A note from GEN’s Director Nessie Reid
We are delighted to share Yolanda's report (below) about the Latin American Academy for Food Systems Resilience (ALLSA). Given many of the current food and farming crises we are faced with, finding radical and innovative solutions for food systems resilience is more important than ever! We are extremely proud of the core ALLSA team, comprising GEN Alumni, who did a brilliant job organising and facilitating the event. Their efforts truly inspire us as we continue to encourage successful collaborations, networking and peer-to-peer mentoring.
Looking ahead to 2020, plans are shaping up nicely for our next Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA). The four main themes at GESA 2020 will be:
Finally, from all the team at the Global Environments Network, we want to thank and wish all our supporters a very happy and healthy 2020!
Building leadership for food systems resilience in Peru
By Yolanda Lopez Maldonado, PhD - Project co-organizer
ALLSA: Transformative social and environmental learning: Facilitating innovation in agricultural, food and nutritional systems through pluricultural dialogue*
From September 14 to 25, 2019, 17 young Latin Americans between 20 and 35 committed to the sustainability of food systems and the biocultural diversity met in an unprecedented Latin American academy. The participants were principally agents of change, community leaders and innovators playing an essential role in taking action for the resilience of our food systems. And most of the volunteer event organizers, myself included, were alumni of other Global Environments Network events.
The four axes:
This 10-day meeting was held in the magnificent Andean region, outside Cusco, Peru. We partnered with Asociación ANDES and the communities of the Potato Park. ANDES is a non-profit association involved in the recognition and strengthening of communal traditional rights on biocultural resources, and promotion of institutional change and policies relevant to conservation and development. ANDES works cooperatively with Indigenous organizations at the communal level and that strengthen food sovereignty and local sustainability.
The aim of this 10-day meeting was to build leadership through processes of reconnection and to increase the resilience of food systems. The academy was oriented around four transdisciplinary axes:
1) The biocultural axis, to (re)connect with traditional knowledge and integrate different local perspectives, serving as a model of how to create bridges between different knowledge and knowledge-holders. This axis was approached by sharing experiences, food, and knowledge with Indigenous people from the potato park. We visited their communities and promote experiential and horizontal learning based on Indigenous knowledge. We learn directly from them topics such as Sumaq kausay (SK), a central philosophy in Andean Indigenous Cosmovision. It is a holistic vision, which considers diverse elements of the human condition, recognizing that a range of factors influence our quality of life. It can be understood as living well, beautiful life, harmonious existence, or beautiful and healthy life. This concept involves the relationship between humans and nature (Pachamama, Mother Earth) to work together to satisfy their needs through ayni (reciprocity). We also learned how Indigenous communities cope with impacts of climate change for the resilience of their food systems (Photo 2).
2) The second axis examined contextual socio-ecological tools to study and assess food security and food sovereignty. For this axis we partnered with skilled facilitators from Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, USA, and elsewhere. They shared diverse methodologies to co-produce knowledge by learning together, and bridging them respectfully (Photo 3).
3) The third axis involved the problems of storage, distribution, transport and marketing of food in sustainable food chains. For this axis, we explored cases from Peru and the overall Andean region. We visited, for example, different local markets, including the “Mercado del trueque” in Lares, where participants were able to interact, buy, exchange products, and learn about the different products from the region (Photos 4 & 5).
4) The fourth and final axis examined participatory leadership and commitment to action, to foster creative approaches to problem-solving through innovation and dialogue among actors. Here participants were able to share their ideas to foster genuine change. We learned how to empower communities to maintain and use their knowledge, concepts, methods and intergenerational knowledge transfer capacity, to support research led by Indigenous peoples and explore ideas for the development of Indigenous communities based on the sustainable use of their biocultural heritage (Photos 1 and 6).
Whether among friends or in chance encounters, in Peru, as in many Latin American countries, people love spending time together. This is apparent in the countless local and national festivals that are celebrated in almost every Peruvian state throughout the year. I fell in love with the people of Peru. I especially enjoyed activities that had the communal cooking and sharing of a meal at their center, such as cooking in the Huatia (a traditional Peruvian earthen oven which dates back to ancient times, in which meat or potatoes are cooked) (Photos 7 & 8).
New (to me) ingredients, incredible flavors – the colorful dishes opened the door of a new culinary world to the participants (Photo 9). Overall, Peru opened my eyes to a whole new cuisine that I had previously known nothing about. Fascinated by the diverse dishes and culinary experiences, we embarked on a 10-days journey through Peru’s most important potato regions that deepened our experiential learning.
On a personal note, surrounded by a geographically-complex landscape, alpacas and colorful markets, I became aware of the beauty of Peru. As an Indigenous researcher who grew up in the Maya lowlands of Mexico, I had no idea what an incredible place I would land in--these flavors, colors and the geographically insane and breathtaking landscapes (Photo 10). The Andean Mountain region, in general, and the people, in particular, fascinated me with their spectacular scenery and generosity. I quickly fell in love with the country. As a scientist, I have had the privilege to get to know many countries and cultures. But as I traveled to Peru for the first time, I realized this country was special. Wherever I visited, I was greeted by a friendly smile, and instinctively I knew I was surrounded by a rich culture thousands of years old, with incredible tales to tell. All these experiences made me determined to return to Peru, and soon.
*Academia Latinoamericana de Resiliencia de los Sistemas Alimentarios (ALLSA): "Aprendizaje transformador socio-ambiental: Facilitar la innovación en los sistemas agroalimentarios y nutricionales a través del diálogo pluricultural"
The ‘Flourishing Diversity Series’ aims to cultivate hope amongst all people and engender resistance to damaging agricultural and industrial practices. Rooted in anthropological research, FDS promotes the idea that encouraging diversity to flourish in all spaces is an important part of how every citizen can contribute to regenerating species diversity and healing ecosystems.
- Founders of the Flourishing Diversity Series
As part of GEN's ever-expanding vision, we have begun official GEN Partnerships. This involves GEN – be it core team, or GEN members – supporting via informal collaborations with individuals and organizations whose values and missions are aligned with the Network’s.
GEN was invited as a partner of the Flourishing Diversity Series (FDS), which involved leading the Gaia Spirit Movement (GSM) and helping facilitate sessions at the Flourishing Diversity Summit: a unique opportunity to listen, dialogue and participate with Indigenous leaders from across the world.
Taking place from 6-11 September, the summit kicked off with the Gaia Spirit Movement. As the sun filled Canbury public Gardens, along the riverside in Kingston-Upon-Thames, London, singer-songwriter Oona Chaplin played, welcoming the day. Elders Jyoti, Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook, Luisah Teish, Erena Rangimarie Rereomaki Rhose and grand-daughter Kya-Xe’ Zelaya Dudney then led the opening ceremony, sharing songs, blessings and powerful invitations for the coming week: to hold Mother Earth in our hearts and to listen, deeply. Some people ran, some walked and everyone met back at Greenwich Meridian Line at 6.30pm for a closing blessing, led by the Arhuaco Mamos (spiritual leaders). Living high up in Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, this was the first time the Mamos have come to Europe to speak to the Western world and share their messages and 'the practices needed to maintain balance'. You can read their inspiring, potent message here.
Held in partnership with London National Park City, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network and Extinction Rebellion Youth, diaspora communities in London were also warmly invited to share issues of concern to them in their countries of origin and to remind all of the importance of thinking globally and acting locally.
Day 1 of the Summit focused on Sacred Lands: exploring the relationships between people and the lands they inhabit, learning from the guardians of diversity about their governance structures, natural resource management, and resistance against extractive industry and industrial agriculture that homogenises environments and people.
Day 2 was Mother Earth: understanding the way Gaia has birthed the astonishing diversity of species on which earthly life depends, this day will explore the importance of the female principle in assuring the flourishing diversity and human blossoming. The day was devoted to delving into the systems that care, nurture and regenerate healthy, thriving communities and landscapes.
Day 3 was about Building Alliances for Diversity, which explored the role of partnerships, alliances and working with shared intentions to regenerate, protect, conserve and enhance Indigenous communities, their lands, food security and ecosystems. The day generated collaborative networks and alliances to support Territories of Life.
Every evening during the summit, Listening Sessions were held across London, where indigenous speakers shared their sophisticated approaches to living in community structures that co-exist and support harmony and abundance with the rest of Life.
In this short report, it's impossible to capture the vast knowledge and wisdom which the series contained, so I leave you with this snapshot from an indigenous delegate, Jachuka Rete from the Tekoa community, in Misiones, Argentina. Jachuka has worked internationally for many years as a teacher of Mbya Guarani Language and culture and as territorial technician for the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs.
“We’ve always lived in harmony with nature. Is it possible to continue thinking separately to ‘the environment’ as the western world calls it? There are peoples who have managed to sustainably live for centuries. Why do we want to continue separating the environment and the man? That formula has already failed; destroying much to gain little. Not respecting natural processes. Wanting everything packed and now. Indigenous peoples have been seen as backward communities. Yet they are going after us because we have the natural resources, because we have preserved them. Nature gives you what you need as long as you look after it with love and harmony, like we have for centuries. The Arhuaco Mamos said you have to do and then speak. We haven’t written a lot, but we have done a lot. Now it is time for us to speak.”
To learn more about FDS, see the report, Flourishing Diversity: Learning from Indigenous Wisdom Traditions.
If you'd like to find out more, do get in touch.
By Nessie, Global Environments Network (GEN) Director
We are facing an ecological and climate crisis like never before. Biological annihilation of wildlife is currently leading us into a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history and globally, the past 4 years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years. According to Oxfam, in 2017, 26 people owned the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. The list of environmental, political and social injustices, and crises, goes on but I shall stop here! Instead, I ask: what about the individuals and groups fighting to change this? What about those working to rewrite the story of our mutual, interdependent belonging in the web of life; those actively seeking solutions to ecological and social injustice? Well, some of them are part of GEN!
According to advocacy group Global Witness, those on the forefront of climate change impacts and campaigns are being killed in increasing numbers. Since 2002, the group has registered 57 killings of environmental activists in Peru alone, and these crimes often go unpunished. For the past few months, I have been asking myself how GEN can offer support mechanisms—including training, mentoring and capacity-building—to help those on the frontlines of environmental and social-change activism, and campaigning? Many face 'burn-out' and exhaustion from the highly pressurised systems they are operating in.
I feel it is one of GEN’s chief responsibilities to address this need and as a response we are developing and introducing two exciting features for our members: GEN Partnerships and GEN Project Packages. Through our ‘GEN Project Packages’, we will support our members—and those interested in GEN— to help steward their visions into a reality by offering opportunities to get project ideas off the ground, aided with an injection of seed funding, as well as support and mentoring from GEN Resource People and staff members. An example of this includes supporting and helping promote the Good Food March, in October 2019, with the Land Workers Alliance.
‘GEN Partnerships’ will build on the existing work of Global Diversity Foundation and GEN staff members in supporting and mentoring GEN members, tailored to their specific needs and aims. This will also include a focused approach on networking and linking relevant members together for collaborations, as well as advocacy support when needed. We have many other ideas in the pipeline for better serving and supporting our members, so watch this space!
In other news, I am really excited to share that we have recently been awarded funds to cover three full scholarahips for GEN's Latin-American School for Food Systems Resilience (ALLSA), for those participants whom might not normally be able to attend, due to financial constraints.
Earlier this week, our Global Environments Network (GEN) core internal team got together (via Skype) to share updates of our work over the past few months, which included creating our communications and impact assessment strategies, producing impact interviews of GEN event participants, visioning and planning future GEN projects and toolkits, continuing to forge collaborations in the Network, and much more. We also brainstormed solutions for creating more efficient and effective ways of working as a remote, part-time, international team, which comes with its challenges! With Nessie based in the UK, Inanc in Cyprus and myself (Marina) in Malaysia—the three of us represent very different cultural, religious, ethnic and academic backgrounds and experiences. It is these very differences which add to the wealth and dynamism of our team, and is arguably one of our greatest strengths. We are drawn together by a common purpose: to work towards the success and expansion of the Network.
During our chat, Nessie raised the topic of working remotely: the challenges we face as we sit in our respective homes on a day-to-day basis without the conventional contact and access to face-to-face conversations that occur in a regular office. Don’t get me wrong, it does have its perks, such as determining my own hours and having self-determined flexibility. I get to spend time with my young child, before she heads off to school in the afternoon, who tickles me pink with conversations filled with humour, prompted by the innocence of childhood.
I mulled over what Nessie had said. Since the first Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) was held in 2011, I have been in awe of the diversity of participants gathered and the way they sacrifice three weeks of their summer holidays to better themselves, rooted in their passion for their countries and communities. From Munich to Bern, and most recently in Oxford—we have now held six summer academies—participants have brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to GESA, sharing their stories of success and challenges with their peers, and building on it with the immense knowledge brought to the table by our expert resource people.
GEN is a collective leadership network that promotes social and environmental justice. An important aspect of our events is that knowledge sharing does not end when participants leave, and to achieve this, we strive to facilitate connections, exchange and collaborations among GEN event participants and resource people, who are all a part of our growing network. Keeping these connections flowing and encouraging future collaborations, outside of GEN events, is something we are continually working on and exploring ways to develop. To date, those involved in past events have organised three Regional Academies: in Latin America (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), North America (Glimpse Lake, British Columbia) and the Mediterranean (Morocco), and collaborated in three Community Exchanges in North America (Capay Valley, California; Montreal, Canada; Sonora, Mexico) and one in Europe (Barcelona, Spain).
We are now excitedly looking forward to the upcoming regional academy in Peru: Latin American School for Food Systems Resilience. Carrying the theme “Transformative socio-environmental learning: fostering food systems innovation grounded in pluricultural dialogue”, the event will be held this September, driven by seven very impressive GEN Alumni from Latin America. Working to improve local livelihoods, resolve conflicts and restore environments, is a challenging task, and often, it is also very lonely. We are inspired by the efforts of our members, and because of this, we aspire to continue to provide the platform of GEN so that more emerging environmental changemakers are able to engage meaningfully with experts from other fields, to test and co-develop ideas to resolve socioenvironmental problems across scales, and to develop their vision and leadership in a network of peers.
Thank you for supporting global emerging environmental changemakers. If you would like to find out more about GEN’s impact, click here.
At the second Global Environments Network (GEN) event this year, we headed to the beautiful landscapes of the Moroccan High Atlas. Named “Community-based management in the Mediterranean: Innovations in socio-environmental research and action”, this was the Network’s third Regional Academy—the first two were held in Latin America—and the first of its kind in the Mediterranean.
Fourteen participants from different Mediterranean countries gathered for this 10-day Academy (2–11 November 2018): the Mediterranean Environments Regional Academy (MERA). Through a range of holistic and cross-disciplinary learning approaches, including inspiring plenaries and roundtable dialogues, practical workshops, field trips, participant presentations, skills training and one-on-one mentoring sessions, participants were immersed in intense and in-depth learning. With a focus on cultural landscapes and seascapes, regional and international experts, known as resource people, were brought in to play the role of educators, facilitators and mentors for the participants. MERA was centered around four primary themes: local product commercialisation, rural livelihoods and the private sector; communal governance and management systems in the context of local and national government; policy, advocacy and the role of communities in promoting biodiversity-friendly cultural practices; and gender approaches to agroecology and food systems.
“The level of interaction at MERA was inspiring”, Nessie, GEN Director, said. “Participants were very forthcoming with sharing their personal stories and knowledge, and the challenges they face in their efforts to maintain the beautiful Mediterranean cultural landscapes and seascapes they live and work in”, she added. “For example, the peer-to-peer sharing during the community workshop on commercialisation—designed to analyse the existing situation of different plant and animal products within local areas—really allowed us to gain an understanding of the issues and opportunities surrounding potential commercial products. Together, we created a shortlist of a range of products to explore further”, Nessie explained.
Learn more about MERA in the photo story "First Mediterranean regional academy focuses on community-based resource management". Below are a couple of photos as a sneak preview.
As part of the policy, lobbying, advocacy and communication workshop, participants worked through two case studies of communal systems in small groups to strengthen their advocacy skills. Through this exercise, we provided the group with a framework that will support them to conceptualise and carry out advocacy campaigns at different levels to obtain political influence and build solid argumentation through communication and evaluation. [Photo by Pommelien/GDF]
Demonstration of plants
Thanks to a guided tour and demonstration at our host site, Espace Tamount, we discussed local plant products opportunities and their different uses and health benefits. Moroccan wild thyme for example is traditionally used to treat stomach pains, aching muscles and colds. [Photo by Inanc/GDF]
For more on MERA and our other GEN events, please visit the Global Environments Network website.
Thank you for your support!
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser