Friday, June 30, WTF returned to Managua, Nicaragua to do follow-up study of Caribbean Coast government funded infrastructure projects and to celebrate the 44th Anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution on July 19. While on assignment, each week we will share with you segments of the documentary Nicaragua Against Empire. The film journals our March 2021 Sanctions Kill / Friends of the ATC, Nicaragua delegation. This episode is an inside look at the Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) Ixim Ulew in Chontales, Nicaragua. Ixim Ulew means "Land of Corn" in Maya K’iche’, paying homage to the Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica.
Red amaranth, which provides a protein boost for pregnant mothers; spider plant, which is believed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells; and eggobe, which is said to be handy for treating diabetes and hypertension. These are just some of the fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat and other produce sold by farmers at a recent ‘Earth Market’ in Nkokonjeru, a trading centre to the east of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. The weekly market (which, at the time of publishing this article, is on hiatus) allows local growers to sell their agroecological produce – including those that are at risk of extinction, rare or Indigenous – directly to buyers.
Industry figures and scientists claim pesticide use and GMOs are necessary in ‘modern agriculture’. But this is not the case: there is now sufficient evidence to suggest otherwise. It is simply not necessary to have our bodies contaminated with toxic agrochemicals, regardless of how much global agribusiness firms try to reassure us that they are present in ‘safe’ levels. There is also the industry-promoted narrative that if you question the need for synthetic pesticides or GMOs in ‘modern agriculture’, you are somehow ignorant or even ‘anti-science’. This is again not true. What does ‘modern agriculture’ even mean?
Decades of industrial agriculture have caused environmental and social damage across the globe. Soils have deteriorated and plant and animal species are disappearing. Landscapes are degraded and small-scale farmers are struggling. It’s little wonder we’re looking for more sustainable and just ways of growing food and fibre. Regenerative agriculture is one alternative creating a lot of buzz, especially in rich, industrially developed countries. The term “regenerative agriculture” was coined in the 1970s. It’s generally understood to mean farming that improves, rather than degrades, landscape and ecological processes such as water, nutrient and carbon cycles.
We are very excited about a new collaboration with Ecological Land Cooperative and the Landworkers Alliance. The purpose of the project is to identify the barriers that BPOC face when considering a land based livelihood in Britain, to map existing and prospective BPOC led land-based businesses and organisations and to discover what challenges they face and how they seek to overcome them. Building off the initial research we completed for Rootz Into Food Growing, but expanding to the wider country to collect stories from across Britain. The research findings will be discussed with a wide range of organisations in the agroecology sector to identify ways to support BPOC new entrants to farming. The final intention of the collective effort is to strengthen LION’s capacity to become a community land trust, so that we can provide practical solutions for BPOC land stewards including access to land.
Entering adulthood alongside the dwindling of 2020 uprisings for Black liberation (that I had naively seen as the beginning of the end), I felt very stuck. Understanding I am a poor queer Black woman, I saw myself facing a world where the options presented for survival were dehumanizing at best, and the innate dream of living as a free person essentially destroyed. I wanted to fight the liberal tendency of American youth to begin with strong spirits of resistance, before colleging, working and/or drugging, and ultimately, laying down into the nuzzle of the state we once claimed to relentlessly hate. I myself knew that I was seriously struggling, on so many fronts, save the one struggle that might bring peace. I knew a spoonful about Nicaragua and their struggle, but became personally interested after hearing report-backs of comrades who traveled to Nicaragua to observe the November 2021 election and January inauguration of President Daniel Ortega.
The UK farming sector is in the middle of an existential crisis. As a consequence of leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the Conservative government has had to draft a new agricultural support scheme to either match or replace the direct payments received by UK farmers from the EU. What will replace this scheme has been the subject of heated debate for years. Most probable is the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). ELMS would offer ‘public money for public good’, meaning that farmers would receive payments if they could prove their farm was engaging in beneficial environmental practice, such as rewilding a section of their land. The scheme has its detractors across the political spectrum, yet to-ELMS-or-not-to-ELMS is a sideshow for much of the British public.
Hundreds of smallholder farmers gathered in the city of Morogoro on November 17 and 18 for the 27th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania or the National Network of Small-Scale Farmers Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA). The organization was founded in 1993 by self-organized farmers in the wake of the country’s first Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) under the IMF and the World Bank between 1986 to 1989. The neoliberal reforms ushered in during this period marked an absolute departure from Tanzania’s centrally-planned economy under socialist president and leading anti-colonial figure Julius K. Nyerere. In 1967, Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration, committing Tanzania to the principles of socialism and self-reliance and paving the way for nationalization of key industries and the collectivization of agriculture.
Based on findings from transdisciplinary research and drawing on interviews with eleven different new entrant case studies, this report encourages the governments of UK nations to recognise and act upon the urgent need to focus their support for new entrants into farming on breakingfood down the real barriers to entry for agroecological, short supply chain land-based enterprises. The report shows that agroecological farming and land work is an attractive sector, and investing in routes into agroecology for new entrants has the potential to both rejuvenate and diversify the farming and food production sector, while also helping governments to meet their food, climate and green recovery commitments.
This past week, I visited the community of Tomabu in the department of Estelí. It is a small campo community with an incredibly curvy and uneven dirt road that leads to the top. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Dolores and Bernardino in their home, where they shared with us that Dolores was born in the community and they have been campesinos/campesinas their entire lives, currently working with 4 manzanas of land, and that the community’s main crops are corn and beans Dolores and Bernardino have one of the ATC’s projects behind their home – cama profundas, as they are called in Spanish – a deep bed system for reproducing pigs that will either be sold within the community or consumed by community members. During our visit, we got to see the first piglets from the mother pig in the deep bed system.
It’s another example of the small-scale farming movement holding the advantage over global mainstream agriculture. Market gardens and community farms are small enough to look inwards, responsive enough to look outwards, and nimble enough to pivot and reflect back what they see. The first stage is the reckoning. A growing public debate around inequality and inclusion in the UK is driving a lot of discourse and the first breath of real change. Industrial agriculture and the traditional institutions of rural Britain often appear willing to ignore their own unjust foundations and oppressive dynamics. Whereas the arguably white, middle-class domain of the sustainable food movement seems increasingly unafraid to ruffle its own feathers.
Global food systems are at a breaking point. Not only are they responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, they are also the top contributors to water pollution and biodiversity collapse. On top of that, many aspects of our food systems are extremely vulnerable to disruptions from climate change and other shocks, as we saw in the first months of the pandemic. Agroecology — an approach to farming long practiced by Indigenous and peasant communities around the world — could transform our food systems for the better. And agribusinesses in the Global North are actively looking to agroecology to rebrand and build new markets under the banners of carbon farming and regenerative agriculture.
We feel like we are sandwiched between unfair market competition at the bottom and unfair production regulations at the top. The industrial baking industry has all the comparative advantages of size, it uses standardized raw materials and many types of additives. We have all the disadvantages of standards tailored to industrial production. These rules have not been adapted to the possible risks of our small-scale artisanal production methods. With lower production volumes and higher labor costs, we are disproportionately burdened by these over-regulations, which hardly help to fulfil the goals they are supposed to serve. As competent, independent and socially responsible craftspeople, we are disenfranchised and penalized by rampant bureaucratic regulations.
During a recent event at SXSW organized by Food Tank, Huston-Tillotson University, Oatly, and others, food system scholars and activists discussed the intersection of food, culture, and economics. Cortlin Harrison, a barista at the first unionized Starbucks in Buffalo, New York and a member of Starbucks Workers United highlighted some of the deep inequities perpetuated by food corporations. “We were seeing partners who can’t afford their rent, partners struggling with food insecurity,” Harrison says. “Meanwhile we’re seeing the corporate elite make billions of dollars in profit,” Panelists also pointed to many challenges on the farm. Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food notes, “Black farmers and ranchers are losing heritage land to predatory developers every single day.”
Like-minded individuals from the United States, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Borinquen, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua gathered together in Nicaragua from September 3-13th, 2021, to build solidarity, exchange knowledge and culture, and learn through experience — specifically in the campo (countryside) of Nicaragua through agroecology. Members of the delegation eagerly gathered in Managua first to learn the history of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution, which included touring the capital city, discovering historical sites, and enjoying community offerings in Managua, such as the beautiful Luis Alfonso Velasquez Park and the Salvador Allende Port. We learned that 45% of the population in Nicaragua live in the campo, and over 90% of the food consumed in Nicaragua is produced within the country.