Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

How Regenerative Food and Farming Can Reverse Rural Poverty and Forced Migration in the Americas

Insights + Opinion

One of the most politically charged debates today, especially in the U.S. and Europe, is the so-called "immigration crisis." There are approximately 250 million (3 percent of the world's 7.6 billion people) migrants in the world today. About 20 percent or 47 million of those, live in the U.S. Another 35 million live in Europe.


Inter Press News Service reported:

Recent elections around the world have clearly shown growing public support for candidates and political parties advocating the deportation of migrants and stricter restrictions on immigration, including halting it altogether. At the same time, opposition, challenges and resistance to deportations and immigration restrictions have become more widespread, visible and vocal.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has consolidated a mass base of support among white racists and conservatives by repeatedly vilifying the nation's 10 million undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants as "criminals and rapists." Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and to deport all "illegal aliens" including 800,000 "dreamers"—Latin American immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and don't have citizenship papers.

Trump and proponents of mass deportation fail to acknowledge that U.S. foreign policy—specifically the failed War on Drugs; longstanding support for corrupt regimes, police and military forces in Mexico and Central America; and the so-called Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA)—have brought about the systematic impoverishment of small farmers and rural inhabitants South of the Border, inflaming gang and drug cartel violence, forcing millions to cross into the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile hard-working immigrants lacking citizenship or working papers in the U.S. pay billions of dollars in taxes, strengthen immigrant and low-income communities, send back billions of dollars in "remesas" (remittances) to their families and home communities every year. They often work several jobs, providing a major boost for the U.S. economy, especially in the farm, food processing, restaurant, health care and construction sectors, where work is hard and pay is low.

At the recent regional Summit on Migrants and Returnees in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala, Oct. 20-21, a new and promising solution to the global "immigration crisis" emerged: the creation of local, grassroots-powered economic development projects based on regenerative food, farming and land-use practices.

Regenerative food and farming is the new gold standard for climate and environmentally friendly agriculture and land use across the world. An increasing number of food and farming leaders have described regenerative agriculture as the "next stage" of organic food and farming.

Regenerative practices are essentially enhanced organic and permaculture production methods that exclude pesticides, GMO seeds and factory farm techniques. Regenerative practices focus on improving soil health, water retention and rainfall conservation, and on using crop rotation, agro-forestry and planned rotational grazing—with the intention of sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere.

A growing number of regenerative farms and ranches worldwide are demonstrating how farmers and herders can restore soil health, improve food nutrition and increase yields, while at the same time strengthening local food systems and traditional practices (such as seed saving and small-scale animal husbandry), empowering women and youth, and restoring or enhancing community food security.

Participants at the Migrant Summit in Guatemala discussed how a "three-for-one" grassroots-powered matching grant or loan program of cross-border financing, supported by immigrants, returnees, citizens and local municipalities could potentially provide the resources for a major transformation of the region's food, farming and land-use practices.

Leaders of the newly formed alliance, Regeneration Guatemala, explained that the restoration of soil carbon and fertility, water conservation, rainfall catchment, and the utilization of organic and "beyond organic" grain production, agro-forestry and regenerative livestock (especially poultry) practices, could make Guatemala an agricultural leader in the region. By regenerating Guatemala's agricultural system, the country could eventually supply its 16 million people with affordable, high-quality, nutrient-dense food, and also provide employment and much-needed economic development in the countryside and adjoining urban areas, where poverty and crime are the major drivers of forced migration.

Guatemala is a predominately rural, indigenous and agricultural nation, similar to other nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where forced migration has become a critical issue. A full 67 percent of Guatemala's citizens, as well as the majority of the over two million Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S. (75 percent of whom are potentially subject to deportation by the Trump administration) come from rural communities where poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation are the norm. A similar situation throughout the region has driven millions of Mexicans, Salvadorans and Hondurans over the past few decades into forced exile in the U.S. and Canada.

As participants at the Xela Summit stressed over and over again, many of their compatriots in forced exile in El Norte (the North) would be happy to return to their families and home communities, if only there were jobs and social stability.

The more than 1,500 assembled delegates in Quetzaltenango applauded enthusiastically when speakers pointed out that Guatemala's so-called Green Revolution, which includes the heavy use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, monocrop production, GMOs and the agro-export model, has had a disastrous effect on their home communities and nations. The reaction was the same when speakers talked about the junk food/fast food model, represented by Coca-Cola, McDonald's, KFC and Burger King, and the so-called Free Trade Agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreements.

Conference attendees, representing a broad cross section of indigenous communities, small farmers, agricultural co-ops, students, church activists, migrant rights advocates, and "retornados" (immigrants who have returned or been deported from the U.S), enthusiastically endorsed the idea of using traditional and regenerative agriculture practices to restore food security, public health, climate stability and rural prosperity in the impoverished zones of Mexico and Central America where forced migration has become the norm.

As native Guatemalan Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin of the Minnesota-based Main Street Project and Regeneration International put it, by developing pilot regenerative agriculture systems, such as the Regenerative Poultry Project throughout the U.S. and Mexico "can bring about a revolution of ideas and a flow of capital" into impoverished rural communities where so-called Green Revolution chemical- and energy-intensive farming practices have failed. (La Hora newspaper Oct. 21).

Beyond the discussion of Trump's wall, mass deportations and the racist discrimination faced by millions of undocumented Latinos in the U.S., the Migrant Summit attendees responded enthusiastically to the idea that communities "aquí y allá," ("here and there") could join together and raise the "seed money" for a new healthy, climate-friendly and economically viable system of food and farming.

I learned at the Summit that Guatemalan migrants in the U.S. already send back close to $7 billion a year in money transfers to their families and home communities—twice the amount of money that Guatemalan agro-exporters receive for all of their exports of products such as coffee and bananas. Salvadoran migrants send back a similar amount, while Mexican migrants will send back more than $70 billion dollars to their home communities this year. Channeling a strategic percentage of these remittances into community-based regenerative agriculture projects, along with pressuring local and federal governments to match these migrant "remesas," could not only restore hope and vitality to these rural communities, but also dramatically reduce the number of forced migrants. Even Donald Trump's fans of mass deportation might have trouble rejecting this type of cross-border "bootstrap" financing for local economic development.

As I explained to the conference attendees during the final plenary session, regenerative agriculture is not some new invention by organic farmers and ranchers in the Global North. It's the adaptation of ancient farming practices, such as the traditional Mayan system of agro-forestry, multi-crop "milpa" farming (corn, beans, squash and other vegetables), natural compost and holistic poultry and livestock management.

A form of what is now called regenerative agriculture, or regenerative organic agriculture, was practiced over thousands of years ago by Mayan and indigenous people throughout the Americas. The Mayans survived and thrived in harmony with the Earth—without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs or concentrated animal confinement. They fed themselves while also maintaining a proper carbon cycle (a balance between CO2 in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil and forests) and a biologically healthy and diverse environment.

Our mission today as "regenerators" throughout the Americas and the world is to recapture, reestablish and scale up these traditional practices. We must modify them to match the specific ecological and marketplace conditions in our local areas and regions. In this manner we can regenerate the soil, dramatically improve yields and food quality, restore public health, eliminate the pressures that cause forced migration, and last but certainly not least, draw down and sequester enough excess carbon from the atmosphere through enhanced plant photosynthesis and reforestation to reverse global warming and climate disruption.

Beyond the still-utopian dream of open borders, Guatemalans and indigenous communities have begun discussing in practical terms what we can do right now to mitigate and eventually put a halt to forced migration. We owe it to them and to ourselves to change the discussion on the "immigration crisis" from walls and deportation to one of cross-border solidarity and regeneration.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Supporters cheer before Trump arrives for a rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.

Read More Show Less
In the tropics, farmers often slash and burn forests to clear fertile land for crops, but a new method avoids that technique. Inga Foundation video

Rainforests are an important defense against climate change because they absorb carbon. But many are being destroyed on a massive scale.

Read More Show Less
A truck spreads lime on a meadow to increase the soil's fertility in Yorkshire Dales, UK. Farm Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As we look for advanced technology to replace our dependence on fossil fuels and to rid the oceans of plastic, one solution to the climate crisis might simply be found in rocks. New research found that dispersing rock dust over farmland could suck billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air every year, according to the first detailed large scale analysis of the technique, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning. Pxfuel

By Tim Radford

German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.

Read More Show Less
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


Nurses wear PPE prior to caring for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on May 5, 2020 in La Mesa, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders greet each other with a safe elbow bump before the start of the Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.