“Reflecting through the lens of ‘emergence’, this year has been one where things have shifted to a new level in most areas of our work, weaving our basket to another level of synergy and coherence.” – Liz Hosken, Director
Seed, Food & Climate Change Resilience:
Supporting small farmers, especially women, to enhance their indigenous knowledge & seed varieties, to be food secure, and to safeguard diversity for generations to come.
2017 kicked off to an exciting start with the official launch of our UK & Ireland Seed Sovereignty Programme, which will run until summer 2020 and is designed to increase the amount of organic agroecological seed available in the UK. Neil Munro – formerly the Head of the Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic – joined the Gaia Team in March, having dedicated his career to the seed systems, and contributed to the seed feasibility study through the programme design phase. We have also recruited a stellar group of five Regional Coordinators (Western and Eastern England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales). Each one will support the development of seed hubs, training growers and communicating about the critical importance of seed diversity.
Beyond the UK, through Gaia’s international photographic initiative, We Feed the World, we have continued to coordinate photo shoots with world-renowned photographers, this year adding names such as Nick Ballon, Jo Ratcliffe, Spencer Murphy, Omar Victor Diop, Stefan Ruiz and Sophie Gerrard to the roll call. We have covered stories of small farmers in Bolivia, Kenya, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Nevada, Slovakia, Scotland, Somerset, Brazil, India and Georgia. And we have reached our commitment of 50 case studies, from around the world, highlighting the successes of agroecological farming and small family farmers. The photos and stories will be showcased in October 2018 – with at least one major exhibition, and a myriad of local exhibitions hosted by the farming communities who have been photographed from around the world.
Gaia’s Climate, Seed and Knowledge programme has continued to deepen work with partners and communities on reviving indigenous knowledge and seed and food systems in five African countries. Uganda has been a particular focus, working with women from communities in the Albertine Graben region – Buliisa and Kabaale – who are reviving their traditional knowledge and indigenous seed diversity, building their resilience, their food sovereignty in the context of climate change. Mihanda Joyce, from Kisansya West, is just one of the stories of change. She has regained confidence to plant only indigenous seed varieties: “Before we started these community dialogues we’d plant any seed we could find. This is why people here are food insecure. Now we are working to change this situation by reviving and planting our indigenous seed varieties again”, says Joyce.
“Thank you for introducing us to these community dialogues which are strengthening me. Healthy crops depend on healthy rivers, lakes, forests and rainfall. When we do our rituals we help to keep the balance in the whole system. We help to reduce the impact of drought by calling for rain. People have forgotten this because of outside influences which undermine our traditions.” – Alon Kiiza, a highly respected elder custodian of sacred natural sites, Buliisa.
These and other experiences from Africa have been documented during the year, in Resurgence & The Ecologist, the Biodiversity Journal, and the Food Ethics Council e-magazine on food and farming research.
Sacred Lands & Wilderness:
Protecting sacred natural sites & territories, and the rights of traditional custodians, through legislation, policy, inter-generational learning and habitat restoration.
Gaia and African partners celebrated a major achievement this year, with a new African Commission Resolution (ACHPR/Res. 372 (LX)), for the protection of sacred natural sites and ancestral lands and recognition of customary governance systems. Commissioner Soyata Maiga (ACHPR Chairperson) commented that it “heralds a new chapter in Africa’s acknowledgement of sacred natural sites and the customary rights of the custodians who have protected them for generations.”
We look forward to working with custodians, our African partners, and with the ACHPR Working Group on Indigenous Peoples/Populations, to start developing national laws and policies that bring states into line with Resolution 372
GRABE, in Benin, for example, is making great strides in legislation and policy for the country’s remaining sacred forest groves, and recently established the country’s first Association for Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas. During a field visit, in August, we held an induction training with the Hlí community, in Djomon, who face many challenges aside from food insecurity – the erosion of traditional knowledge (Voudoun), cultural heritage, and the increasing fragility of their sacred forests. In 2018 we plan to keep working alongside GRABE, as they accompany Hlí and other communities in the process of reviving their knowledge and seed diversity, protecting and expanding their sacred forest groves and strengthening their governance systems.
Indigenous organisation APIWTXA in Brazil, led by Ashaninka leader Benki Piyãko, is also focused on protecting their ancestral lands and sacred natural sites. This year, our Small Grants Fund supported Yorenka Tasori (Wisdom of the Creator), an exciting initiative to strengthen relationships between the Ashaninka of Brazil and Peru to work jointly for the revitalization of their culture and the protection of their territories.
Wilderness – as precious wildlands and as healer – are also at the heart of our work. In South Africa for example, our longstanding partner Usiko is working on a rites of passage process with youth at risk in Stellenzicht and Cloetesville, Usiko offers life changing wilderness experiences and follow up support such as skills development and crime diversion. This year a new initiative was supported, with a focus on ‘girls and gangs’.
“I learnt somewhere that life is a song, and Usiko came and made my song a lot more interesting. On the camp we had to let go of the things in our lives that could destroy our futures, and at that camp I met the real “Me”.- comment from one of the Usiko youth, Stellenbosch.
Backing communities & social movements at the front line, to defend their ecological & cultural heritage, and build alternative pathways.
Regional coordinators of the Yes to Life No to Mining (YLNM) Network met in Galicia in March, for some deep reflections on the root causes of extractivism and how YLNM can help sow the seeds of a post-extractive future.
One of the most prominent stories of success from YLNM comes from Colombia, where Mariana Gomez, regional coordinator, has been supporting popular consultations and referendums on mining. Civil society leaders, farmers and students in the region received Gaia’s Undermining Agriculture infographic poster, in Spanish.
“The document you are holding in your hands – Undermining Agriculture – has the purpose of alerting the community in your region about the polluting impacts caused by extractive industries to ecosystems, water and air, and as drivers of Climate Change… We are aware of the huge educating exercise you develop in your institutions, and for this reason we invite you to include this material in your curriculum plans as a pedagogic tool that will enable you to enrich the beautiful task we have of EDUCATING FOR LIFE.” – letter to educational institutions, from the Association of Teachers of Antioquia
On another continent, our latest film, In Defence of Life, has proved a useful tool for raising public awareness. Through our Small Grants Fund we enabled local partner Amianan Salakniban, in the Philippines, to take the film to mining-threatened communities, universities and disaster preparedness seminars throughout the region of Northern Luzon. Its critical messages are reaching the most affected people.
Also looking ‘beyond extractivism’, we embarked on a new initiative this year with Yansa and the Swift Foundation. ‘Ojuso’ spotlights the possible unintended consequences of the transition to renewable energy, and the need for communities to lead the way. We took this message to the UN Climate Change negotiations, COP23, in Bonn, and were joined by PlanetPledge (an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) and WoMin (African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction) for a lively session with delegates.
A growing global movement committed to systemic change through the philosophy and practice of Earth Jurisprudence – recognising Nature as the primary source of law & ethics.
2017 was a landmark year for our Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) work. At the United Nations (UN), Gaia’s Liz Hosken joined Ministers from Bolivia and Ecuador, and fellow speakers such as Linda Sheehan, for the 7th Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly on Harmony with Nature.
Also this year, we celebrated the graduation of Africa’s first ever EJ practitioners. Thanks to funding from Open Society Initiative for South Africa (OSISA), a small group of civil society leaders – from Benin, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe – have completed Gaia’s in-depth, three-year ‘training for transformation’. The graduation was an emotive ceremony near to Mount Kenya, blessed by elders from the Kikuyu, Maasai and Tharaka tribes.
“The course has created a paradigm shift in the way I perceive and live with nature. Earth Jurisprudence changed my way of life from being human-centred to Earth-centred. After this course, I am ready to defend the rights of communities in my own country and the rights of our Mother Earth now.” (Mersha Yilma, Ethiopia).
Africa’s first EJ practitioners are now mentoring the next group of African EJ trainees, who hail from Zimbabwe, Benin, Cameroon, South Africa, Ethiopia and Uganda. The course and Gaia’s Trainings for Transformation in Africa received a glowing commendation in the UN Secretary General’s 8th report on Harmony with Nature, which noted that “Human well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of the Earth, and therefore the Earth’s right to a healthy environment is equally important if human rights are to be protected”.
One of the EJ graduates, Dennis Tabaro, is leading the work in Uganda in the Lake Albert region, where oil extraction is having an enormous impact. Through community dialogues, rural communities are reviving and enhancing their traditional ecological knowledge and practices, especially that of sacred natural site custodians and women seed custodians. In October the custodians participated in an exciting eco-cultural mapping process, led by Gaia and Dennis, to visually reflect their complex knowledge of their ancestral lands and seasonal cycles. We also commissioned briefings on the economic, social and environmental dynamics at play around Lake Albert (co-authored by Nnimmo Bassey), and on legal and other strategies for the protecting ecosystem, community and human rights. These will be published in early 2018.
To close the year Gaia organised a trilogy of events entitled ‘Hopeful Solutions & Regenerative Pathways’, which kicked off with George Monbiot at the end of November. Monbiot discussed his new book Out of the Wreckage – A New Politics in an Age of Crisis.
George’s talk was followed on 30th November by Shaun Chamberlin discussing the life and work of former Hampstead resident (and friend of Gaia) David Fleming and his posthumous book Surviving the Future – Culture, Carnival & Community in Post-Capitalist Society.
Join us in the New Year, to conclude this trilogy of Gaia talks, with Reclaiming Politics at the Local Level, a talk by Flatpack Democracy author Peter Macfadyen and his wife Annabelle, alongside Guardian journalist Susanna Rustin, who has put the Flatpack approach for political independence into practice in the London parish of Queen’s Park.