Other Worlds

We Have a Dream: Farmworkers Organize for Justice

June 24, 2013

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell

Part 13 of the Harvesting Justice series


Picking tomatoes in Immokalee, Florida, home of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Photo: Courtesy of CIW.

For decades, farmworkers – the more than one million men and women who work in fields and orchards around the country – have been leading a struggle for justice in our food system. They have been building awareness and mobilizing the public, successfully securing some rights, higher wages, and better working conditions. Today, a recent string of victories by the farmworker group Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), together with the steadfast work of other groups, have taken the movement to a whole new level.

“THE REVOLUTION IS GOING TO BE FOUGHT WITH THE HOE” AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT IN NEW MEXICO

June 24, 2013

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell
Part 20 of the Harvesting Justice series


Spring cleaning of the acequia that irrigates Sol Feliz farm. Acequias are a traditional irrigation system used through much of New Mexico, and managed democratically by the community. Photo by Miguel Santistevan.

“We’re surrounded by agricultural land but we have no food security. Right now we’re strapped to the global market,” said Miguel Santistevan, a New Mexican farmer and biologist. “Some people are trying to figure out how to set themselves free and are showing other people. It’s as if we were all tied to a train that’s headed off a cliff, and pretty soon a lot of us are saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to jump off this train before it goes.’

“MRS. CLINTON CAN HAVE HER FACTORIES”: A HAITIAN SWEATSHOP WORKER SPEAKS

April 30, 2013

By Beverly Bell

Marjorie Valcelat ran an embroidery machine in a factory from 2005 to 2008. She says the experience made her so sick and weak that she’s not felt able to work since then.

I had three children I had to take care of; their father had left. And since I hadn’t had enough schooling, I didn’t have the skills to do much. So I said to myself, “I’m going to work at a factory.” When I got there, they showed me how to run the machines to embroider slips and nightshirts. I spent a month training, but during that time they didn’t pay me; I had to pay them for the training.

 

WEEDING CORPORATE POWER OUT OF AGRICULTURAL POLICIES: COMMUNITIES MOBILIZE FOR FOOD AND FARM JUSTICE

April 27, 2013

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell

From the school cafeteria to rural tomato farms, and all the way to pickets at the White House, people are challenging the ways in which government programs benefit big agribusiness to the detriment of small- and mid-sized farmers. Urban gardeners, PTA parents, ranchers, food coops, and a host of others are organizing to make the policies that govern our food and agricultural systems more just, accountable, and transparent. They are spearheading alternative policies on the local, state, national, and international levels. Some advances include the following:

A HARD DAY’S LABOR FOR $4.76: THE OFFSHORE ASSEMBLY INDUSTRY IN HAITI

April 25, 2013

By Beverly Bell and Alexis Erkert
April 25, 2013

“Haiti offers a marvelous opportunity for American investment. The run-of-the-mill Haitian is handy, easily directed, and gives a hard day’s labor for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day’s work costs $3,” wrote Financial America in 1926.[i] That may be the most honest portrayal of the offshore industry in Haiti to date. Today, the US, the UN, multilateral lending institutions, corporate investors, and others are more creative in their characterizations. They spin Haiti’s high-profit labor as being in the interest of the laborer, and as a major vehicle for what they call “development.”

 

SEEDS OF CHANGE: SHIFTING NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL POLICIES

April 21, 2013

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell

“The only way we’re going to… change the most basic attitude of policy-makers… is for you and me to become the policy-makers, taking charge of every aspect of our food system – from farm to fork,”said Jim Hightower, the former agriculture commissioner of Texas.[i]

The need for us to become the policy-makers to create a just and sustainable food supply chain is urgent, because in the hands of the US government it has become increasingly unjust and unsustainable. Over the past 50 years, agricultural policies that once supported small- and mid-sized farmers have been whittled away. As a result, more than 100 family farms go out of business every week.[ii] The government has instead turned food production over to agribusiness and allowed large firms to buy up small producers and traders. Currently, in the pork, poultry, beef, and grain markets, the biggest four firms control more than half the market share. Three companies control 90% of the massive global grain trade.

Announcing "Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti's New Divide" - Order here!

April 17, 2013

Announcing Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti's Divide
By Beverly Bell
Forward by Edwidge DanticatCornell University Press

Beverly Bell, an activist and award-winning writer, has dedicated her life to working for democracy, women's rights, and economic justice in Haiti and elsewhere. Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 12, 2010, that struck the island nation, killing more than a quarter-million people and leaving another two million Haitians homeless, Bell has spent much of her time in Haiti. Her new book, Fault Lines, is a searing account of the first year after the earthquake.

 

SMALL FARMS FIGHT BACK: FOOD AND COMMUNITY SELF-GOVERNANCE

April 14, 2013

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell

Heather Retberg stood on the steps of the Blue Hill, Maine town hall surrounded by 200 people. “We are farmers,” she told the crowd, “who are supported by our friends and our neighbors who know us and trust us, and want to ensure that they maintain access to their chosen food supply.”

Blue Hill is one of a handful of small Maine towns that have been taking bold steps to protect their local food system. In 2011, they passed an ordinance exempting their local farmers and food producers from federal and state licensure requirements when these farmers sell directly to customers.

Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas

April 12, 2013

We know you care about what you eat, how it was produced, and who was harmed or who benefited in the process. Everywhere, people like you are reclaiming the food system from multinational agribusiness and putting it back in the hands of small farmers, low-income families, farmworkers, guardians of Native culture, and health-conscious communities. Read about these efforts in Other Worlds’ new 140-page book, Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Alternatives in the Americas. The result of five years of research and interviews from throughout the hemisphere, the book describes strategies to win food justice and food sovereignty. An appendix and popular education curriculum offer hundreds of concrete ways to learn more and get involved.

 

“LOSING HAITI, THAT IS SOMETHING ELSE”: HAITIAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS ORGANIZE

April 11, 2013


By Beverly Bell

“Why is Haiti so poor?” That’s what deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez asked, over and over, in a video shown at a recent memorial at the State University of Haiti. In the courtyard of the School of Social Sciences, a repository of radical intelligentsia and organizers, professors and students took the stage to sing, drum, and recite poetry, and to make impassioned speeches about Chávez’s opposition to privatization and the US empire.

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