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Archive for August, 2010

2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

In the Andes, there have been fundamental changes in production patterns as a result of the different processes of land reform in the region and “agricultural modernization”. Today, the environmental context and local culture are no longer the main determinants of production systems, but rather the habits of unknown consumers and their food demands are determining what farmers grow and when and how they grow it. This has shaped current production systems, usually characterized by monoculture, total farm mechanization and dependence on agrochemicals to offset their ecological ill effects.

The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) questions common assumptions about the link between agricultural production and economic welfare and family nutrition, and provides evidence that externally driven systems – such as those that have increasingly displaced traditional systems in the Andes – often result in unfair prices, social inequality and environmental degradation. The report calls attention to proposals that allow us to overcome our conceptual barriers with respect to production and supply, consumers and producers, urban and rural populations, and the circulation and exchange of goods.

Woman washing vegetables early on market day.

Woman washing vegetables early on market day.

Ekorural, Groundswell’s partner in the Andes, recently completed its own research on food systems in the Andes, which confirms the important influence consumers have on agricultural production systems and indirectly on the wellbeing of rural families. On account of these findings, Ekorural’s work now operates based on the underlying assumption: In order to transform Andean agricultural systems to be more productive, equitable and sustainable, we must not only look at rural areas and agriculture but also at urban areas, because consumers drive agricultural development.

During the past two years, Ekorural has identified, aligned itself with and committed to supporting unconventional initiatives, such as Canastas Comunitarias, that have developed around the theme of healthy food and people through the alternative circulation of agricultural products. The Canastas and other similar short-circuit food initiatives, under which you might find country fairs, CSAs, farm shops, community food baskets, etc., are a great opportunity to transform agriculture, heal the environment and live healthier lives.

People are the decisive factor for agriculture and represent an opportunity for change. What people buy and where they buy it strengthens different types of agricultural chains, and influences how healthy (or unhealthy) the agricultural system is. Follow Ekorural’s lead, support your local family farmers!

Learn more about Ekorural and Canastas Comunitarias.

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Recent grants from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), the Seattle Foundation Emergency Relief Fund, and the Boston Foundation Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Fund have enabled Groundswell and Partnership for Local Development (PLD), our local partner in Haiti, to continue supporting thousands of internally displaced people while strengthening the capacity of community-based peasant organizations to sustainably increase their food production, raise incomes, and improve health and wellbeing.

Soil conservation work done by collective work groups after the earthquake.

Soil conservation work done by collective work groups after the January 12 earthquake.

With the UUSC and Seattle Foundation grants, Groundswell and PLD are supporting the work of traditional work groups (kombits) to improve productive-infrastructure in the countryside. This provides much needed income so that families and internally displaced people can make their own choices about food, shelter and other basic needs in a dignified manner, while also supporting community-led activities to recover and improve key productive and community infrastructure. In the rural areas where we work, livelihood strategies generally consist of a combination of subsistence agricultural production, day labor incomes, animal husbandry, and some small scale commerce. These activities depend on basic productive community infrastructure (roads, productive agricultural land and access to water), which has long been weak in Haiti. The influx of additional people because of the earthquake has further stressed this limited infrastructure and productive capacity. Local peasant organizations have prioritized on-farm soil/water conservation, reforestation, and road repair activities.

Groundswell/PLD meeting with peasant organization in La Victoire

Members of peasant organization in La Victoire, Haiti welcome Groundswell/PLD to a meeting.

The many months of earthquake response depleted our budget for training and support, and we were no longer able to adequately respond to the demands of peasant organization partners. Thanks to the grant from The Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Fund we have been able to resume training and capacity building activities for these organizations. Such training and support is necessary to strengthen citizen-led change to develop and transform rural communities, which in turn is the only viable path for long-term development for the country of Haiti. This project is part of an ongoing process of rural development, and will create a needed bridge between emergency relief and longer-term development activities.

Though the world mobilized on a massive scale in response to the January 12 earthquake, the magnitude of the disaster continues to outstrip the international community’s efforts. People in the Groundswell/PLD program area and Haitians throughout the country face daunting obstacles in the months ahead. Our work is not only helping them through the next few months, it will set the stage for a hopeful recovery based on our belief that a prosperous and sustainable Haitian countryside is required as a solid foundation for national development.

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