The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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Respecting Indigenous Knowledge

I’ve long been interested in the culture of villages, particularly as it pertains to my Croatian background.  Although our “peasants” have often been caricatured as close-minded and backward, they are the keepers of our heritage, its arts, crafts and traditions. Their farming practices, honed over centuries, have helped to preserve a wide range of native crops and some wild varieties.

On my last visit to Croatia I made a pilgrimage to my great-grandmother’s house in Praputnjak, a small village in the hills overlooking the port city of Bakar. The new owner knew my family well and invited me in to see the old house. He proudly showed me the improvements he’d made and asked me to stay for a bit.

I admitted I’d come, not just to see the old house, but to find the boutique winery I heard still produced the original Bakarska Vodica that my great-grandmother Vilka was famous for making. Bakarska Vodica is a light sparkling wine made from grapes grown only in that part of Istria. It turned out the producer lived next door. He was delighted to see me and reminded me we’d played together as children. I got an amazing tour of his small, immaculately kept vineyard. He explained he had reintroduced the old Belina grape variety originally used in the region to give the wine its famous distinctive flavor.

What you might ask does this have to do with respecting indigenous knowledge? I believe my personal experience is a microcosm of a trend taking place in rural communities around the world. People are becoming skeptical of the scientific methods of production that degrade and pollute the environment and result in tasteless food of inferior quality and nutritional value. Consequently, people are investigating the old indigenous ways of growing food that evolved over thousands of years and developed and nourished a rich local biodiversity.

For those of you interested in this emerging trend, there is a fascinating article in “The Shillong Times” about a mapping project taking place in 32 villages in the Meghalaya and Nagaland regions of India. The project was undertaken by the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) to document the biodiversity of the region and to strengthen the indigenous food system.

 

 


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Support better conditions for farm workers with fair trade

Our current industrial farm culture not only degrades the environment, the soil and the water, but subjects workers to an array of hazards such as respiratory infections, sprains, bruises, severe head trauma, fractures, electrocution and repetitive motion injury.

Paul Rice, Founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA emphasizes the need for Fair Trade Certification in the agricultural sector internationally – even in a “developed” country like the US…

A 2014 Los Angeles Times investigation found Mexican farm workers living in squalor, denied wages, and trapped in debt on farms that export produce to the U.S., highlighting the need for standardization and enforcement of labor standards. Unfortunately, U.S. farms could not provide a much better example of decent work in practice. In the U.S., just as in other parts of the world, workers face abysmally low wages, unsafe and toxic working conditions, child labor, indentured servitude, and human trafficking. They are also regularly unable to gain access to medical care and education.

He acknowledges that while the US has stronger labor laws than many other countries, they still don’t meet Fair Trade Certified standards…

Agricultural workers deserve the same fair income, secure workplaces and social protections provided to other industrial workers under state and federal laws.

Adhering to Fair Trade standards comes with added benefit to farm workers in the form of Fair Trade Committees and Community Development Funds. It’s simple: for every Fair Trade Certified product sold, the farmers who grew it earn an additional amount of money called Community Development Funds. From there, a democratically-elected group of farm workers, called the Fair Trade Committee, assembles to decide how to spend these dollars to meet their unique social, economic, and environmental needs.

In 2016, Wholesum Harvest, a family-owned tomato farm in Nogales, Arizona, made headlines when it announced its status as the very first Fair Trade Certified™ farm in the United States.

Within a year of becoming Fair Trade Certified, workers at Wholesum Harvest made their very first project investing in health insurance for the farmworkers. Even with employer-provided insurance available to all the workers, many still could not afford it, so workers voted to use their funds to offset the employee cost. In January 2018, Wholesum Harvest went from less than 5 percent to now 88 percent of its workers opting in to the employee-provided health insurance. (Compare that to just 35 percent of farm workers in the U.S. who report having health insurance.)

 

 

 


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Agroecology Popular in Latin World

I came across several good articles on agroecology this week.  First, Lois Ross at Rabble.ca feels we have a lot to learn from Cuba’s agroecological revolution.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba’s export market for sugar fell.  “It did not have the currency to import petroleum or petroleum-based fertilizers to continue cultivation of monocultures on large state farms. And it had no currency to import food. The Cuban people were getting hungry!”

These dire circumstances fostered the kind of creativity and research that led to Cuba becoming:

…a huge incubator farm for organic and sustainable models of agriculture. As the new millennium dawned, Cuba received The Right Livelihood Award (often called the Alternative Nobel Prize) from the Swedish Parliament for its Herculean efforts in sustainable agriculture.

For more than 25 years, Cuba has been modelling its food production on agroecology and applying organic agriculture to a multitude of small-scale projects. To this day, it’s held up as a model in the development of sustainable agriculture with farmer-to-farmer tours, tours for international agriculture students, and the hosting of researchers from around the world doing field work to assess and write about the island’s advances in feeding its own people.

To the west in El Salvador, telesurtv.net covers the women and social movements that employ agroecological techniques to cultivate land in an environmentally sustainable way that helps to regenerate the land’s biodiversity.

If the land does not give us corn, it will give us something else,” said one member from Las Mesas cooperative in the province of La Libertad. “We have cassava, we have orange, chili, tomato…that way, we always work, because if we can’t harvest one thing, we will harvest another.


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Native Peoples Use Traditional Knowledge to Adapt To Climate Change

Rosalyn Lapier talks about how Native peoples are using traditional knowledge to adapt to climate change:

For those who do not spend time outdoors it may be difficult to fully appreciate the change that is occurring. But for those who live off the land, such as farmers, ranchers, and those with subsistence lifestyles, climate change is having a real impact. It impacts the health and well-being of countless Native peoples who rely on gathering plants for both medicinal and edible purposes. More importantly, climate change impacts the spiritual life of Native peoples.
But we are adapting. The Blackfeet, similar to other tribes, schedule their ceremonial activity according to seasonal cycles. But with the cycles destabilizing, we now need to adjust each year to the volatile weather. For example, the Blackfeet conduct their Thunder-pipe ceremony at the sound of the first thunder which marks the return of rain. At the ceremony, serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia) are planted to celebrate the renewal of life. Traditionally, first thunder occurred in spring. The first thunder now happens much earlier in the year, sometimes even in the winter when it is unwise to plant in Montana.
The Blackfeet are now in the process of adapting and evolving to what some environmentalists call a new Earth. The TEK I learned from my grandmother is from the old Earth. However it still has value and the Blackfeet will continue to find new ways of gathering plants, new methods of identifying changes in our weather, and ways to further our traditions. Climate change will continue to affect the Blackfeet’s environment, ultimately impacting our lifestyle and spiritual life. But as we learn new TEK practices, we will be able to work better with nature and continue the process of transferring our “new” Traditional Environmental Knowledge to the next generation.

You can find the full article and video here.


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FAO Announces International Symposium on Agroecology

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will host an International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition on September 18 and 19, 2014. The symposium, at FAO headquarters in Rome, will explore recent scientific research and knowledge around agroecological practices, promote open dialogue, and showcase existing experiences and programs on agroecology. Food Tank is excited to be participating in this event.

The event will bring together international experts in the field of Agroecology and falls within the new FAO Strategic Framework, which aims to “increase and improve provision of goods and services from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in a sustainable manner.”

The symposium will provide a forum for taking stock of the current state of science and practices of agroecology. Discussions will focus on current initiatives underway around the world contributing to the development of an international framework for research on agroecology, with consideration of economic, social and environmental aspects in industrialized and developing countries.

The symposium aims to produce an action plan for a follow up process in Africa and Asia including potential activities in the context of the FAO Strategic Framework. Following the symposium, the FAO will release scientific proceedings and other informational media content for online sharing.

Registration is now open for interested participants.

Maia Reed holds a B.A. in International Development Studies from McGill University and recently received her Permaculture Design Certificate.


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UN Praises Role of Cooperatives in Sustainable Development

 

United Nations officials are highlighting the role cooperative enterprises can play in economic development, social justice and environmental protection.

In his message for International Day of Cooperatives, marked annually on 5 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that this year’s Day falls at a “critical time” with the UN working to reach the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and adopt a long-range sustainable development agenda, as well as a new climate agreement.
“Cooperatives are particularly important to agriculture, food security and rural development. In the finance sector, cooperatives serve more than 857 million people, including tens of millions who live in poverty,” Mr. Ban said.
Ranging from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses across the globe, cooperatives operate in all sectors of the economy, and provide 100 million jobs worldwide – 20 per cent more than multinational enterprises, according to 2011 figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In 2008, the largest 300 cooperatives in the world had an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, comparable to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many large economies, the UN agencies said.


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Indian Bio-Diversity Board to Open up 110 Seed Banks in States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

News like this gives me great hope that we are wising up and moving away from mono-cultures and industrial farming.

HYDERABAD: To preserve indigenous seed varieties and also promote organic farming, the state bio-diversity board will soon open over 110 seed banks across the two states. With the requisite budgets sanctioned for this pilot project, the board is all set to start the programme in the coming weeks.
The concept is inspired by the activities of a Karnataka-based NGO which was able to do the same in a small scale. A similar project is underway in Gujarat too.
‘’The idea is to start one such seed bank in every village. Farmers can take seeds of various traditional crop varieties free of cost and return double the seeds to the bank after cultivation,” said R Hampaiah, chairman, AP State Biodiversity Board. The board has proposed to open about 60 seed banks in Andhra Pradesh and about 50 in Telangana.
‘’This will not only preserve the local varieties of crops but also promote organic farming, which will in turn reduce the cost of cultivation and yield better output and returns,’’ chairman of the board said adding that huge numbers of farmer suicides in the region was a result of farmers resorting to cultivation of crops not suitable for their region.
According to him, the yield and quality in modern day agriculture were unfortunately inversely proportional though a very small number of farmers practice low cost agriculture and ensure better prices for their yield. The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) of the respective villages will also be provided aid to market these varieties so that more and more farmers are encouraged to sow indigenous varieties, he said.

You can read the entire article here.