Archives for 2011

New AT Library Discount Application Form

Check out the new graduated scale of discounts that Village Earth can offer to non-profit organizations for the Appropriate Technology Library and orders originating in certain countries according to the UN’s Human Development Index:  Appropriate Technology Library Discount Application

We hope this way we will make the Appropriate Technology Library available to more people around the world who can use it as a valuable resource.   Order the complete library or just the DVD or CDs (minimum 4 CD order) that you need.  Just fill out the application and we will respond as soon as possible.  If you have any further questions, please e-mail [email protected]

Grassroots Scholarship Winner

Village Earth is proud to announce that we have selected a winner for our first VE Grassroots Scholarship to attend one of our online community-based development training courses. Grace Wairimu Ndungu is 36 years old and works in Kenya for an organization called Youth Action for Rural Development (YARD). As a project officer, she works on their orphans and vulnerable children project. With over six years of experience in community work, she holds a diploma in community development and several certificates in child-related courses and HIV management. Most of the beneficiaries she works with are either affected or infected by HIV. She focuses on children as the point of entry to working with the entire household. These beneficiaries are identified with the help of community members, teachers and leaders. You can read more about Grace’s organization here.

While working in the community, Grace has come across cases of gender disparity in development. For this reason, she has decided to attend Village Earth’s Gender Equity in Development to learn more about addressing some of these issues.

If you are interested in learning how to sponsor a grassroots community organizer or aid worker like Grace to attend a training course through the VE Grassroots Scholarship program, please contact Jamie Way at [email protected]

Response to: “Why Are Indian Reservations So Poor? A Look At The Bottom 1%”

Below is my response to an article in today’s online edition of Forbes magazine titled “Why Are Indian Reservations So Poor? A Look At The Bottom 1%.” by John Koppisch. Click here for the original article.

Writing as a European settler who works alongside Native Americans on land tenure issues, I find Mr. Koppisch’s article raises awareness of some of the current challenges in the way of Native Americans from benefiting from their resources, but feel it is an overly simplistic, ahistorical analysis of poverty on reservations today. In fact, it is based on the same ethnocentric premise that was behind the creation of the Dawes Act in the first place. Namely, that all people are individual selfish utility-maximizes and the biggest thing in the way to “progress” for Native Americans is their collective utilization of natural resources. Thus, the problem, from Mr. Koppisch’s perspective, is that there hasn’t been ENOUGH privatization. To fully tease apart your argument you have to examine two central questions. 1. Is your basic premise correct, are Native American’s selfish-utility maximizes and do they share the same notion of “progress” as European settlers? And 2. Considering that western notions of progress were forced upon them through the Reservation system and policies such as the The General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) – was/is the poverty we see today really because there hasn’t been enough privatization. I challenge this notion and argue there might other, more obvious factors?

For some perspective into the first question, we can look at how Native Americans were organized prior to being forced onto ever smaller pieces of land by an invading army of settlers. Were Native American’s victims of their own communal use of natural resources, a self-created tragedy of the commons? While we can always find instances of resource destruction and conflict in the Archaeological record, but the fact remains, Native American’s thrived on this continent for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settlers. And believe it not, this happened without privatization, individual allotments, and a centralized state to create laws and enforce contracts. Now, it would be equally false to assume that Native American’s, by definition, are communal and anti-capitalist, that’s just not true, in fact, the Lakota and other tribes were renowned for their role in the fur trade, controlling and manipulating markets around the globe. And in fact, there were internal struggles among Native American leaders over what direction to take. Lakota Chief Red Cloud believed that there was no stopping the influx of settlers and so tried to convince his people to assimilate. Crazy Horse, on the other hand, sought to protect the traditional way of life that extended beyond the boundaries of the Reservations. The point here is that the history of Native American’s extends thousands of years prior to the creation of Reservations. Pretty much none of that history included privatization. Rather, they were forced onto Reservations by an invading colonial army and were forced to participate in a western system of land tenure and agricultural production. But, history doesn’t end there. It’s not as if they were forced onto reservations, and then became equal participants in American society.

After the period of European settlement in North America between 1492-1887, Native Americans were left with reservations consisting of only 150 million acres. Recognized through treaties as sovereign nations, these lands were largely unpartitioned and communally managed, a practice considered by the U.S. Government to be a non-productive and irrational use of resources. The Government’s solution was the General Allotment Act (GAA) of 1887, also known as the Dawes Severalty Act. The act partitioned reservation lands into 160 acre parcels for each head of family, 80 acre parcels to orphans, and 40 acres parcels to each child. After all the allotments were issued, the remaining reservation lands in the West was transferred to the Government who then made it available to white settlers free of charge as part of the Homestead Act. This amounted to a loss of over 60,000,000 acres, nearly 2/3rds of all Indian lands. Beyond the significant loss of lands, the GAA also created several challenges for the use and inheritance of the remaining lands that would have profound implications for future generations of Native Americans.

  • It broke apart communally managed lands into individually owned parcels, destroying the ability of many communities to be self sufficient on already limited and marginal lands.
  • It disrupted traditional residency patterns, forcing people to live on allotments sometimes far from their relatives, eroding traditional kinship practices across many reservations.
  • It destroyed communal control of lands, making it easier for private and government interests to gain access to the vast coal, oil, natural gas, agricultural, and grazing resources on Native American Reservations. This was done primarily through forced leases. Leased which, to this day, the government has failed to fully pay. in fact, according to Judge Robertson of the District Court of Columbia, Native American’s were shorted roughly 47 billion dollars in income collected by the government over the last 120 years.
  • The GAA never established an adequate system for how lands would be transfered from generation to generation. Since the practice of creating a Last Will and Testament before death was not common and in some cases was outright offensive to the traditional inheritance practices of some Native American cultures, these lands passed from one generation to the next without clear divisions of who owned what. Today, lands have become so fractionated that it is common to have several hundred or even thousands of landowners on one piece land. This has created a severe obstacle today for individuals and families wanting to utilize their lands as they need to get permission from the other land owners on decisions related to the land. With limited resources to deal with this situation, the only option for most families is to lease their undivided fractionated lands out – often times to non-natives.
  • Forced Fee Patenting, introduced with the 1906 Burke Act, amended the GAA to give the secretary of the interior the power to issue Indian Allottees determined to be “competent,” fee patents making their lands subject to taxation and sale. In other words, the government privatized indigenous lands. It as widely understood by government officials that lands, privatized under the Burke Act, would soon be liquidated. In 1922 the Government superintendent of the Pine Ride Reservation noted: “Careful observation of the results on the Pine Ridge reservation show that less than five percent of the Indians who receive patents retain their lands.” According to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, between 1997 and 1934, nearly 27,000,000 acres of land was lost as a result of privatization.
  • Indian Allottees determined to be “incompetent, ” under the Burke Act, were not allowed to live on or utilize their allotment, instead it was leased out by the Federal Government to oil, timber, mineral, and grazing interests. In many cases, Allottees did not even receive the income from the leases. This practice was so widespread that a 1915 Department of the Interior, Annual Report of the Pine Ridge Agency, nearly 56% of its residents were deemed “incompetent.” The longterm affect of this practice was how it physically and psychologically alienated Indian Allottees from their lands. For example many families today own land but have never lived on it, used it, or oftentimes, even know where it is located.
  • The various economic, social, and cultural disruptions created by the these acts over the last century is an underlying cause of poverty on many Native American Reservations today, negatively impacting housing construction, economic development, residency patterns, family and community cohesion, ecological health, cultural self-determination, and political sovereignty.
  • The unequal land-use patterns seen on reservations today is a direct outcome of discriminatory lending practices, land fractionation and specifically, Federal policies over the last century that have excluded native land owners from the ability to utilize their lands while at the same time opening it up to non-native farmers and ranchers. Discriminatory lending practices, as argued in court cases such as the pending Keepseagle vs. Vilsack, claim that Native Americans have been denied roughly 3 billion in credit.

With the above facts in mind, is it really accurate to say that the poverty on Native American reservations is a result of “not enough privatization” or should we also consider the 120+ years of discrimination and abuse by the United States Government? My point here is not to argue against reforming the land tenure system on reservations. Rather, I believe tribes should have total control over their resources as guaranteed to them by their respective Treaties but also in a contested nature, that goes beyond the legal context of the 1800s but one rooted in UN Declaration of the rights of Indigenous People and their aboriginal claim. But beyond that, they should receive equal protection under the law which means investigating claims to lands illegally seized and unpaid lease contracts by the U.S. Government. But also, reparations for the damages caused by the violence and sexual abuse rampant in boarding schools.

I find it ironic how academics and journalists try to come up with new theories to explain poverty on reservations but fail to take into account the obvious. The government owes Native Americans at least 45 Billion dollars yet, in the settlement offered by the Obama administration, they are being compensated for less that .06% of that. And this hardly makes the news! Who else could be treated like this? How is this not a factor? How is the history of broken treaties and land theft not a factor? Until we as a American settlers take off our blinders and recognize how some people in this country have been and continue to this day to be denied their rights, we will never move beyond the racist legacy of this country.

Village Earth Promotes Appropriate Technology at UN WIPO Training

 

Recently, Village Earth was invited to present at a training in Incheaon Korea hosted by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Korean Intellectual Property Organization (KIPO). The two organizations brought together delegates from Ethiopia, Malaysia, China, Korea, and Cambodia to learn about the role of Intellectual Property in Community-based Development. The training was organized as part of WIPO’s mandate “[t]o undertake initiatives agreed on by Member States, which contribute to transfer of technology to developing countries, such as requesting WIPO to facilitate better access to publicly available patent information.”

This is the second time that Village Earth has been invited to speak on appropriate technology for WIPO. In June of this year, Village Earth presented at two separate appropriate technology design competitions held in Ethiopia and Malaysia. The purpose of the competitions was to promote the use of freely available patent information for the development of appropriate technologies in developing countries. In each location, contestants were asked to develop a technology using freely available patent information and were judged based on uniqueness, potential impact on alleviating poverty, environmental sustainability and social equity.

Low-cost 3D printer. Photo: www.lulzbot.com

While patent information has always been publicly available, it was traditionally only available in hard copy form from their respective patent offices. However, today the Internet has made patent information accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. In fact, many national patent offices now have online databases searchable by keyword. Other services, like Google Patents (patents.google.com), are working to consolidate patent information from multiple countries into a single database. Using Google’s database, it is possible to keyword search the entire text from approximately 8 million patents and 3 million patent applications and download the complete text and graphics from each patent as Adobe PDF files. The potential for using patent information for developing appropriate technologies is expanded further by new developments in low-cost rapid-prototyping and demand-flow production methods now possible at low-cost with freely available open source design software such as OpenSCAD and low-cost 3D printers such as the Lulzbot.

Patent information can be a valuable resource for developers of appropriate technologies since they often contain detailed diagrams and descriptions of particular technologies. It does however, have its limitations. Patents generally are very narrow in focus, describing only specific parts, mechanisms or processes vs. the entire technology. For example, if you are trying to build a wind turbine, you may only find patents for the blades, the rotor assembly or the tower vs. all these parts working together. Also, patent designs are not necessarily tested and thus, there is no guarantee of their of effectiveness, reliability or efficiency.

Is using patent information legal? Patent law is really a two sided social contract. On the one side, it is meant to protect the inventor in a specific geography for a specific period of time. On the other side, it is meant to serve the public good by making that information freely available so other inventors can use it to innovate (as long as they do not violate what is protected in the patent). Patents’ terms are generally limited in the United States for 20 years with the payment of regular maintenance fees. After 20 years, or if the inventor fails to pay their maintenance fees, that information enters the public domain. Once in the public domain, that information remains there forever. Patents also only provide an exclusionary right in the country where the patent is filed. That means, a patent filed in the United States is only protected in the United States. To be protected in other countries, the inventor must file and pay maintenance fees in each country he/she desires protection.

Appropriate Technology Library End of Year Sale

From now through the end of 2011, we are offering a half-off discount on the complete Appropriate Technology (AT) Library on DVD or CD-ROM. Buy the complete library of 1,050 books for only $249 – that’s less than 25 cents a book for the most comprehensive, compact, and cost effective appropriate technology and sustainable living resource in the world! The AT Library contains the full text and images from over 1050 of the best books dealing with all areas of do-it-yourself and village-level technology. It is portable and easy to use on 28 CDs or 2 DVDs.

Use the Google Checkout option in the shopping cart and the Coupon Code “2011discount” on the website or call 1-970-237-3002 ext. 503 to order by phone.

Current Global Affiliates 2011 accomplishments

Lakota Lands Recovery Projects, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota:  Assisted with forest management plans; provided outreach and mapping support for home weatherization initiatives; adopted seven buffalo, sold 600 lbs of bison meat at Winter Markets and distributed another 600 lbs of meat to the elderly plus taught programs to dozens of youth about the spiritual connection with the buffalo.

Earth Tipi: Built a house using reclaimed pallets and petitioned Congress to maintain funding for tribal housing; planted a fruit orchard of 30 trees.

Peruvian Amazon Indigenous Support Network: Initiated petition to Maple Energy to address multiple oil spills and inadequate clean-up in two Shipibo communities; supported flood relief efforts (thousands of Shipibo families experienced losses of homes and crops); supported land demarcation projects; partnered with Engineers Without Borders on clean water/renewable energy project.

Empowering Youth Cambodia: operated three schools serving 350 children from slum communities in Phnom Penh; provided medical and dental care and 33 scholarships (19 at university,14 in high school).

Sarada Group of Development Initiatives in West Bengal, India: grew 10 women-owned micro-enterprises, involved 5 women groups in plantation projects on barren lands, assisted with 100 children attending school, saw attendance in literacy campaign increase by 50%, provided health and nutrition training for women and families.

Currently, we are planning to expand our support to Maloca, working in Ecuador with indigenous peoples in Amazon basin on strategies for defending cultural rights to land in the face of oil and gas extraction; Village Care Initiatives in Sierra Leone, dedicated to caring for widows and orphans with the resources they have on hand; Living Roots, Baja working to protect the endangered Ranchero culture of Baja California Sur, and Jenzera in Colombia and Dineh Voices of the People, both groups advocating for civil and human rights and protecting cultural self-determination.

Single Course Scholarship Competition Now Open!

Thanks to a generous donation by Audrey Faulkner, Village Earth is now offering a scholarship for one free online course. The scholarship is only open to potential participants that have no possibility of paying for their course on their own. With our limited resources, we would like to support the most innovative project work being done by someone with the most need. If you believe that you fit this description and are working on an exciting new project, please tell us more in the format below. (Note: Any applications exceeding the stated lengths or not following any of the stated rules will not be considered.)

1) In less than 175 words, describe the project you are working on. (Include who you work with, what your goal is, where your project is located, etc.) Please also include a web address if your project has some online presence.

2) In less than 100 words, tell us why you believe you and your project would benefit from a scholarship to one of our training courses. (Here you may include responses to questions like: How our training would help move your project forward? What challenges are you facing and how do you believe we could help?)

Please send applications to [email protected] with the title “Scholarship Application” by November 30th. We will announce a winner in the following newsletter.

Living Roots Helps Communities Protect Unique Cultures

“Helping endangered cultures adapt and thrive in the modern world” is the noble goal of Living Roots, a social venture which has recently become a global affiliate of Village Earth.

A Disappearing Culture
Living Roots’ pilot project is in the sierra (mountains) of Baja California Sur, where approximately 7,000 isolated rancheros continue to use centuries-old traditional Spanish Colonial and indigenous techniques in everyday life. However, due to rising costs of Baja’s coastal development and the lack of economic opportunity, direct access to markets, and occupational prospects, as many as 9 in 10 rancheros are leaving the sierra. Without Living Roots’ help, ranchero culture, the “living roots” of the American cowboy, is likely to vanish in one-to-two generations, along with the critical wisdom of living in balance with Baja’s arid eco-system.

The Living Roots’ Plan
Since its incorporation a year ago, Living Roots has focused on proving that the unique culture of San Javier has economic value that can be captured and invested in the community to both help rancherofamilies realize the value of their culture and enable economically sustainable lifestyles. Toward this end, Living Roots has fostered a community-run marketing association which certifies products, as being authentic, hand-made and based in a traditional skill.

These artisanal products include, olive oil made from some of the oldest olive groves in the Americas, wine from heirloom grapevines originally brought to the new world by Jesuit missionaries, historically significant saddles and cowboy wear which continue to be handmade and tanned in the traditional style, and intricate embroidery, an activity enjoyed by women throughout the sierra.

Creating Community-Driven Infrastructure
Arising out of the San Javier “Envisioning Your Future Workshop” facilitated by Living roots, next month, in collaboration with the Municipality of Loreto, Living Roots and community members will begin to build a Cultural Center and Regional Marketplace. The center will create a direct connection to markets for regionally produced artisan crafts and food, a central communication hub for organizing tourism and community information, and an exhibition focal point for Baja ranchero history and lifestyle.

Rejuvenation of Historic Skills & Youth Empowerment
Also this fall, Living Roots is launching its educational programing through a series of workshops on organic agriculture and other heritage skills. After two successive years of drought, ranchers have begun to sell their livestock and look for alternative sources of income. Living Roots’ aim for the organics project is to help ranches return to self-sufficiency by providing food for families, helping them protect heirloom varieties of seeds, and increase their income through the sale of produce at the Sunday market in Loreto and eventually, at the newly-constructed Regional Marketplace in San Javier.

Living Roots has also developed other programs to rejuvenate rare and disappearing skills, including a generational transfer program known as “Youth as Stewards”, which empowers young children through teaching traditional skills and engages university-educated sierra-born youth in giving back to their communities through contributing business and professional skills.

The next step for Living Roots is to co-create an agro-tourism circuit offering hands-on cultural experiences to interested travelers. While Baja’s coastal regions host thousands of tourists each year, alternative or agro-tourism has yet to be developed in the remote mountain areas and presents an important opportunity to empower these mountain communities to direct their own livelihoods through managing and developing a unique, sustainable tourism program.

What Makes Living Roots Different
Mila Birnbaum, Living Roots’ co-founder and Community Development Director says, “What makes Living Roots different is our focus on a community-driven, co-created development strategy in the context of a market-based approach. This means the community decides what aspects of their culture are important to protect, as well as which skills are critical, and Living Roots helps them determine how best to preserve them – all the while building local capacity, empowering the next generation and creating sustainable lifestyles.”

Over the past year, the team has spent many weeks and months in the village of San Javier and the surrounding mountains, talking to individual ranchers and painstakingly putting together the infrastructure and human capital required for the venture.

The Team and its Roots
Living Roots was formed by three alumnae from CSU’s College of Business Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA Program. The venture has since been joined by a local team including Hugo Sanchez, Martha Drew and Diana Espinoza Meza, each of whom studied Alternative Tourism and is dedicated to the rejuvenation of the ranchero culture of Baja California Sur. Leading the community is a board of ten community leaders who represent regional clusters of ranches and make governing decisions regarding sales events, workshops and how to best serve the needs of the entire region.

McKenzie Campbell, Living Roots’ principal founder, Executive Director, and an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, discovered the ranchero culture in the remote ranching communities of Baja California Sur while working in the region. She was amazed by the hospitality, skills, and abilities of these unique people to sustain themselves in such a rugged and arid environment. She also found that community members were afraid that their culture was at risk of disappearing amidst development and the rising costs of living in Baja.

Colleen Lyon, Living Roots’ co-founder and Marketing and Funding Director, recalls, “From the moment McKenzie first presented her idea to form a business designed to help this culture survive, we knew it was more than just a project. Her passion and commitment was contagious and infused the entire management team. Everyone who became involved with Living Roots could sense it would continue beyond the GSSE program – in some way, shape or form – and felt confident that their efforts were contributing to the success of a going concern.”

How You Can Help
Consistent with the goals of sustainable social enterprise, Living Roots measures its success based on a combination of social impact, environmental sustainability, and financial returns — a triple bottom line. While helping to foster a community-driven enterprise that is economically self-sufficient from the sale of artisanal crafts, foods and agri-tourism, Living Roots needs grants and donations to fund its programming and develop local capacity.

To learn more about how Living Roots is working to preserve the ranchero culture or to make a donation, visit their website or read their blog here.

VE Helps Provide Specialized Training for Pakistani Students

What’s the best way to provide continuing education to Pakistani students undertaking community development and service projects in their home communities? Why a specialized online training of course! Village Earth has developed a specialized course for the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)’s Global UGRAD – Pakistan program alumni. The course, Community Leadership and Service Fundamentals, will run for 5-weeks in an asynchronous format for 20 Pakistani students. The course will teach the students how to prepare for and begin a community service project, how to mobilize a community to develop appropriate tools and strategies, and also how to implement a monitoring and evaluation component to the project. Village Earth specializes in developing and facilitating online trainings in all areas of community development. For more information visit our Specialized Training page. To consult with Village Earth about your organization’s or group’s training needs, please contact Jamie Way at [email protected]

Sign petition urging congress to address housing crisis throughout Indian Country.

Join the National American Indian Housing Council in their efforts to get Congress to address the housing crisis across Indian Country. On November 1st, the House and Senate will resume negotiations to approve a final FY 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill. According to the NAIHC, “Substantial differences remain between both the House and Senate versions and the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) strongly urges its membership to contact their Congressional leaders and voice support for the Senate THUD funding bill. The Senate version allocates higher funding amounts and does not include a provision that would require IHBG recipients to expend their FY2012 dollars within three years, or face losing the unspent funding.”

Sign the NAIHC petition below and we will add your name to the letter being sent to Congress.  The deadline to be added to the list is October 31st. Please help us get the word out! After you sign the petition, you will be given the opportunity to share it on Facebook and Twitter. 

[emailpetition id=”1″]

Working for Change in Sierra Leone, Africa

The article below is introduction to one of our newest affiliates, Village Care Initiatives in Sierra Leone. We are very excited about their success so far and happy to welcome them to Village Earth’s affiliate program.

In 2007, the first phase of an action-research partnership with local grassroots groups and community-based organizations was initiated in Eastern Sierra Leone. The partnership initiated what they called the “Village Care” approach based on the principle that recognition of strengths, gifts and assets of individuals and the community stimulates positive action for change. When communities focus on what they have (rather than what they lack) to achieve goals, they are better able to advance their livelihoods in a sustainable and self-sufficient way. The project brings the community members together to identify and map the capacities of individuals, associations and institutions. This helps them to take stock of their strengths and design programs accordingly.

Once the community participates in a series of exercises, they generate action plans that utilize their assets in order to achieve a desired change. In general, the principle is based on the recognition that successful community driven activities are achieved through self-guided leadership with citizens at the center of the activity, rather than institutions. Village Care rests on and is perpetuated through feelings of confidence and capacity rather than a sense of dependence on external support.
 
Village Care has successfully started a number of projects by focusing on communities’ assets. They have worked in the area of education, women’s rights, infrastructure, leadership training, small-scale loans and agricultural projects. Agricultural groups have come together focused on postponing harvest until the need for food becomes critical. Stocks are then divided among members. Another group has set up a revolving loan fund. Members borrow money to purchase agricultural or fishing inputs or to do petty trading. Another group has set up an emergency loan fund to cover the expenses of members and their families needing medical services or to help cover school expenses for their children.

While many groups mobilized their assets and successfully cultivated community support, some have run into barriers that may require additional resources from outside to fulfill their goals. Village Care project groups have started looking for ways to connect with others that allow them to stay true to community goals. Village Care Initiatives and its local partners have established a revolving fund that groups could apply for on a competitive basis to utilize for community projects. This locally managed Community Leverage Fund’s main purpose is to offset financial shortages experienced by communities as they pursue their goals.

If you wish to support the important work that Village Care Initiatives is doing in addressing issues of hunger, women’s rights and access to loans, please read more or donate to Village Care Initiatives.

Earth Tipi Supports Sustainability on Pine Ridge Reservation

Shannon Freed was first invited to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the spring of 2006. That summer she witnessed abject poverty, but also saw opportunity and hope for change.

When Freed looked around, she was inspired by the many natural and potentially recyclable resources around her. She wanted to show people that a solid home could be made from these materials. She hoped that this might inspire others to see things around them in a new light. Freed “…wanted for people to look at  things around them that had been waste and start to see them as assets” she said.

Many projects for natural buildings had been tried and failed, but in 2008 she got her chance. She called Coenraad Rogmans of House Alive. He agreed to come build a house in the summer of 2010 if she first organized the building of the home’s foundation in 2009. At the time, it was just a family project. Gerald Weasel, Freed’s father in law, her husband Adam and brother in law Luke did most of the labor while she did the organizing. Freed found materials and had them brought to the site.

Their first success was in finding a pile of concrete from an old building that had long since been demolished. It was sourced just 2.5 miles from the build site and was delivered by a local construction crew free of charge. Freed used funds that had been donated to purchase three sledge hammers. The majority of the summer was spent crushing 25-year-old concrete by hand. By the end of the summer the foundation was complete. That fall she was invited by Bryan Deans of Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative to join their permaculture certification course. With her new found skill she was inspired to turn a family project into a grassroots organization. The group is now known as Earth Tipi, and is a Village Earth affiliate project.

The original home site is now being developed as a sustainable homestead model. Two large gardens, which highlight permaculture techniques, and will soon incorporate Lakota spiritual gardening practices, fed this summers volunteers as well as at least six local families. They have incorporated a beehive and hope to harvest honey next year. They were also able to build a home for another family this summer using shipping pallets through a collaboration with Texas Natural Builders. The home is still under construction due to some unanticipated set backs, however, it is well on its way to completion. Currently, just finish work remains, and it is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.

Earth Tipi is excited to announce their upcoming projects which include a hosting a Children’s Room in November at the Lakota Nakota Dakota Language Summit hosted by Tusweca Tiyospaye and a garden to table program for children made possible by a fellowship which was recently awarded through Together Green. The program will entail taking youth into the field to collect garden and wild foods then into the kitchen to learn how to prepare them into tasty meals. The project will also include a documentation aspect where the children will be given cameras to document the process and make cook books that can be shared digitally or printed to take home. There are currently discussions with GLOBIO to collaborate on the documentation aspect so that the children of Pine Ridge might provide and add content to their already extensive database of information for kids around the world. It is the goal of Earth Tipi to create profitable businesses that will support their projects so that they will be self-sustaining in every sense of the term, both growing their own food and using local resources to build houses, as well as generating a revenue stream to support all not-for-profit projects. Earth Tipi is seeking interns to help with project planning and implementation, if interested please contact Shannon Freed at [email protected] You can also read more about this project and make donations here.

Congratulations!

Village Earth’s board, staff and friends would like to congratulate our Executive Director, David Bartecchi, on his marriage to Antonette Guerra this past weekend. We wish you the best in your future together and welcome Antonette to the Village Earth family!

Best Wishes!Dave, Antonette and Chloe

Henry Red Cloud wins 2011 Glynwood Harvest Award

Henry Red Cloud, Buffalo Hump Sanctuary

Village Earth is proud to announce that our long-time partner, Henry Red Cloud, has won the 2011 Glynwood Harvest Award for Connecting Communities, Farmers and Food, and in particular, for his work restoring buffalo for families on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Henry’s bison project, “Buffalo Hump Sanctuary” is an affiliate of Village Earth.

Glynwood is an agricultural non-profit whose mission is to save farming, has announced the winners of its annual Harvest Awards.  The Harvest Awards were created by Glynwood in order to highlight innovative work being done on a community level to increase access to fresh, locally-produced food and to recognize leaders across the country whose exemplary work support their regional food systems.

This year the winners will participate in a panel discussion open to the public to take place on Monday, October 24 at the 92YTRIBECA in downtown Manhattan.  Moderated by Glynwood President Judith LaBelle, the winners will discuss their work, their challenges and the models they’ve created to increase their community’s access to locally produced foods.

Buffalo Hump Sanctuary is the result of Henry Red Cloud’s father’s vision of reclaiming the land of their Lakota tribe (which for generations had been leased out to non-indigenous people and businesses), and building a successful bison ranching operation that would better support their family economically and culturally.  The work was started in 2000, beginning with the complex process of identifying and reclaiming the land, then restoring the overgrazed land to fertility.  With the help of Village Earth, an organization that helps communities reconnect with resources that promote human well-being through empowerment and community self-reliance, Henry implemented an “Adopt a Buffalo” program; this enabled the release of over 100 head of buffalo onto the reservation, helping native bison ranchers to start or expand their ranching operations.  By 2005 Henry, along with two other families on the reservation, formed the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative, composed of Lakota ranchers who agree to comply with strict ethical standards for the care of the animals. Participating producers are then able to market their meat under the Coop’s label.  To further assist in distributing the Coop’s pasture-raised and field-harvested bison, Henry and Village Earth partnered with a local entrepreneur who markets the products online and sells throughout northern Colorado.  Today, even the smallest producer can find a market for their meat through the Cooperative.

The financial and cultural implications of this work for the Lakota families cannot be underestimated.  About two-thirds of the reservation’s lands have been leased for generations, stripping the families of their connection to their land as well as economic opportunity – leasing the land brings only one-third of the potential profit that working the land can offer.  Additionally, the reservation has been identified as “food insecure,” with little access to fresh, healthy food and a history of related medical issues that result. The production of fresh bison meat has given members of the Lakota access to nutritious protein. To further the goal of supplying fresh healthy food to its community, the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative recently created the Tatanka Talo project to help the elderly members of the reservation by distributing fresh meat to them.

Microfinance: Possibilities & Challenges

By Cortney Berry, M.A.

Photo: Kamala Parekh, Village Earth’s Microfinance Course Instructor

Twenty-two cents. That was the sum of money that Sufiya Begum lacked access to when Dr. Yunus interviewed her in 1976. To eke out a living, she bought material for bamboo stools on credit and then she sold the stools back to the very people who loaned her the money to purchase the materials in the first place. What profit did she make? After working all day, she earned only two cents. She was unable to borrow money from the moneylenders, because they charged up to ten percent per day. She was stuck with the middlemen, who kept her trapped in subsistence living conditions, constantly having to run but getting nowhere.

Dr. Yunus was dumbfounded by the situation—he was used to working with problems whose price tags soared into the millions, but Sufiya was living on the edge for want of a sum that most people lose in their couch (Yunus, 2003). It was this interaction that sparked the chain of events that eventually led to the creation of Grameen Bank, an institution which went on to win the Nobel Peace prize in 2006. Since its creation it has disbursed $11 billion dollars with an impressive recovery rate of almost 97%. In Bangladesh, a study concluded that more than half of the reduction in poverty was directly attributed to microfinance (McCarter 2006). Grameen Bank stands as one example among many of the impressive results microfinance can achieve. Today, microfinance is a mainstream development strategy which plays an integral role in the U.N. Development Goals and forms the backbone of many development plans large and small. Online, popular sites such as Kiva connect would-be-borrowers with lenders, many of whom are drawn by the sustainability of a model in which the same dollars flow from borrower-to-borrower as loans are repaid and disbursed, over-and-over again. The idea that a $100 loan could allow a woman to break out of a cycle of poverty is incredible and the ability to act as a lender and see a business succeed as a result is a powerful experience for donors.

The positive impacts of microfinance do vary, however, and much depends upon an understanding of the financial and business needs of a local culture so that program design can be carefully approached. It is certainly no panacea and like any development strategy it is best implemented in ways that would-be business owners and communities feel are culturally appropriate. The indiscriminate application of microfinance has at times yielded less than ideal results, proving once again that even the most effective programs cannot be generically implemented.

Loans and financial packages should be individualized as much as possible and lending groups should not merely provide collateral, but should be coached on how to increase knowledge and business savvy amongst their members (Mayoux 1998). Microfinance goes beyond simply disbursing a loan- successful programs include the community and make lending groups, which provide support and guidance. Within such a community-driven program, microfinance continues to be an impressive force for alleviating poverty. In the 35 years since microfinance hit the development world as an exciting new strategy, its popularity and prevalence continue to grow.

Whether online or in the field, the power of connecting lenders to borrowers and providing much needed capital proves again-and-again to be transformative in the lives of millions.

Village Earth offers a five-week online course on the topic of microfinance. If you are interested in participating in the session starting September 30th, please read more here.

Mayoux, Linda. 1998. Women’s Empowerment and Microfinance Programmes: Strategies for Increasing Impact. Development in Practice 8 (2): 235-241.

Yunus, Muhammad. 2003. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty. New York: Public Affairs.

McCarter, Elissa. 2006. Women and Microfinance: Why We Should Do More. University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class. 6 (2): 353-366.

4th Annual Albertson Medal Gala a Success

Each year, on the last Saturday in August Village Earth celebrates the legacy and birthday of one of its founders, the late Dr. Maurice Albertson by honoring a person who exemplifies Maury’s lifelong dedication to sustainability and social justice. This year, Village Earth’s Board of Directors awarded the honor to Judith Kimerling, for her defense of the Amazon rainforest and the human communities that depend on it for their culture and survival. Kimerling received the medal in front of an audience of Village Earth supporters, CSU administration and faculty, local businesses and a host of people from across the region interested in sustainable development. Entertainment included local African dance troupe “Fale” and a live auction featuring items from various locations around the world where Village Earth works. The dinner, prepared by Colorado State University catering service, featured delicious grassfed and field harvested buffalo ribeye steaks sourced from the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a grassroots affiliate of Village Earth. The highlight of the evening was slide show presentation given by Kimerling, tracing her 30 years of work in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the pressing issues that still remain to be addressed. All proceeds from the event will go to support Village Earth as it expands its Global Affiliate Program – a support network for grassroots organizations working on some of the most critical issues around the globe.

A Profile of Judith Kimerling, the 2011 Albertson Medal Winner

© Judith Kimerling

Environmental and indigenous rights activist, author and attorney Judith Kimerling will receive the Albertson Medal in Sustainable Development. Village Earth, the Fort Collins-based nonprofit, will present the award at its Fourth Annual Albertson Gala on August 27th at the Colorado State University Lory Student Center Ballroom at 6 p.m.

Kimerling will receive the medal for her defense of the Amazon rainforest and the human communities that depend on it for their culture and survival. According to David Bartecchi, Executive Director of Village Earth, “Kimerling’s research starting in 1989 blew the whistle on the devastating impacts that oil companies are having on the Amazon’s ecosystem. She has continued to this day to defend the rights of indigenous communities living in the Amazon and for remediation of their natural resources.”

Judith Kimerling is a Professor at The City University of New York (CUNY) Queens College.  After graduating from University of Michigan and Yale Law School, she worked for seven years as an environmental litigator, including five years as an Assistant Attorney General for New York State, where she worked on the Love Canal litigation and other hazardous waste cleanup litigation and negotiations.  In 1989, she moved to Ecuador and worked with indigenous organizations in the Amazon Rainforest to document the environmental and social impacts of oil development there.  Her findings and photographs first placed concerns about the impact of oil production on indigenous peoples and the environment in tropical forests on the international environmental and human rights policy agendas.  Her book Amazon Crude was called “the Silent Spring of Ecuador” by The New York Times.  In the U.S., it prompted a prominent class action lawsuit, Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc.

Her story was was popularized by the 1995 New York Times Business Bestseller, “Savages” by Joe Kane. The following is an excerpt from the book.

In 1967 Texaco discovered commercial oil in the Oriente [the Ecuadorian Amazon region]. In 1972 it completed a 312-mile pipeline from the Oriente to Ecuador’s Pacific coast. During the next seventeen years-until Petroecuador assum
ed operational control of the pipeline-the Texaco consortium shipped 1.4 billion barrels of oil over the Andes and accounted for 88 percent of the oil taken from the Oriente. Ecuador had no environmental regulations for oil production, and almost no attempt was made to assess its environmental impact until 1989, when an American named Judith Kimerling came to the country and began to stick her nose into things. Traveling by foot, canoe, and truck, sleeping in homes of Indians and colonists, she visited producing wells, exploratory sites, seismic trails. She combed government reports. A former environmental litigator in the office of the New York State attorney general, she learned that the Texaco pipeline had ruptured at least twenty-seven times, spilling 16.8 million gallons of raw crude (the Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million off the coast of Alaska), most of it into the Orient’s delicate web of rivers, creeks, and lagoons. Little of it had been cleaned up, and the pipeline was all but worn out and rupturing with increasing frequency. She calculated that the petroleum industry was spilling an additional 10,000 gallons of oil from secondary flow lines every week and dumping 4.3 million gallons of untreated toxic waste directly into the watershed every day….

After Kimerling wrote up her initial findings (they eventually appeared as a book entitled Amazon Crude), Petroecuador tried to have her deported. It was dissuaded by the American embassy, which argued that making an international incident of Kimerling’s investigation would draw further attention to it, but the military arrested her, in Coca. She was released only when Jose Miguel Goldaraz and the local Quichua federation intervened on her behalf.

Professor Kimerling currently serves as international counsel for Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani (Defendemos Nuestro Territorio Huaorani), an alliance of indigenous Huaorani communities who came together to protect a 758,051-hectare area of rainforest known as “The Intangible Zone.”  Located in traditional Huaorani territory and the Yasuni Biosphere

© Judith Kimerling

Reserve, The Intangible Zone is also home to the last known group of people still living in voluntary isolation in Ecuador’s Amazon region.  Professor Kimerling also serves on the Technical Advisory Committee of REDOIL, a network of Alaska Natives of seven tribes who joined forces to address the impact of the oil industry in Alaska and promote sustainable development on Native lands.

David Bartecchi, Village Earth’s executive director, first met Judith in 2007 at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York where they discussed possibilities for collaboration. According to Bartecchi, “we’re all really excited about this award and hope it will serve as a launch pad for our work together.”

The award gala honoring Prof. Kimerling August 27th at Colorado State University Lory Student Center Ballroom will include speeches, award presentation, live music, dinner and silent auction. Village Earth’s mission is reflected in the gala’s menu items. The buffalo steaks being served will come from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Village Earth is helping that community in their work to reintroduce buffalo herds as part of a sustainable business enterprise.

Tickets for this year’s Sustainability Gala are $100 per person and $750 for a table of eight. All proceeds from the event go to support Village Earth, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Tickets can be purchased online at http://villageearth.org/join-us/join-us-august-27th.

Businesses and organizations interested in sponsoring the event are encouraged to contact David Bartecchi at 970-237-3002 Ext. 504. or [email protected] Donations in memory of Dr. Albertson can be made online at the Village Earth website or can be mailed to Village Earth, PO Box 797, Fort Collins, Colorado.

For more information, photos, or interviews contact David Bartecchi, 970-237-3002 Ext. 504 or [email protected]

Village Earth Director Speaks at UN Meetings in Ethiopia and Malaysia

Last month, David Bartecchi, Executive Director of Village Earth, traveled to Ethiopia and Malaysia to speak at two separate appropriate technology design competitions hosted by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Korean Intellectual Property Organization (KIPO). The purpose of the competitions was to promote the use of freely available patent information for the development of appropriate technologies in developing countries. In each location, contestants were asked to develop a technology using freely available patent information and were judged based on uniqueness, potential impact on alleviating poverty, environmental sustainability and social equity.

Patent downloaded from Google Patents

The contests were part of WIPO’s larger development agenda, in particular, their mandate “[t]o undertake initiatives agreed on by Member States, which contribute to transfer of technology to developing countries, such as requesting WIPO to facilitate better access to publicly available patent information.”

While patent information has always been publicly available, it was traditionally only available in hard copy form from their respective patent offices. However, today the Internet has made patent information accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. In fact, many national patent offices now have online databases searchable by keyword. Other services, like Google Patents (patents.google.com), are working to consolidate patent information from multiple countries into a single database. Using Google’s database, it’s possible to keyword search the entire text from approximately 8 million patents and 3 million patent applications and download the complete text and graphics from each patent as Adobe PDF files.

Patent information can be a valuable resource for developers of appropriate technologies since they often contain detailed diagrams and descriptions of particular technologies. It does however, have its limitations. Patents generally are very narrow in focus, describing only specific parts, mechanisms or processes vs. the entire technology. For example, if you are trying to build a wind turbine, you may only find patents for the blades, the rotor assembly or the tower vs. all these parts working together. Also, patent designs are not necessarily tested and thus, there is no guarantee of their of effectiveness, reliability or efficiency.

Is using patent information legal? Patent law is really a two sided social contract. On the one side, it is meant to protect the inventor in a specific geography for a specific period of time. On the other side, it is meant to serve the public good by making that information freely available so other inventors can use it to innovate (as long as they do not violate what is protected in the patent). Patents’ terms are generally limited in the United States for 20 years with the payment of regular maintenance fees. After 20 years, or if the inventor fails to pay their maintenance fees, that information enters the public domain. Once in the public domain, that information remains there forever. Patents also only provide an exclusionary right in the country where the patent is filed. That means, a patent filed in the United States is only protected in the United States. To be protected in other countries, the inventor must file and pay maintenance fees in each country he/she desires protection.

Demand Justice for Colombia’s Indigenous Leaders

Help Village Earth’s Colombian ally Jenzera seek justice for the disappearance of Kimy Pernía Domicó!

It was on this day ten years ago that the great Embera Katío Indigenous leader Kimy Pernía Domicó was abducted by army-backed paramilitaries in northern Colombia shortly after his second visit to Canada. He was never seen again. In the past decade, threats and attacks on indigenous communities and their leaders have intensified. The situation is nothing less than a human rights emergency as more than 32 Indigenous Peoples, including the Embera, are now at risk of extinction due to factors that include the imposition of “development” projects on their land.

  1. Click here to add your signature to our online petition.
  2. Please encourage everyone you can to do the same (use the sharing buttons below). We need a massive response in order to exert pressure on President Santos.
  3. Take three minutes more to print the beautiful solidarity message and take a photo with it. Email the photo to [email protected] and we will send it on to our allies with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, who are much in need of international support for their campaign to protect threatened Indigenous Peoples.

 

 

Earth Tipi Wins Fruit Orchard for Pine Ridge!

I would like to thank everyone who supported the campaign to win a Fruit Orchard from the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation for the White Horse Creek Community on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Fruit Orchard is a project of Village Earth affiliate “Earth Tipi” (formerly Sustainable Homestead Designs). With your help, the campaign generated nearly 30,000 votes bringing Earth Tipi into third place among dozens of other communities (to win, you had to make it to the top five). This is a small step towards building a more local food economy on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a place where 70% of the adult population is suffering from dietary diseases.

If you were part of this campaign and would like to stay connected to Earth Tipi and the Fruit Orchard project, you can sign up for their mailing list at www.earthtipi.org.