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An inspiring news article from Grassroots International:

Six Organizing Principles for a Sustainable Future
Lessons from Wendell Berry and Grassroots International Partners

By Carol Schachet
July 27th, 2010

Some of the most important lessons I know about grassroots organizing come from the poet Wendell Berry, who advises, “Invest in the millennium; plant Sequoias.”

Growing trees, like organizing for social change, may not provide the short-term gratification. (A tomato plant will feed you this summer, and a bake sale might provide books for a single classroom, but a forest preserves soil for generations, and good educational policy funds entire school systems.) While they are not planting Sequoias but other indigenous trees, grassroots organizers from Latin America to the Middle East and beyond personify the vision that Berry describes. Combining their great work with Berry’s insights, here are some of the organizing principles on which our survival depends.

1. Hope is a tangible thing.

If we are going to invest in the future – or at least the millennium – then we need to shift our return-on-investment timeframe. If, as Berry says, you see your “main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest,” you have to believe someone will ultimately be in a better place because of your work.

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A follow up post to the one below, also from the Food First blog.  A little long, but well worth it.

Africans Face Competing Visions of Agricultural Development at Critical Juncture
Posted May 20th, 2010 by rjonasse
By Richard Jonasse, Food First

Aid Collage

A contest of competing visions over the future of Agriculture is playing out across Sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers’ organizations are lining up against an aid regime that threatens to swamp smallholders with purported “solutions” to which these farmers have not assented and do not desire.

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Doing some research on food security today.  Stumbled across a post from Food First, reflecting on the latest conversations around the President’s strategy to “Feed the Future”.

On May 21st, I posted on “Feed the Future”, after attending the Chicago Council on Global Affairs food symposium.  The Chicago Council audience applauded the initiative, without much criticism.  While that experience–listening to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and top government officials from Mali and Banladesh–was interesting, I had this hunch that certain parts of the conversation were being skipped.

Congress Discusses Ways to “Feed the Future”
Posted July 21st, 2010 by admin

By Scott Lensing

Yesterday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs heard from a panel of seven experts on the State Department’s new program to fight global hunger, the “Feed the Future” initiative. Originally released in May of this year, the Feed the Future Guide presents plans for bringing greater food security to countries in the Global South, with $3.5 billion dollars in funding over the next three years. Despite a number of laudable goals, several congressional representatives and panelists voiced concerns about misguided focus.

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Something interesting I found on the IPS website today:

The United States and South Africa Share Great Challenges

July 14, 2010 · By Dedrick Muhammad and Christopher Towne
Originally published in The Huffington Post

Both the United States and South Africa, despite black leadership and multicultural societies, still labor under the legacy of segregation and inequality.

This year, the world was united in our excitement for the World Cup, and in praise of South Africa being the first host for the games in the continent of Africa. Thirty-two countries would compete and more than a million tourists came to South Africa during the month; visitors from Zimbabwe, the US, Malawi, Mexico, and all over the globe joined the Zulu, Xhosa, East Indians, Afrikaners, British, mixed-race “Coloureds,” and other infinitely diverse people that make up the hosting “Rainbow Nation.” But when the wave of euphoria subsides, South Africans will still be faced with a fractured society, a legacy of segregation and inequality established under Apartheid and persisting to this day.

The 2010 tournament has attracted more American viewers than any previous World Cup, and is certain to set records for the amount of viewers around the globe. The tournament has also instigated a record amount of Internet traffic, and has been called the biggest event in the history of the Web. Controversy surrounds the South African government’s use of funds to aid the FIFA games, and the removal of local merchants from the stadium areas in favor of official FIFA-licensed products. But the fact that the World Cup was held in Africa has become a symbol itself: of the continent’s progress since the days of colonialism. What may become the most-watched sporting event in history was held not in Europe or North America, but in Africa.

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“Cause you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery” – Paul Schickler, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred

This week I had the privilege of attending the release of Feed the Future (FTF), the Obama Administration’s strategy to address global hunger and food insecurity. Approximately 300 senior leaders from the Administration, Congress, and the business, policy, and NGO communities packed into the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to hear USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah unveil the Administration’s plan.

With more than a billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – now suffering from chronic hunger, the U.S. is stepping up its game. At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy last summer, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion over three years (to be leveraged in conjunction with the more than $18.5 billion pledged by fellow heads of state) to “scale up” U.S. investments and impact towards achieving Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicating Extreme Hunger and Poverty.

Some of us have expressed skepticism with respect to the Administration’s initiative and the Global Food Security Act in the past: namely with respect to money earmarked for corporate biotech research and U.S. investments being funneled through “multi-lateral” institutions such as the World Bank.

While those concerns remain, I want to take a moment to highlight the points of this plan that deserve applause:

  • FTF puts addressing global hunger and poverty back at the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda
  • FTF supports country-led strategies, supporting effective governments and active citizens’ efforts in determining which goals to pursue and how to allocate resources

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On March 24th, President Obama sent his request to Congress for a supplemental spending bill to support relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Millions of people in Haiti could use that aid to feed their children and begin rebuilding their lives, but Congress still has not passed this crucial bill.

Contact your members of Congress today to tell them to pass the aid bill now!

With more than 230,000 people killed, 300,000 people injured, and at least 1.7 million forced from their homes by the earthquake, Haiti will require ongoing support throughout 2010 to address emergency needs in health, nutrition, shelter, sanitation, rural livelihood and food. The rainy season has already started and hurricane season will soon start in June; this desperate situation will only be exacerbated in the coming months.

The need could not be more urgent or the cause more important, but Congress is still just sitting on the bill! So, we need your help to push them forward.

Please click here to write to your representative and senators today.

Hi Everyone!  Just in from two great days at the 2010 CARE National Conference here in Washington, D.C.  We’ll have some more personalized news coming to you soon.  In the meantime, check out these videos of Senator Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and what they had to say regarding CARE and the “necessary trouble” of fighting global poverty.

Keep your eyes out for AID staff and interns in this one!

Now I don’t usually look to Foreign Policy magazine for my advice on revolution, but this article just seemed too relevant not to share.  Not only have I long struggled against this country’s over-enthusiasm for online organizing (seemingly at the sacrifice of actually rolling up sleeves and getting out in the streets talking to people), but as some of you know, my college classmate Adnan Hajizada was jailed last July for his politicized video blogging as a part of his effort to organize Azeri youth for democracy in Azerbaiajan.

Food for thought to share.

“Twitter Will Undermine Dictators.”
Excerpt from “Think Again: The Internet”, Foreign Policy May/June 2010

#Wrong. Tweets don’t overthrow governments; people do. And what we’ve learned so far is that social networking sites can be both helpful and harmful to activists operating from inside authoritarian regimes. Cheerleaders of today’s rapidly proliferating virtual protests point out that online services such as Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube have made it much easier to circulate information that in the past had been strictly controlled by the state — especially gruesome photos and videos and evidence of abuses by police and the courts. Think of the Burmese dissidents who distributed cell-phone photos documenting how police suppressed protests, or opposition bloggers in Russia who launched as a Wikipedia-like site that allows anyone to upload photos, names, and contact details of purported “enemies of democracy” — judges, police officers, even some politicians — who are complicit in muzzling free speech. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously declared last year that the Rwandan genocide would have been impossible in the age of Twitter.

But does more information really translate into more power to right wrongs?

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Fun news from Green America’s Fair Trade Alliances Newsletter.  For more info on alternative trade models visit:

Congressman Sandy Levin Supports Fair Trade
On March 12, Michigan Congressman Sander Levin publicly declared his support for Fair Trade!  According to an Oakland Press article, “Levin has always been an advocate of ‘Fair Trade’ and has openly challenged the conventional wisdom around ‘free trade.’”

One thing we have learned from globalization is that the global free market system often favors big businesses over workers and small-scale, family farmers who cannot compete with the heavily subsidized agriculture of the US and other countries.  Conventional Trade also makes small producers extremely vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations when they are not protected by the floor price that Fair Trade guarantees.  The “free” market model not only harms producers but also the environment, since producers under free trade agreements with the US are not required to adopt internationally recognized standards for environmental protection.  Also, smaller family-owned farms are inherently more sustainable than large-scale farms.

In March, Congressman Levin became the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, which means he has a great deal of influence over trade issues. He has previously used his position on the subcommittee on trade to delay free trade agreements that undermine fair trade in the “free” market system. Hopefully he will continue to express the importance of Fair Trade versus some of the ill-effects of free trade and use this powerful position to instill Fair Trade policies within legislation.

You’ve heard about Fidel, Che, and the Bay of Pigs. But what about the Red Bull-sponsored skating demos and parks dedicated to British rock stars?

Cross post by Chris Lewis,

Competitive skateboarding–and the bravado that goes along with it–are one of the many things Cuban young people have in common with American counterparts. (Chris Lewis)

Arriving in Cuba, I was caught off guard by all the young people. It may sound a bit silly, but for some reason, it never occurred to me that this nation would be full of citizens the same age as me. Perhaps it’s because Cuba is a country more often associated with history than modernity. Fidel’s only getting older, and his beard greyer. The streets are peppered with 1950s-era cars (“Like a museum that moves,” one Cuban said to me). Many buildings are flaking large chunks of their paint and much of the architecture dates back to the years before the Revolution. What’s more, the images are compounded by rhetoric that presents the country’s sociopolitical system as living dead, a Cold War-era zombie further disintegrating by the minute.

Yet despite all that, not only is there a vibrant youth culture in Cuba, it’s one that deserves your attention. Because while most people know of Cuba’s storied history, as with every nation, its uncertain future lies in its youth.

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