Learn more here.

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Kitchen Gardens in Kenya

“Kitchen gardens in Kenya” is not a phrase we hear often, but for many people, that phrase is the key to survival. In a country of nearly 35 million people, malnutrition and hunger are staggering problems, particularly for Kenyan children, orphans and people living with HIV/AIDS. In the rural, western regions of Kenya, sustaining basic nutrition is a chronic struggle in the face of food insecurity. Too weak to walk long distances or stand in lines waiting for food aid, those who live in rural areas and subsist on less than a dollar a day do not have access to the basics needed to live healthy, dignified lives. Read More »

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Letting Leaders Know that Rice is a RIGHT

We’re still savoring the success of AJWS’s first benefit event for Global Circle—a new program for young professionals committed to global justice—that took place in New York City about two weeks ago. The room was bursting with the energy of more than 350 people gathered together to support AJWS’s work in the fight against hunger. Amidst the buzz, the schmoozing, the drinking, eating and learning, Global Circle guests packed more than 100 bags of rice with an accompanying note to send to Ambassador Ronald Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative.

The message was loud and clear:

“Food is a human right and cannot be treated like just another commodity. During the upcoming World Trade Organization Ministerial, please ensure that U.S. trade negotiators support the right of developing countries to safeguard food staples such as rice, maize and wheat.”

AJWS’s advocacy team delivered the bags of rice to Ambassador Kirk’s office last Wednesday with the support of fourteen faith groups. “This is a moral issue, not a political one: Trade rules should not hinder the ability of developing nations to provide food for their people,” said AJWS president Ruth Messinger. “A safeguard mechanism is needed so that vulnerable populations do not find themselves at the mercy of the volatile market forces that caused the 2008 food crisis.” Check out the press release to learn more.

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The Meeting of Climate, Food Insecurity and Darfur

The BBC reported yesterday that climatic factors have been cited as reasons for several recent conflicts, including the conflict in Darfur. AJWS has been a leader in addressing the crisis in Darfur but it’s not often that we pause to attribute some of the possible causes of civil conflict and genocide to warm climates. What’s the connection? The story goes something like this: Warmer conditions create a scarcity of food; a scarcity of food hastens economic instability and social strife; social strife leads to violence. But is it really that simple? Learn more.

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Culture, Cocaleros and Bolivian Politics

The upcoming election in Bolivia is stirring some interesting dynamics between an indigenous plant and a popular president. So, too, it is re-asserting the interconnectedness of politics, agriculture, indigenous culture and economic security in the developing world. A BBC news article reports that as Bolivian President Evo Morales campaigns for re-election, indigenous growers of coca—a leaf used in food, traditional medicine, tea, cosmetics and, most infamously, in cocaine—are backing him financially. Coca unions and “cocaleros” (coca growers) know the coca leaf as an intrinsic part of Bolivia’s indigenous culture and economy. Coca unions are joining forces and taking money out of their harvests to put into Morales’s campaign. Read More »

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As Farmers, Women Bear the Brunt of Climate Change

Yesterday, I was sadly reminded of just how interconnected our global problems really are. BBC news report revealed that the people most vulnerable to climate change are women. Why? Because in developing countries, women do most of the agricultural work and are disproportionately affected by weather-related natural disasters impacting food, energy and water.

“Given women’s significant engagement in food production in developing countries, the close connection between gender, farming and climate change deserves far more analysis than it currently receives,” the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

Indeed it does. Read the full report here.

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Hunger Quiz #2 for the Genius in You!

If our first Hunger Quiz didn’t leave you scratching your head, take our “genius” edition to test your knowledge about food, trade and aid!

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World Summit on Food Security

The World Summit on Food Security is happening right now (November 16 to 18) in Rome. According to an article in today’s New York Times, world leaders have rallied around a new strategy to fight global hunger and help poor countries feed themselves. They have not, however, pledged the $44 billion sought by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization to increase agricultural aid to the world’s one billion hungry people. Read More »

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The Struggle for Land Rights in Thailand

Greetings from Thailand, where fighting hunger, achieving food security and land ownership are all bound together in a network of landless poor in Surattanee, a province in Southern Thailand. AJWS’s grassroots partner, The Coordination Committee on Natural Resources Management of Surattanee, whose name does not convey the creativity and vision of the farming families of which it’s comprised, brings together the landless poor, indigenous farming and laboring communities along with local human rights lawyers, and environmentalists and community activists to reclaim indigenous land that has been unjustly seized by the government. The struggle for land in the face of death threats from corrupt Thai companies and governments that have denied people their right to land is being challenged nationally by the Landless People’s Movement. Read More »

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Agro-Ecology in Colombia: Farming in the Face of Flooding

Imagine waking up one morning to find your crops—the food that keeps you alive—completely submerged in water and entirely destroyed. This is exactly what happened along the Sinú River in northern Colombia, a region that has supported a diverse community of indigenous people for generations. The Zenu and Embera people who live by the Sinú banks depend on the river for fish, irrigation and drinking water. But in 2000, the Urrá Dam, built by a consortium of Colombian, Swedish and Russian companies, submerged over 7,400 hectares of land, crops, homes and sacred sites. The dam displaced 2,800 people and continues to threaten the lives of 70,000 by altering vital food supplies. Areas of severe periodic flooding and drought caused by its flow have stymied traditional farming practices. Compounding this reality is the construction of a new dam—many times the size—by the Colombian government, presenting a constant looming threat over this beleaguered rural community.

In response to the radical changes brought about by the dam, a local NGO—Association for Community Development of the Cienaga Grande (ASPROCIG)—is working to restore the ecology and agricultural productivity of the region by helping farmers along the Sinú develop agriculture and aquaculture farms suitable to the changed environment. With AJWS’s support, ASPROCIG-supported farmers are establishing 175 agro-ecological farms in the Lower Sinú region.

Check out the video above from ASPROCIG to learn more about what’s happening on the ground in Colombia.

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