The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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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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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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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.


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Vermont GM food labeling bill clears key hurdle

Vermont last week took a key step towards becoming the first state to require labeling of genetically modified foods. The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved labeling legislation without a trigger requiring other states to act, a signal that lawmakers and the state’s attorney general are prepared to battle litigation if the bill is signed into law.


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Organics Under Attack

The OCA has a long history of defending the integrity of organic standards.

Last September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), under pressure from corporate interests represented by the Organic Trade Association, made our job harder.

They also made it more important than ever for consumers to do their homework, even when buying USDA certified organic products.

Without any input from the public, the USDA changed the way the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decides which non-organic materials are allowed in certified organic. The change all but guarantees that when the NOSB meets every six months, the list of non-organic and synthetic materials allowed in organic will get longer and longer.

The USDA’s new rule plays to the cabal of the self-appointed organic elite who want to degrade organic standards and undermine organic integrity. For consumers, farmers, co-ops and businesses committed to high organic standards, the USDA’s latest industry-friendly move is a clarion call to fight back against the corporate-led, government-sanctioned attack on organic standards.

Read the essay

 


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UN Report Calls For Radical, Democratic Food System

Cambodia Sugar Cane

By 

The current global food system needs to be “radically” and “democratically” changed in order to alleviate global hunger and serve human rights over the profits of major agribusiness corporations, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

“At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mandated visions” which go beyond the goal of profit maximization and instead rebuild local and sustainable food models, said Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter, while presenting his final report (pdf) to the UN Human Rights Council, finalizing his six-year term.

“Food democracy must start from the bottom-up, at the level of villages, regions, cities, and municipalities,” the rights expert said.

“Food security must be built around securing the ability of smallholder farmers to thrive,” he emphasized. “Respect for their access to productive resources is key in this regard.”

The current system, says De Schutter, has instead created a world monopolized by the big-agro “green revolution” of mono-cropping, industrialization and pesticide-heavy techniques, which has boosted agricultural production over the past 50 years but has “hardly reduced the number of hungry people,” the report states. Continue reading