Reclaim the Fields European Assembly 2017

Check out the call-out from Reclaim the Fields for the next European Assembly:
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You are invited to join the European assembly of Reclaim the Fields 2017, which will take place in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, between 18th and 22nd of January 2017. The meeting will be hosted by the community-supported agriculture project Gartencoop and will take place in the autonomous center “KTS”.

 

***About the assembly***

 

The  assemblies happen every year during winter. Generally they bring together people active in RTF constellation, but everybody is welcome. 
The goals of the assembly are:
  • meet and exchange information amongst the stars and local groups since last year;
  • exchange and debate on themes that matters to us across Europe and beyond;
  • to see where we are at with our European Reclaim the Fields constellation: what was decided last year, for what results, what we need to do to continue, and what future plans we have;
  • to have fun and build relationships between us!

 

The last European Assembly happened in January 2016 in Warsaw, Poland, and was hosted by the Radical Allotment Gardens, the Polish RtF star. You can check the last Reclaim the Fields Bulletin here.

 

***Registration form***

 

If you or your group will join the assembly please fill in the Registration Form. This is very important for the people that do the organisation, so that everything will be prepared good when participants arrive. 
If you have any suggestion for the program, there is a special place in the form where you can let us know in advance about it.

 

***Local context***

 

This year the assembly takes place in the so called “green-city” of Freiburg, Germany. The very contradictory ecologists-capital was strongly part of the uprising anti-nuclear movement, which started by empeaching the construction of a nuclear-plant at Wyhl in the 70’s. But even if throughout the 80’s a militant ecologist, squatting, feminist and antagonistic movement played an important role, social movements decreased progressively, like in most western-european towns, after the wall came down.

 

 
In our days, the 220.000 inhabitant city still has a big amount of alternative institutions and projects, for example in left media (rdl.de, cinerebelde.org, linksunten.indymedia.org), housing (syndikat.org, schattenparker.net), antira-struggle  (aktionbleiberecht.de, iz3w.org, freiburger-forum.net) or alternative food-production (gartencoop.org, lebensgarten-dreisamtal.de, luzernenhof.de).

 

But the “green rebels” from the 70’s are in power, in Freiburg and in the region, and keep cultivating the lie of green capitalism. They are bright actors, within the neoliberal and repressive evolutions we live in.

 

The people welcoming you are involved at the 300-household agricultural-cooperative GartenCoop as well as in different of the abovely named struggles. The social/autonomous Center KTS Freiburg exists since the mid-90’s and has been legalized about 18 years ago. The biggest part of the meeting will take place at the center – some of the program might be visiting farms and projects in the surroundings. We’ll shurely spend time at the asperagus, strawberry and corn-dominated countryside as well – and there is the black forrest in walking distance for walks and talks.

 

***Practical info***

 

Freiburg finds itself between Colmar, Basel and  Offenburg
and is best accessible by train and busses or the A5-motorway. (The two petrol-stations on the motorway are a bit shitty in therms of accessibility)

 

There are many airports in Zürich, Basel/Mulhouse or Strasbourg (all are between 45 and 70 minutes drive)

 

In Freiburg Bus no 11 and Tram no 5 (better) stops at “Pressehaus”. The KTS finds itself behind the railway-bridge above the main road, just  take the stairs to your left behind the bridge.

 

KTS, Baslerstrasse 103, 79100 Freiburg
+0049 /0/ 761 / 400 20 96

 

Depending  on the number of people, the accomodation will be decentralized. About 40 people could sleep at the KTS at most, others will stay at other housing-projects, wagenplatz or private flats. Accessibility for people with a disability is limited in the center. There are bathrooms and a  medium-size kitchen, computer-rooms, screen-printing and a free shop. We will have vegetables from the cooperative-farms and other friends. Hopefully the baking-cooperative can make bread for us.

 

***Contact***

 

Please spread this invitation to the stars in your region.

 

Bookings now open for the Growing to Sell Course 2016

Are you interested in market gardening? Or starting a CSA project? Or simply growing on a larger scale and selling your surplus? Want to create a livelihood from the land? This course is for you!

A 2 day course in how to scale up and sell or share produce to feed your community

24th & 25th February 2015

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At Brook End LAND Centre, Compton Dundon (near Glastonbury/Street), Somerset

This two day course introduces all of the factors you need to consider when scaling up your production. Learners will be supported to explore how they can create their own land-based livelihoods, while supporting the local area to increase its ability to feed itself. Learners will be able to meet experienced growers, as well as local agencies that can give you further business mentoring and support.

Sessions will include:

  • Different business and production models, such as market gardens, nurseries, Community Supported Agriculture schemes, cooperatives, box schemes, nurseries, country markets, intermediate markets, direct sales, farm gate sales and more
  • Agroecological practices for growing on a larger scale successfully
  • How to manage internal systems such as stock taking, book keeping and records management
  • Designing your own livelihood and using permaculture principles to design a sustainable enterprise congruent with your needs and ethics
  • Deciding what to grow in relationship to markets (value adding and so forth)
  • Legal necessities (such as labeling, licensing, health & safety, trading standards requirements, environmental health compliance, traceablity and so on)

Financial contribution

The course is designed on a sliding scale basis with low income learners £60 – £120 (£15k and above per year). Please email if you are unable to afford the lowest rate.

About the Tutors

urlTim Lawrence is a community development worker, community gardener and founder and previous staff grower at Sims Hill Shared Harvest, a successful CSA based in Bristol. He has diverse experience in establishing projects and supporting small-scale, sustainable food production.

Carol Stone is an experienced food grower and has supported a number of establishing enterprises in her work with the HogCO (home grown community owned) Project in Devon. She is now a co-director-member of Feed Avalon CIC and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and is passionate about involving more people in food production, community food growing and cooking, and building more sustainable and resilient food systems.

How to Book

Please email eat@feedavalon.org.uk for a link to an online booking form and more information.

GTS 2016

Interview on Transition Network

Nicole Vosper on seeing prisons as “one massive creative design opportunity”

When I went to the recent 2015 International Permaculture Convergence, one workshop I really wanted to go to was about permaculture and prisons.  I couldn’t go though, as I had to be somewhere else. So I subsequently got in touch with Nicole Vosper, who led that workshop, and interviewed her instead!  Nicole lives in Somerset, and runs a website called emptycagesdesign.org.  As an ex-prisoner who is actively involved in permaculture, her work focuses on the bridge between the two.  I started out by asking her why she feels that the prison system needs a rethink:

“I did a 3 ½ year prison sentence when I was 21. Twenty one months was in a private prison in Middlesex. That was in a backdrop of long-term organising for different social justice projects and campaigns and struggles.

My perspective on the prison system is that it’s inherently violent. Even with bigger cells or more adequate healthcare or more visits, or more education and training, or gardens in prisons, all these things that people throw around; even with all of those reforms I believe it’s inherently violent, because I believe that act of caging a human being is violent. Prison abolition, which is something I organise for, is about looking at what other solutions are there to the social and economic problems that the prison system is allegedly meant to be solving.

In what ways does the prison system, in your opinion, have unfairness designed into it fundamentally? Is it a fundamentally unfair design?

Nicole VosperAs a design, the prison system is incredibly effective in the sense of who it’s serving. It’s serving the State, and it’s also serving the hierarchies that exist in our society. Anyone who is engaged in any sort of social change work will probably see prison or repression as a limiting factor or a fear to overcome to push for more change.  Prisons are fundamental to maintaining this social order in our society and they’re really essential to maintaining this class-based system that we have, especially in the UK.

There’s an author called Karlene Faith who wrote a book called ‘Unruly Women’ about women in prison, and she describes prisons as places “where all the injustices converge”; so prisons perpetuate inequalities in the sense of race. People of colour are highly criminalised, have totally disproportionate sentences, especially foreign nationals and this new wave of – well it’s not new – racism towards immigrants. Immigrants are increasingly becoming criminalised and filling up our prison system. That’s no accident.

Prisons harm disproportionately queer, gay communities, the homeless, generally just the working class. The war on drugs and all these other things that the state holds as keeping us safe, the ‘us’ being this privileged minority, is actually false, and I feel that prisons are definitely perpetuating more harm than they are preventing or solving.

It’s quite a step from that to the idea of abolishing prisons altogether. Is there not an argument that actually prison keeps most people safe from some really violent, unpleasant characters; that there are some people for whom prison is a necessary thing?

I understand that prison abolition is a challenging perspective, especially if people are new to these issues. When I facilitate workshops around this field, I always ask people “what makes you feel safe?” “What keeps you safe, or your community safe?” The things that come out of those workshops, and these are workshops with all sorts of people: ex-prisoners, different community groups, even permaculture people at these conferences, the same pattern has come up again and again.

Access to healthcare, accountability if someone has experienced harm… If someone has experienced rape or abuse, or murder or violence then they need to feel some level of accountability with the perpetrator of that harm. Indigenous communities all over the world have managed to function without the use of huge state-run prisons. It’s a fallacy that we couldn’t organise our society without them.

I always bring it back to what keeps you safe, and most people say if they’ve experienced harm that they want a supportive group of friends around them. They want to have that communication with the perpetrator eventually. They want to feel immediately safe in their environment. So for me, the link between prisons and permaculture is actually redesigning our society and building communities that can really meet people’s needs so you don’t have people having to commit crime, using that discourse of crime to actually meet their own needs.

Most people in prison are there for economic reasons, or because their communities are criminalised. The criminalised communities that are in prison are the ones that are experiencing the most harm. So you chat to anyone in jail and they’re the ones that have experienced being mugged, being burgled, sexual and financial abuse, everything. It’s not really working for anyone. The people who experience the harm the most are the ones that are filling up our prisons.

You mentioned that you were in a private prison. One of the things that a lot of people listening to this might not be aware of is the extent to which the prison service is now a private commercial operation. Could you say a little bit about that and how that affects who prison serves and what the experience is for people on the inside?

This term the ‘Prison Industrial Complex’ has emerged in the last couple of decades to describe the more complex web of relationships that underpin the prison system. It’s never just been the state that runs prisons, but increasingly it is private companies that are running institutions. For example, all of the immigration detention centres in the UK are run for profit by private companies. What’s problematic about this isn’t just the ethics involved, actually profiting and serving your shareholders through caging certain groups of people; it’s also that the private prison industry have a lot of power and lobbying power so they can actually change our whole criminal justice system because they can put pressure to change different sentences and make reforms and stuff, so it changes the whole landscape of our criminal justice system.

Image: oneway2day.wordpress.comImage: oneway2day.wordpress.com

In terms of private prisons, I’m not pro-state prison by any means at all, but there are definitely some differences and patterns. For example, of the top five prisons in the UK with the highest rates of self-harm last year, four of them were private prisons. You have this effect where companies are trying to cut corners because that’s their business interest and that obviously is going to affect prisoners, so that will reduce staffing ratios, making prisoners a lot more generally unsafe, higher levels of abuse between staff.  In the prison I was in, 4 or 5 different officers had been sacked after I left for sleeping with women in the prison.

This level of abuse is rife in UK jails. There are obviously contracts with private companies that are directly profiting from the labour of prisoners, companies like Virgin or DHL, they are all making money by paying prisoners a maximum of £25 a week, and that’s a job that could have gone to someone on the outside for minimum wage or more. It’s completely shocking that they’ve created this system to profit from something that is so exploitative and harmful, and it is destroying communities by removing people from those communities.  We’ve had horrific things of capitalist exploitation, war, everything else, but I do think there is something really screwed up about making money from actually caging people.

What, for you, would prison abolition look like? If people were guilty of violent crimes or whatever, what would be the ideal way of managing that, or treating that?

The most important thing is that there’s no one solution to anything. What would work for me or maybe my community wouldn’t necessarily work for another. So it’s about having this constellation of alternative strategies to respond to harm, just like indigenous cultures have got all variety of tools and community processes to respond to harm in their communities. We’d have to do that work and that design work and that practice and that development to actually be able to respond to these issues.

Credit: Jenna Peters-GoldenCredit: Jenna Peters-GoldenA lot of those tools already exist, especially in more anarchist subcultures. We have things like ‘safe spaces agreements’ and accountability processes. There’s a model that has come out of North America called ‘Transformative Justice’ which emerged due to the needs of survivors of sexual violence wanting to not endanger the perpetrators of that violence and subject them to the criminal justice system but actually to look at alternatives and to support them to transform their behaviour, so everyone is transformed by that process; it’s not just a case of restorative justice where you’re restoring the same power imbalances that perpetuate the harm.

For me, prison abolition is one massive creative design opportunity of how can we keep our community safe, and what tools and processes can we imagine to respond to harm in a way that doesn’t give power to the state or lock people behind bars. In terms of this violent minority that we’re meant to really fear, that’s a big cultural myth that perpetuates this idea that prisons are natural, normal and necessary. I know there’s a book where the guy had spent time in Broadmoor as a psychiatrist working with five of the top serial killers in the UK. He said not a single one of them hadn’t had the most brutal, traumatic childhood.

So for me in terms of actually dealing with people that have perpetuated that level of harm, I think it needs to look more like a care model. I used to work with autistic adults, for example, that were quite violent and aggressive and it would be about what meets their needs. So I could imagine smaller systems where we actually treat individuals as needing care and support rather than needing more violence inflicted upon them.

Could you say a bit about where the permaculture comes in? Some people would think permaculture and prisons just means making gardens in prisons, but I get a sense from your work that you see it as a much deeper thing than just planting a few apple trees in the yard in the prison.

For sure. For me, permaculture and prisons have always been quite linked. I learnt about permaculture inside – I got a Distance Learning course when I was in prison and studied permaculture in there, worked in the gardens and encouraged the garden officer to let us grow veg rather than just weeding rose bushes. I’ve always seen that they do go together quite well in the sense that I see permaculture as being a way to completely redesign our society that meets human needs while increasing ecosystem health.

I get a lot of emails from people that want to do projects with prisons and plant gardens, but this isn’t really the work that I’m doing, or the work that I’m overly interested in. Being in the gardens in jail really kept me sane and really nourished me while I was there, but it’s a very cosmetic intervention. I feel that the power of permaculture gives us a lot more ability to transform society than we imagine at the moment.

So for me, it’s more about totally redesigning our societies from the ground up, which is obviously what people engaged with the Transition movement are doing and that’s super inspiring.

But I’m not dismissive of projects with prisoners. There are some really inspiring examples, especially in North America. People leaving prison really need support. They really need access to create a new way of life, because most people coming out of jail are landing straight in the same situation: poverty, benefits, drugs, violence, the same sort of patriarchal culture. So creating opportunities for prisoners to come out of jail and actually access land and build livelihoods, to find purpose and meaning, and actually be able to feed themselves, would be super inspiring and necessary.

I’ve met people who have been in and out of prison who actually will often get sent back to prison because it’s some stability. It’s regular meals, you’re warm, and I wonder what does that tell us about how crap stuff is once you get out and how little support there is when you get out, that going in and out and in and out just becomes a pattern for people. How do we break that pattern?

Nicole leading a workshop on permaculture and prisons. Nicole leading a workshop on permaculture and prisons. Without a doubt. Something like 65% of offenders – I don’t like the word offender – but of prisoners return within 6 or 12 months. So most people in prison are people that have been there before. There’s a design tool in permaculture, this idea of “a spiral of erosion”, identifying where that erosion is happening and where the leaks are. I feel like we can intervene in that system by looking at why people are returning to prison.

The main reason is getting kicked out of jail with a £46 discharge grant hasn’t changed in the last 4 years. Then you have to wait a month maybe to get your benefits sorted, and the grants from the state like the emergency fund from the Job Centre aren’t available any more. The Salvation Army is completely over-subscribed. You can’t get on the housing register and it’s literally no surprise that people return to prison. No surprise at all.

I could really see the change in the just-under 2 years that I was there, with all the government austerity measures, and how that was really harming people because all the services inside the prison were just getting stripped left, right and centre. The housing team lost their jobs, the group that worked with foreign national women lost their funding and then people were getting out and were completely unable to access support from charities or other bodies that used to exist. So prisons really link with this national impact of the state, and it’s basically class war on working class people in the UK.

Could you paint us a picture of what your vision would be of a fair, just, justice system? If you were to leap forward 20 years and this had happened, could you paint a picture of it for us? What might it be like?

For me, fairness is actual real social justice and a real egalitarian society, and I don’t feel that’s possible in our economic system and I don’t feel that’s possible when we have the existence of the state which is going to protect the people at the top of the hierarchy. So to have fairness would be to totally transform all our social relations and make our society less stratified and less hierarchical. Ideally, in my fantasy head, an anarchist society where we’re addressing our power relationships left, right and centre, where the minority don’t have a monopoly on violence over the majority.

In terms of a more positive, creative vision  – it would be communities actually being less atomised and having relationships with each other, and people actually paying attention to things like sexism, racism, so that there aren’t such endemic levels of domestic violence or drug abuse. Most substance abuse comes from people being sexually abused when they were kids so if we actually had a revolutionarily different society that kind of harm hopefully wouldn’t happen, or at least in definitely wouldn’t happen at the levels that we have now.

So I can imagine a constellation of alternatives in communities developing different tools and when we don’t have the haves and the have-nots I’m sure that would definitely stop a lot of the crime as we know it happening.

How might we start to move towards what you’re talking about?  We’re so far away from it at the moment.

We need to be investing time and energy into developing ways to respond to harm. Things like Transformative Justice are a lot more common in the US, but we need to really build up those tools and those ways of existing so that we can actually meet our own needs without the state. So I feel like that’s something that if people are interested in People Care or Zone 00 work or Inner Transition, then they could be actually really addressing some of the different forms of oppression that we have in our society like racism, sexism, able-ism and even just thinking about things like class within the Transition movement and the permaculture movement.

Artists impression of new super-size 'Titan' jail being built near Wrexham. Artists impression of new super-size ‘Titan’ jail being built near Wrexham.

To me these feel like huge elephants in the room that we don’t discuss enough, so really looking at design interventions around them. Practical projects with ex-prisoners, I think is super important. If every permaculture project or community garden in the UK could support a couple of apprentice ex-prisoners, I think we’d definitely make some sort of dent.

But more than anything, it’s this idea of  “are we making gardens in this battlefield?” I do feel like we need to politically engage with this and if people are really passionate about permaculture then applying design to grassroots campaigns. They’re building Europe’s second biggest prison right now in North Wales. Six days ago they announced a new prison they want to build in Jamaica funded by the British state. These are all things that are happening right now and I don’t feel like we can be neutral and I don’t feel like we can be passive. We need to organise and we need to resist the growth of the expansion of the prison system while simultaneously developing alternatives and doing more one-to-one work with ex-prisoners.

More information on Nicole’s work linking these issues here.  She also suggested, for those interested in learning more, the following links:

Empty Cages Collective resources section 

Community Action on Prison Expansion 

Bristol Anarchist Black Cross 

Critical Resistance (North America) 

My Home, My Land

My Home, My LandI came across this great resource on land grabbing… if you’re like me where pictures make more sense than words, you will appreciate it! >

My Home, My Land is a graphic representation of much of the Oakland Institute’s work on land grabs. Illustrated by the Institute’s Intern Scholar, Abner Hauge, this publication dismantles the many myths promoted by so-called donor countries, development agencies, and corporations about the positive effects of foreign direct investments through large-scale land acquisitions.

Over the past seven years, the Oakland Institute has exposed the actual impact of the land grabs on indigenous, pastoralist, and smallholder farming families around the world. The powerful illustrations of My Home, My Land remind us of the beauty and complexity of the world’s ecosystems and indigenous cultures, and call upon us to take action now to stop exploitative land grabs internationally.

Download My Home, My Land here

The World Bank’s Long War on Peasants

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Eric Holt-Giménez and Tanya M. Kerssen | 04.20.2015

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling—their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.”  

—Arundhati Roy, War Talk

Founded at the historical seam between World War II and the birth of the Cold War, the World Bank’s purpose—then as now—is to spread capitalism across the globe. Correspondingly, the Bank has long promoted capitalist agriculture—alongside other rural extractive industries—at the expense of peasant, indigenous, and community-based food systems. And while the Bank’s interest in farming has waxed and waned over its more than six decades, in recent years it has shown a renewed interest in the importance of agriculture. Critics, however, point to the Bank’s complicity in a new feverish wave of global land grabs. And peasants around the world refuse to buy the World Bank’s notion of their inevitable demise.

The Green Revolution as Massive Global Land Grab

In its early years (1940s-1960s), while the World Bank financed rural infrastructure like large dams, it mostly ignored agriculture. Not until the 1970s did Bank President Robert McNamara (1968-81) call for investments in agriculture. Following his tenure as Secretary of Defense of the United States—during which Vietnamese peasants routed US forces in Southeast Asia—he became keenly aware of agriculture’s geopolitical importance. Under McNamara the World Bank partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to massively expand the Green Revolution, which entailed transferring US-style industrial agriculture to the global South through debt-financed programs and infrastructure.

The Green Revolution spread rapidly throughout Asia and Latin America (it was mostly a failure in Africa), with dramatic increases in agricultural production. From 1970 to 1990, the two decades of major Green Revolution expansion, the total food available per person in the world rose by 11 percent. The benefits of this model, however, were poorly distributed and introduced profound social and environmental problems—arguably leading to more hunger, not less. In South America, for instance, per capita food supplies rose almost 8 percent, but the number of hungry people went up by 19 percent in the same period.

High-yielding crop varieties demanded high levels of chemical inputs and required fertile, irrigable land that could be mechanized. As a result, poor farmers were displaced from the best lands as wealthier farmers took advantage of new credit opportunities and input packages and expanded their landholdings. Millions of rural people migrated to the cities in search of work or sought out precarious farming opportunities on poor soils and fragile hillsides, joining the ranks of the poor and hungry.

The Neoliberal Turn and the Mounting Crisis

By the late 1980s, funding for agricultural development withered. The World Bank abandoned the state-led, debt-financed Green Revolution model as part of the larger shift to gut public institutions and put “development” in the hands of the private sector. In a reversal of early Green Revolution logic, the Bank enthusiastically supported the idea that poor countries should buy food from transnational corporations on the global market rather than grow it themselves.

The World Bank’s old, stale assumptions lingered; namely, that peasants should either get big (become large-scale commercial farmers) or get out of agriculture altogether.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which the IMF and World Bank-promoted cocktail of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization contributed to extreme vulnerability for farmers and peasants. First, it turned mostly self-sufficient agricultural economies into import-dependent ones. Second, it removed safety nets small farmers had long relied upon while abruptly forcing them to compete with imports from industrialized countries like the United States. And third, it made it easier for wealthy investors—both foreign and domestic—to access land and resources without adequately protecting human rights and rural livelihoods.

This tinderbox of vulnerability detonated in 2007 when global food prices spiked and food riots broke out around the world. Between 2007 and 2008, the world’s hungry jumped from 850 to 982 million people—mostly peasants and small farmers. World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for a “New Deal for a Global Food Policy” announcing, among other things, new loans for governments to purchase seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation improvements. Two decades of ignoring and defunding agriculture, it seemed, were drawing to a close—a suspicion confirmed when the Bank released its first comprehensive report on agriculture in 25 years: the 2008 World Development Report: Agriculture for Development.

But the Bank’s old, stale assumptions lingered; namely, that peasants should either get big (become large-scale commercial farmers) or get out of agriculture altogether. The implied prescription is yet another massive transfer of land and resources away from the world’s 2.5 billion peasants to large capitalist firms, while remaining agnostic about the fate of this mass of people—roughly a third of humanity.

The World Bank in the “New” Land and Resource Grabs

Looking at the Bank’s history and guiding assumptions, it is unsurprising to find it heavily implicated in what some are calling the “new” land and resource grabs. Sparked in part by the 2007-2008 food and financial crisis, a global wave of largely speculative investments and dispossession has affected upwards of 86 million hectares of land worldwide (with some estimates as high as 227 million hectares). The Bank facilitates these land grabs in a number of interrelated ways: low-interest loans to agribusiness and other land-based industries; investment guarantees and insurance; loans to governments for investor-friendly infrastructure like roads and dams; and technical advice on how to reform regulatory regimes to attract foreign investment.

1,000 World Bank projects approved between 2004 and 2013 forced 3.4 million people from their homes, grabbed their land, or damaged their livelihood.

Beyond agriculture, these activities support a whole slew of industries that restructure the countryside as a site of dirty extraction and capital accumulation instead of community health and wellbeing. These include timber, mining, fisheries, tourism, energy, and plantation agriculture (including agrofuels)—industries that either expel peasants from their territories or contaminate the land and water they depend on. Of course, once rendered poor and landless, former peasants are enlisted as cheap labor for the very industries that uprooted them. This, for the World Bank, is what constitutes “job creation” and “development.”

Many cases of land grabbing occur in countries with political instability and weak governance with regard to monitoring and regulating land deals—largely due to over two decades of World Bank-promoted structural adjustments that decimated government capacity. For instance, human rights and environmental activists have heavily criticized the Bank for promoting the expansion of mining in places like Haiti, where it has been assisting the government since 2013 in drafting new mining laws intended to attract foreign investment to a high-risk industry without applying social or environmental standards, transparency, or consultation mechanisms.

Perhaps the most egregious cases of World Bank-facilitated land grabbing have occurred under the auspices of the Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC recently came under fire for a $30 million loan package to the Dinant Corporation in Honduras, associated with the illegitimate acquisition of peasant lands for palm oil production and the killings of local community members. Half of the loan was disbursed to Dinant only four months after a military coup—supported by the country’s landowning and business elite—threw the country into political turmoil, including heavy peasant repression.

Further, a new report by Oxfam details the IFC’s increasing use of third parties such as banks or private equity funds to channel development money—$36 billion between 2009 and 2013 or 62 percent of IFC spending. This allows the IFC to distance itself from development outcomes such as human rights abuses, environmental impacts, and displacement.

Remarkably, the Bank doesn’t keep even basic statistics on the number of people displaced by its projects. A review of the Bank’s “Involuntary Resettlement” program completed in mid-2014 revealed that the status of displaced people was unknown for 61 percent of sampled Bank-funded projects. Based on this inadequate data, the Bank estimates that half a million people have been displaced due to its 218 active projects—with no clear idea of how many of those received compensation or new land. A separate 11-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that 1,000 projects approved between 2004 and 2013 forced 3.4 million people from their homes, grabbed their land, or damaged their livelihood.

This year, peasants mobilize against transnational companies and free trade agreements, watchwords of the World Bank’s longstanding development model and weapons in its ongoing war on peasants.

While Bank President Kim stated that “additional efforts must be made to build capacity and safeguards related to land rights,” a leaked draft of new World Bank social and environmental safeguards showed just the opposite. Most shockingly, notes a statement endorsed by over 100 human rights organizations and experts:

“The draft Framework provides an opt-out option for governments who do not wish to provide essential land and natural resource rights protections to Indigenous Peoples within their States. This regressive clause, if adopted, would represent a wink and nod by the World Bank to governments that they should not feel compelled to respect international human rights law, and can violate the fundamental right to land, territories, and resources…”

Peasants Vs. the Bank

Much has changed since the World Bank was founded in 1944. In spite of rising hunger, wealth inequality, and land concentration, there has been a remarkable growth in peasant mobilizations around the world—perhaps most notably the international peasant confederation La Vía Campesina now comprising over 150 member organizations in 70 countries representing some 300 million farmers. Each year on April 17, La Vía Campesina recognizes the “International Day of Peasant Struggle” in recognition of 19 peasant members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) who were assassinated by large landowners and military on April 17, 1996. This year, peasants mobilize specifically against transnational companies and free trade agreements, watchwords of the World Bank’s longstanding development model and weapons in its ongoing war on peasants. As La Vía Campesina celebrates its hard-fought struggle for food sovereignty, agroecology, and the right to land with actions around the world, it reminds us that farmers and peasants refuse to buy the Bank’s notion of their inevitable disappearance.

This article was first published by TeleSUR. 

Growing to Sell Course this May

Are you interested in market gardening? Or starting a CSA project? Or simply growing on a larger scale and selling your surplus? Want to create a livelihood from the land? This course is for you!

A 2 day course in how to scale up and sell or share produce to feed your community

27th & 28th May 2015

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Photo by Ingrid Crawford

At Brook End LAND Centre, Compton Dundon (near Glastonbury/Street), Somerset

This two day course introduces all of the factors you need to consider when scaling up your production. Learners will be supported to explore how they can create their own land-based livelihoods, while supporting the local area to increase its ability to feed itself. Learners will be able to meet experienced growers, as well as local agencies that can give you further business mentoring and support.

Sessions will include:

  • Different business and production models, such as market gardens, nurseries, Community Supported Agriculture schemes, cooperatives, box schemes, nurseries, country markets, intermediate markets, direct sales, farm gate sales and more
  • Agroecological practices for growing on a larger scale successfully
  • How to manage internal systems such as stock taking, book keeping and records management
  • Designing your own livelihood and using permaculture principles to design a sustainable enterprise congruent with your needs and ethics
  • Deciding what to grow in relationship to markets (value adding and so forth)
  • Legal necessities (such as labeling, licensing, health & safety, trading standards requirements, environmental health compliance, traceablity and so on)

Financial contribution

We have full funding for residents of Somerset, however others are very welcome. The course is designed on a sliding scale basis with low income learners £60 – £120 (£15k and above per year).

About the Tutors

urlTim Lawrence is a community development worker, community gardener and founder and previous staff grower at Sims Hill Shared Harvest, a successful CSA based in Bristol. He has diverse experience in establishing projects and supporting small-scale, sustainable food production.

Carol Stone is an experienced food grower and has supported a number of establishing enterprises in her work with the HogCO (home grown community owned) Project in Devon. She is now a co-director-member of Feed Avalon CIC and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and is passionate about involving more people in food production, community food growing and cooking, and building more sustainable and resilient food systems.

How to Book

Please email nicole@feedavalon.org.uk for a link to an online booking form and more information.

MSc Output 3 – Energy & Economics

My third output as part of my MSc with Political Agroecology is now live.

The aim of this output was to gain a better understanding of alternative and anarchist economics, and how our economic system affects the uptake of agroecological practices, with personal focuses on personal finances and livelihood designs. There are also threads exploring colonialism and racism, self care and radical community organising.

To view the whole thing visit: http://portfolios.gaiauniversity.org/view/view.php?id=5628

The True Cost of Extreme Energy – Banner Talk Glastonbury & Bristol

Frack Free Somerset are hosting a talk based around the ‘True Cost of Coal’ Banner, created by The Beehive Collective, from North America, a consensus-based volunteer-run graphics collective.

The Banner tells the story of Mountain Top Removal in the Appalachian Mountains, and the contemporary story of energy, resource extraction and American Empire.

With a gigantic portable mural teeming with intricate images of plants and animals from the most bio-diverse temperate forest on the planet, the Bees will share (and seek) stories of how coal mining and Mountaintop Removal affect communities and ecosystems throughout Appalachia and beyond. This graphic also looks to the future, raising questions about resistance, regeneration, and remediation while celebrating stories of struggle from mountain communities. The True Cost of Coal will challenge all of us who casually flip on a light switch to examine our own connections to extreme energy and to think about what we can do to stop it from within our own communities.

Glastonbury: Saturday 22nd February 2014, 7pm at the Camino Centre, King Street, Glastonbury, BA6 9JX

Bristol: Tuesday 25th February 2014, 7pm at Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Bristol BS5 6JY