Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration 2017 Training Summary

Soil Training Women Headshot

Training presenters (left to right) – Precious Phiri, Diana Donlon, Elizabeth Mpofuand Calla Rose Ostrander

Since the rise of industrial agriculture, global food production has become one of the top sources of fossil fuel emissions, biodiversity loss, habitat erosion, pollution and subsequent climate change impacts. However while chemical agriculture pushes us towards climate crisis – small-scale, agro-ecologic farmers are standing up to remind us that healthy soil, diverse seeds and strong farming communities are in fact an essential solution to cool the planet and feed the world in a just and sustainable manner.

As La Via Campesina points out, “policies for sustainable agriculture on a small-scale can not only reduce emissions from industrial agriculture, but can in fact contribute to carbon sequestration in the soil, and through the preservation of native forests and biodiversity.”

In countries around the world, women, who produce 60-80% of all food in developing nations, and 50% of food globally, are rising to protect their soil, seeds, lands and livelihoods.

During the June 2017 WECAN online Education and Advocacy training, ‘Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration’ diverse speakers and participants from around the world united to explore topics including women farmers, agro-ecology, peasant farming, and carbon sequestration as part of the solution to the climate crisis, while highlighting farmers’ rights, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity.

Calla Rose Ostrander, an independent advisor and agent for individuals and organizations committed to balancing the Earth’s carbon cycle, spoke as the first training presenter, sharing background on her engagement with leaders in California and the Western United States to return carbon to the soil through the way we grow, make and dispose of our food, fuel, fiber and flora.

Calla has worked with the California Carbon Campaign, and the the Climate Change Projects Manager for the City & County of San Francisco, where she created and managed the San Francisco Carbon Fund, internal agency sustainability reporting, and lead the update to the community wide Climate Action Strategy under mayors Gavin Newsom and Edwin Lee. She has also  co-authored of the City of Aspen’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plans and was a Communications Fellow for Rocky Mountain Institute.

Diana Donlon, the Center for Food Safety‘s Food and Climate Campaign Director, spoke next, sharing her experiences from her  work leading Soil Solutions – CFS’s program, communicating the critical importance of rebuilding soil health for food security, fresh water availability, and climate stability. Soil Solutions to Climate Problems, a four-minute film she produced, was screened in the Blue Zone at the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris. Diana has worked for a variety of family foundations supporting youth and sustainable agriculture programs, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from UC Berkeley, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University and served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

For ideas from the Soil Solutions team on how anyone and everyone can engage in restoring the soil beneath their feet as a key climate solution – visit their resource webpage here. For a powerful look into the work of one womens farming co-op in Morocco, watch and share Soil Solutions new video here.

Precious Phiri, a representative for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) Hub in Zimbabwe, and with Regeneration International, spoke as the third presenter. Precious has vast training experience working with rural villages in the Hwange Communal Lands region that are implementing restorative grazing programs using Holistic Land and Livestock Management (HLLM). These trainings help rural communities in Africa to reduce poverty, rebuild soils, and restore food and water security for people, livestock and wildlife. Holistic Land and Livestock Management has been successfully used on different landscapes in Africa and many parts of the world.

Precious was born and raised in one of the communities now implementing HLLM, and has been involved as a great influence in helping communities restore land and water, while feeding themselves. She holds a BSc degree in Geography and Geographic Information Systems from the University of Fort Hare (South Africa) and an Executive Diploma in Business Leadership (EDBL) with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management

Scheduled speaker Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, and incredible women leader and farmer from Zimbabwe, was unable to join the call, however we were honored to have the opportunity to hear from her colleague, Terran Giacomini.

Terran is a graduate student at the University of Toronto studying the commons and food and energy sovereignty. Terran is an associate member of Canada’s National Farmers Union, which is a member organization of La Via Campesina, as well as a member on La Via Campesina‘s Climate Justice Collective.  In her presentation she shared thoughts on the importance of Indigenous, peasant-led and local farming in protecting the global climate, and our diverse communities. Click here to explore more resources from La Via Campesinas work with women.

All allies are encouraged to learn more about the fantastic work done by these women and the organizations that they represent via their respective webpages.

Click here for information on the final session of this years WECAN Education and Advocacy Training Series, ‘Rights of Nature: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’, to be presented on July 12, 2017.

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