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Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez de Oaxaca/Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO)

Mexico’s rural communities are facing a host of threats, from genetic contamination by GMO crops to displacement by large-scale megaprojects. But grassroots movements like UNOSJO are pushing back.

Based in Oaxaca, Mexico, Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez de Oaxaca/Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO) coordinates actions led by Zapoteca Indigenous communities to defend their territories and ways of life while building food sovereignty from the ground up. UNOSJO is a leader in resistance to GMO corn, both in the state of Oaxaca and, in articulation with other movements, at the national level. Its efforts around laboratory analysis of corn have provided vital evidence of GMO contamination of traditional corn varieties in Mexico, leading to important shifts in policy. UNOSJO is also a leading voice in protecting watersheds and access to water, in resisting extractive megaprojects, and in standing up against REDD+ (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation”) and other forms of resource grabbing in the guise of “conservation.”

At the same time that its members are resisting, they are just as actively building alternatives. This includes promotion of ancestral farming techniques and products through its Feria de la Milpa (Milpa Fair), preservation of native seeds, and work with communal authorities to support the autonomy and political power of Indigenous communities. It also includes creative forms of popular education. In 2021, UNOSJO released a beautiful book entitled El Maiz de la Abuela centered around a dialogue between a grandmother and grandchild about the importance of Indigenous corn and the dangers of GMOs. UNOSJO emphasizes leadership of women and youth, including supporting women’s involvement in local leadership bodies and organizing trainings for youth on defense of territory.

In recognition of the global nature of its struggles and to further amplify its impact, UNOSJO is an active member in the global peasant movement La Via Campesina. In this capacity, UNOSJO played an important role in the launching of the Latin American Institute of Agroecology of Mexico, IALA Mexico, in 2022.

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