Archive for the ‘Labor’ Category

Sep11

Celebrating 25 Amazing Women

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Throughout September, the Worldwatch Institute is celebrating the crucial role that women and youth play in ushering in the just and environmentally sustainable future that we’re working hard to bring about. Even in the 21st century, women own less than 15 percent of the world’s land, earn 17 percent less than men on average, and comprise two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults. Today, Nourishing the Planet features 25 amazing women from all over the globe who have been ongoing sources of inspiration, to NtP and others.

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1.       Rebecca Adamson
Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee, has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate of local tribal issues since 1970. She started First Nations Development Institute in 1980 and First Peoples Worldwide in 1997. Adamson’s work established a new field of culturally appropriate, value-driven development which created: the first reservation-based microenterprise loan fund in the United States; the first tribal investment model; a national movement for reservation land reform; and legislation that established new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for Native Americans. Adamson is active in many nonprofits and serves on the board of directors of numerous organizations, including the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul FoundationThe Bridgespan Group, and First Voice International.

2.       Lorena Aguilar
Lorena Aguilar—Global Senior Gender Adviser at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—is an international advisor for numerous organizations, governments, and academic institutions on topics related to gender, water, environmental health, and community participation, with over twenty-five years of experience in the field of international development. She is actively committed to incorporating gender perspectives into the use and conservation of natural resources in Latin America, and has both created and participated in some of the most influential gender networks in the world. Aguilar has authored over seventy publications, and has been the keynote speaker at numerous high-level international conferences.

3.       Helen Browning
Helen Browning is chief executive of the Soil Association, the United Kingdom’s leading nonprofit working for healthy, humane, and sustainable food, farming, and land use. In addition to running the Soil Association, Browning operates a 1,350 acre organic farm in Wiltshire, and runs the village pub. Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council, and has been a valuable member of numerous organizations working to improve the British food and agriculture system, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, and the Meat and Livestock Commission. (more…)

Sep03

Six Innovations Lifting the World’s Agricultural Workers out of Poverty

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By Catherine Ward

Agriculture employs more than one billion people worldwide—about 34 percent of global workers—making it the second-largest source of employment globally. Yet agricultural workers remain one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited groups in the world. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), the global agricultural workforce is “among the most socially vulnerable; the least organized into trade unions; employed under the poorest health, safety and environmental conditions; and is the least likely to have access to effective forms of social security and protection.”

Agricultural workers are one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited groups in the world (Photo Credit: Planet Matters)

In many countries, up to 60 percent of agricultural workers live in poverty and less than 20 percent have access to basic social security, according to the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) initiative. The agricultural sector also has the largest numbers of child workers—nearly 130 million children between the ages of 5 and 17.

Innovations to lift the world’s agricultural workers out of poverty can simultaneously promote sustainable agriculture and international development. Today, Nourishing the Planet offers six solutions to help lift the world’s agricultural workers out of poverty:

1) Support organized labor. Labor unions play an important role in minimizing exploitation among agricultural workers by advocating for higher wages, improved living conditions, and safer work environments. Agricultural workers are often one of the most disempowered groups within societies, and in many countries they lack access to basic healthcare, education, and participation in government. Unions advocate for worker rights, and fight to stop the exploitation of children.

In Ghana, 70 percent of the country’s 23 million inhabitants are involved in the agricultural sector. The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) is the largest union in Ghana and represents many marginalized agricultural groups. The union supports rural communities by providing support in training, learning new skills, and microcredit. GAWU is currently investing in a youth development center, and organizes training workshops for union members. The union has campaigned for better farm wages, so that families don’t have to send their children to work in the agricultural sector.

By supporting community-based organizations, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), consumers in the United States can help ensure that farmworker’s rights are recognized and enforced. The CIW is a coalition of farmworkers working low-wage jobs in the state of Florida, and is responsible for advocating farmworker rights via hunger strikes, boycotts, interfaith prayer vigils, rallies, and marches.  The CIW is organizing a Labor Day Weekend of Action and is calling on the public to actively protest Publix in your state.

2) Include women in agricultural development. Innovative technology solutions can help disadvantaged agricultural workers ease their work burdens and increase productivity. Women make up over 40 percent of the global agricultural workforce, yet are one of the most vulnerable groups amongst these workers. Female agricultural laborers form an invisible workforce, as they often work on the fringes of the formal economy assisting their husbands with manual labor, or producing food to feed their families as opposed to food for sale.

In India there are over 258 million people working in the agricultural sector, and up to 70 percent of rural women are engaged in the agricultural workforce. There have been some noteworthy success stories in India around the creation of innovative technology solutions for agricultural workers. An Indian midwife, Arkhiben Vankar, became known as the pesticide lady when she developed an herbal pesticide that was efficient, low-cost, and toxin-free. This innovation provided Indian women engaged in agricultural work with an alternative to harmful chemical pesticides. Another technological innovation was designed by Subharani Kurian, who developed a bicycle-operated duplex pump to draw up ground water. The innovation assists women based on the idea that leg muscles are more powerful than hand muscles, making a bicycle pump more effective to operate.

Lack of communication, education, and access to technology among women, particularly in developing countries, has often prevented women from receiving the same benefits and opportunities as men in the agricultural sector. For the last 50 years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped to bring scientific knowledge and technology to poor agricultural workers in developing countries through initiatives like the Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs). According to USAID, “by empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, we can increase crop yields by as much as 30 percent and feed an additional 150 million people”.

3) Support worker advocacy organizations. Research can be a useful tool to examine risks associated with the agricultural industry and how to mitigate them in the future, thus ensuring that vulnerable workers do not risk losing their livelihoods. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in due to hazardous machinery, livestock, extreme weather conditions, dehydration, and exposure to pesticides.

In China there are an estimated 225 million agricultural workers, but farms are increasingly worked by the youngest and oldest residents of rural communities, as many middle-aged wage workers seek employment in cities. Injuries are abundant due to use of heavy machinery, and result in millions of deaths and disabilities among farmworkers each year. A collaborative research project  between the Colorado Injury Control Research Center, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Ohio State University, and the Tongji Injury Control Research Center was undertaken between Chinese and American researchers to find solutions to reduce agriculturally related injuries in China. The program has trained over 80 researchers, published studies on agricultural injuries, and opened a center for injury prevention in China. The project aims to provide insights on how to train agricultural workers to safely handle new machinery to avoid future injuries and deaths.

Consumers can make a positive contribution towards the health care of farmworkers in the United States through non-profit organizations such as the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH). The organization is dedicated to improving worker health in the United States by providing services like resources for migrants, training programs, and education and policy analysis. The public can get involved through NCFH’s Gift of Health program, which accepts donations that are invested in promoting the health of America’s farmworkers.

4) Get involved and be aware—locally and globally. Local initiatives that invest in the well-being of vulnerable communities can effectively help change the conditions of agricultural workers. Farmworkers are often described as hidden people, usually subjected to impoverished living conditions, with limited access to basic services like water and electricity.

South Africa’s wine and fruit industry alone generates US $3 billion a year for the South African economy. Yet, according to a Human Rights Watch report, farmworkers benefit very little from the profits, and are often forced to live in substandard housing. Solms-Delta is an example of a South African wine estate that has established its own initiative, the Wijn de Caap Trust, to break the cycle of poverty among farmworkers on the Solms-Delta estate. The trust receives 33 percent of profits from the estate’s wine sales, which aims to improve the lives of farmworkers by providing quality housing, investing in education facilities for children, and providing medical care to families.

Consumers in the United States can also become directly involved in community farming enterprises by volunteering or working at local farmers’ markets, participating in volunteer days at nearby farms, or even apprenticing on a farm for a season. Visit https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/ to learn more about on-farm opportunities in the United States and Canada.

5) Promote universal education. Education can be used from a grassroots level to dispel ignorance and empower local communities. Agricultural workers often migrate in search of seasonal or temporary work, and can be unaware of their rights due to poor education, isolation within rural areas, and fragmented organization. Education programs can also help inform consumers on ethical considerations of food production, and educate young leaders on policy formulation and advocacy.

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) is an innovative nonprofit organization, which uses popular education to raise awareness of issues around farmworker conditions in local U.S. communities. SAF works with farmworkers, students and advocates alike, and has provided support to over 80,000 farmworkers to gain access to health, legal, and education facilities.

6) Vote with your dollar. Consumers can choose products produced in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ways. By purchasing products that are not linked to the exploitation of agricultural laborers, it sends the message to agricultural employers that consumers do not support abusive labor conditions, and that they are willing to pay an often-higher price for ethically produced goods. This helps ensure that workers are paid fairly and do not work under poor conditions.

Fair Trade USA is an international movement that allows customers to buy products from all over the world that support poverty-reduction projects, relieve exploitation, and endorse environmental sustainability.  The Fair Trade standards enable agricultural workers to work in safe and inclusive environments, follow economic trade contracts with fair pricing, improve their own living conditions, and avoid child labor. There is growing demand from consumers for socially responsible food production; North America will soon implement its own Food Justice label. This label will also help lift American workers out of poverty by guaranteeing fair wages, adequate living conditions, and reasonable contracts.

Agriculture will not be viable while the vast majority of its workforce lives in poverty around the world, and innovative measures to break this cycle of poverty, along with your contributions, are crucial to fostering a healthier food system.

Do you know of any innovative projects that are assisting impoverished agricultural workers? Let us know in the comments below!

Catherine Ward 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.

Aug03

Investment in Women Farmers Still Too Low

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Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force, yet few extension or research services are directed at women farmers, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. Women produce as much as 50 percent of the agricultural output in South Asia and 80 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women produce as much as half of the world’s agricultural output. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In spite of women farmers’ essential roles in global and local food security, there is a persistent gender gap in agriculture. Cultural norms and restrictive property or inheritance rights limit the types and amount of financial resources, land, or technology available to women. Studies in South Asia and throughout the Middle East also show that women receive lower wages and are more likely to work part-time or seasonally than men in comparable jobs, regardless of similar levels of education and experience.

Recognizing the factors restricting women from receiving full compensation for their role in global agriculture is key to alleviating the gender gap in agricultural employment, resources, and development. Women produce 60–80 percent of the food in developing countries but own less than 2 percent of the land. They typically farm non-commercial, staple crops, such as rice, wheat, and maize, which account for 90 percent of the food consumed by the rural poor.

Fewer extension or research services are directed at women farmers because of perceptions of the limited commercial viability of their labor or products—and only 15 percent of extension officers around the world are women. Yet the Economist Intelligence Unit’s newly developed Global Food Security Index has a 0.93 correlation with its index of Women’s Economic Opportunity, showing that countries with more gender-sensitive business environments—based on labor policies, access to finance, and comparative levels of education and training—have more abundant, nutritious, and affordable food. This relationship provides evidence that when women have equal resources and opportunity, they can produce higher—and higher-quality—agricultural yields.

(more…)

Jul10

Five Ways to Get Rid of Pests Without Using Chemicals

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By Graham Salinger

Pests can be, well, a pest. They infest crops and reduce yields, reducing overall agricultural production and food security. To deal with pests, such as mealybugs or spider mites, most farmers use chemical pesticides which can impact health, pollute water supplies through runoff, and, if pesticides are misused or overused, can actually kill plants. Finding new methods to get rid of pests without requiring chemical inputs has increasingly become a priority for many farmers.

Implementing these methods can save crops from destructive pests without the need for harmful pesticides. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five crop management methods that control pests without using chemical pesticides.

1. Crop rotation:  Crop rotation involves alternating the species of crop that a farmer grows on his or her land each year. Rotating crops helps prevent pests from getting used to the type of plant that is being cultivated. Planting different species of crops each growing season also promotes soil fertility.  Planting legumes, a plant that helps fertilize crops through nitrogen fixing bacteria that it has on its roots, and then planting crops that require high levels of nitrogen helps make sure that soil is healthy each growing season. And healthy soil helps protect against pests because an imbalance in plant nutrition increases a harvest’s vulnerability to pests, according to Mans Lanting of ETC Foundation, a non- profit that focuses on linking agricultural sustainability to social development.

(more…)

Jun30

Food Chain Documentary Explores Labor Abuses in US Agriculture

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By Carolyn Smalkowski

On an average day, 32 million Americans will go grocery shopping, spending approximately 41 minutes per visit at the store. Yet, many Americans know little about the life cycle of their food from farm to table, including the potential abuses that may be taking place out of the public eye.

 

Food Chain Teaser from Sanjay Rawal on Vimeo.

A new documentary called Food Chain seeks to explore worker’s rights in American agriculture. It highlights the lives of America’s farm workers, documenting slave-like conditions, exploitation, harsh living conditions, and low wages. According to the film, “the entire modern supermarket goes out of its way so that you’re not reminded of where your food came from or who picked it.”

The film features activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., among others. Although Food Chain is still in production, the film makers aspire to encourage grocery stores to be leaders in the food justice movement by demanding better wages and working conditions from the farms they support.

One organization featured in the film and currently involved in the movement to improve agricultural workers’ rights is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW).  Based in Florida, CIW is a farmworker organization working on two campaigns – the Campaign for Fair Food and the Anti-Slavery Campaign – to improve the lives of Florida’s tomato pickers. CIW also partners with the Alliance for Fair Food to support corporate social responsibility and promote farmworker rights by forming agreements with major corporations like McDonalds and Subway.

To support Food Chain and watch its trailer, please visit the film’s website or see the video above.

To read more about American agricultural labor rights, see “Like Machines in the Fields: Workers without Rights in American Agriculture”, United Farm Workers, and Fair Food Standards Council.

Carolyn Smalkowski 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. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE

Jun29

Family Farms, Conscious Consumption, and Ecological Profitability: An Interview with Bev Eggleston

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By Kevin Robbins

On Sunday mornings at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market in Washington, D.C., you can find bouquets of fresh flowers, bundles of brussels sprouts, and buckets of local apples. And you can also find a man in a white butcher’s smock surrounded by tables of ice and local meats labeled “Designer Line of Fine Swine” and “Grass-kickin’ Chicken.”

Bev Eggleston discusses raising animals humanely. (Photo credit: Gourmet Magazine)

Bev Eggleston—founder of EcoFriendly Foods—invites wondering customers to sample his latest selection of cured meat. He starts out simple: “Have you ever tasted heritage pork?” But before you leave, he’ll get serious: “So why do you think Obama didn’t mention agriculture in his State of the Union address? How can an ‘America Built to Last’ forget about its farmers?”

Eggleston’s grass-fed, family-farm-raised meats are a favorite with farmers’ market shoppers and dinners at some of the best restaurants up and down the East Coast. He owns and operates the first of what he hopes to be many multi-species, certified humane, USDA inspected processing plant in Moneta, Virginia. He works with small, local farms to source, process, and distribute local beef, eggs, lamb, pork, and poultry.

(more…)

Jun25

Eating Planet: Carlo Petrini Discusses Buying Food and Paying for Your Values

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By Marlena White

On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his views on how to fix the broken food system. The event is full but please tune in on the 28th via livestream: we will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

In Eating Planet, Carlo Petrini discusses paying for food in terms of values. (Photo credit: Bruno Cordioli)

In a chapter introduction for Eating Planet – Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet—the newly released book from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition—International Slow Food Movement founder Carlo Petrini discusses what paying a fair price means, and why it’s important for the sustainability of the world’s food supplies.

Petrini begins by explaining that sustainability means the plans we make, both in terms of individual and higher-level actions, must be able to last over the long term and on many different levels, taking into account social, economic, and environmental factors. With its many impacts on these factors, he says, food is crucial to sustainability as a whole.

According to Petrini, what we eat, including the time and money we put into it, is an investment in both our health and the state of the environment. He says it also reflects a certain set of values that can have strong implications for sustainability. These values may be the bottom line of overall profits, or longer term considerations like protecting the health of ecosystems and the livelihoods of our food producers. Petrini argues that the values inherent in our food should be included in their price, especially after accounting for what these values contribute to the sustainability of the planet.

(more…)

Jun22

Rio+20 and the Role of Nigerian Women in Sustainable Development

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Today, Daily Times Nigeria published an op-ed co-written by Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, and Danielle Nierenberg, director of the Nourishing the Planet project at the Worldwatch Institute.

The article focuses on women in Nigeria and their role in sustainable development. The piece highlights the need for women’s rights to be a core issue at Rio+20, a conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio. In Nigeria, one-third of women have an unmet need for contraception, and nearly 80 percent of Nigerian farmers are women. Recognizing the important role of women as food producers, business owners, care givers, and mothers is key to creating a sustainable future for all.

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.

Mar07

For International Women’s Day: An Innovative Agricultural Empowerment Index

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By Stephanie Buglione

Rural women represent, on average, more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in the developing world, but they own only 1 percent of the land, and face constant barriers to equality and success.

The Index's brochure. (Photo credit: Feed the Future Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index)

The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) measures empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in this sector to identify areas for improvement. The index uses the Alkire Foster Method, which measures multidimensional poverty, well-being, and inequality against multiple criteria at both the individual and household level.

Developed by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the project informs Obama’s Feed the Future program, a global hunger and poverty initiative.

Within five different domains, including control of income, decisions about agricultural production, and time use, the WEAI measures the leadership roles and extent of empowerment and involvement of women in the agriculture sector of the developing world.

(more…)

Feb13

Trader Joe’s and Coalition of Immokalee Workers Sign Fair Food Agreement

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Last week, on February 9, 2012—after a lengthy campaign of protests and letter-writing—grocery chain Trader Joe’s and The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed a fair food agreement that supports the fair pay and working conditions for tomato growers in Florida.

CIW and Orange County supporters outside a Trader Joe’s. (Photo credit: OC Weekly)

The CIW is a community-based organization founded in 1993 by farm workers who wanted to organize and fight to end their brutal working conditions. Trader Joe’s is one of many food industry giants whom they have persuaded to join the Fair Food Program. The list includes restaurant chains such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s and food service companies such as Bon Appetit Management Co. and Compass Group. Trader Joe’s joins Whole Foods as the only two groceries to sign the agreement. 

Click here to read the press release.

To read more about the CIW and workers in the food industry: Modern Slavery Museum: Coming to a Street or City Near You, A Penny for Their Hard WorkFood Justice Discussion at Georgetown University, Food With (Not So Much) Integrity, ILWU Wins Fight for Union Dock Work in Longview, Washington, and Fighting for Farmworkers’ Rights for More Than 40 Years.

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.