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African climate negotiators urged to employ WTO Seattle strategy

(Originally published at parapress.com)

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Wikipedia

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) – African negotiators at the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference have been urged to garner support of activists to block the signing of the  anticipated new universal climate change agreement if it is perceived unfavorable to the continent.
Bearing the greatest proportion of risks and impacts posed by climate change, African countries have been asked to maintain unity with the support of activists and threaten a walk out as the only way to change the balance of forces in Paris, if they think they will get a raw deal.
Prof. Patrick Bond from the Centre for Civil Society, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa has said that Africa should  take a leaf out of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests that showed unity in diversity.
Bond who spoke on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Talks taking place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, told PANA in an interview that Seattle is an example of what can be accomplished when there is determination and unity from negotiators and activists.
He said African negotiators at the UN conference in Paris should follow as an example the 1999 WTO ministerial conference and not cut what they see as a bad deal for the continent.
Once it is clear that a deal, which will be nowhere near to 2 degrees Celsius will be adopted, “this is when we need African societies to demand that they don’t negotiate further”, Bond said, in reference to the global agreement on the emission reduction required to control global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
All evidence indicates, however, that for Africa and the Small Island Developing States, temperature increases above 1.5 degrees Celsius are already catastrophic.
“If they (African negotiators and the civil society) unite and decide to walk out, they will deny consensus and then force the next COP (Conference of Parties)  which is going to be in Africa, Morocco in 2016, to then change the power balance in the meantime,” Bond stated.
He noted that after the Seattle breakdown, when they met again in Doha in 2001, they had a huge gift for Africa which was free anti-retroviral medicines.
“Before that these drugs were costing US$10,000 to get a year’s treatment of AIDS medicines. But once the African negotiators with the support of activists won, the AIDS crisis is now simply a long term disease.  And in South Africa there is an increase in life expectancy of 10 years, from 52 to 62, as a result of that, so that is the kind of strength and unity we want to see in Paris.”
Bond who said the Seattle conference illustrated what could be done if African negotiators stop the signing of a deal which is perceived to be detrimental to the continent.
He was however quick to caution the elite negotiators who, he said, “are under pressure once they are identified by the US government and USAID.”
Also, significant for the continent at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, are questions surrounding the issue of loss and damage and whether Africa should pay for something they had no role in, arguing that the money should come from the North, as well as the issue on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility.
Meanwhile, the latest round of the UN climate change negotiations ended Friday in Bonn,  Germany, on track to produce the first comprehensive draft of the new global climate change agreement that governments are committed to reach in Paris.
According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the draft will present clear options and ways forward on all elements of the agreement and the decisions that will operationalize it from 2020.
“What Parties are looking for now is a better basis from which to negotiate. This week, we achieved an enormous amount of clarity as to where we are going which makes this possible and allows us to speed up,” said co-chair Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States at the end of the meeting.

Declaration against REDD to be presented at World Forestry Congress

NO-redd-button-size-sticker-300x300We, local communities, peasants movements, Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations from Africa and all over the world, call upon the United Nations, the World Forestry Congress, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank and states to reject top-down forms of development, including false solutions to climate change and forest and biodiversity conservation that only serve the dominant market economy.

We are united to oppose and reject the commodification, privatisation and plunder of Nature, which include REDD+1 and other market-based mechanisms including biodiversity and conservation offsets that put profit above the wellbeing of humanity and the planet.

These mechanisms include the “financialization of nature,” which commodifies, separates and quantifies the Earth’s cycles and functions of carbon, water, forest, fauna and biodiversity – turning them into “units” to be sold in financial and speculative markets. However, Mother Earth is the source of Life, which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’

REDD+ is also the pillar of the Green Economy. REDD+ is being misleadingly billed as saving the world’s forests and climate and is the anticipated main outcome of the UN’s Paris Accord on climate change in December 2015. In addition, REDD+ is a false solution to climate change that is already including forests, plantations and agriculture in the carbon Reports show that deforestation and the related emissions continue, and that REDD+, instead of reducing them, is harming and vilifying forest-dependent communities and those who produce the majority of the world’s food – small scale farmers. Furthermore,

  • REDD+ promotes monoculture tree plantations and genetically modified trees
  • REDD+ increases land grabs and human rights violations
  • REDD+ restricts access to forests, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices
  • REDD+ causes violence against peasants, Indigenous Peoples, women and forest-dwelling communities
  • REDD+ is combined with other offsets including payment for environmental services (PES)
  • REDD+ imposes market driven neo-liberalism on forests, which undermines and monetizes community conservation and social/cultural processes and creates inequalities
  • REDD+ projects tend to force subsistence communities into the cash economy and exploitative wage-labor
  • REDD+ hinders and prevents much needed policies that support endogenous, bio-cultural approaches to biodiversity conservation and restoration.

Therefore, we join with the No REDD in Africa Network and the Global Alliance against REDD to demand that governments, the United Nations and financial institutions stop the disastrous REDD+ experiment and finally start addressing the underlying causes of forest loss and climate change!

1 REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a global initiative to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests and all other ecosystems to compensate governments and companies or owners of forests and agriculture in developing countries not to cut their forests or to reduce their rate of deforestation and forest degradation as a market mechanism to avoid GHG emissions. REDD+ expands REDD to develop methods for carbon sequestration through conservation of forest (and wetlands, agricultural systems) carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

Put forward by the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) and the Global Alliance Against REDD, with endorsement and support by the following. To be presented to the World Forestry Congress 2015, the UNFCCC COP21 and beyond:

  • No REDD in Africa Network
  • Global Alliance Against REDD
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • JA!/Justica Ambiental – Friends of the Earth Mozambique
  • All India Forum of Forest Movements/India
  • CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia
  • Womin (Womens on Mining)
  • Foundation Help/Tanzania
  • Centre from Civil Society/University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
  • Democratic Left Front

Black and Afro-Indigenous Farmers Share 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize

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Members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, International Winner of the Food Sovereignty Prize.

 In 2015, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance’s two prize winners are the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in the U.S., and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. The prizes will be presented in Des Moines on October 14, 2015.
In this moment when it is vital to assert that Black lives matter, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance honors Black and Afro-Indigenous farmers, fishermen, and stewards of ancestral lands and water. We especially honor them as a vital part of food chain workers, who together are creating food sovereignty, meaning a world with healthy, ecologically produced food, and democratic control over food systems.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives strengthens a vital piece of food sovereignty: helping keep lands in the hands of family farmers, in this case primarily African-American ones. The Federation was born in 1967 out of the civil rights movement. Its members are farmers in 16 Southern states, approximately 90% of them African-American, but also Native American, Latino, and White.

The Federation’s work is today more important than ever, given that African-American-owned farms in the US have fallen from 14% to 1% in less than 100 years. To help keep farms Black- and family-owned instead of corporate-owned, the Federation promotes land-based cooperatives; provides training in sustainable agriculture and forestry, management, and marketing; and advocates to the courts and to state and national legislatures.

Ben Burkett, co-founder of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Mississippi farmer, said, “Our view is local production for local consumption. It’s just supporting mankind as family farmers. Everything we’re about is food sovereignty, the right of every individual on earth to wholesome food, clean water, clean air, clean land, and the self-determination of a local community to grow and do what they want. We just recognize the natural flow of life. It’s what we’ve always done.”

The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) was created in 1979 to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of 46 Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. At once Afro-descendent and indigenous, the Garifuna people are connected to both the land and the sea, and sustain themselves through farming and fishing. Land grabs for agrofuels (African palm plantations), tourist-resort development, and narco-trafficking seriously threaten their way of life, as do rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. The Garifuna, who have already survived slavery and colonialism, are now defending and strengthening their land security and their sustainable, small-scale farming and fishing. OFRANEH brings together communities to meet these challenges head-on through direct-action community organizing, national and international legal action, promotion of Garifuna culture, and movement-building. In its work, OFRANEH especially prioritizes the leadership development of women and youth.

Coordinator Miriam Miranda said, “Our liberation starts because we can plant what we eat. This is food sovereignty. We need to produce to bring autonomy and the sovereignty of our peoples. If we continue to consume [only], it doesn’t matter how much we shout and protest. We need to become producers. It’s about touching the pocketbook, the surest way to overcome our enemies. It’s also about recovering and reaffirming our connections to the soil, to our communities, to our land.” 

The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of October 14in Des Moines, IA, at the Historical Building. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but imbalanced access to wealth means inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agroecology.

The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Grassroots International, and the Small Planet Fund.

For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org. Also, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize on Facebook (facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyPrize) and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).

 

New Video and Toolkit for Fight Against Wood Pellet Industry in US South

From Dogwood Alliance:

Communities in the US South are no stranger to extractive industries that put greed over the health and prosperity of the people. We know too well the familiar story of profit-hungry corporations and politicians promising economic development and community care, but delivering low-paying jobs, environmental disasters, and health consequences that reverberate for decades.

But what Southerners also know is the strength, resilience, and power of community action. From the oil rigs of the Gulf South to the hog waste lagoons of North Carolina, Southern residents have always known how to come together to protect their health, heritage, and way of life.

Now, the wood pellet industry is disrupting the quality of life, public health, and safety of residents living in communities across the South. Once more, it is up to us to take a stand for our environment, health, and quality of life, and to ensure these basic rights are maintained for generations to come. Stopping this industry will take the action and support of people across the US. Passing an anti-biomass resolution will send a strong message to industry executives and policymakers that we stand united in demanding a clean and sustainable future.

WATCH SELLING OUT SAMPSON COUNTY. EXPOSE THE TRUTH OF DIRTY BIOMASS.

The industrial-scale logging and production of wood pellets puts Southern residents at risk. The wood dust and fine particulate matter created in the production of wood pellets is leading to respiratory problems, creating a mess, and disrupting residents living near the facilities. The air and water quality of local communities is threatened by increased logging. The constant noise, at all hours, of wood pellet facilities disrupts the peace and sleep of residents of rural communities. The increased truck traffic from the facilities is clogging up the roads, damaging publicly funded roadways, and poses a serious safety concern to local commuters. Furthermore, this industry is being fueled by massive subsidies and incentives, all at the expense of local taxpayers. What few jobs the industry provides come at the expense of the forests, air, and water of communities.

DOWNLOAD THE COMMUNITY TOOLKIT. OPPOSE BIOMASS IN YOUR CITY.

The dirty biomass industry is not the future for our Southern communities or forests. We need long-term solutions that value the health and prosperity of people and the environment. And it is our right to demand this from policymakers and industry leaders. With organizing and action, we can pave the way for a future that puts the needs of the people before corporate profit, and values our forests for the myriad of life-supporting services they provide just by standing. Our Southern communities and forests are not resources that can be taken advantage of for the personal gain of greedy industries. They are vital components of a vibrant global community and ecosystem, and we must take action to make sure they continue to be so.

About Dogwood Alliance

Dogwood Alliance is increasing protection for millions of acres of Southern forests by transforming the way corporations, landowners and communities value them for their climate, wildlife and water benefits.  Dogwood Alliance has revolutionized the environmental practices of some of the world’s largest corporations.  For more information on the organization please visit www.dogwoodalliance.org or follow on Twitter @DogwoodAlliance.

Agroecology as a Tool for Liberation: Transforming Industrial Agribusiness in El Salvador

An interview with Miguel Ramirez, National Coordinator of the Organic Agriculture Movement of El Salvador. Originally published by Other Worlds Are Possible.

By Beverly Bell

August 12, 2015

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Miguel Ramirez training family farmers on seed bank management. Photo courtesy of MAOES.

We say that every square meter of land that is worked with agro-ecology is a liberated square meter. We see it as a tool to transform farmers’ social and economic conditions. We see it as a tool of liberation from the unsustainable capitalist agricultural model that oppresses farmers.

We in the Organic Agriculture Movement see the soil as Mother Earth, a living organism, which gives birth to all kinds of life. Mother Earth is agonizing, and needs to be rescued. Even a new small plot of land under organic management is part of the effort to revive her.

We now have around 3,700 small local producers who are educated and working on organic agriculture in El Salvador. We’re just about one percent of all small producers, but 15 or 20 years ago we had no organic agriculture.

Our territory is made up of just 20,000 square kilometers, with 70 percent of the territory dedicated to agriculture. The challenge is to keep winning over new farmer families that will re-convert to organic farming and liberate the land.

For 60 years, Salvadoran peasants have been marginalized and impoverished by the agro-industrial model [chemically dependent, large-scale, corporate-controlled agribusiness], which is based on resource and human exploitation. Today, peasants in El Salvador, as throughout Latin America, are living in a system of semi-slavery and are subjected to expensive and toxic technology that doesn’t belong to them.

People are facing some very serious health problems. Prolonged exposure to pesticides and other toxins in our food is causing low renal function, cancer, and diabetes.

Another problem we face as a result of this system of production is the extreme degradation of our natural resources. El Salvador has the most soil degradation in all of Central America. Eighty percent of our land is degraded and 99 percent of our rivers are contaminated.

According to some geneticists, biologists and anthropologists, Central America was one of the first places that started practicing agriculture, in about 7,000 BC. The Mayan civilization was one of the pioneers of agriculture. We have incredible historical wealth regarding their practices in El Salvador, which need to be rescued.
One is the Mayan system of production known as the milpa [small bio-organic gardens involving crop rotation and family control]. For thousands of years, the milpa guaranteed food sovereignty and healthy foods for civilization.

This model was disrupted by several historical events. The Spanish invasion 500 years ago destroyed the entire Mayan tradition and production model based on food sovereignty. Local communities were forced to stop producing their own food and to start producing food that was of interest to the Spanish colony.

The next significant influence was the Green Revolution in the 1960s. Then, after World War Two ended, military machinery for chemical weapons was transformed and utilized for agricultural production. All of Latin America, including El Salvador, fell victim to the imposition of this technological model.

El Salvador has a tragic, repressive history, including the war waged against our 12-year revolution. The war ended in January, 1992 after the peace accord was signed, which helped create conditions that made it possible to start  organizing, educating and working towards agro-ecology and organic agriculture. Initially, the movement wasn’t very successful, but about 10 years ago we started working again, and the movement for organic agriculture began growing.

Our main strategy over the past six years has been raising awareness. Unfortunately, poor peasants defend pesticides, which is the only technical package they know. Agrotoxic industrial agriculture is like a drug. Once one falls into the vice, it’s hard to get out. We work to help the farmers understand that they must stop being the object of consumption in this system. They have to reclaim the values and rescue ancestral knowledge, which is a primary pillar of the movement.

We believe that, with education, awareness-raising, and community organizing among Salvadoran peasants, it’s possible to reverse our [agricultural] history. We believe that change will only be possible if it comes from the ground up, from a campesino population that is conscious and organized.

The consumer sector in El Salvador is also very misinformed. They don’t know the peasants’ reality and they know even less about the importance of reclaiming healthy consumption. We are working to bring about a direct relationship between producer and consumer, so consumers can understand and value peasants’ work, what it takes to deliver foods to each Salvadoran’s table.

We believe that in order to guarantee food sovereignty, we must have organic agriculture, offering healthy food for all. Therefore, we don’t believe in overpriced organic products. That’s an elitist practice and it’s a contradiction to our work. The Organic Agriculture Movement is working to change that, because we believe the entire community can and must eat healthily.

When the left-wing government took power in El Salvador [in 2009], our hopes soared. Before the elections, we began working with the left political party on a plan for developing the agricultural sector, which would include the strategy for organic farming. This has already become a focus in the administration’s five-year plan. We aren’t completely satisfied with the response so far, but we truly hope that the plan will materialize into concrete actions.

In July of 2014, we submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture for the development of organic farming, with 13 strategy proposals. The Minister acknowledges that organic farming is a threat to strong financial interests. The agrochemical transnationals are like monsters, capable of putting into place and removing governments in Latin America. [See, for example, this article.]

Monsanto and other companies, such as Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Singleton, have multi-million dollar deals in El Salvador and all Latin American countries. The previous government bought all of their fertilizer and seeds from Monsanto to give to producers in the form of agricultural packages. The relationship between these companies and the government has been breaking down with this administration, and we hope that the rupture will grow even  larger.

Some research bodies in the government still don’t know about alternative or organic farming, because academia has been taken over by companies like Monsanto. Part of our struggle has also been to have the National University’s Agricultural Engineering Faculty reinvent itself, because that’s where our main detractors are. The faculty, wittingly and unwittingly, defends agrotoxic agriculture, and they continue to educate professionals who follow that line.

I’m happy to say that in January 2015, we held a training workshop for the National University’s Agricultural Sciences Faculty and academic staff with the objective of starting to transform the curriculum. We have introduced agronomy professors at the national university to the theories of organic agriculture, and have been taking them on field visits to help convince them. Many of them are seeing the benefits and are including agroecology in their curriculum.

This is our struggle. There are still many challenges ahead. But we’re making progress in this titanic but beautiful struggle, to reclaim the lives of all Salvadorans.
For more information and to support the Organic Agriculture Movement of El Salvador, contact Ecoviva.

With thanks to Flavia Moreno for translation, Natalie Miller for help in editing, and Karolo Aparicio and Nathan Weller for making our interview possible.

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