Archive for the ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Category

Sep15

Winona LaDuke: Protecting Wild Harvests Through the White Earth Land Recovery Project

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By Devon Ericksen

“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine; not only for the body, but for the soul, is the spiritual connection to history, ancestors and the land.”

Winona LaDuke in Recovering the Sacred

Winona LaDuke and the White Earth Land Recovery Project are working to protect wild rice, a sacred part of Anishinaabeg culture (Photo Credit: Star Tribune)

A graduate of both Harvard and Antioch universities, Winona LaDuke is the author of six books, winner of numerous prestigious awards, and two-time Green Party candidate for U.S. vice-president. But what she is most proud of is her Native American heritage.

LaDuke is a member of the Anishinaabeg tribe and Founding Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), which works to recover the land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota and to restore land stewardship practices, such as the protection of traditional crops and sacred seeds, within the community. This return to healthy, indigenous foods is sorely needed in the U.S. Native American community: 39.6 percent of Native adults are obese, compared to 27 percent of whites, and 25 percent of Native adults in Minnesota have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to about 7 percent of white adults.

One of the indigenous foods that LaDuke and the WELRP are working to protect is wild rice, a sacred part of Anishinaabeg culture. Wild rice is the only grain native to North America, found mainly in the Great Lakes region. It is higher in protein than other grains and contains numerous vitamins. The Anishinaabeg people have used sustainable harvesting methods for generations, relying on canoes and beater sticks to collect the ripe seeds.

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Aug27

Investing in the Future of Livestock: An Interview with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson

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Worldwatch Institute’s Supriya Kumar spoke with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, projects coordinator for the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP).  LPP supports people in marginal areas to encourage socially sustainable livestock production.  

“We want to focus on animal culture, not animal industry,” said Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, while on a visit to Washington, D.C. last year.

“Everyone is worried about a growing human population, but what no one is paying attention to is the fact that livestock populations have grown twice as fast as human population has in the last 50 years. Even more concerning is the fact that the rate of culling is 7 times higher than it was 50 years ago,” said Koehler-Rollefson.  These are just a few signs of how unsustainable current methods of livestock production are.

The League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development supports people in marginal areas to encourage sustainable livestock production. (Photo Credit: The Ark of Livestock Biodiversity)

LPP was started in 1992 by a small group of veterinary and other concerned professionals, including Koehler-Rollefson, to support pastoral societies and other small-scale livestock keepers through research, technical support, advisory services, and advocacy. “Many government policies are now focused on industrial and factory farms. Our mission is to address any gaps between the needs of the small-scale livestock keepers. We also work with family and smallholder farms as well.”

Koehler-Rollefson visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for livestock keepers in national and international agricultural policy decisions at the High-level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020. Other groups at the meeting represented big names and organizations in the livestock sector, including the International Livestock Research Institute, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But no one, other than Koehler-Rollefson, was present to represent smaller-scale livestock producers and pastoralists.

LPP uses three main approaches in their advocacy efforts. One approach is the Biological Community Protocol (BCP), which aims to empower livestock keepers as stewards of biological diversity under the protection of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Under this Convention, countries are committed to support and protect local and indigenous communities who are helping to improve biodiversity.

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Feb22

New Reports Reveal the Human and Financial Costs of Large-Scale Land Acquisitions

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By Laura Reynolds

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a coalition of groups working for the rights of rural people to access and use their local natural resources, recently released two reports on the state of large-scale land acquisitions and investments, also known as land grabs.

Activists protest against ‘land grabbing’ in 2011. (Photo credit: Andreas Solaro, AFP/Getty Images)

The reports looked at the financial risk associated with international land investments and gave an overview of the setbacks and progress made in land tenure during 2012.

Investors, often from foreign countries, have turned to land development in recent years because of the high profits that can be made from activities such as mining, industrial food production, logging, and production of rubber or biofuels. But these investments often come with high costs as well, according to a December report from RRI. In addition to the human rights abuses and environmental destruction that can coincide with large-scale land acquisitions, investors can face an increase in their operational costs of as much as 2,800 percent.

The report, “The Financial Risks of Insecure Land Tenure: An Investment View,” profiles five foreign land investments that failed because of a lack of transparency or legality, resulting in financial hardship for the investors. In 2005, the Swedish ethanol producer SEKAB attempted to purchase 400,000 hectares in Zanzibar, Tanzania, to cultivate biofuel crops, but public outcry and the company’s failure to follow policy and environmental protocols led creditors to adandon the project and forced SEKAB to sell its assets at a loss of over $20 million.

In Grand Cape Mount, Liberia, the Malaysia-based multinational Sime Darby, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, had planned to develop 220,000 hectares for oil palm and rubber plantations after signing a 63-year concession with the national government. But land tenure disputes and large-scale rioting have repeatedly disrupted operations, putting the project’s long-term feasibility at risk.

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Nov29

“Green” Economic Development Can Hurt the World’s Poor

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By Sophie Wenzlau

There is a dark side to the green economy. Or so say researchers with the STEPS Centre, a U.K.-based interdisciplinary research and policy center that unites development studies with science and technology studies.

According to the Journal of Peasant Studies, “green grabbing” is likely to further impoverish the world’s poor. (Photo Credit: Human Rights House Network)

The group’s observations in Africa and elsewhere suggest that land and resources in developing countries are increasingly being appropriated—transferred from the poor to the powerful—in the name of “green” economic development, ranging from efforts to promote biofuels, to carbon-offset schemes, to conservation and ecotourism initiatives. This rapidly growing practice, known informally as “green grabbing,” is forcing people to leave their homes and their land, and is responsible for increasing poverty worldwide, they say.

“Across the world, ecosystems are for sale,” writes Melissa Leach, director of the STEPS Centre, in an op-ed published last June by the news network Al Jazeera. She notes that businesses, environmental organizations, and governments are buying up huge tracts of land for “green” initiatives worldwide, often with unsettling consequences. Leach writes that in Mozambique, for example, “a company with British capital is negotiating a lease with the government for 15 million hectares, or 19 percent, of the country’s surface,” in order to capitalize on the “carbon credits” that can be derived from trees grown on the land and traded internationally.

In some cases, the sale of land for “green” purposes excludes local populations from accessing the natural resources on which they depend. In other cases, the sale of land for such purposes excludes residents from their land and homes altogether. Leach notes, “green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment.”

“Green grabbing” is likely to further impoverish the world’s poor, according to 17 case studies recently published in a massive special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies. When farmers and pastoralists are excluded from their land, they are excluded from their livelihoods, the studies argue. And such exclusion can stall and reverse indigenous economic development.

According to Leach, both environmental principles and principles of fairness should guide the development of the green economy: “If market-based mechanisms are to contribute to sustainable development and the building of economies that are not only green but also fair, then fostering an agenda focused on distribution, equity, and justice in green market arrangements is vital.”

This perspective mirrors other recent criticisms of the green economy as being just another route to the “financialization of nature,” to the detriment of “commonly shared” resources such as water, forests, and fish.

Leach concludes by noting that true sustainable development must incorporate an emphasis on “nurturing and legitimizing more interconnected human-ecological relationships and understandings,” so that nature is recaptured “from the market’s grasp.”

Sophie Wenzlau is a food & agriculture research associate with the Worldwatch Institute.  

Nov22

This Thanksgiving, Celebrate Traditional Food Production

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Nourishing the Planet wishes you a happy Thanksgiving!

Check out this op-ed published in Arizona’s Sierra Vista Herald by Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg and research intern Hong Gao. The article discusses the importance of supporting traditional Indigenous food production and culture, on Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

Click here to read the full article.

Oct15

Pewa: Small Fruits that Pack a Huge Punch

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By Molly Redfield

The pewa (Bactris gasipaes or peach palm in English), while just about the size of a Ping-Pong ball, is a nutrient-dense fruit that provides more protein than an avocado, which contains approximately 3 grams of protein. Growing in South and Central America on palm trees that reach heights of over 20 meters, pewa is known as the “noble Panamanian fruit.” This nickname refers to the fact that 92 percent of its seeds, pulp, and skin are usable.

Pewa is an important staple food that grows across Central and South America.
(Photo credit: Washington & Jefferson College)

With a nutrient value similar to a hen’s egg, minus the cholesterol, pewa is an important food source for many birds, notably macaws, parrots, and parakeets. Its high fiber, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, and calcium content have also made it an important staple food for many Indigenous Peoples. For centuries, Indigenous groups have used pewa in jellies, compotes, flours and edible oils. Preparation of this fruit includes boiling, often in salted water, to remove the trypsin enzymes under its skin that would block protein digestion. After stewing, the pewa fruit is peeled and flavored with honey or salt, dried, smoked, or cooked into other foods.

Indigenous communities in Central and South America have also developed preservation methods for keeping this perishable fruit available during the offseason. After cooking the pulp, they would mash it and then store it underground in leaves. A month later, the pewa would be fit to consume and Indigenous communities could store them for roughly one year. Another way Indigenous groups have stored pewa is through creating a fermented alcoholic beverage with the fruit. Among various Indigenous Amazonian groups, this drink, called chica, is still used in various religious ceremonies and rituals.

In Costa Rica, stores sell whole pewa fruits, pewa flour, and pewa soups, and the fruit is also available in infant formula. Pewa’s popularity is currently increasing on global markets because it is a gluten free substitute for wheat flour. And according to the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (APGRI), expansion of the fruit’s commercial success could lead to economic development for farming communities across South and Central America.

Without question, this small, inconspicuous fruit surely packs a huge punch.

For more information on pewa click here.

Molly Redfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Aug21

First Peoples Worldwide Awards Over US$1 Million in Grants to Indigenous Communities

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By Sophie Wenzlau

This past July, First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) reached a milestone of US$1.2 million in grants awarded “directly to Indigenous projects, programs, and communities” around the world. First Peoples, an international, Indigenous-led advocacy organization, seeks to promote economic determination and strengthen Indigenous communities by awarding grants directly to Indigenous Peoples. To fulfill these objectives, the organization provides “Indigenous Peoples with the tools, information and relationships they need to build community capacity to leverage assets for sustainable economic development.”

First Peoples Worldwide has surpassed $1 million in grants to Indigenous organizations. (Image credit: FPW)

According to the United Nations’ State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous Peoples all over the world continue to suffer from disproportionally high rates of poverty, health problems, crime, and human rights abuses.” In the United States, for example, Indigenous Peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis and 62 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Worldwide, Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is 20 years lower than the non-Indigenous average.

Despite these sobering statistics, Indigenous Peoples are responsible for some of the most vibrant and diverse cultures on earth. Of the world’s 7,000 languages, the UN estimates that over 4,000 are spoken by Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous communities are also strongholds of traditional knowledge, preserving ancient technologies, skills, and beliefs.

The grants awarded by FPW have funded innovative projects in countries like Botswana, Bolivia, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, and have focused on topics as diverse as land reclamation, water development, and traditional medicine.

In Ghana, FPW funded a project designed to prevent wild elephants from destroying farms located along the boundaries of Kakum National Park. The Association of Beekeepers in Ghana, the organization that received the grant, developed the novel idea of constructing a beehive barrier along the community’s perimeter. According to FPW, “the presence of the hives has naturally prevented elephants from crossing the grounds, and the honey production has increased income for farmers through sales, which has improved local commerce.”

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Jun22

African Land Fertile Ground for Crops and Investors

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Danielle Nierenberg, director of Nourishing the Planet, was featured in a National Public Radio piece, “African Land Fertile Ground for Crops and Investors,” on Friday, June 15.

The article discusses the relationship between and future for commercial and small-scale farming in Africa, interviewing representatives from both perspectives. Jes Tarp, CEO of Aslan Global Management, is helping to finance a farm called Rei do Agro in Mozambique with the hope of “building wealth in the community.” On the topic of Rei do Agro, Jake Walters of Mozambique operations for Technoserve, agrees that big companies bring value to farmers because they employ more people. Danielle Nierenberg disagrees with Walters, stating “there are better alternatives” for small farmers than growing a single crop on a mega-farm.

However, Walters and Nierenberg do agree that compromise can exist between support for small farmers and mega-farm operations.

Click here to read the full article.

Jun13

New York Times Discusses Brazil’s Land Conflicts

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By Caitlin Aylward

Check out this recent New York Times video and article reporting on a recent wave of violent conflicts over land rights in southern Brazil.

Over the last few decades, farmers and ranchers have settled on land that the Guarani Peoples have inhabited and relied on for centuries. Although this fertile region of Southern Brazil has helped Brazil become the world’s leading producer of soy, sugar cane, and beef, Brazil’s economic success has come primarily at the expense of the Guarani Peoples’ land rights.

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Jun07

Let Us Honor the Earth’s First Stewards

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This week an op-ed, “Let us honour the Earth’s first stewards,” co-authored by Danielle Nierenberg, director of Nourishing the Planet, and Rebecca Adamson, President of First Peoples Worldwide was featured in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

A meeting of Samburu pastoralists in Kenya. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The article addresses the inequity in how Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from the decision making process regarding their traditional land, water, and mineral resources. Land traditionally owned by indigenous people, often officially belongs to others—former Kenyan President Moi for example—who sell the land, resulting in resource depletion and marginalization of the communities.

The article highlights work that First Peoples Worldwide and other organizations are doing to help indigenous people to maintain economic and cultural self-determination.

Click here to read the full article.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.