This first post of the new year highlights two ridiculously contrasting bits of news about food and the environment.
In a recklessly biased article, Forbes honored Monsanto with the title "Company of the Year," arguing that "the vast numbers of farmers who prefer its seeds to competing products, and the resulting $44 billion market value of the company" have earned the agri-giant its accolades. Yes, Forbes noted the global protests directed toward Monsanto, yet the article disregards any anger as public fickleness, pointing to an absurd argument that now people find that Monsanto seeds are "too good." But as a post on current.com points out about the article:
There was no mention of farmer lawsuits, patent law forcing the buying of seeds, pushing out NON GMO farmers, intimidation of scientists, transgenic contamination, test results regarding their BT crops, Indian farmer suicides, deforestation of the Amazon, farmers in Latin America being pushed off their land for soy monocultures, Monsanto in Iraq and Afghanistan, Plan Colombia, government bribes, revolving Washington DC policy, nor pending lawsuits regarding PCBs and the Supreme Court.On the other end of the spectrum comes coverage by the Interpress Service of Manos de Mujer (Women's Hands), a Colombian NGO that spans 56 villages and is comprised of over 900 local women who are reclaiming their desertified ecosystem -- and in the process, empowering themselves -- through farms and gardens.
One woman, Claudina Loaiza, tells her experience with Manos de Mujer:
"When I left the father of my children, because of his drinking and cheating, I began planting my own fruit and vegetable garden in my yard; this was something I really wanted," Loaiza said, her eyes shining as she introduced her daughter and niece, who work the land with her.The article goes on to describe how the small changes these women are making offset the overwhelming larger problems they and the land face: "...the women involved in the project are not discouraged by these 'minor' achievements. Because what's important for them is the knowledge they've gained and the real improvements their efforts have brought to their environment and lives."
"I'm the kind of woman who'd rather be alone than have a bad man by her side," she said, before going on to describe how she fenced off her one-hectare garden with 144 metres of wire netting.
"I felt, and I still feel, so proud, because we were planting beans, watermelon, plantain, cassava, corn, green vegetables and all sorts of things, without using any weed killers or chemicals, just what we prepared for fertilising and replenishing the soil," she explained.
"In the summer (the tropical dry season), water was rationed, so I'd water each plant a little bit at a time, and that's how I grew these beautiful melons," she said, before specifying to this IPS reporter that she wanted to be described as an indigenous peasant woman.
Enthusiastically she explained how she worked the land using natural techniques, learning, for example, to use cattle dung as fertiliser and cassava and plantain leaves to maintain moisture.
"We used the hoe to check that the soil was humid before spreading the organic fertiliser…We also found that if there was garbage on the ground, the soil would stay dry even if it rained," recalled Loaiza, just one of the 1,100 peasant women involved in the changes in the land and agricultural production brought about by Manos de Mujer.
In the ongoing drama between corporate agriculture and the land and people that big business exploits, efforts such as Manos de Mujer are inspiring (and hopefully not wishful) examples of ethical cultivation and sustainability.
Read the Inter Press Article, "Women Empowered by Restoring Desertified Land"
Read the ironicly titled Forbes article, "The Planet Versus Monsanto"