For the last few months, farmer groups in India have been protesting. In the largest protest of its kind by farmer groups in over 3 decades, farmers have marched on the capital city of Delhi, occupying highways and launching strikes. They have received the support of all opposition parties in the country, of solidarity demonstrations internationally, of Indian trade unions and beyond.
The strike centres on a package of three laws passed by Narendra Modi’s BJP government. One of these laws de-regulate sales areas in the country and open it up to the free market. The second one promotes contract farming in India allowing for greater corporatisation of Indian agriculture and the third one promotes hoarding for agribusinesses. The other primary demand of the farmer groups is to ensure they receive Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their farming produce.
In this session, we will be joined by representatives of small farmers and the farmers’ movement in India to learn more about this strike against the corporate domination of India’s agricultural system and in defence of the rights of peasants and small farmers.
Rogelio and his daughter Michel Simbaña of the Kitu-Kara Nation share with us their experiences of 20 years, starting with a mini organic garden and growing up to two interconnected farms in different ecosystems, their work with their local community preserving the Sacred Mountain Ilaló, and the organic shop they opened in February, just in time for the Covid-related food crisis.
Rogelio was born and raised as a poor indigenous farmer. When he was 7, his mother gave him a couple goats and told him: “now you have to look for yourself. If you want to study, you will have to pay your own school.” The following years, developing his goat herd in Mount Ilaló, were crucial in his development: he forged a strong connection with the mountain and the native forests there. He was then drafted into the army, fought in a war, got a job in agrochemical agriculture after that, became really sick. He then decided to return to his roots, and accepted an underpaid job managing a tree nursery for his community. This gave him the opportunity to work with native trees.
In 2003 he connected with the Seed Guardians Network and was hired as a technical assistant and a farmer’s educator. Since then, his life has turned into a permaculture adventure, becoming one of the most recognized leaders of the regenerative movement in the country and helping hundreds of farmers to develop their pathway out of poverty and into Sumak Kawsay, the Good Living philosophy of their ancestors.
The transformation of the food system relies on the effective organising of locally rooted movements and struggles around the world. This work is impossible without challenging approaches rooted in the dominance of colonial languages (in particular English, French and Spanish) and without structures and platforms that ensure and facilitate for everyone’s voices and languages to be heard.
Agroecology at its heart respects the traditions and linguistic heritage of diverse land based cultures. Therefore, it must examine the history of the dominance of the colonial languages (English, French and Spanish) and discuss the pivotal role interpretation plays in social movement organising. In this session we will hear from interpreters working with La Via Campesina and other global grassroot farming groups and learn how ways of knowing the land can change with different languages.
Beekeeping is accessible to everyone: it doesn’t require ownership of land, capital investment or great time commitment, but it brings benefits of pollination and harvests of nutritious food and medicine. Local bees, local materials and the knowledge of local beekeepers provide all that is needed; skills in understanding bees and forage in the landscape can be learned. Recognising the dependence of bees on abundant and unpolluted landscapes becomes an incentive for beekeepers to protect and conserve their forests and support local farmers towards agroecological practices. Where forests are healthy in tropical Africa, bees are healthy and abundant. Where there is deforestation and agrochemical use, bees and the livelihoods of local communities both suffer.
We will hear from beekeepers world-wide about their guardianship of community forests, about problems caused by deforestation, fire and intensification of agriculture. We’ll also hear about partnerships that yield benefits for beekeepers, farmers, honey traders and local communities, bringing increased crop yields, harvests of honey and beeswax, food and medicine for the community and access to markets in towns and cities. Beekeepers hold a direct, recognisable and measurable interest in the biodiversity of their lands: in freedom from agrochemicals and pollution and in the health of their forests.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has played a critical role in feeding local communities during the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses and gaps in our global food production and distribution systems. In contrast, smaller more local farms and direct sales models are being celebrated as more resilient and veg box customer numbers soared in 2020.
Join this session to hear from CSA farmers in Europe and the global CSA movement Urgenci, about the different responses and approaches taken by CSAs throughout the pandemic. What has actually been happening on the ground? Has there been a boom in the CSA movement? There is growing recognition that family-scale farms using agroecological practices are an essential part of a system capable of providing healthy, nutritious food for all. It seems customers are hearing this message.
The importance of local, fresh, seasonal, healthy, sustainable food has gathered momentum, stimulated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the need for food of high nutritional quality has yet to be widely recognised.
We are increasingly aware of the links between the heath of our soil and nutrient content of the food we produce. In this session, we will explore such questions as: Has the decline in soil fertility led to poor nutritional quality food? And what is the connection(if any) to the growing incidence of diet-related noncommunicable diseases? Will a shift to nature-friendly farming practices help produce nutrient dense food and help boost our gut microbiomes and general health?
This session will increase awareness of nutrient dense food, and showcase work from the Bionutrient Food Association and Newcastle University to improve transparency and prioritise nutritional quality in nature-friendly farming practices for better citizen health.
Being able to farm and to feed one’s family is fundamental to rebuilding the lives of rural people traumatised by conflict. For the physically disabled this was considered near impossible, but a new farming venture in Sierra Leone is changing that perception.
Already one of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone was devastated by an eleven-year civil war in which tens of thousands of people died and many more thousands had limbs amputated. In 2014, it was also the epicentre of the deadly Ebola virus epidemic.
The Sierra Leone Amputee Sports Association (SLASA) brings together single-legged amputees in the belief that sport can support the recovery of this marginalized group. In early 2020, it also established a 10-acre permaculture farm, offering employment to some of these amputees. Already, crops are already being harvested and seed produced (thanks to advice from Garden Organic and Vital Seeds), and both are being distributed to local communities.
Elementary and junior high school children are also participating in school gardening and demonstration farms as part of a wider programme of education for sustainable development. It is clear that farming cannot only help to heal the soil but also the physical and mental damage to rural people resulting from conflict.
This session, chaired by John Meadley, who has worked in countries in conflict, will provide an opportunity to hear the Sierra Leone story directly from Pastor Mambud Samai, the founder of SLASA.
Competition for land and water around the world is growing due to surging global demand for minerals and metals critical to transitions in the energy, industry and military sectors. Mining corporations and states are on a collision course with their own citizens, and with farming and fishing communities in particular.
In this session we will hear from community representatives on the frontlines of struggles in Finland, Colombia and Ireland to prevent mining from destroying the ecosystems that form our life support system and provide the food we eat. We will hear how they have won victories against the odds, and the life-sustaining alternatives to mining they are protecting.
A world of possibilities opens up when you forgo the hetero-normative binary. How can we transform agriculture and our food systems when we look at it through the lens of queer ecology and gender diversity? We’ll hear from food producers around the world who are challenging the heteronormative status quo, and, in doing so, are changing the way we think and interact with the natural world.