Grassroots International

Jake Miller, Author at Grassroots International | Page 3 sur 5

  • Update on Dom Luiz’s Hunger Strike

    Thousands of supporters turned out to celebrate Dom Luiz's birthday with him yesterday, as he continues his hunger strike against the re-routing of the São Francisco River.

    Here's an AP story on the demonstrations. It's good that the reporter focuses on the environmental damage that re-routing the river will cause (which will likely include increased deforestation, sedimentation and habitat loss for wildlife and fisheries stock) but it's disappointing that he takes at face value the government's claims that 18 million people will benefit from the project.

    Independent experts who have analyzed the plan suggest that the number who actually receive water from the project will be much smaller than that, and experience with similar projects around the world suggest that the long term consequences of mega-projects like this can be catastrophic not only for the environment in some abstract sense, but for the livelihoods and lives of the people who live in the area. Not exactly what I would call a benefit.

  • Katrina Aid: Support Community-based Relief & Reconstruction for Mississippi Delta Farmers & Fishworkers

    The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund (FSC), a member of Grassroots International's ally the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), has set up an Emergency Relief Fund for relief and long-term reconstruction to help Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama farmers rebuild facilities and markets and help with direct emergency assistance for housing, food and water. Grassroots will be making a solidarity grant to support this effort.

  • Remembering Jacques Roche: Haitian Journalist and Activist Murdered

    On July 14, the body of Haitian journalist and activist Jacques Roche was found. Roche had been kidnapped, tortured and killed. (Read the Reuters report here.)

    This week, a coalition of human rights organizations, alternative development groups, public health advocates, women's groups and other civil society organizations have issued a statement emphasizing Roche's contributions as an activist--for example, he organized traveling art and photography exhibitions to educate communities and to encourage resistance to privatization and free trade schemes like Haiti's Zona Franca on the border of the Dominican Republic, which replaced some of the last productive, fertile land on the Maribahoux plain with sweatshops.

  • Africa’s Debt Cancellation: Transparency needed, but especially in G-8 plans and aid programs

    The leaders of the G-8 nations are touting their planned debt forgiveness for Africa as a giant step forward for democracy and development, but if you read between the lines it begins to seem like just another push for neo-liberal market "reforms" and global economic integration.

    Grassroots' Executive Director, Nikhil Aziz has written an analysis of Bush and Blair's rhetoric and aid plan. You can read it here.

  • Terror in the Caribbean: The Challenge of Human Rights in Haiti

    With just a few months to go before this fall's scheduled elections, voting officials in haiti are several million registered voters behind schedule. At the same time, hundreds of Haitians are taking to the sea in an attempt to escape the crushing poverty and violence of their home, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. (See Jim Lobe's "Another Regime Change in Trouble," for details.) While a wave of kidnappings of foreign nationals have made headlines and cued the U.S. and Canada to send all non-essential diplomatic personnel home, for the vast majority of Haitians, the lack of food, water and work at livable wages are just as terrifying.

  • The UN in Hinche

    For our last night in the central plateau, we went down the hill from Papaye to Hinche for an evening in town. Since we arrived here, it's been easy to forget that the country is in the middle of a very dangerous political moment, and that there are forces afoot that would like to tear the country apart. Strolling through Hinche, the capital of the Central department, we came upon courtyard surrounded by accordion wire.

    Peering through the fence we could see a few white jeeps and row after row of tents--portable, nylon roofed Quonset huts, really. The Courtyard was the headquarters of the UN contingent here in Hinche and as we walked up the street and approached the gate, a trio of soldiers popped their heads out of a sand-bagged watch tower. They were smiling and saying "MINUSTAH," which is the name for this UN mission to Haiti.

    We tried to speak to them in Creole, in French, in Spanish and in Portuguese (most of the UN troops here are from Brazil), and we finally figured out that they were from Nepal, and that they didn't have any language in common with us or with the people that they are here to help.

  • A Little Water Goes a Long Way in Haiti

    This morning we visited the community of Lawob, where, with a grant from the European Union, the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) has constructed a small dam to capture the water from an intermittent stream.

    This deep into the drought there was not sign of the stream, anywhere. When we arrived at the site, we saw a small blue and black rowboat sitting under a mango tree in the middle of what looks like a desert. The lake was out of sight until we walked down a winding path, but before we got could even see the water, it was obvious that there was something special about this place.

    Flitting through the air were half a dozen Antillean Palm Swifts, tiny little insect eaters with pointy wings. They are supposed to be ubiquitous in Haiti, and these were the first I had seen after three days of looking. Downstream from the small lake was a lush garden that was greener than anything we've seen since we arrived in Haiti. (Most of the plants we have seen are covered with a fine layer of dust.)

  • One Finger Alone Can’t Eat Okra

    This morning we visited Kopa Koladè, the Koladè cooperative outside of Hinche. It was an amazing example of what a small group of people can accomplish if they work together.

    The MPP is focusing its agricultural development work on three themes: agro-silvaculture (an integrated approach to farming, re-forestation and resource management), water and alternative energy. The three are all essential components of a sustainable rural development platform. Without trees, it is hard to capture rain water for crops or drinking and precious topsoil is washed away. Without water, you can't grow trees or crops. Without alternative energy, you can't prevent peasants from cutting down trees for fuel.

  • Greetings from the Internet Cafe of the Peasant Movement of Papaye

    I am taking advantage of the few hours of electricity provided by the Peasant Movement of Papaye's (MPP) generator to post a few first impressions of our visit to Haiti.

    We flew out of Port-au-Prince on a six-seater plane. The pilot actually leaned his head out the window and shouted what I guess was "Contact!" in French when he turned on the propeller.

    Climbing over the hills surrounding the city, the devastating level of deforestation was obvious. There were sections where the topsoil had eroded down to the bare rocks. It looked like the bones of the mountains were poking through their skin. Haiti only has about 2% of its original forest cover left, but we still occasionally saw little columns of smoke rising where someone had set up a small charcoal kiln to try to turn a few of the remaining trees into charcoal in order to make a little cash. In addition to the chaotic political situation and the after-effects of the floods that hit Haiti last fall and spring, almost the entire country has been without rain for more than six months. Unable to plant their crops, many Haitians have no other way to make a living than mining the last of their country's trees for charcoal.

  • Visiting our Partners

    During the next two weeks, Grassroots Staff will be traveling to Haiti and Palestine to visit our partners. This is always one of the most exciting times of year for us, as we get a chance to see first hand the inspiring work they do under extremely challenging conditions. Daniel Moss and I will be traveling to Haiti, where we will divide our time between Hinche and Port-au-Prince from March 30-April 6. Jennifer Lemire and Stephanie Sluka Brauer will be traveling to Palestine, where they will visit a variety of communities throughout the occupied territories from April 1-April 12.

    As always, we are committed to sharing our impressions of these visits and the perspectives of our partners with you. We will be posting those impressions here from the field as often as we can, given the local infra-structure and our schedules.

    Stay tuned.

  • Their Land, Their Lives, Their Decisions

    From the 17th-19th of February, more than 80 participants from 11 countries gathered in Indonesia for the "Regional Conference on Rebuilding Peasants' and Fisherfolks' Livelihoods after the Earthquake and Tsunami Catastrophes" sponsored by the Via Campesina.

    They came from fisher and peasant organizations, from groups representing the victims of the earthquake and the Tsunami and from non-governmental organizations committed to community-led development and rebuilding efforts. Grassroots was proud to provide financial support to allow some of the attendees to make the trip. (We are also proud to have collected and passed through more than $20,000 to support Via Campesina's emergency relief and rebuilding efforts.)

  • Dying for Land Rights

    In my last post, I was writing about the real barriers -- including violent resistance on the part of big landholders and real estate speculators -- that make some of Hernando de Soto's land-tenure legalization theories untenable. Today, the New York Times brings us the sad news (registration required) of the assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang, who was killed for her work with poor and landless workers and her efforts to protect the rain forest from loggers and land speculators.

    We live in a world where real estate speculators will hire gunmen to shoot a nun four times in the chest in order to protect their profit margin. The idea that giving poor people a deed and saying, "OK, now you own this land, you can compete fairly in this predatory economic system" seems hopelessly naive.

    Sister Stang had been telling of death threats from the loggers and land speculators for years, but she couldn't turn to the police for protection, Rhoter writes, because they viewed her as a trouble-maker.

  • Make Trillions With No Money Down!

    Peruvian Economist Hernando de Soto has a simple idea that he believes could flood trillions of dollars into the poorest sectors of the world economy: by giving poor people clear legal title to the land they live on and the homes they've built, he says, we could give them the collateral they would need to get bank loans that could help them build businesses and enter the formal economy. The concept has made De Soto a star in the international development world. He's the toast of the World Bank and the darling of Davos, and if his theories worked, he'd be one of the greatest friends that the poor of the world have ever known.

    Unfortunately, like a lot of things that seem too good to be true, de Soto's plan doesn't pan out well in the real world.

  • Tsunami Rebuilding Priorities: Tourists or Residents?

    How people choose to rebuild a society that has been decimated by a natural disaster says a lot about what the rebuilders value most. As the tsunami relief efforts move beyond rescue and recovery into rebuilding, we've begun to see some disturbing signs about what the local governments value most in their countries. In Sri Lanka, local farmer and fisher groups are denouncing government efforts to push through -- in the guise of disaster relief projects -- neo-liberal policies that have already been rejected by the people at the ballot box. Patrick Barkham, writing in the Guardian, suggests that there are similar problems in Thailand.

    It's just one more reason why it's crucial to deliver aid dollars as directly as possible to the people who need them and who know best how to use them to solve their own problems.

  • Tsunami Rebuilding: Follow the Money

    Money is power, and with billions of dollars of aid and assistance flowing into the countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean, there is a lot of power at play.

    There are many examples of inspirational work being done: peasants distributing fresh fruit and vegetables to their hungry neighbors, bloggers on the internet setting up virtual bulletin boards to help reunite families and friends, churches, NGOs, and movements organizing to make sure that help goes where it is needed most.

    There are also examples of what seems like the kind of "help" people might be better off without.

    The US government has pledged $350 million (nearly ten times the amount Bush plans to spend celebrating his second inauguration) . Unfortunately, it seems that much of that money may be destined to support the repressive military regime in Indonesia. (See Roger Burbach and Paul Cantor's piece on Bush, the Pentagon and the Tsunami here.)