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2018 in Review: Growth of Resistance, Impact

January 2019

Even in a year plagued with mounting militarism and factionalism at the border and the heartland, rampant exploitation and global abuse of human rights, we have seen remarkable strides for resistance and resilience in 2018. From passing a UN Declaration in support of peasant rights to relentless movement organizing for climate and economic justice, many remarkable accomplishments pushed us all forward.

The last year has been a remarkable one for Grassroots International, dramatically increasing the impact we are having in the Global South with more grants and ongoing solidarity to grassroots movements. Support from the larger Grassroots community of generous donor-activists and visionary funders provided vital resources to advance organizing efforts for climate justice and to protect land, water and food rights.

This was all the more significant as we entered our 35th anniversary. Nearly 200 people joined us for our celebration in October, but the well-wishes and reflections stretched all through the year.

Grassroots provides the largest amount of grants in its history

We awarded 170 grants for a total of more than $4.1 million, up from $2.7 million the previous year.  This is the largest amount of grants given in our history! Grassroots International was honored to fund 122 groups in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Palestine, India and the USA. We also supported two global networks (La Via Campesina and the World March of Women) with a reach of more than 220 million people. With the generosity of some anonymous donors, we provided a second-year investment of $1.5 million to support global pleasant solidarity movements, including food sovereignty and agroecology training, organizing schools and learning exchanges, particularly in Brazil. This is all the more essential as Brazilian social movements – including the Landless Workers Movement, the largest movement in the hemisphere – face increased threats, violence and criminalization at the hands of the new right-wing government.

Grassroots helped launch new climate justice collaborative

A new collaborative that we helped launch along with three other sister organizations (Global Greengrants Fund, Thousand Currents, and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights), the CLIMA Fund, has raised more than half a million dollars for climate justice efforts led by those most impacted. The CLIMA Fund (Climate Leaders in Movement Action) helps large funders to directly reach grassroots organizations and social movements that are working at the intersection of climate resilience and human rights.

Over $190,000 providing long term emergency response in the Caribbean and elsewhere

In the wake of the devastation of the hurricanes sweeping through the Caribbean, the earthquake in Mexico and other emergencies, Grassroots International provided over $190,000 for relief and long-term redevelopment.  In Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the funds enabled local groups to relaunch food production through the provision of seeds, farming supplies, instruction in agroecological farming, and boosting the climate resilience of farmers in the affected areas. Other funds collected went to support responses to a volcano explosion in Guatemala and for human rights protection for Palestinians.

Connecting the Black Diaspora: Grassroots International organizes Black women delegation to Haiti, together with BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity)

Grassroots International and Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD) led a group of US-based Black women organizers and activists to Haiti for the purpose of deepening ties and sharing lessons of resistance. By meeting face-to-face and transmitting lessons in person, BOLD and Grassroots have strengthened the growing internationalism in both countries.

Our First Giving Project: Collective Learning and Fundraising for Palestine

As part of our continued growth in donor-organizing, Grassroots International formed our first Giving Project: Donor-Activist Group in Solidarity with Palestine.  We kicked off with a retreat in Massachusetts in the spring of 2018, with 22 participants that included Palestinians, Jews, people of color, immigrants, in a cross-class, multi-racial, intergenerational cohort. Learning together, the group collectively committed to raising funds for grantmaking to support Palestinian-led movements in both the US and Palestine.  The group raised crucial additional funds for our program from the participants and the networks of the participants!

Growing Global Grassroots Feminism

With 4-year funding from the NoVo Foundation’s Radical Hope Fund, Grassroots International launched the “Strengthening Grassroots Feminist Movement Collaborative”, as part of a global collaboration with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and the World March of Women. The collaboration aims to foster unity and strengthen grassroots feminist movements in six countries where backlashes against women, gender-oppressed peoples and communities of color are significantly acute, as a result of right-wing takeovers: Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Palestine, Puerto Rico, and the United States. This initiative centers the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, peasants, Afro-descendant communities, and other communities of color in order to contribute to a vision for a global diversity of feminisms (also known as the fourth wave of feminism).  

Thought leadership for climate justice and resource rights among US funder networks

Members of Grassroots International’s staff and our global partners are committed to transforming philanthropy to place grassroots leadership first. Throughout the year, we gave talks to k amplify the voices of our partners at national funder network conferences and other donor meetings, presented workshops, and brought Global South leaders to the conference of funder networks such as EDGE Funders and the Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN).  

UN Approves Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

After over a decade of behind-the-scenes efforts by Grassroots partner, Via Campesina, the UN has finally approved the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants in November. As a result, the rights and needs of small farmers and their families are being globally recognized.  Family farmers and their movements around the world are now provided with a powerful tool for advocating for their rights.  As Elizabeth Mpofu, a peasant farmer from Zimbabwe and La Via Campesina General Coordinator, said: “This declaration is an important tool which should guarantee and realize the rights of the peasants and other working people in rural areas. We urge all states to implement the declaration in conscientiousness and transparent manner, guaranteeing peasants and rural communities the access to and control over land, peasant’s seeds, water and other natural resources.”

Emergency support for Gaza in ‘Great March of Return’
al-Amal Hotel, destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, November 13, 2018. Photo by PCHR Field Workers

Israel’s military began opening fire on unarmed Palestinians as they started the ‘Great March of Return’ on March 30, 2018.  In the weeks and months that followed, 228 peaceful Palestinian protesters were killed and over 24,362 were injured, the majority severely injured (UN OCHA). They were rallying to reclaim their right to return to their original homes and villages from which they had been forcibly displaced decades earlier, and against the blockade that has been suffocating Gaza for over 11 years.  In order to come to their aid, Grassroots International launched an emergency appeal, raising crucial support for emergency medical care, human rights monitoring and defense, and mental health services. Additionally, Grassroots was able to provide an emergency-supported relocation for our human rights partner which helped them avoid subsequent bombing of their prior building.

Honduras – President of DESA arrested for involvement in Assassination of Berta Cáceres

Justice for Berta Cáceres continues. The ninth person convicted, the “mastermind” of the murder of the world-renowned Honduran Indigenous movement leader was arrested following months of concerted grassroots organizing. David Castillo Mejía, the CEO of the company building the controversial dam that threatened to destroy Lenca communities, was arrested while trying to flee Honduras. “The arrest is thanks to the work and pressure by national and international organizations,” said Berta’s second eldest daughter, Bertita Zúñiga Cáceres. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH, a partner of Grassroots International), founded by Berta Caceres, is dedicated to the defense of the indigenous Lenca people and their environment.

Advancing agroecology globally: Grassroots partner now largest producer of organic rice in Latin America

Grassroots International has been working to expand agroecological farming globally through supporting the promotion of seed saving, the preservation and expansion of heirloom varieties, and learning exchanges.  Agroecology is a community-based farming approach that sustains local ecologies as well as the communities and farmers that use it, incorporating traditional and indigenous knowledge. An unfamiliar term a decade ago when Grassroots first starting highlighting agroecology, the approach has since gained traction around the planet.  Through agroecological techniques, our partner the Landless Workers Movement (MST) has become the largest producer of organic rice in Latin America, producing 27,000 tons of rice over the last year. Another Brazilian partner, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP), produced 308 tons of heirloom seed varieties of corn and beans, rice, and other vegetables for market distribution and for family consumption.  While the food production itself is a remarkable accomplishment, it also enables small farmers to stay on their land, resist the incursion of industrial agricultural plantations, and helps cool the planet by sequestering rather than producing carbon.

Guatemalan Mayan communities stop mining  

Despite tremendous odds, the Guatemalan group “La Puya Peaceful Resistance” shines as an example of how women can halt the spread of harmful mining projects. A member of our partner the Peasant Unity Committee, La Puya has been able to completely bring all mining operations in its community to a halt—there has been no mining company activity for several years now. Although they await final notice of cancelation of the project, women who literally laid their bodies on the line to block the entrance of mining equipment became an inspiration of resistance to other women and communities in similar situations.  As is often the case with extractive industries, the mine would have destroyed their lands, poisoned their drinking water, and damaged their livelihoods.

International Activists Stand in Solidarity:  judge suspends eviction order of an MST settlement

When one of our partner’s large Brazilian settlement was threatened with eviction, Grassroots International’s community of activists reacted quickly, mobilizing to petition the presiding judge to stop the eviction. The Quilombo Campo Grande in Minas Gerais, Brazil is home to several thousand farmers who have been cultivating the land and building their homes there for two decades. Several days later, we received a celebratory email from the Landless Workers Movement (MST): “With your valuable support, we were able to call off the eviction order of Quilombo Campo Grande!!!!!  It would not have been possible without your action and solidarity! Thank You!”

World March of Women – Sharing successes, mapping out next moves at global convening

Grassroots staff attended the 11th international planning conference of the World March of Women in the Basque Country (Europe) in the fall.  Taking place only once every few years, 150 women traveled from 36 countries to this key convening of leading grassroots feminist figures.  The conference focused on developing global strategies to combat violence against women, bolster public services for the common good, strengthen women’s economic autonomy, and push for peace and demilitarization.

Supporting US-based Environmental Justice

Grassroots International has been honored to host and manage the BEAI Fund since it was created in 2017. The fund brings together dynamic grassroots organizing groups, big greens and innovators in philanthropy to advance the progress of the U.S. environmental justice movement towards a just transition and directly confront powerful polluters. Grassroots International chose to collaborate with the Fund to complement global support of social movements, advancing advocacy/alliance-building in the U.S. The Fund has deployed $1,233,000 to 47 environmental justice groups.

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