Farms for the Future: 20 Organizations Protecting Farmland
By Danielle Nierenberg and Maya Osman-Krinsky
In the United States, over 2,000 acres of agricultural land are sold every day for housing or commercial development, according to the American Farmland Trust. This has especially affected Black farmers who, since 1920, have seen nearly a 90 percent decline in land ownership, according to the U.S. Census.
Over the past decade, as many as 200 million hectares of land have undergone large-scale transactions internationally, according to a study by Oregon State University. These transactions, taking the form of land grabs or corporate consolidation of agriculture, often deteriorate the economic livelihood and food security of small farmers and communities reliant on these lands for sustenance, as reported by the Oakland Institute. When communities control their own farmland, residents can invest in sustainable and affordable agriculture, which helps to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, according to the World Bank.
Many organizations around the world are fighting to help communities regain control of their land and livelihoods. Food Tank is highlighting 19 organizations combating land grabs and protecting land for farmers.
1. Alaska Farmland Trust (United States)
One in five Alaskans is considered food insecure, and over 95 percent of the food consumed by Alaskans is imported from the contiguous U.S., according to the Alaska Farmland Trust Corporation (AFTC). AFTC was created in 2005 to support the existing farms in Alaska's Mat-Su valley and safeguard farmland against development. AFTC aims to protect 5,700 acres of farmland in the next 50 years to ensure productive farms, ranches, and forests for generations of Alaskan farmers to come.
2. American Farmland Trust (United States)
Since its inception in 1980, the American Farmland Trust (AFT) has worked to protect farmland from development and promote sound farming practices. AFT leads the conservation agriculture movement by combining on-the-ground projects with research and advocacy. AFT also created the No Farms No Food message, which aims to connect the food we eat to the farms that grow it. The organization has protected millions of acres of farmland from commercial development while helping tens of thousands of farmers adopt better farming practices.
3. Anera (Middle East)
Since 1968, Anera has worked to provide emergency relief and sustainable long-term aid to refugee communities in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. In 1985, they began a decade-long agricultural development project to help Palestinian farmers reclaim hundreds of acres of land. This project continues to grow in the West Bank, giving loans to thousands of farmers and encouraging sustainable projects to combat food insecurity and water scarcity.
4. Bangladesh Krishok Federation (Bangladesh)
The Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF) was established in 1990 as a grassroots peasants' rights organization. Since before its founding, BKF has organized landless people to fight for policy reform by demonstrating, organizing, providing legal aid, and working with the government to negotiate fair land deals. BKF and its women-led counterpart, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (BKS), work in tandem to secure rights for peasants, farmers, and the 112 million landless people in Bangladesh.
5. Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (Cambodia)
The Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC) addresses land rights issues for Cambodian farmers through community organizing and policy negotiation. CCFC's No Land No Life Campaign tackles forced evictions and unjust legislation by mobilizing small farmers to speak out against Cambodian authorities on land tenure and human rights issues. CCFC has been a platform for over 6,800 farming families condemning forced evictions and exploitative commercial farming.
6. Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (United States)
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a non-profit cooperative association of black farmers and landowners. The Federation builds support for public policies and credit unions that help Black and family farmers expand and protect their landholdings in the South. They also hold annual events and workshops centered around education, forestry, and racial equity in food systems.
7. Food First Information and Action Network International (International)
Food First Information and Action Network International (FIAN) was the first international human rights organization with a specific focus on adequate food and nutrition. FIAN fights for land and natural resources by holding corporations and governments accountable for violations of people's right to food. FIAN aims to secure people's access to land rights while advocating for gender, economic, agricultural, and legal equality worldwide. In 2019, FIAN's right-to-food activism reached 60 countries.
8. Friends of the Earth International (International)
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is a grassroots network mobilizing for climate justice, human rights, food sovereignty, and gender justice. Across its 73 member groups, FoEI supports campaigns defending peasant farming against large-scale industrial land grabs. Most recently, Justiça Ambiental, a FoEI member group, worked with a Mozambican village fighting to reclaim their stolen land.
9. GRAIN (International)
GRAIN is an international non-profit organization that advocates for community-controlled and biodiverse food systems. Using research and public awareness outreach campaigns, GRAIN supports small farmers in their efforts to combat corporate land deals and land grabs. In 2019, GRAIN supported struggles for land in Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Cameroon, Cambodia, and Brazil.
10. Grupo Semillas (Colombia)
Corporación Grupo Semillas is an environmentalist NGO that backs Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and peasant organizations in Colombia. Grupo Semillas supports land tenure and reclamation efforts in their Tierras y territorios division, which focuses on pushing back against agribusiness and land monopolies. Through partnering with other regional organizations, Grupo Semillas conducts and disseminates research about land rights, food sovereignty, and biodiversity to Colombia's marginalized populations.
11. Hawai’ian Islands Land Trust (Hawai’i)
The Hawai'ian Islands Land Trust (HILT) takes a holistic approach to land conservation through conservation easements. HILT comprises four Hawai'ian land trusts, all of which aim to conserve Hawai'ian farms, ranches, watersheds, forests, and historical landscapes. HILT has protected over 18,000 acres of Hawai'ian land through land acquisition and protection initiatives and policy advocacy.
12. Institute for Poverty Land, and Agrarian Studies (South Africa)
The Institute for Poverty, Land, and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) is an organization dedicated to researching land grabbing in Africa. PLAAS uses its research and policy engagement to highlight how food systems can both perpetuate and alleviate poverty. Since its founding in 1995, PLAAS has published reports calling for a restructuring of agro-food systems to aid marginalized communities harmed by parasitic land deals.
13. La Via Campesina (International)
La Via Campesina (LVC) is an international peasant's rights movement fighting for food sovereignty, climate justice, and territory rights. LVC leads a global campaign for agrarian reform by defending food sovereignty and asserting peasant farmers' rights to seeds. LVC has covered land access efforts in Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, Andalusia, and Ethiopia, carrying out nearly 50 activities across different continents in 2019 alone.
14. Namati (International)
Namati is a legal empowerment organization that seeks to tackle problems of land, environmental, health, and citizenship justice. The organization employs paralegals who work directly with communities; with nearly 20,000 community partners, Namati reaches over 350,000 people directly. Namati's initiatives in Kenya, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone support smallholder farmers struggling to navigate administrative processes and land grab disputes.
15. National Black Farmers Association (United States)
The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) was founded in 1995 to represent Black farmers in the U.S. They focus efforts on civil rights, land retention, access to loans, education and agricultural training, and economic development. NBFA's work has impacted tens of thousands of farmers since its inception, fighting for food sovereignty, land rights, and an end to hunger.
16. National Black Food & Justice Alliance (United States)
The National Black Food & Justice Alliance (NBFJA) is a coalition of Black-led organizations that is working toward Black land and food sovereignty and self-determining food economies. Building off a long legacy of Black food security efforts in the U.S., NBFJA is combating anti-Blackness and inequities in the food system by building visibility of Black-led efforts, creating an organized framework around food and land issues impacting Black people, engaging in direct action, and building togetherness space.
17. Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa)
Partners for the Land and Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (PLANT) is a platform that confronts the marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Brazilian Amazonia and Sub-Saharan Africa. PLANT works with their local partners on hands-on projects, public policy, and research and analysis. PLANT supports food sovereignty, condemns land grabs, and seeks to center indigenous voices in global decision-making about ecological justice.
18. Peconic Land Trust (United States)
The Peconic Land Trust (PLT) partners with landowners, communities, and organizations in Suffolk County to conserve Long Island's working farms. PLT is working on several local projects on Long Island, including land conservation legislation and community conservation campaigns. Since 1983, they have protected over 13,000 acres of land and secured millions of dollars for land protection.
19. South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (United States)
South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust (SSCFLT) is a Washington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving affordable farmland. SSCFLT brings together local farmers, agriculture preservation advocates, affordable housing advocates, and active citizens to form a community land trust. SSCFLT works to reduce landowning costs for farmers and demonstrate sustainable farming practices in community farm environments.
20. Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (United States)
Iowa is losing 25 acres of farmland each day to development and imports more than 90 percent of their food from out of state, but the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) is fighting to change this. They believe that through the state's farming landscape, economy, and food supply, they can build more resilient communities in Iowa. SILT is working to create affordable land access for Iowa's farmers and protect land for sustainable food farming to rebuild the the state's rural economy and mitigate climate change.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Coronavirus Shines Light on Zoos as Danger Zones for Deadly Disease Transmission Between Humans and Animals
By Marilyn Kroplick
The term "zoonotic disease" wasn't a hot topic of conversation before the novel coronavirus started spreading across the globe and upending lives. Now, people are discovering how devastating viruses that transfer from animals to humans can be. But the threat can go both ways — animals can also get sick from humans. There is no better time to reconsider the repercussions of keeping animals captive at zoos, for the sake of everyone's health.
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By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a335b5dffdd806bd6bb4debea90c2045"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dxsb9c4HMn0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.
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By Kristen Pope
Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.
Groans, Creaks, Icebergs’ Calving Splashes<p>Oskar Glowacki already knew that melting glacial ice sounds like frying bacon. As ice bubbles burst, anyone nearby can hear crackling and popping, said Glowacki, a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Using hydrophones, he and other scientists now can make more nuanced measurements of how a changing climate sounds underwater, from the groans, creaks and splashes of a calving iceberg to the changes in whale songs as the ocean warms.</p><p>Glowacki recently used a pair of hydrophones to study the underwater world of glaciers, publishing his findings in <a href="https://www.the-cryosphere.net/14/1025/2020/" target="_blank">The Cryosphere</a>. He and co-author Grant B. Deane measured glacier retreat by <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/melting-glaciers-sound-like-frying-bacon/" target="_blank">recording the sounds of ice</a> – from small chunks to enormous slabs – falling off the glacier and splashing into the water.</p><p>During the summer of 2016, Glowacki's team placed two hydrophones near Hansbreen Glacier in Hornsund Fjord, Svalbard. For a month and a half, they recorded sounds, also using three time-lapse cameras to collect images – including the "drop height" (how far the ice fell into the water) – so they could compare photos to the recordings. The team created a formula to represent the relationship between the size of a piece of ice falling from a glacier and the sound it makes underwater, also accounting for the pieces of ice falling from varying heights. (Hear an example of the sound an iceberg makes while calving <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-248456662/iceberg-calving-hansbreen-glacier" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unlocking Information About Antarctic Ice Shelf<p>Other researchers also are using hydrophones to learn more about crumbling glaciers. Bob Dziak, research oceanographer with the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory <a href="https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics" target="_blank">acoustics research group</a>, captured a massive calving event of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica with a hydrophone. He published the results with colleagues in <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00183/full" target="_blank">Frontiers in Earth Science</a></p><p>On April 7, 2016, satellite images showed a massive calving event had occurred on the ice shelf. The paper described it as the "first large scale calving event in >30 years."</p><p>However, once Dziak and colleagues delved into the data from three hydrophones deployed 60 kilometers east of the ice shelf, they uncovered a series of "icequakes" from January to early March 2016. He and other researchers believe that much of the ice actually broke free in mid-January to February, but it remained in the same location until an April storm – which their paper described as the "largest low-pressure storm recorded in the previous seven months" – broke the ice free.</p><p>"We suspected that the icebergs broke apart but remained in place – kind of pinned in place – until a major storm with high winds passed through the area and, finally, it was that last push that pushed the icebergs out to sea," Dziak says.</p><p>He and his co-authors wrote that "fortuitous timing and proximity of the hydrophone deployment presented a rare opportunity to study cryogenic signals and ocean ambient sounds of a large-scale ice shelf calving and iceberg formation event."</p>
Listening to Songs of Humpback Whales<p><a href="https://www.mbari.org/" target="_blank">Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute</a> studies the ocean, including its acoustics. One of the institute's projects involves examining the soundscape of California's Monterey Bay, including sounds from animals, humans, weather, and geologic processes like earthquakes. The researchers once even recorded an under-sea landslide. They also focus on recording and analyzing the <a href="http://www.mbari.org/humpback-song/" target="_blank">songs of humpback whales</a>. Male humpback whales' songs can be over 15 minutes in length, and they can be repeated for long periods of time – even hours. Listening to these songs and analyzing them can provide unique insights into the lives of these complex animals.</p><p>"Any time we want to study marine mammals, sound gives us a window into their lives because they use sound for all of their essential life activities, really," says institute biological oceanographer John Ryan. "Communication, foraging, reproduction, navigation – depending on the species, of course."</p><p>Previously, scientists had thought singing occurred only during courtship and mating, but now they think whales may also use song while migrating and hunting. They know song has a crucial role in the whales' lives.</p><p>"There's a whole other dimension to humpback whale song," Ryan says. "It is a mode of cultural transmission in this species. They learn songs from each other. They share songs as a population, and when populations mix and mingle, they learn new ideas, they explore with their song, improvise, and it's a real essential part of their culture."</p>
By William S. Lynn, Arian Wallach and Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila
A number of conservationists claim cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity that need to be removed from the outdoors by "any means necessary" – coded language for shooting, trapping and poisoning. Various media outlets have portrayed cats as murderous superpredators. Australia has even declared an official "war" against cats.
Faulty Scientific Reasoning<p>In our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13527" target="_blank">most recent publication</a> in the journal Conservation Biology, we examine an error of reasoning that props up the moral panic over cats.</p><p>Scientists do not simply collect data and analyze the results. They also establish a logical argument to explain what they observe. Thus, the reasoning behind a factual claim is equally important to the observations used to make that claim. And it is this reasoning about cats where claims about their threat to global biodiversity founder. In our analysis, we found it happens because many scientists take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large.</p><p>Even when specific studies are good overall, projecting the combined "results" onto the world at large can cause unscientific overgeneralizations, particularly when <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.003" target="_blank">ecological context is ignored</a>. It is akin to pulling a quote out of context and then assuming you understand its meaning.</p>
Ways Forward<p>So how might citizens and scientists chart a way forward to a more nuanced understanding of cat ecology and conservation?</p><p>First, those examining this issue on all sides can acknowledge that both the well-being of cats and the survival of threatened species are legitimate concerns.</p><p>Second, cats, like any other predator, affect their ecological communities. Whether that impact is good or bad is a complex value judgment, not a scientific fact.</p><p>Third, there is a need for a more rigorous approach to the study of cats. Such an approach must be mindful of the importance of ecological context and avoid the pitfalls of faulty reasoning. It also means resisting <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13126" target="_blank">the siren call of a silver (lethal) bullet</a>.</p>
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