Agroecology course with Miguel A Altieri and Clara Nicholls

Over the week of the Monday 27th April till to Friday 1st May 2015, I was super privileged to complete a training in Agroecology with leaders in the field, Miguel A Altieri and Clara Nicholls. I was extremely grateful to receive financial support from Schumacher College in order to make it.

I arrived on the Monday, hesitant about this ‘weird and wacky’ college that had been described to me by friends who had studied there. Over the course of the week I came to see the patterns of the college and how they are grounded in attempts to support people to connect and cooperate, for example everyone doing collective housework, shared meals, a head/heart/hands orientated program. While I still felt of a class barrier to feeling like it was a ‘home’ like we were encouraged, I still enjoyed my time there.

Miguel & Clara are both professors at the University of California. They have been leaders in the field for a long, long time. Aiding their research skills and passion for agroecology to learning from small scale peasant farmers in the Global South, they have cultivated the ground for agroecology to flourish. I’d like to share my deep gratitude to the talks and materials that formed the basis of the course.

What stayed with me most was the recognition that my role in the field of agroecology is an organiser. I want to build a movement of food sovereignty in this country that can redistribute land ownership, confront industrial agriculture and support the thriving of autonomous communities moving away from the state.

What I learnt in terms of the principles and practices of agroecology could be spread across several blogs! This will have to be a job for the winter when the growing season has subsided. Until then check out the photos from the course below:

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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

Militarization-of-Aguan_Peasant-eviction2-700x320
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. 

Urgent call out for support from Yorkley Court Community Farm

519970.jpg.indyscaledSupport needed at Yorkley Court Community Farm. Community before profit!

We have been given a date when county court bailiffs will come to evict us, which is

Thursday 26th March at 10am

Whether or not they actually try to evict us on this day, we expect that they will at least show up. It would be good to have a lot of people here and to be ready for whatever might happen.

What you can do:

In the case of eviction, there are a variety of roles that people can take on, both on and off site, including support roles such as cooks, legal observers, medics and arrestee support.

As well as people on the ground for practical solidarity, monetary donations and resources are much appreciated.

Contact details:
site address – Yorkley, GL15 4TZ
email – yorkleycourt@gmail.com
wish list – https://yorkleycourt.wordpress.com/wish-list/
go fund me – http://www.gofundme.com/mr9arc
site phone number – 07522 025 889
twitter – @yorkleycourt

How to find latest news:

Updates are regularly going up on our website (https://yorkleycourt.wordpress.com/) which also gives details of how to find us, and on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/YorkleyCourtCF)

Background:
Yorkley Court is a sustainable farm in the Forest of Dean where for the last three years we have been living and working to turn a neglected piece of land into a community farm, with activities open to local people. At the same were also trying to stop a land grab that was in progress. But this project is now under threat. A few months ago, a millionaire property developer “bought” the land under questionable circumstances, was granted a possession order through the courts, and now wants to evict us from the land.

We have already beaten an eviction attempt by this property developer once, with your help we can see him off again!

We’re inviting any interested people to come occupy the land with us. Come live in the woods, build awesome treehouses, participate in skill-shares, learn about sustainable living, resist eviction, and join us in fighting for access to land.

We are here, we are determined and we will not leave quietly.

Radio Interview with Animal Voices Canada: Permaculture and Empty Cages

animvoicesradioI was super touched to be asked to be interviewed by the amazing radio station, Animal Voices Canada, who have such varied intersectional media from multiple struggles.

See the original page here and audio file here: http://animalvoices.ca/2015/02/17/dont-be-afraid-to-turn-your-pain-into-power-permaculture-design-and-empty-cages-with-nicole-vosper/

“Don’t be afraid to turn your pain into power”: Permaculture Design and Empty Cages with Nicole Vosper

If you’ve envisioned a world where animals are no longer raised to be killed and eaten as food, you may have also wondered about finding alternative means of producing real food to feed the world. Nicole Vosper brings her experience with liberation permaculture and agroecology as a potential solution. These practices incorporate an ethic of care and respect for all beings into systems that can feed people in an environmentally friendly way. Her approach differs from the mainstream focus on welfarist changes to farming that still treat non-human animals as resources that can be exploited and consumed, and instead bases her designs with the inherent ethic that all beings deserve freedom, and that we can grow food in a sustainable way without hurting wild or domesticated animals alike, including ways to integrate permaculture with farm sanctuaries.

Nicole’s work is largely inspired by principles of green anarchism and anarchist pedagogy. She claims that: “we have so much to learn and unlearn,” and in the interview, she elaborates on how that connects with activism and radical community organizing. Her views also reflect work she does with prison abolition and self-care, getting to the root of issues in our communities in ways that will precipitate real and effective social change.

 

Community Food Forum

Feed Avalon are organising quarterly community food forums. The aim is to bring together interested individuals and groups from the local area who are currently active, or interested in becoming active, in reclaiming our food system.

They are informal events where we can talk, share food and build relationships.

The next forum is:

6.00 – 8.00pm at St Edmund’s Community Hall in Glastonbury

Please bring some food to share!

Comm Food Forum March 2015

Solidarity still needed at Yorkley Court Community Farm – What you can do

Residents of Yorkley Court Community Farm would like to say a huge THANK YOU for the support & solidarity received so far…

Background:

For the last two and a half years people have been occupying land at Yorkley Court in Forest of Dean, with the aim of establishing a sustainable community farm. The land ownership has been contested due to a complex and unique scenario in the farm’s history.

On the 26th February, a judge granted a possession order to an un-liked local millionaire property developer. A timeframe for eviction was given.

The house has been taken over by Brian Bennet and the other areas of the land are still being defended.

Yorkley Court Community Farm has been (and still is) an inspiring example of reclaim the fields, bringing to light issues & putting into practice food sovereignty, agroecology, access to land, permaculture, anarchism, collective living & more… It is a site of struggle that needs your solidarity.

What you can do:

  • Get to the site on the 12th March at midday. The date for the full eviction attempt.
  • Donate via this link. Funds are needed urgently: http://www.gofundme.com/mr9ar
  • Visit & stay at Yorkley Court. Every day is unpredictable. There are many practical jobs, from building to cooking, even just making cups of tea & listening is a very welcomed thing!
  • Participate in the Activist Training Skill Share and Workshop Camp that has been organised. Everyone with a passion to learn or a skill to share are welcome to join us, please email yorkleycourt@gmail.com if you would like to offer a workshop. Confirmed workshops include:
  • Climbing and Rope work training – every day from 10am
  • Building skill share – every day all day
  • Legal Observer Training – Sunday 8th
  • Contribute something that is on the wish list:
  • Bedding
  • Tents
  • Tarps
  • Tin Food
  • Waterproof Boots
  • Climbing Equipment
  • Polly Prop rope
  • Candles
  • Cammo Net
  • Jerry Can
  • Sand+Gravel+Cement
  • People
  • Spread the word about Yorkley Court Community Farm. Encourage your friends & comrades to visit: https://www.yorkleycourt.wordpress.com  or like YorkleyCourtCF on facebook. Follow @yorkleycourt on twitter. Spread the infographic here:

Information for people coming:

  • Bring sensible clothes, sleeping stuff and tents.
  • If you need financial support to be able to visit please email yorkleycourt@gmail.com – we really appreciate all visitors & will do our best to cover your costs if needed.
  • You are welcome to interact with the emerging situations in anyway you feel comfortable (in terms of resisting eviction & securing the site). We reject problematic divisions of labour. All support is appreciated.

Contact Details:

Website: yorkleycourt.wordpress.com
Facebook: YorkleyCourtCF
Email: yorkleycourt@gmail.com
Phone Number: 07522025889
Twitter: @yorkleycourt


SOLIDARITY IS OUR STRENGTH

WE CAN DEFEND YORKLEY COURT COMMUNITY FARM!

Yorkley New

Yorkley Court Community Farm Court News

News from court:

Yorkley Court Community Farm lost in court this morning. The judge ruled in favour of millionaire, Brian Bennett. There is a possession order. A timeframe for eviction has been given.

They have:

  • 24 hours for farmhouse
  • 3 days for area surrounding farmhouse
  • 14 days for the bottom strip

People living at the farm will be meeting this afternoon to determine what they will do next and what support they need.

Please continue to support them! Visit/donate/spread the word.

More people are hugely welcome on site. Travel money can be given if its a barrier for you. Please bring sleeping equipment and be prepared.

Donate: http://www.gofundme.com/mr9arc

Email: yorkleycourt@gmail.com
Facebook: YorkleyCourtCF
Twitter: @yorkleycourt
Web: https://www.yorkleycourt.wordpress.com
Phone: 07522 025 889

Viva YCCF!