On September 12, Berta Caceres, Tomás Gomez, and Aureliano Molina, leaders of the indigenous Lenca organization Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) must appear in court. Their charges? Usurpation of land, coercion, and causing more than $3 million in damages to DESA, a hydroelectric dam company. Berta, the general coordinator of COPINH and an internationally recognized social movement leader, is also facing separate charges of illegally carrying arms “to the danger of the internal security of Honduras.”
“Within our indigenous community of Xoxocotla, we continue to hold the ancestral values we inherited. It never crosses our mind to leave them behind. Because in daily life we are always in contact with nature, with our lands, with our water, with our air. We live in harmony with nature because we don’t like the way that modernity is advancing, destroying our territory and our environment. We believe technological modernity is better named a death threat.”- Saúl Atanasio Roque Morales
Multinational corporations are moving into Central America to exploit gold and other minerals, rivers, forests, and agricultural lands. One area of high interest in the corporate feeding frenzy is the indigenous Lenca region in the southwest of Honduras. The government has given outside businesses concessions to dam, drill, and cut, in violation of national law and international treaties. More corporations have simply moved in on their own.
Consuelo Castillo, a community organizer in Lempira, a land reform settlement in Bajo Aguán, Honduras, said, “Our goal is for everyone who is part of the land occupations to have access to land. Land is our first mother. For us farmers, we don’t have life without land.”
In recent years, the voice and visibility of movements opposing land grabs and displacement, and demanding land reform, are increasing. Though relatively little land has been redistributed, organized movements of small farmers, indigenous peoples, and landless people are developing in size, strength, and organization. They are uniting across borders to break the nexus between land, agriculture, power, and profit.
Land reform movements, organizations of indigenous peoples, small farmers, and other citizens are responding to the increased sacking of land and other natural resources throughout the global South, and resultant spikes in landlessness and poverty.
The neighborhood of West Oakland in California has long been without a large grocery store, let alone one that offers healthy, fresh food. With unemployment at about 10% and nearly half the population of 30,000 residents living at or below the poverty line, West Oakland is a neighborhood that grocery store chains have claimed isn’t able to sustain a full-functioning store. People’s Grocery aims to prove traditional grocers wrong.
Just Food in New York City is doing what its name suggests: working to make the food system more just. It does this, first, by making community supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and gardens, more accessible and affordable in the city. Second, it helps small farmers survive, and even thrive, in the process.
Native peoples’ efforts to protect their crop varieties and agricultural heritage in the US go back 500 years to when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Today, Native communities throughout the US are reclaiming and reviving land, water, seeds, and traditional food and farming practices, thereby putting the culture back in agriculture and agriculture back in local hands.
Think that burger’s cheap? Tory Field and Beverly Bell of Other Worlds dig into the costs, both human and environmental, of the industrialized food system.
A shovel overturned can flip so much more than soil, worms, and weeds. Structural racism – the ways in which social systems and institutions promote and perpetuate the oppression of people of color – manifests at all points in the food system. It emerges as barriers to land ownership and credit access for farmers of color, as wage discrimination and poor working conditions for food and farmworkers of color, and as lack of healthy food in neighborhoods of color. It shows up as discrimination in housing, employment, redlining, and other elements which impact food access and food justice.
Women produce 60 to 80 percent of all food, both as subsistence farmers and as agricultural wage laborers. They are the primary providers for the majority of the world’s 925 million hungry people, obtaining food, collecting firewood and water, and cooking. And yet they have less access to land and the resources necessary to grow on it than their male counterparts. Inequitable distribution of land, labor, and resources leaves farming women triply burdened by work: in the fields, in the home, and in society.
Authors Tory Field and Beverly Bell discuss control of food and agricultural systems with agricultural economist Peter Rosset.