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Occupy The Farm

Following on from the evictions of the USA's Occupy movement a new strategy is taking root roots in the San Francisco area on the Berkeley/Albany border. Last Sunday (22nd April) hundreds of local residents, farmers, students and activists entered the UC Berkeley-owned Gill Tract, which contains the last five acres of prime agricultural land in the East Bay. All set up with a thousand seedlings, chickens and tools started to toil the land, and four hours into the occupation they had succeed in planting three quarters of an acre. This occupation isn't about setting up protest camps, but about reclaiming land in an effort for self-sustainability through community food production. The community has gotten tired of the ever increasing influence of private interests on the University of California’s decisions. For around a decade, the land has been used for research funded through investments by Novartis, Cygnet, BP and others who don't give a toss about the local community. Now the Gill Tract has been slated for development and the company most likely to buy it is Whole Foods Corporation.

According to a UC Berkeley alum and educator: "Farming underutilized spaces such as these can create alternatives to the corporate control of our food system. Five acres can feed up to 250 families using a community-supported agriculture model. A major component of what we're doing here is showing that urban land can and should be used to meet the food needs of local people."

This action is directly inspired by the efforts of the international peasants' movements La Via Campesina and Brazil’s MST (Movimento Sem Terra / Landless Movement).  Supported by La Via Campesina, on 17 April,  International Peasants Day, thousands of farm workers occupied 12,000 hectares across Honduras as part of a land dispute with large landowners and the government. Although many evictions already took place at least 10 farms are still being occupied. The great majority of rural people in Honduras are increasingly losing land to large landowners due to ‘development’ efforts advocated by the government and the World Bank. The pressure on the expansion of an industrial model of agriculture that facilitates land grab by giant corporations brings catastrophic consequences for the Honduran population. According with the UN’s World Food Program, Honduras is ‘the third poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean’ with 7.5 million people – has 1.5 million people facing hunger, while a third of its population earns less than a dollar a day.’

In the eyes of neo-liberal ideologues, development is based on the theory that wealth will "trickle down" and assure the livelihood of the common people. Reality tells a different tale- the current international system of food production relies on waste and indulgence in the western countries and the sacrifice those toiling the land. On the other hand, it tethers the west's population to supermarkets while denying them enough space to grow their own more sustainable and healthy alternatives. ‘Occupy the Farm’ is a forceful alternative that intends to break the cycle and claim land as a human right.

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Twitter: @SchNEWS