What does ‘land’ mean to you?

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From World Pulse:

Does it evoke images of the dusty streets you walked down as a child or memories of the sacred land you grew up on? Does your mind wander to property rights or the importance of respecting the earth? Maybe you have a broader definition of the word and recall a time you landed on your feet after taking a leap of faith.
World Pulse is pleased to announce an exciting, new opportunity to be published in the next edition of our print magazine, Earth, which showcases women leaders who are protecting and restoring the planet’s ecosystems. We are asking women around the world, and their allies, to tell us what Land means to them.

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Learn more about this opportunity here. And consider sharing your story.
The photos you see here are from our recent Learning Delegation to Northern India. Want to see more? Click here.

Why Women’s Rights Matter to Our Food

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Katherine Gustafson wrote a beautiful call to action on change.org. She quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“We have seen again and again . . . that women are entrepreneurial, accountable, and practical,” said Clinton.
“So women are a wise investment. And since the majority of the world’s farmers are women, it’s critical that our investments in agriculture leverage their ambition and perseverance.”

We couldn’t agree more.
On our recent Learning Delegation to Northern India we learned that the women we met with need greater connection with practitioner and information networks, as well as access to marketing support, appropriate technologies, capital, and business development training. Although there is a growing movement of women change agents and the visionary men who stand as their allies, women’s efforts remain largely isolated and underserved. We’re working on these issues through partnerships, capacity building and seed money.
Will you join us?

From The Fields : From seed to root

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By Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond
We have just returned from our India Women and Agriculture Learning Exchange.
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This rich and informative tour through Northern India brought 14 women practitioners and advocates in agriculture and food systems to the frontlines of India’s sustainable agriculture movement.As we journeyed through the vast and diverse country, we observed time and time again the vital yet under-recognized role that women farmers play in India’s food and agriculture sector. Although we are well familiar with the jarring statistic that more than 84% of women in India are involved in agricultural activities, we were reminded with each visit that women truly are central to the world’s food production. In each village we visited, we heard women describe the importance of accessing the training, capital, market opportunities, and moral support they need to ensure the health and sustainability of their communities.
4078907359_5a8c7e98c3_oThroughout the journey, we heard a very clear theme:

Women need greater connection with practitioner and information networks, as well as access to marketing support, appropriate technologies, capital, and business development training. Although there is a growing movement of women change agents and the visionary men who stand as their allies, women’s efforts remain largely isolated and underserved.

Amidst the challenges, we observed countless stories of triumph and courage. From village to village, women are upholding the knowledge of traditional agriculture techniques, saving seeds, launching advocacy campaigns, creating cooperatives, and modeling the solutions.
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Our vision for the Women and Agriculture Initiative is infused with the spirit of these women’s successes, and we hope to play a meaningful role in connecting resources to needs in this burgeoning movement.
4078906693_91b434734d_oWe now enter the Learning Exchange Assessment phase of our work.  We will work as a group to synthesize the challenges and needs we saw, heard and witnessed on our trip.  We will then prepare an outline of capacity-building training programs and advocacy projects that work to address those needs.  We’ll keep you posted as the vision unfolds…

amira3_thumb[2] MK_thumb[8] Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond are Co-Directors of Women’s Earth Alliance.  You can read more about them and what they’ve been involved with before WEA on our website.

More pictures from the trip can be found on our Flickr page.
This is the final post of our series entitled From The Fields which followed WEA’s Women and Agriculture delegation on their 10 day journey through Northern India. Read more about this initiative here.

Do you want to support our work in India and sustainable agriculture?  Donate today.

Join us! Joanna Macy and more on Tues, 11/10/09

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We’ve just returned from our 10 day journey through Northern India where we launched our Women and Agriculture Initiative (we blogged about it – take a look)!  Coming soon are pictures, a summary of the lessons we learned, and our next steps.  So stay tuned for that.  In the meantime…

Join us this coming Tuesday, November 10 for an energizing and  dynamic evening here at the David Brower Center.  It’s the last event in our WEAving the Worlds – Coming Up from the Roots event series (click here to learn about the first two events).  And it promises to be inspiring and fun.

Starting at 6:30pm : Eco-Art and Urban Farm Reception

Start the evening with a dynamic reception presented in partnership with Art in Action and CommuniTree, featuring sustainable agriculture and community resiliency projects including Green Media Arts Center, the first green arts and media center for low income youth in the Bay Area, along with live music provided by master kora player Youssoupha Sidibe.

 

Starting at 8:00pm : Amira Diamond and Joanna Macy

Amira Diamond, WEA’s Co-Director will report on WEA’s Fall 2009 India Women and Agriculture Learning Exchange.  She’ll tell us first-hand stories about women on the front lines of India’s sustainable agriculture movement; we’ll learn about communities creating resiliency through art and healthy solutions to our local and global food crises, and we will enjoy an artistic performance by Art in Action and CommuniTree.  Finally, we will experience the wisdom of Joanna Macy.

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Event details:

Reception 6:30pm, Program 8:00pm

David Brower Center, Goldman Theater

2150 Allston Way, Berkeley CA 94704

$15 in advance, $18 at the door

Purchase tickets here.  Activist tickets are available!

All proceeds to benefit Women’s Earth Alliance and CommuniTree.

Special thanks to our Promotional Partners Earth Island Institute, Young Women Social Entrepreneurs, Global Exchange, Global Fund for Women, HUB Bay Area, and Sacred Land Film Project.

And thanks to our event sponsors GreenHome.com and Back to Earth Organic Catering!

From The Fields : Spice Girls and Water Harvesting Women: A Gandhian Legacy

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By Blue Baldwin

 

In the remote reaches of the Thar Desert, where the bustle and noise of Rajasthan’s blue hued city of Jodhpur fades and disappears into the sand, far beyond the sandstone mines at the outskirts of the city, Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti, a.k.a. GRAVIS, and otherwise known as Center of People’s Science for Rural Development, is hard at work. From opium addiction to food insecurity, from maternal and child mortality to lack of access to drinking water, GRAVIS addresses a broad spectrum of challenges and works with communities to find solutions.

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We are blessed with the opportunity to get to know GRAVIS through the eyes of its co-founder, Shashi Tyagi, who alongside her late husband, has worked since 1981 to create an entity that now reaches 900 remote village communities throughout Rajasthan and beyond. GRAVIS addresses health education and literacy with a special emphasis on girls; facilitates agriculture, water conservation, forestry, and animal husbandry projects; advocates for the elderly and women and children; and provides emergency assistance in times of catastrophe. It does all of this via a community-based, holistic approach rooted deeply in the Gandhian principles of Sarvodaya, which means “all rising, but the last person’s first” and Gram Swarajya, or village self-rule.

 

Our group of 14 mounted our trusty bus an d headed off to visit one of GRAVIS’s rural training centers about 90 minutes outside Jodhpur. Along the way we put into practice our now well honed bus riding skills, effortlessly surfing the bun-lifting bumps in the road and simultaneously engaging in a rigorous Q & A session with Shashi-Ji about GRAVIS. Upon our arrival at the center (the final section of which was traversed on foot as it was deemed too treacherous for the bus), we were served yet another in what is becoming a long line of memorably delicious lunches, this one featuring a dish that rapidly landed the latest top spot in our culinary explorations. It was a local specialty made using from the sacred khejri (not to overlook the ample, hot rice pudding and fresh roti made from millet flour).

With happy hearts and full bellies, the group divided in two in order to indulge our respective interests. Some of us ventured even deeper into the Thar to see some real traditional rainwater harvesting in action, while others toured the training center to witness what is known as the Masala Project in action.

A burly safari jeep ride into the desert landed the rainwater harvesting crew at a place that felt outside of time, a desert homestead. We were greeted in no time by the curious residents and after introducing ourselves launched into a lively chat about the traditional rainwater harvesting method we were standing on, known as a khadin.


 Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/17/37/
Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/17/37/

 

The purpose of a khadin is to promote and retain soil moisture in an agricultural area. A wall-like, masonry structure one to two meters high is constructed at the downstream portion of a natural watershed to prevent water and topspoil from flowing out of the small valley while allowing excess water to overflow. Khadins can be constructed in series, promoting infiltration and topsoil retention on multiple sequential agricultural plots. Simple and elegant, khadins significantly increase the fertility of arable land as well as raise the water table. The family reported that their beri, or traditional percolation well (see photo below), has provided significantly more water since the khadin was constructed and they are now able to share water with their neighbors.
Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/27/47/
Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/27/47/

 

We are delighted to explore and ask questions about our first encounter with traditional rainwater harvesting, as well as to cuddle with a flock of 15 day-old baby sheep the children were proud to share with us. GRAVIS supports the construction of khadins, as well as taankas (passive underground water storage tanks) and nadis (community ponds) in desert communities throughout Rajasthan, which has a massive positive impact on the people living in these rain-starved regions. Women are particularly affected, since the work of collecting water for all the family’s needs falls to them and often involves treks over vast kilometers and hours spent away from home.

Meanwhile, back at the training center, it was all about the spice. Cumin, corriander, tumeric, and chili are processed by local women to sell at market, with infrastructure for processing and business support from GRAVIS. The Masala Project provides women with an economic opportunity in a region with very few options for women in business.

Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/18/38/
Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/18/38/

 

Our time with GRAVIS came to a climactic end when a dance party, complete with live local musicians, spontaneously erupted and both WEA women and new mothers attending a maternal and child health education course shook it with all their hearts and souls on the improvised dance floor, leaving not a doubt in anyone’s mind as to who the real Spice Girls are.

Photo courtesy of http://gravis.org.in/content/view/18/38/

Blue Baldwin currently resides in her home town of Tucson, AZ where rapid population growth and limited water resources are creating exciting opportunities for innovative and holistic resource management practices. She works with Watershed Management Group, a non-profit organization that works collaboratively with government entities and empowers communities in Tucson and around the world to address issues of water management, food security, and sanitation through hands-on, action-oriented, community-based projects utilizing locally available knowledge and resources. After working as a Senior Research Specialist in Ophthalmology, Blue received her Master’s Degree in International Public Health from the University of Arizona and completed her thesis investigating water and sanitation issues and organizing community health care providers in rural villages in Nicaragua. During her time in graduate school, the inextricable relationship between human and environmental health became her primary fixation. She has found her passion and her niche in the world of sustainability and has worked in the fields of natural building materials, socially responsible investing, and water harvesting. Blue strives to be joyfully furious and furiously productive in response to the current state of industrialized agriculture and the privatization of water around the world.
This is part of a series entitled From The Fields which follows WEA’s Women and Agriculture delegation on their 10 day journey through Northern India. Read more about this initiative here.
Photo of Shashi Tyagi, courtesy of http://www.worldculture.org/biographies/bios-pdf/Shashi%20Tyagi%20of%20GRAVIS.pdf