Today a delegation of seven African American, Latinx, and Mexican farmers and farmworkers from the US arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in the second South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange. For 10 days, the delegates will travel around urban and rural South Africa to meet with small farmers, farmworkers, Agroecologists, and organizers in the Food Sovereignty movement to learn and exchange social, political, and technical aspects of Agroecology.
Agroecology is an agricultural method based on the traditional knowledge of those who cultivate the land. Its practice is critical to addressing hunger, cooling the planet, and increasing communities’ access to basic resources such as land, water and seeds. The purpose of the Agroecology Exchanges is to build transnational ties among Agroecologists and grassroots organizations in order to strengthen the global food sovereignty movement. In addition to exchanging Agroecological practices, participants will engage in political education through collective analysis of major agricultural issues facing the US and South Africa and refine strategies to stop the growth and influence of international agribusiness, land loss, and land dispossession.
The 2017 Agroecology Exchange was co-organized by US Food Sovereignty Alliance members WhyHunger (NY), Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA), and Farmworker Association of Florida, and South Africa-based Surplus Peoples Project. The idea arose from the 2014 Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit in Seattle which brought together African and US-based family farmer and community-based organizations and international networks to deepen solidarity and shared analysis of current public and private interventions in African agriculture, most notably by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The first Exchange in 2015 brought two South Africans to the US, where they shared experiences with urban farmers in NYC and Detroit, visited farms in Iowa and California, met African immigrant farmers and Indigenous Mexican farmworkers in Washington, and participated in the Black Urban Growers Conference and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance National Assembly. They returned to South Africa re-invigorated and supported in new ways through the transnational alliances that were formed.
The 2017 delegation represents a range of experiences in Agroecology and small-scale urban and rural farming, community organizing, and leading movements at the intersections of Racial, Climate, and Food Justice. Participating are Ben Burkett and Shalon Jones of Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Justina Ramirez of Farmworker Association of Florida, Alsie Parks of Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, Kathia Ramirez of New Jersey-based The Farmworker Support Committee, Edgar Franks of Community to Community Development in Bellingham, Washington, and Dean Jackson of Hilltop Urban Gardens in Tacoma, Washington. Corbin Laedlein of WhyHunger is joining as technical support and a lead organizer of the Exchange.
The delegation will visit Johannesburg, Limpopo, Capetown, Citrusdale, Roberston, and rural areas, with host organizations: Surplus Peoples Project, Mopani Farmers Association, African Centre for Biodiversity, Ithemba Farmers Association, Mawubuye Woman’s Groups, Trust for Community Organization and Education, Rural Legal Centre, and others.
The exchange is taking place in the context of increased corporatization of agriculture in Africa and the US. The biotech industry, the Gates Foundation, and World Bank have aligned with governments to advance profit-driven agendas favoring corporate agribusiness over small-and-medium sized family farmers. With the threat of the six largest agribusiness corporations merging (Monsanto, Syngenta and others), it is especially important to share experiences, tools, and strategies for resistance and Food Sovereignty. Stay tuned for updates!