As 2016 draws to a close, and the challenges ahead loom large, we take a few minutes now to celebrate some of the many accomplishments of the year – and the resilience and tenacity of the movements behind them. With the generous support of our donors, Grassroots International feels honored to have bolstered hands-on solutions to some of the most critical challenges we face: hunger, violations of human rights, climate change and economic disparity. At this moment, we take a moment to applaud some of the exceptional achievements from the past year.
Standing rock: indigenous rights victory sends ripples around globe
The Sioux Nation, with solidarity from Indigenous and environmental activists worldwide, succeeded in halting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline through their reservation in December. The pipeline would have threatened not only their river, but also the water supply for millions of people downstream. Grassroots International provided emergency financial support to our ally, the Indigenous Environmental Network, who played a key role in organizing along with the Sioux Nation to mobilize numerous tribes, organizations and individuals in an unprecedented global wave of solidarity. Viewed as a win for Indigenous peoples around the planet, the victory at Standing Rock serves as a beacon of hope for the global movement of climate justice and indigenous rights – and a reminder that “Mni Wiconi” – Water is Life.
Brazilian prosecutors crack down on illegal land seizures in piaui
Through the efforts of Grassroots’ Brazilian partner, the Social Network for Justice & Human Rights (Rede Social), and other organizations, a state court in Brazil stopped a massive land grab from taking place. The deal would have illegally taken territory roughly the size of Los Angeles, CA, from local farmers and handed it over to a large scale, commercial soy or sugar plantation. Not only does this case spare local farmers from eviction, but the court prosecutors’ crackdown on illegal land seizures sets an important precedent in the country against land grabs by large financial interests.
women advancing agroecological farming across west africa
With the support of Grassroots International, a network of women farmers from Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana are expanding agroecology across the region. In the process they are developing powerful alternatives for local women farmers to the threatened expansion of industrial agriculture. Women leaders have been speaking to government figures across West Africa about better policies to advance agroecology – and they are listening. The women’s organizations are establishing agroecology field schools, setting up demonstration units, and training hundreds of women farmers in agroecology and campaign skills.
Providing hurricane matthew relief and long-term support in haiti
In the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, which hit on October 4th along Haiti’s South and Southwest coast, Grassroots International disbursed $34,000 thousand dollars for Haitian relief and long-term redevelopment. The emergency funds raised by Grassroots International’s supporters has helped 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. These efforts are critical to averting the risk of famine as up to 80 percent of the nation’s food supply was wiped out by the hurricane and subsequent flooding.
brazilian farmers win state funding to build and renovate 1,000 homes
Grassroots partner, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP), won renewed funding by the Brazilian state of Goiás to build and renovate 1,000 homes for small farming families. The MCP has been pressing the government over the years to dedicate public resources to support rural farming families, and expand the number of families able to access state housing programs. For the MCP, this promising development “makes decent housing available for low-income farming families”, and constitutes a major step forward in increasing the economic security and stability of an otherwise vulnerable sector of rural Brazilian society.
major financiers suspend funding of controversial dam in honduras
In the wake of the brutal assassination of Honduran environmental leader Berta Cáceres, and under international pressure, including efforts by Grassroots International and many others, two major funders of the Agua Zarca dam suspended their funding of the controversial project. FMO, a Dutch development financier, decided to “suspend all activities in Honduras, effective immediately.” Finnfund, the second European financier involved in Agua Zarca, suspended its support as well. With the withdrawal of FMO and Finnfund, the pressure is on the Central-American Bank for Economic Integration to suspend all support for Agua Zarca. Grassroots International supported the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous organization which Berta Cáceres led in the fight to stop the construction of the dam. Grassroots International was honored in 2015, the year before her assassination, to have brought Berta to a conference of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, and accompany her daughter to the same conference in 2016 to speak out for Indigenous and environmental rights.
in guatemala, a mining company pushed out of indigenous territory
Grassroots International’s support to our Guatemalan partner, the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC), helped halt a potentially destructive mining operation on indigenous lands in Central Guatemala. The indigenous communities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José de Golfo had been leading resistance for years against the mine, which was being conducted by the American engineering firm Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) under opaque circumstances. This represents an important win and a crucial precedent for other indigenous communities around the nation that are being threatened by extractive industry conglomerates.
palestinian leader released after 20 months of arbitrary detention by israeli military
Abdul-Razeq Farraj, a leader with Grassroots International’s long-time partner in Israel, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), was released in October 2015 after 20 months in ‘administrative detention.’ Grassroots International had joined with others in mobilizing public pressure to free Abdul. Without having been charged, Abdul-Razeq had been forcibly removed from his home at 2 a.m. on February 25, 2014. He was then handed an administrative detention order by a military commander the next day, citing “secret information” that neither Abdul-Razeq nor his lawyers were allowed to see. These types of arbitrary detentions are all-too-common, and his release is noteworthy.
brazil’s largest hydroelectric dam project suspended following indigenous actions
After years of organizing among Indigenous groups by the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and other groups, the Brazilian government’s environmental ministry suspended one of the biggest hydroelectric dam projects in Brazil, which was to be started this year. The São Luiz do Tapajós dam in the Amazon would have flooded the Mundruku peoples land, destroying their communities. On the same day, Funai, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, finalized demarcation of their lands bringing them one step closer to having constitutionally protected territory. The Mundruku have lived in the area for more than a thousand years. With the help of Grassroots International’s long-time support and e-advocacy, MAB played a key role in these victories. The suspension of the dam construction means that the Munduruku people have been spared the flooding of their ancestral homelands, and destruction of their fragile ecosystems.
“Thousands of people here in Rio Grande do Sul and throughout Brazil have been impacted by dams. This decision is the result of more than three decades of struggle,” said Neudicléia Oliveira of MAB.
us department of agriculture plan for haiti “food dumping” halted
Grassroots International partner, the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) – in collaboration with other farmer groups in Haiti – succeeded in halting a massive ‘food dumping’ shipment to Haiti planned by the USDA. The USDA’s seemingly charitable plan to send 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haiti as a donation to schools would have undermined the livelihoods of peanut farmers all across Haiti. Grassroots International supported the effort through funding, helping generating media attention and mobilizing our alert network to pressure the USDA to halt the shipment. “If the U.S. really wanted to help Haiti they would focus on serious work improving irrigation and farmers’ access to credit,” said Camille Chalmers, the Executive Director of PAPDA. He also argues that the peanut aid is mainly about drawing down the US stockpile and benefiting American agribusiness. Grassroots International’s partners in Haiti produce the drought-resistant peanuts and make peanut butter that is used in school lunches and sold in local markets.