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Press release: Voice of Witness and IDEX partner to share missing stories of food sovereignty

For Immediate Release:

13 May 2016    

SAN FRANCISCO, USA and MASAKA, UGANDA – Small-scale agroecological farmers around the world are creating culturally relevant, scientific, scalable, innovative and lasting solutions to combat hunger and poverty. However, media focus on problems related to broken food systems has not engaged the public in productive ways, resulting in a misperception that there is a dearth of creative solutions to transform food systems for the better.

Voice of Witness (VOW) and International Development Exchange (IDEX)* are launching a collaborative book and outreach project to highlight the urgent, inspiring stories of women, youth, and indigenous farmers and leaders in South Africa and Zimbabwe who are going against the grain to supply and demand healthy and sustainably-grown food. Announcement of the VOW and IDEX collaboration came during a global learning exchange among farmers and farmer advocates in Masaka, Uganda from May 10–13 hosted by the Agroecology Fund and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa to amplify agroecological solutions to the food and climate crisis.

Holding Our Ground: Voices for Food Sovereignty (working title) is slated to be the 21st title in the Voice of Witness book series, which takes a literary approach to gathering oral histories that illuminate the stories of people impacted by injustice in the U.S. and globally. Each year, the Voice of Witness book series reaches an estimated audience of 10 million through media coverage, academic adoption, events, and distribution that reaches a broad general readership as well as specialized and academic audiences. As of 2017, VOW will be releasing its book series with Verso Books, which has over 40 years of experience and a stellar reputation in the field of culturally and politically relevant publishing.

Siphiwe Ntshangase (top) and Sophiwe Dlamini (bottom), from the Biowatch-supported Impisethunjini Project, talk to the media about agroecology and food security.

The oral histories will be gathered via IDEX’s on-the-ground partners in South Africa and Zimbabwe, to which IDEX provides flexible, multi-year grants. For example in South Africa, IDEX funds Biowatch, which promotes seed saving and agroecology practices that have resulted in long-term food security for more than 500 rural farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. In 2009 Biowatch won a David vs. Goliath victory against Monsanto and the government of South Africa to protect the right to information on environmental impact assessments. In the Western and Northern Cape of South Africa, the Surplus People Project organizes people to support pro-poor agrarian reform. The organization’s name derives from a quote by apartheid architect M.C. Botha that “surplus people must be got rid of,” referring to forced removals of urban dwellers by the South African state.

Farmers from Mozambique and Zimbabwe gathered at Shashe Agroecology School in Masvingo, Zimbabwe last month. IDEX partner ZIMSOFF hosted a workshop on the implications of new regional seed laws on small-scale farmers.

In Zimbabwe, IDEX partners with the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF), a dynamic group of 19,000 small-scale farmers nationwide who are promoting agroecology and advocating for policies in favor of biodiversity. ZIMSOFF is a member of the 250 million member strong international peasant movement, La Via Campesina. The Chikukwa Ecological Land Use Community Trust in Chimanimani is a thriving example of community-self determination and the deep practice of agroecology founded by five youth leaders.These small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe are also organizing to sell their products collectively for fair prices, and lowering costs while improving the quality and quantity of their yields.

The stories not being told are that food sovereignty principles offer small-scale farmers – and us all – powerful solutions, based on years of transformative, participatory practices and ancestral knowledge refined and innovated over generations. These personal stories (and accompanying curricula, national marketing, and outreach through the VOW and IDEX collaboration) will offer readers an engaging, humanizing understanding of farmers’ role in building food sovereignty in their communities.


About IDEX – International Development Exchange:

IDEX partners with donors and funders to support the visionary leaders and organizations advancing solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges around food, the economy, and climate. Since 1985, IDEX has funded more than 500 grassroots, community-led projects in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with multi-year, general support commitments. Annually, IDEX’s partners serve approximately 1.5 million people, enabling farmers to be agriculture sustainability innovators, helping families build income, equipping community members to fight against human-made climate threats, and much more.

Learn more: www.idex.org

Press Contact:

Jennifer Lentfer
IDEX Director of Communications
[email protected]

About Voice of Witness:

Voice of Witness (VOW) is a non-profit that promotes human rights and dignity by amplifying the voices of people impacted by injustice in the U.S. and globally. Through its oral history book series, VOW’s work is driven by a strong belief in the transformative power of the story, for both teller and listener. VOW’s education program serves over 20,000 people annually and its oral history pedagogy has been used to train a broad range of advocates, educators, writers, journalists, attorneys, and medical doctors. Voice of Witness was cofounded by author Dave Eggers, writer and educator Mimi Lok, and physician Lola Vollen.

Learn more: voiceofwitness.org

Press Contact:

Natalie Catasús
VOW Resource Development Associate
[email protected]


*Thousand Currents changed its name from IDEX in 2016

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