Urban villages

… on the rise around the world

Search for “urban village” online and many of the entries that come up will refer to an urban planning concept of residences clustered near shops and offices. In some place it’s a fairly new idea that focuses on neighbourhood design. But an urban village is traditionally much more than a physical space.

It’s a network of relationships; a community of interrelated people. Similarly, a true urban village isn’t just a real estate grid and the marketplace exchanges that occur there. Among those who focus on sharing and the commons, it’s a term that refers to a collaborative way of life — a relatively small, place-based urban community where people cooperate to meet one another’s many needs, be they residential, economic, governmental, or social. In the process, they wind up transforming their own experience of that community. And these kinds of urban villages are on the rise around the globe.

And these kinds of urban villages are on the rise around the world, especially throughout northern Europe. Metropolises like Berlin and Copenhagen host do-it-yourself communities like Holzmarkt and the long-running Christiania. Israel is seeing a growth in urban kibbutzim. In South Korea, Seoul is aiming to establish “sharing villages” throughout the city. While ecovillages and intentional communities are still more popular in rural areas, where agriculture plays a key role, urban villages are seen by their proponents as a natural and obvious antidote to the problems of climate change, economic inequality, and social isolation.

Food:

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Brazilian landless workers’ movement, children and food sovereignty

Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is organised around three main objectives : Struggles for land, agrarian reform and for socialism. They have organised on several fronts; namely production, health, youth, culture, education and human rights.

The participation of their children, the so-called “Sem-Terrinha” (Landless Children), within the MST organisation has been around since the beginning in the first land occupations.

Over time MST has developed activities with children as protagonists, such as: children’s “cirandas” (pedagogical spaces for development and care; gatherings of the “Sem-Terrinha”; the Journey of Struggles for rural schools, as well as publications such as the “Sem-Terrinha” newspaper and the “Sem Terrinha” Magazine.

The most recent experience with the “Sem Terrinha” has been the Cultural Journey …Healthy Eating: A Right of All. This Journey was started in 2015 and is at the heart of the debate on Popular Agrarian Reform. It involves children and adolescents in rural schools and encampment schools throughout the country. The main objectives of the Journey are:

  1. To strengthen and disseminate different experiences from different regions on healthy eating and its relation with Popular Agrarian Reform ;
  2. To work together with families on the issue of food and food production in both settlements and encampments ;
  3. To contribute to the food education of landless families and to the general struggle for the right to adequate food free of pesticides ;
  4. To strengthen initiatives to reorganise school canteens ;
  5. To study and debate the relations between healthy eating, food sovereignty, agro-ecology, peasant agriculture and Popular Agrarian Reform ;
  6. To introduce, in elementary schools, the debate on agroecology and on practices of ecological agriculture ;
  7. To resume the debate on how the link between education, socially productive work and educational content needs to be guaranteed.

During the Journey hundreds of activities have been carried out throughout the country – specific studies in schools on eating habits and food history, understanding what is produced in local settlements, research into agro-eco-systems, workshops related to local cooking, field practices and agro-ecology experiences.

The founding elements of MST’s struggles were also present during the activities of the Journey, i.e. there were theatrical interventions, awareness campaigns, public hearings, marches seeking to denounce the use of pesticides and of transgenic seeds, as well as the monopoly and food standardization that has been imposed by transnational corporations and agribusiness.

During the Journey itself, substantial changes took place in the schools where the debate was promoted, abolishing the use of soft drinks and processed foods from school meals, introducing agro-ecological food produced in the settlements, starting vegetable gardens to supply schools and initiating a native seed bank.

Eating is a political act !

Africa grabbing | Economic colonialism

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, is a G7/G8-led scheme, masquerading as an aid programme is serving up African nations on a silver platter—to Big-Seed/Big-Ag corporations. The deal threatens to rob and imprison farmers needing aid, while growing profits for various Ag-based giants.

A list of the organisations involved includes the names of the usual Big-Ag/Food/Bank corporations lurking behind such schemes: Monsanto; Syngenta; Caygill; Nestle; Swiss Re … it’s a war against tradition: self-reliant peasant agriculture.

The GuardianEuropean parliament slams G7 food project in Africa

Tanzania recently enacted a law that criminalised seed sharing, an ancient agricultural practice that is widespread in many parts of the world and critical to local farming. Under the new legislation, if a farmer buys seeds from Monsanto or Syngenta, those companies retain the intellectual property rights. For instance, if a farmer saves some seeds from the first harvest, those seeds can only be used on that farmer’s land for non-commercial purposes. This new law threatens an essential practice for many of these farmers.

The penalty for sharing seeds is twelve years in prison or a fine of over 200,000 euros. The average wage of a farmer in Tanzania is two dollars a day.

According to news reports, about 90% of African farmers depend on their seeds for survival. The informal sale or exchange of seeds allows farmers to be independent from the commercial seed business, while allowing poor farmers to have resilient crops at affordable prices. Eliminating seed-sharing closes off a fundamental source of revenue for poor farmers.

Tanzania did not enact this law out of thin air. An aid programme launched by the G8 (the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, the European Union, and Russia) in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), promises aid in the form of agricultural investment to the ten African member countries, but only on the condition that countries receiving aid enact political reforms that help Big-Ag at the expense of small farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition provides aid money from rich countries like the US and the UK, and helps big business invest in the African agricultural sector. But in return, African countries are required to change their land, seed and trade rules in favour of big business.

By 2013 ten African countries had signed up: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal. Around 50 multinational companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever, and around 100 African companies, are also involved.

A few years on and evidence is mounting against the New Alliance.

A recent report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact condemned the New Alliance as “little more than a means of promotion for the companies involved and a chance to increase their influence in policy debates”.

This excerpt from The Guardian says it all:

[NAFSN] will lock poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds – including genetically modified seeds – allow corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds – absolutely key in the fight against hunger. It will also open the door to genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa by stopping farmers’ access to traditional local varieties and forcing them to buy private seeds.

NAFSN also calls for countries to help foreign investors take over agricultural lands. This “aid,” in short, is the wedge that Big-Ag and biotech companies are using to get a stronger foothold in Africa, leading many critics to call the schemes a “new wave of colonialism.” We tend to agree. Depriving farmers of their livelihood is hardly a way to battle poverty and hunger.

The New Alliance will:

  • Make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa.
  • Prevent farmers from breeding, saving and exchanging seeds.
  • Heavily promote chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which increase farmers’ risk of debt as well as damaging the environment and farmers’ health.
  • Replace family farms with low paid, insecure jobs.
  • Prevent countries from restricting crop exports, even at times of domestic shortage

Much of the aid money and investment promised as part of the New Alliance prioritises crops for export, including tobacco, palm oil and biofuel crops, rather than supporting small farmers to grow crops sustainably for local consumption.

Forfeit local sovereignty

70% of Africa’s food is produced by small-scale farmers who grow nutritious food without harming their health or the environment. And they can keep control over their land, seed and soil in line with the principles of food sovereignty.

Unsurprisingly, there are already reports that NAFSN is failing. Canadian authorities conducted a review of NAFSN’s progress in Senegal. The Canadian government concluded that there was no evidence that NAFSN “was effective in reducing poverty, improving food security and nutrition, or addressing the challenges faced by women in the Senegalese context.”

This story underscores the depths to which biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta will sink to, and why they must be vigorously opposed at every opportunity. Not only have they proven to be reckless with our health, they are intentional about attacking the livelihoods of some of our planet’s neediest.

Licensing Seeds as Commons

You’ve heard about open-source software and hardware, but can the concept be expanded to address other copyright challenges … like seeds and biopiracy?

Today, in this era of privatisation, just a handful of companies account for most of the world’s commercial breeding and seed sales. Increasingly, patents and contractual restrictions are used to enhance the power and control of these companies over the seeds and the farmers that feed the world.

Patented and protected seeds cannot be saved, replanted, or shared by farmers and gardeners. And because there is no research exemption for patented material, plant breeders at universities and small seed companies cannot use patented seed to create the new crop varieties that should be the foundation of a just and sustainable agriculture.

German Nonprofit has Seeds Open-Sourced


OpenSourceSeeds (OSS) recently launched a licensing process for open-source seeds, to create a new repository of genetic material that can be accessed by farmers around the world, in perpetuity. Their strategy is aimed to protect this valuable resource from the takeover of seed rights by corporate interests.

OSS are an offspring of the Association for AgriCulture and Ecology (AGRECOL), which focuses on sustainable and organic agriculture mainly in the developing world,  which has worked on open-source seeds for about five years ago.

There is a similar initiative in the United States – the Open Source Seeds Initiative, (OSSI). Rather than licensing, they add a pledge to seed varieties – an ethical approach …

The OSSI Pledge: “You have the freedom to use these OSSI- Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.

Working together We are the Commons

Debate about the preservation of common goods – or simply commons – was instigated by Elinor Ostrom. Together with her
working group she studied countless commons and has confirmed: commons do not come into existence by themselves, they are made. Commons are the result of complex interactions of resources, communities and care taking; that is, of commoning.

In her lifework Ostrom defined universal rules – which she calls “design principles” – and demonstrated that compliance with these rules guarantees the sustainable use of common goods. In 2009 she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Peasants Struggles: Commemorated

The international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina calls all its members and allies to mobilise on April 17, the International Day of Peasant’s struggles.

(March 2017): This year, we want the world to know that peasants and other people working in rural areas have been working very hard for their rights. The rights of peasants initiative, which La Via Campesina started 17 years ago, is now at the final stages of a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, within the United Nations. Once approved  this declaration will create an international legal instrument to protect the rights of, and draw attention to, the threats and discrimination suffered by peasants and other people working in rural areas.

The need for such a UN Declaration of Rights has become more urgent in the 21st century. Peasants, those who produce the bulk of the world’s food, continue to face criminalisation, discrimination, displacements and persecution despite the existence of numerous international legal instruments for the recognition and protection of such rights.

Peasants’ basic rights are increasingly vulnerable as the economic and ecological crisis worsens. This situation is closely linked to human rights violations: expropriation of land, forced eviction, gender discrimination, the absence of right to land and lack of rural development, low income and lack access to means of production, insufficient social protection, and criminalisation of movements defending the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas.

For instance, in Africa, over 70% of the agricultural production and care-giving is done by women but there is little recognition of their rights in relation to asset ownership, access to credit, information and participation in policy making etc. In Brazil, despite many years of peasants struggling for comprehensive agrarian reform, fair redistribution of land remains unfulfilled. In Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy and market recent deregulation of the milk sector affect hundreds of thousands of family farmers. In Asia, as in rest of the world, free-trade agreements and bilateral treaties have destroyed local markets and continue to threaten local and traditional ways of farming and farmers’ exchange. Land concentration has increased as some farmers are forced to sell their land; youth participation in farming is at its lowest level ever.

We call upon the people around the world to celebrate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle by continuing to work to reinforce food sovereignty; the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity; to fight for a genuine agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing; continue to conserve, use, and exchange our seeds; and strengthen the solidarity among ourselves. These combined struggles give us the strength to defend our land against corporate interests, persecution and violence against peasants and other people working in rural areas.

This year in July 2017 in the Basque Country (Northern Spain), La Via Campesina will hold its VIIth International Conference to deepen our analysis of the current crisis and work on strategic lines of action to strengthen our movement.


— International Conference on Agrarian Reform , April 2016 (Brazil).

We also call upon countries to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. We will mobilise our members and allies to pressure our governments to make the next negotiation in the 4th session of Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on rights of peasants and other people working in rural area at UN HR Council Geneva successful. We believe in championing the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, humanity also wins.

Blackout Payout Policy – Auckland area

(March 2017): The continuing dysfunction of New Zealand’s partially privatised electricity system has brought about blackouts, huge price increases, inadequate structure investment and still fails to provide reasonably priced and secure power. Already by Autumn some areas of Auckland have already had a winter’s worth of power outages.

Such outcomes from privatisation and the doubling of retail charges have been the norm, not the exception 1. Since its privatisation the national electricity grid has continue to malfunction and the pressure can be expected to build for it to be fully privatised 2.

Power Outage | Power Payouts

Aucklanders (inside the Vector section of the national grid) are generally unaware of the little-advertised section of their Terms & Conditions policy. Near the bottom of the OUTAGES page, under  Residential Service Standards find the link detailed in this brochure.
Extract from the brochure (pdf):

If we don’t restore your power within the timeframes outlined below, we’ve agreed with your retailer to pay you $50*. That’s equivalent to approximately one month’s line charges for the average household. The timeframes are: · 2 hours in the CBD · 2.5 hours in urban areas · 4.5 hours in rural areas. To make a $50 claim, you must call us to request it within six months of the eligible power outage on 0508 VECTOR (0508 832 867). *Please note: This payment only applies to faults on our network (not on your service lines) and does not apply to faults caused during storms and/ or other events outside our control (e.g. National Grid outages, where Vector is prevented from making repairs by emergency services etc.). If we have a direct contract with you, those terms will apply instead of this payment.”

Current power outages are shown on their website here.
You have 6 months to claim your $50.



References:

  1. Critique of the Global Project to Privatize and Marketize Energy, (2005). Beder, S. (– accessed Apr. 2017)
  2. The Resilient Economy, Issues in Privatisation – Costs & Benefits, (2010). Rosenberg, B. (pdf – accessed Apr. 2017)

The senior village movement: US

The ‘Village to Village Network’ helps communities establish and manage their own aging in place initiatives called Villages.

In 2010, the Village to Village Network – a U.S-based organisation that collaborates to maximize the growth, impact and sustainability of individual Villages and the Village Movement – was formed. The Network provides expert guidance, resources and support to help communities establish and maintain their Villages.

Learn about Village to Village

For those interested in joining a village, what’s the best way? What’s the first step?
The best way is to check our website where there’s an interactive village map with multiple search options to search by city or state. There’s additional contact information if people want to get in touch directly, or they can also reach out to use and we’ll connect them to the local village.
If someone wants to start a Village, what are the first few steps?
Get on the website and explore the villages to learn more about the model. See what resources are available, connect with a village that might be somewhat close to your area, [and] see what other interest there is in your area. Are there other individuals interested in doing this? Are there existing nonprofits or organizations you can partner with? Is the local government interested? Start to gauge that interest.
This is not a one-person job so the more support you can get up-front, the better. Start thinking through what your village might look like. What’s already available in your community? What’s lacking?
Early partnerships are really important. Even if they’re not directly involved with starting the village, just plant a bug in their ear and see what kind of resources they could help provide. In return, see if there’s something the village can give back to them.
What makes a successful senior village? What are some tips to help it thrive?
They key is building up that strong sense of community. That’s what really sells people on the concept and idea. Some communities still do that well, but I think we’re starting to lose that. Whether people move or just get busy, that can be harder to come by. I talked to a couple villages recently that don’t have as strong a sense of community as they would like. They’re trying to build it up by letting their members know that they have a community and a network of support, not just a ride to the doctor, but someone to talk to or lend a helping hand.
Aging in place is a really great concept, but it can be isolating. If you don’t have children or other family living near you having someone to check in on you, or bring your groceries once a week, or make sure you’re getting out of the house and participating in things, can be an important piece of this.
Are there other challenges senior villages face? If so, how are they being addressed?
Broader sustainability of the village model is the biggest challenge, especially revenue and revenue diversification. Villages are really trying to keep their membership affordable. Membership only covers 40-60 percent of their revenue so they have to figure out how to fill in the gaps.
Being more for-profit business minded when it comes to building partnerships and bringing in different revenue streams is really important. We’re looking at, and focusing more on, what some of those other models for nonprofits or associations are. We can help educate our villages about resources we can provide and partnerships we can provide that might trickle down to them and bring more sustainability to the movement as a whole.
What other tips can you offer for those interested in joining the senior village movement? 
Even if you’re just exploring the idea of a senior village, we have an introductory membership that’s $100 for six months. It gives 10 people in your community access to all our resources, including the Village 101 Toolkit and our discussion forum, to see what’s there and what this is all about. You can start exploring in your community and see what might be needed.

The Coming Cashless Control Grid

A bundle of related issues from the alternative media lately …

1. The EU is Pushing “Restrictions On Payments In Cash”

In the most far-reaching move toward a cashless society to date, the European Commission proposed enforcing “restrictions on payments in cash” under an all-too-familiar premise — terrorism.

Perhaps the most astonishing and erroneous assumption in the plan is that terrorists and criminals will suddenly abide by the law — as if malicious groups would surmise, ‘Well, damn, large cash transactions aren’t possible, so I guess we’ll have to find another line of work.’

As pointed out by Sovereign Man’s, Simon Black, restricting large-sum cash dealings might have the opposite effect on crime:

If you examine countries with very low denominations of cash, the opposite holds true: crime rates, and in particular organised crime rates, are extremely high.

Consider Venezuela, Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa, etc. Organized crime is prevalent. Yet each of these has a currency whose maximum denomination is less than $30.

Black also presents several examples of countries who have taken the leap away from paper currency only to be hit with soaring crime rates.

In short, banning or severely limiting paper currency is ineffective at what governments claim such programmes are intended to do, as Black continues,

“Bottom line, the political and financial establishments want you to willingly get on board with the idea of abolishing, or at least reducing, cash […]

“Simply put, the data doesn’t support their assertion. It’s just another hoax that will give them more power at the expense of your privacy and freedom.

The freedom to spend, as one desires, on what one chooses comprises such a basic right, governments have had to propagate a massive campaign to conflate physical money with the criminal element.

Reference: Sovereign Man


2. India’s so-called “war on black money”

The same lie is being used to forcibly integrate the rural masses into biometric techno-financial regimes. But it has created tremendous hardships on for ordinary rural people, for whom access to such systems is limited and for whom such systems serve little purpose.

The rise of farmer suicides, the vast majority being related to indebtedness/bankruptcy, highlights the deep distress experienced across India’s agricultural society. It reflects a lack of intimate knowledge about rural economies, and smacks of a financialist agenda.

Demonetisation: whose agenda is it really?

Follow James Corbett down the path to India’s recent demonetisation and as he looks ahead to the coming cashless biometric control grid. (43min.)

Reference: The Norbert Haring article (01.17): A Well-kept Open Secret


3. Australia Biometric Scanning at Airports

As The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has sought technology that would abolish incoming passenger cards, remove the need for most passengers to show their passports and replace manned desks with electronic stations and automatic triage.

Officials are looking to use existing databases coupled with iris scans, facial recognition and fingerprint scans as the final phase of a five-year project called “Seamless Traveller” that is slated for completion by 2020. It’s all a part of the move toward a full-fledged Smart World where YOU become a digitally scanned device in a matrix of online and real-world activity.

Reference: Technocracy News


4. China’s “Sesame Credit” A Blueprint For The West

This online ‘game’ rates Chinese citizens on how closely they adhere to the party line. It pulls data from the internet: social media, online purchases and search histories.
At present it is voluntary but rumours are the government plans to make it compulsory by 2020 …

Seems there are different interpretations of this story but it is something to be aware of in the wider context.
Reference: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-34592186


To the smuggies who excuse themselves with …”Well I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide.” … we say … ‘Shame on you for helping to let this come about!


ENDS

Swiss citizens intiate campaign to write Food Sovereignty into nation’s constitution

Arising from the call for action on food sovereignty and reshaping domestic laws on agriculture and food policy at the 5th International Peasants Conference (Maputo, 2009) a campaign to incorporate food sovereignty into the Swiss Constitution is taking shape under Uniterre, a member of European Coordination Via Campesina.

A lengthy undertaking

The Swiss system of direct democracy povides for changes to the constitution by popular initiative. First, proponents of change must produce a draft of the new constitutional article. After its approval by the Federal Chancellery, the draft’s creators are given 18 months to collect 100,000 signatures from eligible Swiss voters. The text is then reviewed by the Swiss Federal Council (the executive branch) and Parliament (the legislative) and an assessment made. These bodies, which have roughly three years to submit the text to popular vote, can issue a favourable or unfavourable review and even prepare a counter draft which will additionally be put to vote.

An ambitious text

The choice for Uniterre was between a broader form of food sovereignty, or a detailed delineation of their vision for the constitution that would narrow opportunities for re-interpreting the text in other ways. Uniterre chose the latter, addressing in ten parts, the questions of production, access to land and seeds, income, wages, production management, international trade and free access to information.

A popular push to collect signatures

In September 2014 Uniterre got the green light to pursue signature collections. Without any significant funding the project moved ahead thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers, braving the weather to assure a presence on the streets. Every opportunity to reach out to potential sympathisers was seized: parties, street protests, marches, outreach stands, national votes, conferences, mailings, and inserts – a truly colossal undertaking. The required numbers were reached just weeks before the deadline

Moving it forward in parliament

In June 2016, the Swiss Federal Council issued a communiqué in which it both declared the initiative unfavourable to the Swiss economy and announced it would not put forward a counter draft. The council has until March 2017 to issue an explanation of its position.

It is worth noting in passing that there are currently other popular initiatives in agriculture and food being debated in Swiss parliament. Namely, an initiative was launched by Union Suisse des Paysans, the umbrella organisation of Swiss farming groups,  which acts to safeguard existing policies and steer the industry. An additional initiative proposed by the Green Party “for food equity” aims to hold food imported into Switzerland to the same social and environmental standards as those that govern Swiss farmers. Pricked by this welter of initiatives, the parliament has no choice but to take note of the unrest laid bare by the more than 400,000 signatures.

Returning to the “food security” initiative, as soon as the federal council’s announcement is made the parliament must begin preparation of its own position. There is every indication that parliament will oppose the text and urge the Swiss people to do the same.  Thee public vote is expected to be called between autumn 2018 and winter 2019.

Towards a popular vote

Uniterre has taken steps aimed at broadening their support base. The task includes convincing a wider cross-section of the population on the issues of food sovereignty. The challenge is significant given the diverse activist and political agendas at play,  all the more so in an environment where many are hesitant to support ambitious and visionary initiatives. The real mobilisation for the vote will begin the second half of 2018.

Source: La Via Campesina: – Towards a popular vote on food sovereignty in Switzerland

Organic farming covers 4.1 million acres

A new report has found that U.S. land allocated to organic farming has reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, a new record – an 11% increase compared to 2014. Organic farming is now big business. As of June 2016, the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. reached 14,979, a 6.2 percent increase of 1,000 farms compared to 2014 survey data.

While in 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported a more than 5% from 2014 and 250% from 2002, when officials began tracking certified organic producers. Worldwide, they noted more than 27,800 organic producers.

Organic alfalfa/hay was the leading organic crop grown with more than 800,000 acres in 2016. This was followed by organic wheat, corn, and soybeans. Organic oats reached a record level of 109,000 acres in 2016. Organic wheat showed the greatest increase with nearly 150,000 more acres since 2014 and a 44 percent increase since 2011. Plantings of organic corn have increased by 58,000 acres since 2014.

In their recent report Scott Shander, an economist at Mercaris, attributes the increase in organic acres to farm economics and consumer demand for organic foods.

“… production in the U.S. is not growing as fast so more of the production will be international.” he says.

New Zealand farmers would do well to take note of the increase in organic acres overseas, which has been attributed to farm economics and consumer demand for organic foods.