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What do Miguel Marin of Nicaragua and Marcel Garçon of Haiti have in common? They may be from different countries, cultures, and languages, but both are leaders in their respective communities working to promote local, sustainable, and more just agricultural practices.
Miguel and Marcel formed the panel “An Ecology of Liberation: Communities Practicing Sustainable Agriculture Right Now,” sponsored by the Quixote Center and part of the Latin America and Caribbean track coordinated by the Latin America Working Group at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2013. The eleventh annual conference, held April 5-8, 2013, gathered over 700 members and supporters of the ecumenical Christian community from around the U.S. and world. This year’s theme of food justice sparked dialogue on ending hunger, improving nutrition, creating fair and sustainable food systems, and conserving the environment. The conference culminated in a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill for a full, multi-year reauthorization of a farm bill that would support hunger assistance, local food, and conservation programs in the U.S. and abroad. In their panel, Miguel and Marcel provided examples of invaluable local farming initiatives that benefit from such international support to get started in places where hunger is a daily battle.
Miguel Marin is the president of Fedicamp (Federación para el Desarrollo Integral para Campesinos y Campesinas), an organization of about 285 families in 18 campesino communities in northern Nicaragua. In an area suffering the effects of climate change and where families are accustomed to surviving primarily on beans and corn, Fedicamp´s goals are food sustainability, food security, and better nutrition. As Miguel said, for these communities, “There is no food in Nicaragua. There is a need to produce food.” Fedicamp trains community leaders, who will train others, in soil and water conservation, reforestation, water retention, family gardens, crop diversification, permaculture, and forming local seed banks. They teach the use of local non-genetically modified (non-GMO) seeds and natural fertilizers, not because organic food is trendy, but because it is less costly and more sustainable for campesinos who cannot afford to buy seeds and fertilizer every year. Colorful family gardens and forest plots in place of formerly damaged soil evidence Fedicamp’s results of the last five years.
Marcel Garçon works as a community organizer for sustainable agriculture in Gros Morne, Haiti. Rural Haiti has suffered deforestation, climate destruction, and complete political marginalization. As Marcel said, “In Haiti, food is a luxury.” Campesinos grow the food that is sold to the cities and are left with nothing to eat. Meanwhile, as he put it, the government does not consider the problems of the campesinos to be its own. In community groups, the 2000 members of Marcel´s organization present a local organic alternative approach to agriculture, protect and reforest the environment, and raise small livestock. By growing courtyard gardens women have been able to grow food for their family and sell the surplus. The organization has planted 60,000 trees per year, with the goal of reaching 100,000 per year. Since farming relies on an unpredictable climate, the group has created goat and chicken programs to provide families with backup economic insurance.
As EAD participants reflected on U.S. and world hunger and the harm committed by corporate agribusiness policies, Miguel and Marcel’s leadership and strides toward justice in their communities provided seeds of hope for better practices in the future.
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Three years after the most devastating natural disaster in Haitian history, the earthquake that killed over 300,000 people on January 12th, 2010, Haitians are still struggling to rebuild a semblance of normalcy in their daily lives. Despite the $6.34 billion in humanitarian and recovery funding from the international community that supposedly has already been disbursed in Haiti, reconstruction efforts still appear painfully slow in the eyes of many Haitians. President of the Catholic NGO Caritas Haiti, Pierre André Dumas, called upon all sectors of the country to unite in this time of disillusionment with shortcomings of reconstruction efforts:
"The momentum that followed the earthquake has faded. Much of the promises have not been kept. There is a sense of disappointment among the people: a large part of the population still lives in tents ... We need greater political will, national dialogue and love for this country. We must put aside individual interests."
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Back in October I was lucky enough to see Sonia Pierre, a longtime activist for Dominicans of Haitian descent, speak at what would be one of her last public events before her death the following month. Like the people she spent her life defending, Sonia was born on a batey to Haitian parents who migrated to the Dominican Republic in search of better jobs. Bateys are Dominican sugar plantations where Haitian migrant workers and their offspring face appalling working conditions and live in poverty, marginalized from the rest of Dominican society.
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This past March in the Rayburn Foyer Room, here on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, images and stories of Haitians were exhibited as a “commemorative piece that captures the ongoing plight of Haitians, their spirit of perseverance, and how grassroots and other civil society leaders are striving to create a more equitable Haiti."
By Ezra Millstein
As Church World Service reported, this exhibit was promoted in conjunction with “Haiti Advocacy Days” in which 50 civil society leaders from Haiti, the Haitian diaspora and U.S. humanitarian agencies came to DC to meet with officials in the U.S. State Department, Obama Administration and U.S. Congress.
By Ben Depp
This exhibit was sponsored by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) which was formed shortly after the devastating January 12th, 2010 earthquake to coordinate advocacy efforts for effective and just disaster relief, reconstruction and long term U.S. development policy toward Haiti.
By Elizabeth Whelan
View more photos and read stories from the catalogue here.
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One year after Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, Haiti is far from recovered and Haitian families are still struggling to survive.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, many countries and international organizations were quick to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Haiti. Despite the outpouring of aid, recovery is painfully slow; and health care is a particular problem. Poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water and crowded conditions in camps have added to the strain on the nation’s limited healthcare system. The nation has been further devastated by a massive cholera outbreak that has claimed over 3,400 lives.
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"As Haitians prepare for the first anniversary of the earthquake, close to one million people are reportedly still displaced. Less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed," concludes Oxfam in a hard-hitting report on the world’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.