Soil Summer School

Soil Summer School

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RTF UK gathering at Monimail, Fife 22-25th August

RTF scottish gathering August 2014

We are excited to bring you the first UK Reclaim the Fields gathering to take place in Scotland!  It will happen at Monimail, near Cupar in Fife.  This is a chance to get together around issues of the land such as access to land, growing vegetables, living on the land and ecological action.  Including…. camp fires, food from the garden, practical and theory workshops, camping, films and lots of great people.

There will be an open space for worshops and discussions so get in touch if you would like to run one. Also give us a shout if you are up for helping out in organising the weekend or helping on the day.  Email reclaimthefieldsscotland@gmail.com.

Watch this space for more information coming soon on the space and workshops.  Pass on to those who may be interested.

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Hungry for Land – Small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland

 GRAIN/La Via Campesina media release

P1000967Governments and international agencies frequently boast that small farmers control the largest share of the world’s agricultural land. When the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation inaugurated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, he sang the praises of family farmers but didn’t once mention the need for land reform. Instead, he announced that family farms already manage most of the world’s farmland – a whopping 70%, according to his team.

But a new review of the data carried out by GRAIN reveals that the opposite is true. Small farms, which produce most of the world’s food, are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland – or less than one fifth if you leave out China and India.

“We are fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of the rich and powerful,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN. “The overwhelming majority of farming families today have less than two hectares to cultivate and that share is shrinking. If we do nothing to reverse this trend, the world will lose its capacity to feed itself.”

Marina Dos Santos of the Coordination of the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST), and of La Via Campesina, states: “Today, the peasantry is criminalised, taken to court and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. Currently, there are an alarming numbers of deaths that go unpunished. States have created legal concepts such as terrorism and sabotage to intimidate our struggle. Every day we are exposed to the systematic expulsion from our land. This affects not only peasants fighting to stay on the land, but also many other small farmers and indigenous peoples who are the target of greedy foreign interests. We want the land in order to live and to produce, as these are our basic rights against land grabbing corporations who seek only speculation and profit.”

“People need to understand that if the current processes of land concentration continues, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on,” said GRAIN’s Camila Montecinos. “The concentration of fertile agricultural land in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.”

GRAIN’s report also provides new data that show that small farmers still provide most of the world’s food, and that they are often much more productive than large corporate farms. If all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. Women are the major food producers, but their role remains unrecorded and marginalised.

The international agencies keep on reminding us that we need to produce more food to feed the growing population. But how much more food could be produced almost immediately if small farmers had access to more land and could work in a supportive policy environment, rather than under the siege conditions they are facing today?

“The vast majority of farms in Zimbabwe belong to small holders and their average farmsize has increased as a result of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. Small farmers in the country now produce over 90% of diverse agricultural food crops, while they only provided 60-70% of the national food before land redistribution. More women own land in their own right, which is key to food sovereignty everywhere”, said Elizabeth Mpofu, General coordinator of La Via Campesina.

We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems. Something peasant organisations and landless people’s movements have long been fighting for.

Contacts:

Mr Henk Hobbelink, Spain (EN, ES, NL): +34933011381, henk@grain.org

Ms Camila Montecinos, Chile (EN, ES): +56222224437, camila@grain.org

Ms Elizabeth Mpofu, Zimbabwe (EN): + +2634576221, nkbnyoni@yahoo.co.uk

+ + + + + +

GRAIN’s new report, Hungry for land: small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland provides an indepth review of the data on farm structures and food production worldwide and comes to the following 6 central conclusions:

  1. The vast majority of farms in the world today are small and getting smaller
    Due to a myriad of forces, average farm sizes have shrunk dramatically over the past decades, particularly in Asia and Africa.
  2. Small farms are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland
    Despite what the UN and others report, small farms occupy less than 25% of the world’s farmland today – just 17%, if we exclude India and China.
  3. We’re fast losing farms and farmers in many places, while big farms are getting bigger
    One major reason why small farms are disappearing is the rapid growth of monoculture plantations. In the last 50 years, 140 million hectares – well more than all the farmland in China – have been taken over for soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane alone.
  4. Small farmers continue to be the major food producers in the world
    By definition, peasant agriculture prioritises food production for local and national markets as well as for farmers’ own families – not commodities or export crops. GRAIN compiled staggering statistics that show how, even with so little land, small farms produce the bulk of many countries’ food supply.
  5. Small farms are technically more productive than big farms
    Industrial farms have enormous power, clout and resources, but small farms almost everywhere outperform big farms in terms of productivity. If all of Kenya’s farms matched the output of its small farms, the nation’s agricultural productivity would double. In Central America, it would nearly triple. If Russia’s big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.
  6. The majority of small farmers are women, yet their contributions are unrecognised and marginalised
    Women’s immense contribution to farming and food production is not captured in official statistics and they are discriminated against when it comes to controlling land in most countries.

The report is accompanied by illustrative maps and a fully-referenced dataset. Available for download at: http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929

More on the farmers’ struggle for land: “Land is life! La Via Campesina and the Struggle for Land” at: http://viacampesina.org/downloads/pdf/en/EN-notebook5.pdf

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Small-scale producers are feeding the future

Small farmers' demo outside DEFRA offices

Yesterday (April 17th) 100 farmers and growers from the Landworkers’ Alliance travelled to London from around the country to protest outside the head offices of DEFRA and the National Farmers Union.

Under the leadership of Owen Patterson over the past two years DEFRA has strengthened its support of large-scale industrial agriculture and marginalized smaller producers, while the NFU has consistently lobbied for the interests of agribusiness and ignored the views of smaller farmers.

The land workers’ Alliance want to see small-scale producers put at the heart of decision making in agricultural policy.

“DEFRA needs to recognise the role of small-scale producers in contributing to the national food economy, as well as the environmental and social services provided by these producers,” says Ed Hamer from the LWA.  “As a matter of urgency we demand that DEFRA create policies conducive to a sustainable food future for all.”

The demonstration took place in solidarity with the April 17th – The International Day of Peasant Struggles. A global day of action called by La Via Campesina, the international union of peasant farmers which has over 200 million members worldwide.

Small farmers' demo outside DEFRA offices

(Above) The Landworkers’ Alliance catch Owen Patterson in bed with agribusiness.

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The Commissions proposal for a seed regulation is politically dead

Source: Campaign for Seed-Sovereignty
www.seed-sovereignty.org/EN/

We’ve made it! The Parliament of the EU has decided in yesterdays plenary session. They adopted with 51 to 130 votes a legislative resolution, which rejects the proposal of 6 Mai 2013 very clear and calls the Commission to submit a new one.

Until the last moment it was unclear: would the Parliament adopt such a legally binding resolution or would it restrict itself to a simple appeal to the Commission to withdraw the proposal? This appeal in the so called rejection report got 650 to 15 votes. But the Parliament insisted in a voting on the legislative resolution with the above mentioned result.

By this the longstanding engagement of organisations and groups which are dedicated to the maintaining and broadening of diversity, which are working for farmers rights to produce, exchange and use their seed or which are breeding varieties for ecofarming was successful.

With this decision the Parliament gave ear to the many hundreds of thousands of people from many European countries which signed since April 2013 diverse petitions against the Commissions proposal. Alone our petition “seed diversity under threat” got some 150,000 supporters in 12 different languages.

A big “THANK YOU” to all of you!

Now we have to wait and be aware of how the Commission and the Council react on the resolution of the Parliament – and we will be attentive to intervene if necessary. For this the support of you all will be needed furthermore!

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The Fight for the Land

The Fight for the Land History Project“We told them that our forefathers had died in good patience, and that we our-selves had been waiting in patience till now, and that we could not wait any longer – that they never got anything by their patience, but constantly getting worse.”*

In 1882, crofters in Glendale, Skye had reached breaking point. An extreme shortage of land, caused in part by the landowner turning their common grazings over to sheep farming, had resulted in desperate impoverishment. When repeated appeals for more land and a rent strike failed to move the defiant landlord, the crofters moved their sheep onto the land stolen from them.

This act was mirrored in the Braes, also on Skye, where cattle were illegally driven onto Lord MacDonald’s land. When a messenger arrived with a court order to evict fifty-three of the tenants the woman of the township

“Howling in a frightful manner and with their shawls pulled over their faces to prevent their identification… pelted the messenger and his party with stones and other missiles and forced them to retreat to Portree.” *

A run of such conflicts at the end of the 19th Century were ignited by the famous ‘Battle of the Braes’ where police officers attempting to arrest five crofters were attacked by a large angry crowd. It was to be the beginning of a revolutionary revolt in the north-west Highlands and Hebrides known as the ‘Highland Land Wars.’ It was also the climax of a land crisis which stemmed from the Clearances; caused by a feudalistic ownership system which gripped the common people in crushing poverty.

These are not events which we are taught in school because they don’t speak of battles, kings and castles. They don’t fit in with the prescribed nationalist pseudo-history which seeks complicity from a proud flag-waving people. They also don’t paint a pretty picture of those who still rule it.

The Fight for the Land is a history project which endevours to learn from our heritage of land struggle. Not just the dramatic, romantic tales; the real stories of struggle, success and failure; stories old and new. By building a narrative of resistance to land monopoly we aim to discover what has been won in the past and maybe a path for the future. This is a heritage to share. Our situation may not be as dire as Skye crofters in the 1880’s but the issues of land monopoly are the same. The Land Question is just hidden from view.

The Fight for the Land project will investigate our radical heritage by researching events, periods and stories from land struggles in the past and those happening today. This will include folk and contemporary history. A small group met in February 2014 to begin sharing in the accounts and anecdotes we have read. We plan to visit some sites of past and present resistance and to produce a zine of our collective thoughts and tales.

If you would like to get in touch or get involved you would be welcome. Email us on reclaimthefieldsscotland@gmail.com or me personally (Johnny) at meerkatcampaigner@gmail.com

*Taken from The Making of the Crofting Community (1976) by James Hunter

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Community Food Spring Events Calender

www.cfgn.org.uk // facebook/cfgnetwork // @cfgn_growers

http://www.cfgn.org.uk/2014/02/spring-events/

28th February:  Three Acres and a Cow: A History of Land Rights and Protest in Folk Song and Story.  

Performance by Keely Mills, Nick Hunt, Robin Grey, Alex Etchart and Rose.

Time: 8PM -10:30 PM

Location: Grow Heathrow, Vineries Close, Sipson, West Drayton, UB7 0JG.  Directions here

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1st March:  Grow Heathrow 4th Birthday Party.  Join us for pizzas in our wood-fired clay oven, with a bigger feats, more face painting, seed sowing, arts, more live music and of course the famous bike-powered sound system.

Starting from 1 PM. Directions here.

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8th March: Spring Seed Swap @ Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.  Come and swap your seeds in preparation for the growing season!

Time: 11AM – 2:30 PM.  St’ Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7UY

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24th March: Film Screening: ‘Raising Resistance’,

Documentary on the struggle of Paraguayan farmers: http://raising-resistance.com/
(Part of the Cultivate Food Growing Festival in Waltham Forest)

7PM – Hornbeam Café, 458 Hoe St, Walthamstow E17 9AH

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26th March: Pathways to Food Sovereignty:

Speakers & Discussion: What can we learn from other countries in creating community-controlled food systems? As community food-growers what resources and support do we need to achieve this?

(Part of the Cultivate Food Growing Festival in Waltham Forest)

7PM-  Hornbeam Café, 458 Hoe St, Walthamstow E17 9AH

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6th April:  MIPIM Action: ‘London is Not for Sale’ – Demonstration outside London City Hall against the world’s biggest property fair, where our cities and our land are up for sale. Bring ‘For Sale’ signs from your borough- prizes to be won for whoever brings in the most signs. See Radical Housing Network for more details.

Time: 2PM Location: London City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA

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17th April:  International Peasant’s Day: Land Worker’s Alliance Demonstration @ Defra offices, see Land Worker’s Alliance website for more details,

Time: TBC Location: Noble House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR

Followed by:

The Peasant’s Struggle Pub Quiz,

7PM @ The Ivy House Co-op Pub, 40 Stuart Road, Nunhead, London SE15 3BE

http://www.ivyhousenunhead.com/

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27th April: Agro-Ecology Skill Share: ‘Sustainable Agriculture in Tanzania’  See http://kilimo.org for details.

2PM. Hosted by OrganicLea,  Hawkwood Nursery, 115 Hawkwood Crescent, London, E4 7UH

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Reclaim the Fields Gather-In

A very informal meet-up has been organised for people involved in the Reclaim the Fields Constellation in the UK over the last couple of years before the Oxford Real Farming Conference (http://www.oxfordrealfarmingconference.org/) in January.

This is a chance for us to touch-base, reflect and think about the constellation and any plans for the future.

Where: Oxford Action Resource Centre at the East Oxford 44 Princes St, Oxford OX4 1DD

When: 4- 7pm, Sunday 5th January 2014

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Growing Resilience

Grassroots workshops

These one day workshops can be taken as part of a wider accredited course or as stand alone days. It is also possible to just participate in certain sessions.

Together we will share our experiences, learn new skills & create new knowledge in re-building our food system in Somerset & beyond.

Workshop One: Localising Food Systems

10 – 3, Street, Saturday 1st March 2014
Fruit Tree Planting, Care & Pruning • What is local food? What is Food Sovereignty? What does this mean and look like? • Introduction to community organising, communicating in groups & organising effective events

Workshop 2: Making Decisions Locally

10 – 3, Frome, Saturday 29th March 2014
Seed sowing & propagating plants • Making decisions in groups • Seed sovereignty & corporate control of seeds • Access to land

Workshop 3: Food for People

10 – 3, Bridgwater, Saturday 5th April 2014
Soil care • Food Poverty in Somerset & Injustices in our food system • Effective outreach & organising • Social diversity in our communities • How to start a Food Cooperative • Grassroots fundraising

Workshop 4: Valuing Food Providers

10 – 3, Glastonbury, Saturday 19th April 2014
Growing salads & vegetables • Scaling up food production & market gardening • Introduction to Community Supported Agriculture • Livelihoods for Growers • Starting a community garden

Workshop 5: Building Knowledge & Skills

10 – 3, Yeovil, Saturday 3rd May 2014
Growing soft fruit • Popular education • Organising skill sharing events • Sustaining healthy groups • Mentoring others

Workshop 6: Working with Nature

10 – 3, Minehead, Saturday 17th May 2014
Advanced soil care & fertility building • Introduction to ecological design • Introduction to alternative systems such as permaculture and agroecology

Accredited course

Somerset Community Food is also able to offer a maximum of 12 learners the opportunity to gain a qualification in Community Horticulture. This is
financially supported & contributions towards travel costs are also available.

The course is an APT (previously OCN) Level 2 Progression Award in Community Horticulture, which could become part of a longer certificate or diploma course.

The qualification will require additional work in compliment to these workshops. Participants will be encouraged to lead sessions as part of the grassroots workshops, developing their skills in popular education. There is also a strong action-learning element where learners reflect on their practice in a community food project over 5 months, starting in January.

To register your interest email: nicole.vosper@somersetcommunityfood.org.uk

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Oxford Real Farming Conference

http://www.transitionbydesign.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/orfc-022.png
Oxford Real Farming Conference 2014 January 6th & 7th – Save the Date

Building the Renaissance  –  Call for speakers
After the success of the 2013 ORFC we are set to return in 2014 to bring together farmers, campaigners and consumers to discuss the state of farming today

ORFC 2014 will see the return of the Farm Day under the title “Freedom Farming – Stepping off the Input Treadmill” a series of sessions on practical farm management.

We will also be running strands on new entrants into farming, covering access to land, finance, training and markets for new farmers; on the economics of farming and on the political landscape. For a reminder of the best bits from this year’s conference see our website.

We are working on the programme now so if you are want to be involved please get in touch with an outline of what area you are interested in.

Tickets will be on sale in September and the programme will be published then too.

Please save the date and keep an eye on our website and Twitter for the latest updates.

To get in touch email: oxfordrealfarmingconference@gmail.com

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