Egyptians Rally in Tahrir for Mubarak Retrial and More

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Egyptians hold the second million-man march within two days

Al Jazeera - Tahrir Square witnessed a demonstration titled the “Friday of Determination”. Following the verdict of Mubarak and some of his regime’s figureheads, masses took the squares and held spontaneous protests; they were not mobilized by any particular revolutionary or political force. The protests, in which thousands participated, viewed the verdict as a step toward reproducing the former regime. The demands varied throughout the demonstrations, and included the implementation of the disenfranchisement law on candidate Ahmed Shafiq, preventing him from participating in the presidential run-off round, and the re-trial of deposed President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and his regime's figureheads.

 

Two Sudans disagree over border of demilitarized zone

Dubai TV - The current African-mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan have stalled once again since they started four days ago in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Both sides have failed to establish a demilitarized zone on their shared borders. Observers believe that both sides do not wish to continue fighting in light of their current crises, and the fear of UN sanctions if they fail to resolve their problems.

Benghazi residents protest unequal distribution of Libya's National Council seats

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday, demanding a fair redistribution of the Public National Conference's seats among all Libyan regions. The protestors believe the current distribution of seats is prejudice, as it is based on the population density, and may lead to the monopoly of political decisions. In addition, the protestors expressed their intention to boycott the anticipated parliamentary elections, if their demands are not met.

A look back at Naksa Day, or the Day of the Setback

Palestine TV - Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the June War, known as the Naksa, or the day of the setback, when tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced. On that day in 1967, Israel launched an attack that targeted a number of Arab countries and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It changed the geographic and demographic reality in what remained of Palestine, in the years following the Nakba, or the catastrophe, when its land was occupied and its people were displaced. And despite the long years of great pain between 1948 and 1967 that hold the history of dark massacres, the refugees have never stopped waiting for their return. Refugee camps and journeys of displacement remain witnesses to the severity of the occupation that has changed and is still changing the map of this region.

Afghan President Karzai condemns NATO air strike as Panetta arrives in Kabul

Al-Alam - Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the NATO air strike conducted in the southern province of Logar that resulted in the death of 18 people, assuring that targeting civilians cannot be justified. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Panetta arrived to Afghanistan in a surprise visit. Panetta said the purpose of his visit is to get an assessment from American General John Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, of the ability to cope with the Taliban's threats and Haqqani fighters, referring to another network tied to al-Qaeda.

Image: A protester acting as Hosni Mubarak wears a mask depicting the deposed Egyptian president during a mock trial at Tahrir square in Cairo June 8, 2012. Hundreds of activists gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demonstrate against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik ahead of a run-off vote, saying they did not want to be ruled by another former military man. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

 
 

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Social-Issue Documentary 3.0: Tackling Global Poverty with Link TV's ViewChange

[Ed Note: This article first appeared as a guest blog post on MediaRights.org]

 

ViewChange.orgCan social-issue documentaries play a role in helping to end global poverty?

Link TV thinks so.

Almost one year ago, the nonprofit global affairs media organization and broadcast network launched a project based on the idea that documentary storytelling, combined with social actions and the latest news, could make a meaningful contribution to the challenge of global poverty. The idea became ViewChange.org, an online portal built on the foundation of semantic Web technology that connects documentary stories to news and social actions in global poverty. In other words, in one place, people can watch character-driven stories, read the latest news about issues covered in the films, and then connect directly to action campaigns around each social issue. It’s a site and tool that’s primed for grassroots awareness and action.

The ViewChange.org platform is now a curated documentary hub with more than 400 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from around the world – and all of them illustrate real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which together comprise the world’s “blueprint” for ending global poverty. The portal site now includes the best stories from top global development organizations and filmmakers around the world.

I work on the project in a kind of hybrid role that combines documentary producing, communication campaign strategy and partnership cultivation with top global development organizations, including Devex, InterAction, Save the Children, UNICEF, PSI, Global Health Council, ONE, Comminit, Bread for the World and more. And thanks to the expertise of these groups, combined with the amazing repository of films now licensed to ViewChange.org, we’ve started producing half-hour TV specials in partnership with several top global development organizations – the ViewChange TV series. For each show, the narrative is informed by the expertise and objectives of the partner organization, and the main story and outreach campaign are developed simultaneously against the backdrop of the group’s organizational (and sometimes advocacy) objectives, creating a powerful campaign-style approach.

But one key to the project is simple and so powerful for those in the social-justice community to organize around specific issues – the fully-sharable/embeddable formatting of the acquired films and the final jointly-produced shows. By giving the videos, films and global development shows to groups and blogs to embed and share for their own purposes, we’re offering a tool that’s useful not only in our own campaign outreach, but for others to use in theirs. Interested in raising attention about the connection between climate change and drought in developing nations? Want to support innovative hunger relief programs in poor areas of the world? Need a documentary story that can be used in your own awareness/activist campaign to organize for purposes of advocacy or other goals? Navigating through the ViewChange.org tool provides all of these opportunities.  

ViewChange: Challenging HungerJust last week, one of these jointly-produced documentary specials premiered on Link TV (Friday, August 12 and 16) and on ViewChange.org. Working closely with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy organization, the “ViewChange: Challenging Hunger” documentary special combines filmmaking from Bread for the World itself, along with short films from Oxfam and the Sundance Institute. In this particular show, the organization’s advocacy goals – to use foreign aid more effectively to help poor and hungry people – provide the narrative thru-line.

The call to action is urgent: With more than a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, the timing of potential budget cuts would be particularly devastating to developing nations. And the special debunks a key foreign assistance myth and provides new insight into the ripple effects of chronic hunger: Most Americans believe that about 25 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign assistance, but, in fact, less than 1 percent supports crucial foreign assistance programs—including anti-hunger programs and food aid. The funding is vital to the continued development and management of innovative programs that provide long-term solutions to hunger.

The outreach includes a grassroots campaign to reach out to Bread for the World’s network of thousands of individual members, churches and denominations around the country, as well as reaching out through its college-age hunger activists group. Teams at both Link TV and Bread for the World are working jointly in an integrated strategic communication campaign model that includes traditional media outreach, blogging, sharing the show via embeddable links, outreach to top global development influencers, and social media.

 

To support Bread for the World’s work directly, check out its fact sheets and advocacy opportunities on its site: Tell Congress to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the US and abroad.

Follow ViewChange on Twitter @ViewChange and at Facebook.com/ViewChange.

 

You can watch and share the full show here:

 

 
 

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2009 Year in Review: Holding the Course in Turbulent Times

(Dean is currently in the field in Peru. Stay tuned for a new blog upon his return. In the meantime, here is Dean's Beans' 2009 Year in Review and a sneak peak of what's in store for the year to come...)

 

We don’t have to tell you how rough 2009 was. All of us had to struggle with a decimated economy, lost jobs and demolished savings, a polarized political system and a swine flu epidemic. Whether it was people’s desire to brew coffee at home instead of paying a tuition’s worth for a cup at those chain stores, or folks looking for a company that reflected their values and they trusted, we actually grew in 2009. In recognition of our good fortune, we gave away over a thousand pounds of coffee to folks who you told us were having a rough time due to the economy and otherwise. We committed to supplying all the coffee needed all year long to the overburdened Amherst Survival Center. We even got our coffee back from those Somali pirates.


At home we started a new program with Somali refugee women in Massachusetts to create an economic base for them. Our reusable grocery tote project was so successful that we had to suspend it after a week. We will be back on it as soon as “the ladies” (as they call themselves) crank out more bags made from the burlap bags our coffee arrives in. After twenty years of false starts, this is the first successful economic development program in this community. Congratulations, Walaalo Sisters!


Internationally, we kept our promises and our programs with our farmer partners. This was not easy. The dollar fell to record lows internationally, which actually forced up the price of coffee. In most of the coffee world that didn’t mean more money to farmers, only to the exporters. But for us it meant more money for the farmers themselves and no passing it on to the consumer. That’s how we do business regardless of convenience or cost.


Here is an update on some of our People-Centered Development work in the coffee lands:

 

  • Peru – We are working hard with both our partners in Peru, Pangoa and Oro Verde. In Pangoa, our Restoring the Sacred project keeps growing, having reforested with local trees and local knowledge a large part of the deforested sacred lands of the Ashaninkas peoples. Our Women’s Loan Fund continues to offer the only credit available to coop women, and our latrine program (with our logo on the doors! Talk about off the wall marketing!) continues to, uhh, blossom. Additionally, we have supported the travels of General Manager Esperanza Castillo to international events so that she can tell the story of women in coffee to the world. Powerful stuff.

 

  • Colombia – In Colombia we have dedicated our program to supporting indigenous self-determination and the maintenance of sacred knowledge.  We have helped start a land re-purchase program that brings communal land back into the fold after years of government programs that saw the land base shrink. We are also supporting a new initiative to bring Elders of the four tribes of the Sierra Nevada together to walk the sacred spots around their mountains (the “Heart of the World”) and teach the knowledge to the next generation. Additionally, through the Coffeelands Landmine Victims Trust, we are supporting meaningful job training for coffee farmers disabled by explosives in the on-going violence in this country.

 

  • GuatamalaGuatemala – We continue to support the great programs of APROS, the women’s health collective on Lake Atitlan, including new programs with the women’s teen daughters. This is the first girls-training-girls program in Central America and is powerful and successful in self-esteem building and small scale income generation for scholarships.

 

  • Nicaragua – Our work with Prodecoop continues as it has for sixteen years. Last year we worked on the design and funding of a farmer-owned café/roasterie, modeled on our successful project in Leon, Nicaragua that supports land mine victims. We also sent volunteers down to assess educational needs, which we will continue to do this year as we evolve a new program for needs assessment on the farm level and how best we can participate.

 

  • Kenya Coffee CoopKenya – We keep struggling against corruption and inefficiency in the government to help farmer coops get fair trade and organic certification. We established an organic demonstration plot in Embu so that the farmers could see the real results of going organic. We held a training in Fair Trade and organic techniques that drew a roomful of farmers representing ten thousand coop members. We are designing an Internal Control System with Rianjagi Coop to help it become the first Kenyan coop to get organic certification. At the same time, change comes very slowly in Kenya.

 

  • Rwanda – Our groundbreaking Men Overcoming Gender Violence trainings last year were so successful that the UN funded some of the farmers who had received the training to go share their work with other cooperatives in Rwanda. This is a groundswell of work in a land so torn by gender violence. We have also begun a weaving project with women genocide survivors at COOPAC cooperative, starting with coffee canister sized baskets with “Dean’s Beans” woven into them! Available soon!

 

  • Ethiopia – This year we brought water directly to the new school in Negele Gorbitu. We also paid the salary of the new teacher at the school (three times the salary of the government supplied teacher, but three times the quality as well!). We are still in the planning stages of a farmer owned and operated well drilling company.

 

  • Soccer BallEast Timor – Working both with and against the system in East Timor, we managed to create the first direct relationship in the coffee industry with a village level farm coop, in Atsabe, Ermera District. This has allowed us to be able to put our profit share and development assistance directly into the farmers’ hands and assure accountability and impact. Our first project was to supply 200 fair trade soccer balls to the President’s Youth Anti-Violence Initiative, giving young Timorese their first insight into progressive business and hope. We are working to establish a recording studio for young Timorese musicians and a farmer owned and operated café/roasterie. We hope our example will lead other companies to buy directly from farmers in East Timor.


  • Papua New Guinea – This is one distant and difficult place to work! We continue to provide organic certification and training to farmers we buy from, as well as to fund the microloan program.


Some of our really exciting new programs for 2010 include:


  • Jumping Jack'sThe creation of a Bulletin Board, where farmers post their needs (“experienced electrician”, “English teacher”, “computer help”, etc.) and our customers (that’s you!) step up and volunteer to help out. Still working out the many bugs in this one but it will be the best thing we’ve ever done!
  • Dean’s Constitutional Convention – help us design the progressive company of the future! (I ain’t getting any younger!). No progressive founder has ever left a company that really sticks to its ideals. Can we?
  • Coops Supporting Coops – We are putting together a program where our cooperative customers can choose which projects they’d like to support from their purchases. It will be a great way for coops here to connect directly with coops there.


We’ll keep providing great coffee at reasonable prices, great opportunity for the farmers and increased opportunity for you to participate in making the world a better place. Really.

 

 
 

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The Power of Cooperation

Most people think that Fair Trade is just about a minimum price guaranteed to the farmers. That is a critical piece of the system, but Fair Trade provides many powerful tools for social change – something that no other label or system offers. One of the most significant is the requirement that farmers organize into democratic and transparent cooperatives.

 

Weighing a members harvest in Papua New Guinea.In order to understand what this is about, it is necessary to appreciate why Fair Trade was founded in the first place. In the coffee world, the vast majority of farmers are small scale and indigenous. That means they have little access to information about prices, how the market operates, the needs of northern buyers, access to credit and more. They may not even speak their own national language, but rather their indigenous language. Therefore, they need middlemen to either provide the services for them or buy their coffee outright as cherries picked earlier that day. Since most are physically far removed from the major population or processing centers, they also have to rely on middlemen to get their coffee out of the mountains and into the stream of commerce. As you can see, they are not effective participants in the world market (even though economic models assume that they are), and are at a terrible disadvantage in trying to get a good price for their products.

Guatemalan coop member Julia receiving her first loan.By organizing into cooperatives, the farmers have the joint buying power to get better prices for farm inputs, they have joint processing power and a greater ability to get information about current prices and market conditions. They get to vote and have a real say (often for the first time in their lives) on the things that impact their families’ health and well-being. The requirement of transparency means that for the first time in their lives they know what they are getting, how much goes into the coop’s coffers, how much everyone else is getting and they can see the impact of the cooperative on their personal and joint bottom lines. Further, the coops provide valuable and often nonexistent social services, such as loans and health care (or at least money to obtain care).

Learning about indigenous growing methods in Peru.Fair trade coops often pool their premiums together to have a powerful joint impact on their communities. This may take the form of building wells and schools (and believe me, most farming communities are in desperate need of both!) such as we have seen and participated in in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Peru and elsewhere. Often, it takes the form of purchasing and building upstream capacity – that’s biz talk for buying the plants that process, grade, package and export their beans, thereby keeping that entire income stream in the local community, not giving it away to layers of middlemen. In Ethiopia, our Oromia partners have even created a national bank that takes deposits from non-members, makes low cost loans to members and has creatively diversified the income of the coop.

These are the unique, important and largely unknown benefits of cooperation in the coffeelands, and tens of thousands of farming families have gained better lives as a result. These are the reasons why we have focused on cooperatives and will continue to do so.

 
 

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The Real Green Revolution Creates Climate Refugees

The term "Green Revolution" is associated nowadays with the increased level of environmental consciousness: businesses changing their operations to incorporate more environmental practices, and the advent of environmental consumerism. Actually the "Green Revolution" was a 1960's term that referred to new varieties of rice and wheat for developing countries that were more drought and pest resistant, more responsive to advanced fertilization methods, and ultimately produced higher yielding crops. A comprehensive report [PDF] on the Green Revolution by the International Food Policy Research Institute describes the background and history of this movement.
 
This "Revolution" was a great way to increase yields of wheat and rice production, alleviate hunger and provide an income to poverty-stricken farming communities in developing countries. But now, 4 decades later, other problems are arising. The land is no longer arable due to the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, polluted waterways, salt build-up and eventual loss of biodiversity on farms. The people forced to leave their land are known as environmental migrants or climate refugees. More details on the environmental impacts of the Green Revolution can be found on Wikipedia.

Developing countries, such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, that could be considered to be among the least responsible for major climate change, are the ones that are being the hardest hit. A video report created by the U.N. Development Program explains the relationship between human development and climate change.

 


Rice farmers in Bangladesh have lost their crops due to excessive flooding, while farmers in Ethiopia are praying for rain, all resulting in more poverty, starvation and refugees as land becomes less and less arable.
 
However, Indian farmers have taken matters into their own hands by shunning modern agricultural technologies and going back to their traditional ways of farming. According to this article on NPR’s website, an Indian farmer named Sharma enjoyed 20 years of an increase in crop yields and subsequent income as a result of the Green Revolution. Then his soil began to deteriorate and he needed to buy more and more fertilizers to grow the same amount of crops. He soon realized that the only way to sustain his crops was to go organic. In another article, the Guardian states that "Sustainable agriculture involves hard work and does not guarantee huge profits, but it will not harm the farmers' health, brings personal satisfaction, and involves fewer financial risks."
 
The U.S., as one of the world’s largest consumers, can take a stand in reducing its own unsustainable agricultural practices and become a model for other nations, by increasing the demand for organic farming and native plant propagation. The Slow Food Organization is a great international proponent of eating locally grown and prepared foods. Furthermore, if we as citizens of this country demand more government subsidies for organic farmers, then perhaps sustainable farming will gain significant momentum. Here is an article that points to how little the government supports organic farming. The International Society for Cow Protection talks about how the future lies in organic farming, and industrial farming practices are becoming less and less attractive, especially for small farmers. This video indicates how the future might look if we adopt organic farming practices fully. It seems bright indeed!

 

 

And learn more about the current state of the food crisis on our dedicated Issue page.

 
 

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