What do Miguel Marin of Nicaragua and Marcel Garçon of Haiti have in common? They may be from different countries, cultures, and languages, but both are leaders in their respective communities working to promote local, sustainable, and more just agricultural practices.
Miguel and Marcel formed the panel “An Ecology of Liberation: Communities Practicing Sustainable Agriculture Right Now,” sponsored by the Quixote Center and part of the Latin America and Caribbean track coordinated by the Latin America Working Group at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2013. The eleventh annual conference, held April 5-8, 2013, gathered over 700 members and supporters of the ecumenical Christian community from around the U.S. and world. This year’s theme of food justice sparked dialogue on ending hunger, improving nutrition, creating fair and sustainable food systems, and conserving the environment. The conference culminated in a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill for a full, multi-year reauthorization of a farm bill that would support hunger assistance, local food, and conservation programs in the U.S. and abroad. In their panel, Miguel and Marcel provided examples of invaluable local farming initiatives that benefit from such international support to get started in places where hunger is a daily battle.
Miguel Marin is the president of Fedicamp (Federación para el Desarrollo Integral para Campesinos y Campesinas), an organization of about 285 families in 18 campesino communities in northern Nicaragua. In an area suffering the effects of climate change and where families are accustomed to surviving primarily on beans and corn, Fedicamp´s goals are food sustainability, food security, and better nutrition. As Miguel said, for these communities, “There is no food in Nicaragua. There is a need to produce food.” Fedicamp trains community leaders, who will train others, in soil and water conservation, reforestation, water retention, family gardens, crop diversification, permaculture, and forming local seed banks. They teach the use of local non-genetically modified (non-GMO) seeds and natural fertilizers, not because organic food is trendy, but because it is less costly and more sustainable for campesinos who cannot afford to buy seeds and fertilizer every year. Colorful family gardens and forest plots in place of formerly damaged soil evidence Fedicamp’s results of the last five years.
Marcel Garçon works as a community organizer for sustainable agriculture in Gros Morne, Haiti. Rural Haiti has suffered deforestation, climate destruction, and complete political marginalization. As Marcel said, “In Haiti, food is a luxury.” Campesinos grow the food that is sold to the cities and are left with nothing to eat. Meanwhile, as he put it, the government does not consider the problems of the campesinos to be its own. In community groups, the 2000 members of Marcel´s organization present a local organic alternative approach to agriculture, protect and reforest the environment, and raise small livestock. By growing courtyard gardens women have been able to grow food for their family and sell the surplus. The organization has planted 60,000 trees per year, with the goal of reaching 100,000 per year. Since farming relies on an unpredictable climate, the group has created goat and chicken programs to provide families with backup economic insurance.
As EAD participants reflected on U.S. and world hunger and the harm committed by corporate agribusiness policies, Miguel and Marcel’s leadership and strides toward justice in their communities provided seeds of hope for better practices in the future.