Category Archives: Farming

Uganda helps farmers grow trees for money in bid to reverse forest loss

Women drying their beans on a tree plantation owned by Peter Kasenene in Mawojo, central Uganda, June 24, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Christopher Bendana

KAMPALA, – From tree-planting drives to tighter laws on illegal logging, countries worldwide are searching for a silver bullet to stop the loss of forests vital for nature and climate protection.

After decades of losing thousands of hectares each year, Uganda has found a way not only to slow deforestation but to reverse it – mainly by helping people grow their own trees to cut down instead of clearing ecologically valuable rainforest.

New data released by the state-run National Forestry Authority (NFA) in May showed the proportion of the country covered by trees rose from 9% in 2015 to 12.4% in 2017.

In a tweet about the figures, the NFA said its 2019 National Biomass Study, due out in December, will likely show that tree cover has increased further.

Stuart Maniraguha, the NFA’s director of plantations development, said the data – collected using remote-sensing equipment and researchers on the ground – suggests things could be looking up for Ugandan farmers struggling to grow mainly rain-fed crops in increasingly extreme weather.

“As an agricultural country, (more forests) means more reliable rainfall,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It indicates that we are on a positive journey towards economic and ecology restoration.”

Protection of the world’s forests is seen as vital to curbing global warming as they store planet-heating carbon and help regulate the climate through rainfall and temperature.

Those who live in and around Uganda’s Central Forest Reserves, more than 500 protected areas that cover about 15% of the country, say tree loss has exacerbated the often disastrous effects of erratic weather patterns for communities.

Last year, more than 700,000 Ugandans living near lakes and rivers were displaced from their homes after a year of unusually heavy rain caused the worst flooding since records began.

The NFA said that before the reversal of Uganda’s tree loss, the amount of land covered by forest had plunged from almost a quarter in 1990 to 9% in 2015.

In its 2016/2017 state of the environment report, the National Environment Management Authority attributed the sharp decline mainly to land-hungry farmers, noting that of the 1.9 million hectares of forest and wetland lost between 1990 and 2015, about 80% had been converted to grow crops.

SUSTAINABLE PLANTATIONS

To restore the forests, Maniraguha said the NFA has used a range of methods, including promoting agroforestry – growing trees and crops together on the same land – and running tree-planting programmes.

And to stop people felling trees in protected areas, the authority gives technical help to farmers growing tree plantations, backed by partners including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and local charity NatureUganda.

The biggest gains in tree cover over the past few years have occurred in the southwest, where farmers grow trees for use as timber, firewood and electricity poles, Maniraguha said.

The NFA has a goal for 24% of Uganda’s territory to be covered with trees by 2040, he added.

Peter Kasenene, who owns a 200-hectare (500-acre) plantation in Mawojo, in central Uganda – 70 hectares of which he planted under the FAO programme – said farmers like him are helping drive sustainable development on a local level.

“You work only in the first year after planting. Then the trees grow on their own,” said the 75-year-old former university professor who served as a finance minister from 2001 to 2006.

“That one you see there is the third generation – I cut, I replant,” he explained, pointing to a patch of eucalyptus trees which, along with pine, make up most of his plantation.

Kasenene said the FAO pays him 800,000 Ugandan shillings ($225) for every hectare he plants and he also earns a healthy income from selling the wood from the mature trees.

“You get the buyers, they cut the trees and put money in my account – I am comfortable,” he said.

‘FORESTS ARE OUR JEWELS’

Achilles Byaruhanga, executive director at NatureUganda, welcomed the increases in tree cover but said he was concerned reforestation was only happening on tree farms, even though they do offer an alternative source of firewood.

“We need to stabilise the (natural) forest cover and then increase it. We cannot afford to lose more. Natural resources – especially forests – are our jewels,” he said.

For NFA head Tom Okello, growing more trees is not enough if Uganda is going to sustain its success – more needs to be done to stop the root causes of encroachment and deforestation.

“You can’t stop a desperate person looking for firewood from entering into a forest. We must provide an alternative for energy, improve agricultural productivity and fight poverty,” he said.

Nearly 95% of Ugandans rely on firewood or charcoal for cooking, according to the energy ministry.

In Buikwe district, which includes the Mabira Central Forest Reserve, tree farmer John Tabula urged the government to give communities more power to manage the rainforest in their areas.

Tabula belongs to a group of farmers who had an agreement with the NFA to manage a 3-km (2-mile) tract of forest inside the reserve where they grew eucalyptus to sell for electricity poles and terminalia, also known as Indian almond, for timber.

In return, they patrolled the forest looking out for illegal loggers, he said.

But the agreement expired in 2016 and the government has not renewed it, despite several requests, said Tabula, who also runs a private plantation with support from the FAO.

Okello said the NFA is grappling with a long-term budget crunch, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has affected some conservation activities in the reserve, including the renewal of the agreement in Buikwe.

“We have to evaluate their performances before we renew their permits,” he said.

But Tabula said each day the government stalls on renewing the agreement is another day when the forest is left vulnerable to illegal loggers and encroachment.

“We, the community, would protect the forest,” he said. “But we don’t have legal backing.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20210708044831-audzi/

An Untapped Gem of the African Family-Farming System

The African economy is still mostly rural-based and informal, driven by family-holders farmers; primarily women. The improvement of the African family- farmers system will achieve the dual targets of addressing some of the poverty reduction and gender imbalance questions in Africa. It is in this vein that AEFJN considers agricultural development as an essential agenda in the mapping of the future strategy of EU-Africa partnerships or any partnerships with the African nations.

The quest for the development of African family-farmers does not suggest the industrialisation of agriculture in Africa. The stakeholders must clearly understand this, or else their development initiatives will be counterproductive and bring untold setback to the ecosystem and the African socio-economic system, which constitutes the very fibre of its identity and existence.  In general, family farmers function within the ambit of the principles of agroecology and they present potentials for sustainable food production and agriculture. Family farming is not necessarily averse to big size farms. Instead, it is opposed to farms that function outside the ambit of the principles of sustainable agroecology. The development of family farmers in this context could mean a shift from the chemical-dependent agriculture to the fold of family farmers or increasing the size of the family farmers’ farms without compromising the agro-ecological principles.

In one sense, the development of Africa’s agriculture points in the direction of building on the local innovations that are already in existence within the continent. There are already local innovations in African communities that would transform African agriculture and ensure food security if they are scaled up. The shade net system in Nigeria, for example, is an adaption of the greenhouse system. The shade net system uses agro nets or other woven material to allow entry of required sunlight, moisture and air. It creates an appropriate climate for plant growth and is a cheaper and better alternative to the greenhouse system, based on some conducted sample surveys. The shade net system also has higher acceptability, because it is cost-effective, well-suited to the African climate, and easily controlled by adjusting the intensity of the shade net.

One of the significant challenges facing Africa’s rural family is having real value for their produce. It is sad to see that after the farmers have laboured to till the soil and produced good quality foodstuff, unfavourable market forces compelled them to sell their produce at giveaway prices. The stories are told about the African farmers that highlight agriculture as their endeared way of life, but that is less than the whole truth. African farmers want good life lives just like every other human and the actual value their produce entitle them to that much. They need not live poverty-stricken when they labour sustainably and yield products of great importance. Their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere are the envy of other economic sectors and are recognised for their real worth. Agriculture is the business through which they can improve their living conditions, and that makes accessing market to have worth for their produce becomes imperative.

Scaling up the activities of the family- farmers may be what they need to realise their profitability. That would necessarily include access to market to ensure adequate marginal returns on their investments and to reduce the food loss and wastage that occurs at the farm gate. In this vein, creating an aggregation that connects smallholder farmers to access to market to enhance value for the family farmers’ labour will be a turning point in the life of the African family farmers.  Knowing that what they produce is fully utilised in feeding the people while at the same getting the worth for their labour will inspire and excite the average African farmer the more and the teeming African young people to embrace farming as dignified trade. Scaling up the activities of African family farmers is an achievable response to the unabating and perilous crossing of the Mediterranean. One of the lures that Europe holds for young Africans is the promise of dignified returns for just labour. The development of the family-farming system has the promise of an alternative to the dangerous quest for a better life. The first step, in this direction, is to take a hard look at the economic resources of the African continent; the family-farming system has remained unexplored, undervalued and exploited.

An overview on the UN Declaration of Peasants and Rural Workers Rights

The UN United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas was adopted by the United Nations (UN) at the end of 2018 by a large majority (121 votes in favour, 54 abstentions, 8 votes against). This Declaration marks the culmination of a historic process: it is the result of nearly 20 years of mobilization of La Via Campesina and its allies, and 6 years of negotiation at the UN Human Rights Council.

The Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger has shown that 80 % of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the one billion people living in extreme poverty in the world today live and work in rural areas. The global food crises of 2008 and 2009 and the corona virus that has been shaking the world since the end of 2019 have worsened the situation. Half of the people suffering from hunger are smallholders who depend mainly or partly on agriculture for their livelihood. Some 20 % are landless families who survive as sharecroppers or as low-paid farm labourers who often have to move from one precarious and informal job to another; 10 % live in rural communities with traditional fishing, hunting and herding practices. Women account for as much as 70 % of the world’s hungry people and the vast majority of them work in the agricultural sector.

Despite the existence of several international instruments for the protection of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of individuals, the above figures indicating the number of people affected by hunger in rural areas have been increasing steadily. Discrimination against this category of the population continues. Studies on human rights violations committed against rural populations show that existing human rights instruments are not sufficient to protect them and that certain specific aspects of the condition of peasants are not sufficiently taken into account. The UN Human Rights Council therefore considered the need for a specific legal instrument to explicitly strengthen the rights of people living and working in rural areas very important. The result of this consideration is the “Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other people working in rural areas”.

In 2010, the Human Rights Council mandated the Advisory Committee to undertake a preliminary study on ways and means to further promote the rights of people working in rural areas, including women, in particular smallholders engaged in the production of food and/or other agricultural products.  In 2011 and 2012, the Advisory Committee presented this study identifying five main causes of hunger that particularly affect peasants and other people working in rural areas: Expropriation of land, forced evictions and displacement; Gender discrimination; Absence of agrarian reform and rural development policies, including irrigation and seeds; Repression and criminalization of movements protecting the rights of people working in rural areas Lack of a minimum wage and social protection. The recent phenomenon of global “land-grab” has added another dimension to these concerns as Governments and companies seek to buy and lease large tracts of productive land in other countries, for food to be exported back to their countries, or to grow biofuels to fill the petrol tanks of those in the global north. Supermarkets buy their products primarily from large producers who are able to supply larger quantities. Because of their market power, supermarkets often dictate discount prices. These low prices in turn lead to poor wages and a lack of protection for farm workers.

An important outcome of this declaration is a major step forward in the protections of the rights of peasants and other rural workers. The rights stipulated therein are conditions for the realization of the right to food of the target groups, including: the right to land; the right to seeds; the right to means of production such as water, credit and tools; the right to food sovereignty. Most of these rights are new and do not appear in any other human rights instrument. This is the case, for example, of the right to land, seeds and means of production.

States have a great responsibility to ensure that peasants and others working in rural areas fully enjoy their rights. In the context of the declaration, States have, inter alia, the obligation to respect and protect: they must not interfere with the realization of the rights of peasants; they must refrain from expelling peasants by depriving them of the resources they need to lead a dignified life; they must refrain from adopting laws that allow private actors to abuse the rights of peasants; they must avoid issuing environmental permits knowing that the authorized activity will pollute the land and water and affect the right to water or to food and nutrition. The declaration obliges States to adopt all necessary measures to prevent private persons, such as landowners or transnational and national companies, from interfering with the realization of these rights.

An overview on the UN Declaration of Peasants and Rural Workers Rights

IS UNDERGROUND FARMING THE FUTURE OF FOOD?

A subterranean farm deep inside a South Korean subway station may unlock the secret to food sustainability.

More than seven million passengers ride Seoul’s metro system every day. But since September 2019, those who descend underground at the city’s Sangdo Station and push through the ticket gate are met with an unusual site: behind a glass-panelled facade, leafy shoots, sprouts and microgreens have sprung up from under bright LED lights as part of a subterranean, organic farm.

The concept, known as Metro Farm, uses hydroponic growing trays and an automated tech network to control the underground ecosystem’s temperature, humidity and CO2 levels. The result is a highly productive “vertical” farm that produces some 30kg of vegetables per day at a rate that is 40 times more efficient than traditional farming. In the adjacent cafe, as many as 1,000 customers a day now purchase salads, smoothies and edible flowers grown next door in a full seed-to-table operation.

According to Farm8, the tech startup behind the underground venture, Sangdo Station is just the first of many sustainable urban farming ventures that the company hopes to introduce across South Korea. The company believes that by developing these high-tech ventures in high-density areas, consumers will spend less on food transportation costs, C02 emissions associated with food delivery will drop and people will have a sustainable, year-round alternative to crops increasingly affected by pollution and climate change.

Farm8 is hoping to expand its flagship farm to three more Seoul metro stations later this year. If successful, the innovative venture may not only offer a more sustainable solution to urban farming, but also has the potential to be rolled out in environments where traditional farming isn’t feasible, such as deserts and Arctic climates.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200723-is-underground-farming-the-future-of-food?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2F

Kenyan recycling firm mixes kitchen waste to boost urban farming

Ted Gachanga and Michael Kanywiria agronomists who co-own Sprout Organic company display samples of vegetables grown in a compost that is sold to urban farmers to grow food in squeezed spaces during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nairobi, Kenya June 30, 2020. Picture taken June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Edwin Waita

NAIROBI, – Kenyan urban farmer Francis Wachira credits a soil recycling company with keeping him afloat financially during the coronavirus crisis: it helped him to start producing herbs and vegetables on his tiny Nairobi plot.

The locally-owned company, Sprout Organic, mixes animal bone meal, seeds, foliage, dry leaves, twigs and kitchen waste like banana peels, to concoct a composite that is then sold to urban farmers like Wachira to grow food in small spaces.

Wachira, 71, used to make a living by renting out tiny tin shacks he built, but the coronavirus pandemic meant his tenants could no longer pay him.

Now he sells the produce from his plot, such as kale, spinach and herbs, and says he earns around 1,000 shillings ($9.23).

“We are making good money out of this,” he said.

Ted Gachanga, an agronomist who co-owns Sprout, says their product resembles black cotton soil. Worms are usually added to the mixture to help it mature, a process that takes about four weeks.

A 20 kg bag sells at 3,500 shillings. Gachanga said demand had risen by 10% during the pandemic, which has cut incomes and impinged food supply chains.

“People are seeing the need to grow their own produce,” Gachanga said.

Close to 15,000 people in Kenya have been infected by the COVID-19 disease since the first case was reported in mid-March, official data showed. Economic growth has slowed down sharply, with many job losses in sectors like tourism.

Sprout employs three staff, and its owners say that although their technology is not new, they have patented the formula for the composite. They hope to expand production beyond Nairobi to cover other towns.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200724071329-q9hgm/

Urgency of Changing Food Systems

More than ever, covid 19 has created or deepened awareness of the importance and safety of producing and consuming locally. This awareness has increased a growing global consensus on the need to reform food systems to achieve sustainable development goals. From this perspective, agro-ecology is central to the fact that it contributes to the achievement of many sustainable development goals. It enables agricultural production to be increased where necessary and contributes to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in rural areas. It also helps to combat environmental degradation, reduce greenhouse gases and adapt agriculture to climate change.

There are many major social and environmental challenges related to the way we produce, process and consume food. Despite abundant food production, hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing. Agroecological approaches can play an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all. In the dimensions of availability,[1] accessibility (poverty alleviation), stability (increasing resilience) and utilization (diversified diets), agro-ecology has significant potential to improve food security. Many studies have found strong relationships between diverse farming systems (one of the key principles of agroecology), diversity of household diets and nutrition.[2]

The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this transformation imperative. First of all; scientists have in the past linked the emergence of epidemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to the loss of habitat and biodiversity worldwide. But more importantly, this particular pandemic reveals the importance of strengthening the resilience of food systems and the autonomy of agricultural producers. There is ample evidence that agro-ecological systems, which are less dependent on inputs and major globalized value chains, are more resilient to the shocks of the pandemic on food systems. Here is one farmer’s testimony:

« At a time like this when there is no more movement, I continue to thrive because most of the inputs I need are on my farm; otherwise it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them.  We produce a variety of crops and animals on the farm, so that has helped to spread the risk. With COVID-19, I can get income from different businesses: banana prices are currently very low, but in the near future, I will get income from cowpeas, onions and garlic. Also, as a family, we have enough food.»

We urgently need to reform our food systems so that they become socially equitable and no longer harm the planet. According to many international institutions, scientists, farmers’ movements and NGOs, this can be done by supporting an agro-ecological transition of food systems. In contrast to the proliferation of large-scale investments in agriculture, developed countries must strongly support the necessary agro-ecological transformation of food systems in developing countries. Recently (March 2020), a study on ” The share of agroecology in Belgian official development assistance: an opportunity missed” by UCLouvain (M. Vermeylen & O. De Schutter) showed that agroecology is not a priority for Belgian development cooperation. Indeed, it devotes only 16% of its budget dedicated to agriculture to support agro-ecology. This is an interpolation for other countries that intervene in one way or another in the development of the countries of the South.

Copied from aefjn.org

Cash payments to cut poverty in Indonesian villages help forests too

Sumbanese villagers work on a field seeding peanuts in Hamba Praing village, Kanatang district, East Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

KUALA LUMPUR, – A social protection scheme to help poor Indonesians living in rural areas by giving them cash also reduced deforestation by 30%, researchers said on Friday, fuelling hope that efforts to tackle poverty and protect forests can work in tandem.

The study analysed Indonesia’s national anti-poverty programme – which transfers money to poor households that follow health and education guidelines – looking at about 7,500 forest villages that received money from 2008 to 2012.

“No matter which way we looked at it, the anti-poverty programme on average leads to reduction in deforestation in the villages receiving it,” said study co-author Paul Ferraro, a professor of human behaviour and public policy at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Over the last two decades, Indonesia managed to cut its poverty rate by more than half to just under 10% of its 260 million population in 2019, according to the World Bank.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forests, is also the top global producer of palm oil – which generates millions of jobs but is blamed by environmentalists for forest loss and fires.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, was named as one of the top three countries for rainforest loss in 2019, according to data published this month by Global Forest Watch, a monitoring service that uses satellites.

The new study on Indonesia, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at data on tree-cover loss for villages near forests, before and after the welfare programme began.

Cash-based schemes to tackle poverty are becoming increasingly popular in developing countries, with 16 tropical nations having adopted such methods, Ferraro noted.

The Indonesian programme – still being phased in across the archipelago – makes “modest” quarterly cash payments equating to about 15-20% of recipients’ household consumption, he said.

The 266,533 households analysed for the study were located in the 15 provinces that make up half of Indonesia’s forest cover and account for about 80% of its deforestation.

Researchers found that farmers in these villages typically cleared forest to plant more crops if they expected low yields, due to delays in the monsoon season or prolonged drought.

But when given cash payments, they switched to buying from markets rather than clearing forest, or were able to take out loans using the government handout as a guarantee, said Ferraro.

Before scaling up such cash schemes worldwide, Ferraro urged more research on their environmental benefits.

A separate study in Mexico, using different methods, found a small rise in deforestation as locals may have used the cash to keep more cattle, clearing forest for grazing, he noted.

“We’re not going to solve the rainforest problems with a conditional cash transfer programme,” he said.

“(But) it provides space for these two groups – the anti-poverty and pro-environment groups – to be more collaborative.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200612171610-gro26/

Farming Families Search for Land

Brazil-farm
Sr. Maria Vagner Souza Silva teaches Biblical Studies in the community of Sâo Joâo Batista in Anapu.

By Sisters Jane Dwyer and Kathryne Webster, SNDdeN

We, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), follow and walk with the people in Anapu, Brazil. From 1982 until 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang was herself the Pastoral Land Commission in Anapu. Since her brutal murder, we have been coordinating this work. We accompany farming families as they search for land, respect nature, improve their production and life and their own organization. The right and responsibility to initiate belong to the people with whom we journey.

Since 2005, we have created the Committee in Defense of Anapu (CDA). For the last fifteen years, we have met with this Committee for the entire day on one Saturday each month, to address issues pertaining to the farming families, their needs, problems and threats. The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.

Workshops in 2020

During 2020, we intend to offer practical workshops, requested by the families, on various ways of planting and cloning cacau in the forest, preparing and planting crops without burning, land homeopathy, the extraction of oils and essences from the forest, economic organization of the rural family, and other activities depending on the year’s
journey. We offer Biblical studies, continually providing spiritual resources for motivation on the journey. We aim to decentralize these workshops by offering them in various sectors of the municipality. There are more than 100 communities and conflict areas in Anapu.

Land Conflict and Organization of People

The land in Anapu is all public and destined for Agrarian Reform. We do not encourage people to occupy new lands but to take back lands that have been usurped, bought and sold illegally. The people work together within the judicial system with the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). After Sister Dorothy’s assassination, the creation of the defense committee, the CDA, helped families with land conflicts, to settle and win in court. The people occupy the usurped lands or organize groups with clear objectives. This organizing does create a lot of tension, violence and imprisonment in Anapu. The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) defends families against slaughter, murder and violence. At first, the people needed help with everything, from typing letters, reports, petitions to discovering where to get required help. Today they take the responsibility for organizing themselves, finding the information for their defense, approaching INCRA, and all for public defense.

SNDdeN Presence and Ministry

We continue formation and follow-up through workshops, visits, and seeking financial assistance and defense in the face of threats to life, murders and the constant presence of gun and militias. Since 2015, 19 people in Anapu have been brutally murdered, with three killed in 2019, over land conflicts. Several individuals and many families have fled from Anapu, to escape being murdered. People face the threat of gunmen who have murdered companions and family members and intend to kill others. Farm families and their organization have not yet been able to achieve their goal. Our journey with them in Anapu and the wider Brazilian community becomes clearer to us with time. Our Notre Dame de Namur presence in Anapu is more to inform, influence and open channels against isolation from the outside world.

 

 

 

Good Works March 2020: https://www.sndden.org/who-we-are/good-works-international-magazine/

Advocates call attention to pandemic’s wrath on ‘essential’ farmworkers

Farm
Migrant workers clean fields near Salinas, California, March 30. (CNS/Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

WASHINGTON — As those working from home escalated their complaints or jokes on Twitter about Zoom meetings, the United Farm Workers of America offered a reality check March 20 in the form of tweet: “You can’t pick strawberries remotely.”

“The people who put food on our table do not get to telecommute,” the labor organization said in a mid-March statement calling attention to the plight of the country’s more than 2 million farmworkers.

There may be toilet paper shortages in U.S. supermarkets, but the country’s supply of fruit and vegetables and other staples such as meats and dairy produced by the labor of farmworkers — many of them migrants — remains steady thanks to those essential workers. Yet many of them toil without basic protections, their supporters say.

Even while facing lack of access to adequate health care or wages and immigration woes stemming from the H-2A visa program that allows some of them to work legally in the U.S., the largely unseen workers have kept, until now, the country’s food supply moving.

“The irony is that (now) they’re saying they are essential. They’ve always been essential,” said Carlos Marentes, founder and director of the Border Agricultural Workers Center in El Paso, Texas, in an April 14 interview with Catholic News Service.

They’re considered so essential that on April 15, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a temporary easing of immigration regulations to allow businesses to employ them faster and for longer periods of time than before — an unusual move for an administration that has sought to curtail immigration.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the temporary changes would help U.S. farmers who employ foreign farmworkers “avoid disruptions” in employment and “protect the nation’s food supply chain.”

No matter how important they are to the nation, however, there’s always been a “historical abandonment” of farmworkers, Marentes said, and this is a time to go beyond “sentimental blackmail” — offering praise for what farmworkers do, without also calling for protection for their rights.

Even though they’re considered essential workers, a looming threat some farmworkers are facing are efforts to lower their salaries at this critical time. Last year, the Trump administration proposed changes in how wages are calculated for those who use the H-2A visa program, essentially lowering their pay.

The H-2A program is a guest worker program, which allows agricultural employers to bring workers from other countries — primarily Mexico — to the U.S. to work on their farms, said Ashley Feasley, director of policy for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The workers who produce our food are essential workers (roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers total), and they have been declared so. Yet there are announcements from the White House about reducing the wages of guest workers,” she said in an April 14 email to CNS. “This is unjust to further exploit a population that is working to put food on people’s tables at this time.”

And many of them are scared, said Marentes.

As cities around the country — and the businesses that propelled them — began closing down abruptly in mid-March, farmworkers were told to continue toiling because they were important to keep the country moving. But because of stricter measures taken at border towns such as El Paso, Texas, those who worked in the U.S. but lived in Mexico could no longer cross at entry points as they had before to be with their families after their work shifts were over, Marentes said.

Organizations that work with the farmworker population, such as the Border Agricultural Worker Center, began mobilizing, writing letters for the farmworkers so they could carry documents with them saying who they were, where they worked, in case immigration or other authorities scrutinized them on their way to work, Marentes said. Community groups, like Marentes’ organization, also scrambled to secure some form of shelter and a place for them to bathe, find face masks and gloves, and give them a quick lesson on how to keep safe in the middle of a pandemic.

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/advocates-call-attention-pandemics-wrath-essential-farmworkers

‘My hands are my tractor’: Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg

Screenshot_2020-03-23 'My hands are my tractor' Urban gardens take root in Johannesburg
Refiloe Molefe smiles with friends at her inner city farm in Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 February 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kim Harrisberg

JOHANNESBURG, – Whenever people walked by the overgrown bowling green in Johannesburg’s working-class Bertrams neighbourhood, they saw an eyesore.

But Refiloe Molefe saw a chance to feed her community.

The 60-year-old former nurse has been farming on the 500-square-metre (5,380 square feet) bowling green for more than a decade, after she asked the city for food for the creche she was running for 15 children.

The authorities had none to give her, so she requested the land to grow her own instead.

“We may not have money, but we have land and food. And to garden here is our therapy,” Molefe said, crushing a piece of rosemary between her fingers before smelling the leaves and smiling.

Seed by seed, Johannesburg – a city known for high crime levels and rapid urbanisation – is becoming home to a crop of urban farmers fighting concrete to grow fruit and vegetables so they can feed their families and neighbours.

The United Nations estimates two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from 56% today.

And Africa is the continent urbanising the fastest, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city with a population of more than 4.4 million according to the most recent census data, has grown nearly 40% since the previous census in 2001.

“There are people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria and Malawi here. We have the opportunity to grow food together, to live together and to eat together,” said Molefe.

“But we need land to do this.”

There are about 300 urban farms in Johannesburg, according to Nthatisi Modingoane, spokesman for the City of Johannesburg.

And more are sprouting up, said food security researcher Brittany Kesselman.

“We are seeing farms in schools, churches, clinics, rooftops and backyards,” said Kesselman, who is also a raw food chef.

“It is a challenge, but urban farmers are bravely fighting hunger in Johannesburg.”

According to the South African Cities Network, an urban development think tank, more than 40% of Johannesburg households are food insecure, meaning they are unable to access affordable and nutritious food.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200320052234-jaoqg/