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Climate Solutions from the Ground Up

September 2015

For small farmers, climate change feels like “the sun is getting closer.” That’s what Ginette Hilaire says, and she goes on to describe the escalating droughts, floods and other climate events that she and her community are experiencing with new intensity. “The seasons have completely changed,” she added.

But Ginette and others in her Haitian community are not merely enduring these hardships. They are working to address the root causes, adapt to the changes and put forward workable solutions.

Any meaningful solution to climate change starts from the ground, she says, and she’s got proof. Depleted soil means less nitrogen is absorbed, more carbon is released into the air (producing more greenhouse gases), and the ground itself cannot handle the rainy season, let alone storms and hurricanes that happen now with more frequency.

What’s more, any real solution also starts from the grassroots. The best chance to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of ecosystems, combat desertification, maintain biodiversity and halt and reverse land degradation come from those most affected by land grabs, ecological disaster and deforestation.

Through her organization (the Peasant Movement of Papaye, or MPP) Ginette Hilaire is part of La Via Campesina, a global movement of more than 250 million small farmers, foresters, fishers and other food producers who demonstrate that “Small farmers cool the planet.” Grassroots International partners with both the MPP and La Via Campesina to defend land and water rights, and to put forward alternative models of food production and economic systems.

To address the root causes of climate change, the MPP and other members of La Via Campesina start with the roots themselves. By planting local seeds appropriate to the ecosystem, expanding agroforestry to incorporate trees into agricultural lands, and getting rid of depleting GMOs and corporate-controlled seeds, the MPP has restored green to an otherwise dry landscape.

The MPP’s reforestation program, which Grassroots International has funded for many years, has planted over 30 million trees! Egrets have returned to various parts of Haiti’s Central Plateau because there is now, again, a habitat to support them.

The solutions to climate disruption and poverty in Haiti are tied to land rights, food sovereignty and ecological resiliency. The same is true around the world. The United Nations agrees, agroecologists agree, small farmers agree, and even a growing number of economists and politicians agree.

Gislaine St. Fleur, Coordinator of the MPP’s Women’s Programs, puts it like this: “The majority of families live off the land. With climate change, people can’t produce enough food to feed themselves and take care of their children. Last year, there was little to no rain, and this year, it is not falling as it should.”

While rural farming communities experience a drought, the ravages of climate disruption are seen as an opportunity by an increasingly rich group of transnationals like Monsanto, DuPont and Cargill. Under the banners of “Green Revolution” and so-called “Climate-Smart Agriculture,” these corporations that foist false solutions that add to the problems of hunger, climate change, and injustice by expanding the root causes of the problems themselves. Half of all greenhouse gases are produced by the global-food system, according to the respected international agriculture-research organization, GRAIN.

Unlike chemically driven climate-smart agriculture, agroecology works! We’ve seen it produce amazing results for the health of people and the earth in parts of Haiti, Brazil, West Africa and even in the United States. By using holistic, natural and farmer-centered methods of caring for the land and the waterways, farmers like Ginette Hilaire can feed their communities and cool the planet. It’s a win-win for the people and the earth.

That’s why truly resilient land policies and food systems must expose false solutions for what they are — profiteering at the expense of sustainability and health — and support sustainable practices of small farmers and community control over food systems.

Photo above: Ginette Hilaire shows one of the MPP’s tire gardens

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