2013 was another exciting year for Gaia and our partners. In particular, we built the momentum of two key areas of work – exposing the true story of seed and raising voices against the extractive industries. Here we bring together a snapshot of some of the highlights of our year.
Stories of Seed…
Our new film Seeds of Sovereignty, produced in collaboration with African Biodiversity Network, GRAIN and MELCA Ethiopia, was launched just a few weeks ago to a great reception and follows on from the incredible success of our landmark 2012 film ‘Seeds of Freedom’.
Narrated by Jeremy Irons, Seeds of Freedom exposed the corporate agenda for control over the world’s seed supplies – the very source of life – and has now been viewed by well over 1 million people worldwide, often screened at events and festivals. In the aftermath of the film’s release many people asked us what could be done to stop this assault on food and diversity rich farming systems. Seeds of Sovereignty tells the stories of those who are doing just that, taking us on a journey of hope with African communities committed to reviving traditional seed diversity and taking back control of their food system. Further information relating to food and seed, plus both films (including foreign language versions) can be viewed on the following website, which is dedicated to the films: www.seedsoffreedom.info
On World Food Day in October, Gaia released the report Seeds for Life in collaboration with the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. Seeds for Life explores how and why seed diversity has been part of humanity’s own evolution, and how dramatic changes in our agriculture system in the last decades have left our global food system dangerously vulnerable.
Over the course of the year Gaia has supported the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) in raising their voice against the New Alliance for A Green Revolution in Africa, which promotes the use of hybrid and GM seeds across the continent.
When the UK’s environment minister Owen Paterson publicly declared his support for GM crops and in particular the need for GM in Africa timely media work in partnership with Gaia secured a powerful comment piece by our partners Million Belay (AFSA) and Ruth Nyambura (ABN): GM crops won’t help African Farmers in the Guardian.
Our Wake Up Call on the impact of mining and extractives…
In April, we held a House of Commons (UK Parliament) launch of Short Circuit, a report on the social and ecological atrocities and the toxic legacy from our rising consumption of electronic gadgets and Smartphone’s. Short Circuit follows on from our 2012 report, Opening Pandora’s Box, on the rapid growth of the extractive industries (cited by George Monbiot in his Guardian article ‘Spend, Don’t Mend’, 25th Nov, 2013).
Gaia produced a spoof advert (right) on the true story behind Smartphone’s, one of the drivers of mining for rare earth metals. This addiction to gadgets and the absurdity of our current extractive and consumer habits are captured brilliantly in Wake Up Call, a fast-paced, 5 minute animation, which we released in mid-January, working with award-winning animator Steve Cutts. For those who tweet, it would be great if you could support us in sharing the animation using #wakeupcall.
Yes to Life, No to Mining…
Thanks to a three-year programme supported by the European Union, we are currently working with partners to strengthen African civil society groups and build national coalitions speaking out against the extractive industries. In Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana we are working closely with those facing the coal, oil and gold mining sectors, providing them with information about the real threats, alongside tools for making their voices heard. As part of this programme, Participatory Video trainings in Ethiopia and Uganda, have given communities the capacity and confidence to document their activities and their resistance to mining.
The World Wilderness Congress (WILD10) in Spain was just one venue this year where we witnessed a growing momentum to halt the violations by mining and extractive industries. There was broad support for our Resolution on indigenous territories and all protected areas to be “No-Go” for mining. We are delighted to join Nnimmo Bassey from HOMEF (former Head of Friends of the Earth International) and a number of groups from Africa and worldwide, building a campaign to stop the extractives industry across the world, under the banner of Yes to Life, No to Mining.
Looking to the Past, To Carve a Resilient Future…
Eco-cultural maps and calendars continue to be an essential tool to animate community led processes which revive traditional knowledge and seeddiversity. These processes have also been used to protect Sacred Natural Sites and restore ecological governance systems, and we have successfully shared this method of mapping territory and cultural traditions with indigenous communities in the Amazon and with partners and communities in Africa. This year we held trainings with traditional clans in the Tharaka region of Kenya and in Venda, South Africa, where we were joined by partners from Ghana, Ethiopia and Benin.
This year our mapping work was featured in the UN Development and Environmental Programme’s (UNDP & UNEP) ‘Toolkit to support conservation by indigenous peoples and local communities,’ which highlights community approaches to, and the contribution of, indigenous and local communities to UN targets on biodiversity conservation.
The vital role of Sacred Natural Sites for community and ecosystem resilience remains an important focus for Gaia. In February we supported a learning exchange in Venda, South Africa for sharing between community-based organisation Dzomo la Mupo (Voices of the Earth) and groups from Kenya, Benin and Ethiopia, on their respective work to strengthen the protection and recognition of Sacred Natural Sites in Africa. WILD10 helped us to gain broad support for a Resolution ‘Recognising Networks of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and the Customary Governance Systems of their Custodian Communities as a Distinct Category of Protected Area’.
In May, Mphathe Makaulule, an emergent leader and coordinator of The Mupo Foundation in South Africa, received the Indigenous Womens’ Leadership Award, from the International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI). We are delighted to see Mphathe gain confidence in leading a potent process of cultural revival in Venda, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Meanwhile, Martin Von Hildebrand, founder of our Colombian partner Gaia Amazonas, was also honoured this year as one of Colombia’s Top 10 Leaders, for “protecting the Amazon and the rights of indigenous communities.”
Emergent Thinking and Inspiring Discussion…
This year Gaia has hosted some wonderful speakers and been a hotbed for ideas and discussion. We’d like to express huge thanks to Charles Eisenstein, Vandana Shiva, Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone, George Monbiot, Ugo Vallauri, Ruth Potts, Philippe Sibaud and Hugh Brody, all of whom have provided us with stimulating talks and food for reflection. All talks are available as edited videos or podcasts on the Gaia website, alongside more about all that you read here. Many thanks for all your support and encouragement in 2013 and we look forward to seeing you this year.