Archives for July 2013

Village Earth’s Online Training has Global Reach

We thought this was pretty cool. Above is an interactive map created using Google Fusion Tables of the locations of Participants of Village Earth/CSU’s online Certificate Program in Sustainable Community-Based Development (SCBD). Each red dot represents one or more participants in 77 different countries.

The SCBD Certificate Program is a non-credit practitioner-focused program consisting of 23 courses focused on the practical implementation of rights-based, community-driven development. Each course is 5-weeks and follows a seminar format with course-work being completed on the participant’s own schedule (and time-zone). Registration for the next session ends August 4th.

Update from Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization)

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One of our Pte Oyate (buffalo nation) relatives) in the Knife Chief Buffalo Pasture

Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization) continues to provide a pasture/home for members of the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation) and the community continues to reap the benefits in terms of spiritual and physical nourishment from them.  Below is a summary of our activities for this period.

February 2013 – a partnership with Students Shoulder to Shoulder organization was formed.  This international organization send teams of youth to various communities around the globe to assist with community development and as a cultural exchange.  This organization will send youth to the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization in Porcupine to assist with preparation for the summer ceremonies and the fencing of the buffalo pasture.

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Waiting for the Welcoming the Babies ceremony to begin March 2013

March 2013 – Welcoming new babies ceremony:  In this ceremony the babies born within the past year are blessed on a buffalo robe and a positive prediction and prayer is made for their lives.

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Buffalo Robe Buffalo Skull Preparing for Welcoming New Babies KCBNO

March 2013 – Welcoming back the Thunder Nation ceremony was held at Hinhan Kaga Paha (Imitates Owl Mountain) in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Welcoming Back Thunder Ceremony, Hinhan Kaga Paha (known as Harney Peak on map), Black Hills, SD.

 

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Welcome Back Thunder Ceremony, Harney Peak, Black Hills SD

March 2013 – a collaborative partnership was formed with the Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye (Medicine Horse Society) and Tatanka Hoksila Okolakiciye (Buffalo Boy Society), an organization whose goal is to provide affordable housing to the reservation community; the members of these organizations traveled to the sacred Black Hills on a wood cutting and wood hauling project so there will be wood for the sacred Inipi (purification) ceremony.

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The fruits of labor- Wood Cutting Project for sacred ceremonies

 

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Mahpiya Maza (Iron Cloud), Ed Iron Cloud III, KCBNO Board Member, Wood Cutting Project

April 2013 – the Istamni Wicakicipakintapi (wiping of tears) ceremony was held on April 27, 2013 for all of creation to acknowledge the losses experienced throughout the year by our relatives – the four legged, the winged and the plant/tree nations.  This was held at Pe Sla in the sacred Black Hills.

May 2013 – Wanasa (community travels for sacred buffalo hunt) ceremony was held on May 4th.  A young Lakota man prepared for the hunt four days in a row in the sacred manner and made a buffalo kill so that there would be meat for the people to be fed in preparation for and during the sacred MilaYatan Pika (Knife Chief) Sundance ceremony in June.

Future Events and Plans

We plan on sponsoring a rite of passage for a young boy who will prepare in the sacred manner for a buffalo hunt which will be used for the Tasunke Wakan Wi Wayang Wacipi (Medicine Horse Sundance Ceremony) in July.

We are also planning to make a journey to the sacred mountain, Inyan Kaga Paha (where stones are gathered mountain) located in the sacred Black Hills.  This journey is in observance of the spiritual calendar when offerings are made in preparation for the Summer ceremonies.  All of the spiritual offerings made at different times throughout the year according to the spiritual calendar were taught to us as Lakota people by the Pte Oyate (buffalo nation) and to whom we continue to honor and care for.

Our fencing project will continue this summer with the help of the international organization, Students Shoulder to Shoulder.

We are also planning for the Children’s Healing Camp on July 12-16, 2013 for children, ages 7-12, who have experienced trauma, grief and loss. This is a grass roots community based camp in response to the violence, abuse and trauma the children suffer.  This will be held in Porcupine, SD in partnership with Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye (Medicine Horse Society).  See attached brochure for more information.

CONTACT INFORMATION

For more information, contact us at:

Email:  [email protected]

Telephone:  605-209-8777 or 605-407-0091

Website:  www.knifechiefbuffalonation.org

Closing/Question

We extend a heartfelt appreciation to the people who have supported our efforts whether financially, physically or spiritually.  Your support is truly appreciated and we especially appreciate the Tunkasila (spiritual entities) for their continued support and guidance.  We also acknowledge the Pte Oyate (Buffalo Nation) for what they inspire in us and their teachings – protection of the young, conservation of the land and the strength and fortitude to endure whatever comes.  Lila Wopila Tanka!! (We thank you all very much). We ask you the general public, our friends and relatives, what you think we should do to expand our work so that others can learn from the teachings of the buffalo nation?  We are very interested in hearing from you!

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Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization, Buffalo Pasture, February 2013

 

 

Enhancing Resiliency in Sierra Leone Through Community Food Banks

Submitted by Village Earth Global Affiliate: VCI Sierra Leone

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The Need :

Sierra Leone is gradually recovering from a 10 – year civil conflict (1991 – 2001) that led to the death of more than 25, 000 people, the displacement of 1.2 million others, disruption of agricultural production, significant food shortages, and rapid deterioration in all sectors of its economic and socio-political life. In 2003, Sierra Leone was ranked the lowest country in the world according to the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

We selected two local communities in Kenema district to work due to the fact that food poverty is highly prevalent. Most households are faced with inadequate food supply due to the low production and very low income and lack of farm inputs. The civil war in Sierra Leone also exposed many people to poor living conditions similar to those prevailing at the beginning of the war in 1991. In general terms, there is a low presence of humanitarian organizations in these communities that are addressing the issues of food insecurity.

Farm sizes are generally small and enhanced production is reported as low. The baseline survey conducted, demonstrated  that crop damage due to pest infestation is a key problem in these communities and this has caused serious seed loss over the years.

The rainy season is between May and November. During this time, the lack of bridges make roads impassable. This community therefore becomes isolated for several months each year. Food supplies cannot be transported from outside and commercial traders often export the resulting food shortages, sometimes even inventing food shortages just to raise market prices. They control the markets, selling food products, especially rice at high prices.

Community food banks have become popular, providing a village-based solution to critical food shortages. Community food banks make food supplies available at the hardest times of the year at carefully controlled prices. VCI has supported the setting up of more than 17 community food banks.

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Encouraging women’s committees

Women’s groups with food banks are usually less developed than those managed by men. The collection of food often involves long walking distances to other villages which have surplus food, which is not easy for women. However, women’s committees have a number of advantages:

  • Management committees are usually village-based because women travel less. There were several months of food scarcity, community banks have become popular, providing village-based solution to critical food shortages. Food banks make food supplies available at the hardest times of the year at crucially controlled prices. VCI has supported the setting up of more than 17 community food banks.
  • Women are more transparent in their financial management
  • Women have better skills in the management of food supplies, especially in times of crisis.

 

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Conclusion

VCI is well satisfied because we feel that the main objective – of improving local food security – has been achieved. The experience of Darlu and Kwawuma reinforces our view that such a small organization can be very effective once it is aware of the problems of food security and in finding solutions. Providing credit, training and technical advice is sufficient to enable them to manage their own food security. However, there is still a need to develop and build on experience.

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Case Study One: The Darlu Community Food Bank

Darlu is a small village with 800 people, situated on the edge of Moawai stream. It is also situated in the Soogbo section, Tunkia Chiefdom, Kenema district, Eastern Sierra Leone. Food prices soar during the rainy season to well above what households can afford. This situation led to the forming of an association of women in the early 2011 to fight against the evils of food insecurity.

In 2012, food scarcity brought in VCI to set up and run an urgent aid operation. During the lean season, VCI sold rice by bags at an affordable price (about one fifth of the market price) After the season, money from this sale had to be used on a project to improve  food security.   The request of the women of Darlu for a food bank was accepted. A storehouse was built with the participation of the women’s association and a management team was selected for training. A VCI loan allowed them to stock 50 bags of cleaned seed rice.

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Operation

Since 2011, the women’s group of Darlu has stored grain for the critical periods of the year. Straight after harvest time, from December to April, the group toured the markets of the area, discovering where the price is best and stocking up the bank. Grain is sold in July and August, at prices everyone can afford, among the group’s members and the most needy households of the village. Two repayments of the loan have already been made. Since their initial training from VCI, the management committee has gained much practical knowledge and are now taking greater control of their own project.

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Some problems

A very good harvest in 2012 meant there were problems in selling all the food, as people still had their own supplies. This meant the group has to sell part of its food ( grain) at purchase price to its members, reducing their profit margin to nothing. This made repayment difficult. The negative influence of certain members reduced the overall motivation and achievements of this group. The large size of the village makes the demand for food difficult to satisfy, but at least the group can help part of the population.

Some solutions

  • A new management committee has been appointed, which should improve motivation.
  • The funds available for buying stock are still at a good levels, but will be much weaker when the group finish repaying the loan. VCI has provided fresh credit, with lower interest this time. This may help them to increase their stock level so more people benefit from the food bank.

Case Study Two: The Kwawuma Food Bank

Kwawuma is a village of 1,000 people. The men of this village set up a group in 2011 during a time of severe food scarcity. One of their objectives was to unite in struggle for food self-sufficiency. The community food bank project was begun in 2012 to improve food security. The group asked for help from VCI who agreed to provide the necessary credit to begin work. A well-built community food store was constructed with the full participation of villagers.

Operation

A committee was selected to look after the management of the food bank. Kwawuma chose well, forming a dynamic committee. They received training from VCI in food storage and marketing. VCI provided credit to enable the purchase of grain at the end of the harvest season when prices are low. The credit was divided into two installments given over six successive months, in order to reduce risk in the first three months. Kwawuma purchased 150 bags of rice in the first three months and seventy bags in the second six months.

Since January 2013, Kwawuma has stored several types of food (grains) in its food bank. Grain prices are fixed by the village group to provide a balance between the low prices for rice at the end of the harvest and high rice prices charged by traders later in the year. When food is in short supply, rice is sold to villagers on a regular basis. Kwawuma has been able to pay back the loan in just one year.

Impact of the project

The villagers of Kwawuma have welcomed the food bank warmly and understand the advantage of safeguarding their food. During the two rainy seasons of the year, households easily survived the period of shortage thanks to their food bank.

Some problems

  • One difficulty has been bookwork. In this rural environment, the majority are illiterate. Management of the food bank requires good record keeping.
  • If food is given on credit to help people during the most difficult periods, this brings the problem of recovering debts, which demands much patience on behalf of the committee.
  • Since the loan was repaid, the bank can only operate with the slight profit they made during the one year of credit. This means they have difficulties buying food in advance for all village households.

Some solutions

  • VCI played an important role in teaching literacy and numeracy to enable better record keeping.
  • To increase the buying power of food banks, VCI offered to grant a fresh loan to all well managed food banks, which included Kwawuma.
  • VCI will continue to provide some follow-up and support for committees, even after loans are repaid, until they judge the organization is sufficiently in control of the entire project.

Successful food banks

 Key Points

The community must make the decision to establish a food bank themselves. Outside agencies should never make this decision for them. The community must own and control the food bank. A committee to manage the food bank needs to be democratically elected. Outside experts may be needed to give advice on purchasing food, preservation and marketing of the food and how to manage the store.

Community food banks should not be seen as famine relief as this will create a sense of dependency. Rather, they should be seen as the community taking active steps to improve their own food security.

Appropriateness

The community food bank provides one workable solution to food security problems…

  • It is simple.
  • It is locally managed by those who benefit from it.
  •  It does not require external technical support.
  • It is initiated at grassroots level.
  • It is participatory – those who benefit share in all levels of
  • Decision making.
  • It does not create dependency, but instead promotes community ownership.
  • It costs a small amount to establish.
  • It is long lasting
  • Food will be available at the crucial times when farmers and their families need it most. This means farmers will not be forced to work for cash just when they need to spend time on their land.

Lunch Program

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Our lunch program is an important platform for us to put our values into practice and onto plate. It allows us to demonstrate the potential of homestead food production to meet the nutritional needs of children, their families and communities.

Our lunch program feeds between 30 – 60 people everyday, including school children, families and the wider community. Last summer, we served more than  3,000 meals at our feeding program site.

Shed Jah is Country Director of Village Care Initiatives (VCI) in Sierra Leone committed to reducing hunger,  using integrated poverty reduction strategy and generating sustainable food security and the rebuilding of families as well as communities. E-mail: [email protected]

“Talking through Nature” and “Nature Kids”with Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Earth 2013

Learning about up-cycling, recycling and composting

Learning about up-cycling, recycling and composting

Wow…working with kids is lot of fun. I have been experiencing this for last 8 weeks at Good Market and the school for deaf in Colombo. Our latest programmes – “Nature kids” and “talking through Nature” was progressing well for last 8 weeks getting attention from people/kids and parents and teachers. We were encouraged by many people and parents and it attracted many volunteers through face book too.

Also we have 2 volunteers who are contesting for Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Earth 2013. I was invited to be a judge and a supervisor for Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Earth. I got 2 pretty women (Ayomi and Monali) from the pageant and they were working with us at ECO-V in our new initiatives as their projects for Miss Earth beauty Pageant. It’s very interesting to mentor them and to work with them. Click here for more photos from Eco-V.

 

Mobilizing Communities for Collective Action

mission

“[N]ot even the best-intentioned leadership can bestow independence as a gift. The liberation of the oppressed is a liberation of women and men, not things. Accordingly while no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others. Liberation, a human phenomenon, cannot be achieved by semihumans. Any attempt to treat people as semihumans only dehumanizes them. When people are already dehumanized, due to the oppression they suffer; the process of their liberation must not employ the methods of dehumanization.”          –Paulo Freire

What is it that turns a group of unconnected individuals into an organization or social movement? What structural, social, or even psychological barriers inhibit or prevent individuals and groups from working together? Community mobilization is both an initial and ongoing process in any community and social change effort that seeks to build support and participation of individuals, groups, and institutions to work towards a common goal or vision.

Community Mobilization is one of the most overlooked and most misunderstood dimensions. The reason for this, I believe, is because it’s one of the most difficult areas to quantify. Where it may be easy to count the number of wells installed or the miles of irrigation canals built, it’s much more difficult to understand the ways we are impacting the ways people perceive themselves and their world around them. But another reason this dimension is often overlooked is because the misconceptions that the so-called “helpers” have about what it means to experience poverty and oppression. The fact is, as people who are able to go to get an education, fly around the globe, and have the luxury of being able to work in a field like this (either as paid professionals or volunteers) means they live in a very different reality than the people we are trying to help.

The impact of poverty is profound and spans generations, a cycle that tears apart families and communities. This is what many scholars over the years have referred to as the psychology of oppression. One of the earliest and most famous of those scholars was the African born and French educated psychologist Frantz Fanon. Fanon grew up the Caribbean island of Martinque, a French colony from 1635 to 1946. He was deeply concerned with the abuse of his people by the French army but was particularly concerned about the self-hatred that colonization created among his people and all black colonized peoples. In 1952 he wrote his first book Black Skin, White Masks which described the contradiction where oppressed people hate themselves and desire to be like their oppressors. Later, in the 1950s he became involved in the Algerian Independence movement, joining the National Liberation Front. This experience radicalized Fanon influencing him to write The Wretched of the Earth, published shortly after his death, which encouraged all colonized people to rise-up and overthrow their colonizers. Fanon, argued that the oppressed could regain the dignity and humanity taken from them by their colonizers through violent revolt.

In the words of Fanon:

“it is clear that in the colonial countries the peasants alone are revolutionary, for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The starving peasant, outside the class system is the first among the exploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization a simply a question of relative strength.”  ― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Fanon’s work was influential in many revolutions and liberation movements around the globe, and even inspired influential Civil Rights leaders in the U.S. such as Malcolm X and Bobby Seal, founder of the Black Panther party. Today, his writings are required reading in many Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, Psychology, and Social Work Departments.

One of the most famous scholars influenced by Fanon was Paulo Freire. Born in recife Brazil in 1921, Freire studied philosophy and law but worked for a state run secondary school teaching Portuguese in the 1940s. Towards the 1950s, he became increasingly influenced by the Liberation Theology movement that was growing throughout Latin America. The movement interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ as a message of social justice, economic and political liberation. At the time, literacy was a requirement for voting in Brazil so it was clear that education was a matter of social justice. But like Fanon, he believed the oppressed lived in a state of false consciousness, a reality largely shaped by colonizers or the elite. As psychology that keeps them from changing the status quo. However, Freire disagreed with Fanon that violence was the path to psychological liberation. Rather, Freire believed that the use of violence was just using the tools of the oppressor. And that a movement born from violence would likely recreate the same social stratification as the old system. In order to break this cycle, for liberation and true social change to occur, it was necessary for both the oppressor and oppressed to engage in a dialogue. This is what Freire called “critical pedagogy.” At it’s most basic, critical pedagogy is a literacy program where students learn how to read and write by critically analyzing the world around them. But critical pedagogy is much deeper than that. It’s also a way of actively and critically transforming the culture and world around you. Freire described his philosophy and method in his famous 1970 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire has heavily influenced our work at Village Earth but have also influenced some of the largest and most successful development programs around the globe. Including the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, the Organi Project in Pakistan, the NAAM and Greenbelt Movements in Kenya, the Sarvadoya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka. In all of these movements, the founders have stated that they are drawing on the ideas of Freire.

Village Earth, since it’s founding, has been deeply focused on understanding the ideas, principles and practices of community mobilization. We’ve synthesized much of this in our online training titled: Community Mobilization. Our approach in this course, like most of our training courses, is not to give you a set formula or how-to manual, but rather, provide ideas, case studies, and models which become the basis of an open and critical reflection by the course participants. The diversity of people and ideas in these discussions is often enough to give people the confidence to being applying mobilizations practices in their own community or program. Here’s what past course participants have had to say:

“Now I see all the ways I got that wrong. This was mentioned in the Interactive Participatory model—the community may have ideas different than your own,  be open and flexible, no fixed ideas.  Further, I realized I was stuck in the notion that since I started this, I’m somehow still in charge, when the goal of community mobilization is a community that identifies its needs, how to meet them, makes a plan– owns itself. My role is solidarity with, not ownership of any kind. I’ll be much more aware and intentional moving forward.”

Topics discussed in this article are also discussed in the following courses in our Online Certificate Program in Sustainable Community DevelopmentCommunity MobilizationCommunity Participation and Dispute ResolutionDevelopment and the Politics of EmpowermentApproaches to Community Development, & Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation.

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