Arriba New Mexico (#arribaNM): Uplifting our story

March 9th 2020 Marked the kick-off for the 4th World Conference on Women and the 64th Commission on the Status of Women, to take place at the United Nations Campus in Manhattan, New York. This was also a time for dozens of other parallel gatherings and community building opportunities organized by grassroots and NGO groups from around the world. By historic circumstances, this event I was to participate in, was one of the first of many events to get cancelled in the weeks to come in anticipation of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This gathering was also historic in my own life. It would have been my first time to the Big Apple, and more importantly- I was to appear on the Panel, “Sisters, Seeds and Soil: Bold Voices and Choices for Ecofeminism,” and attend a week-long advocacy practicum organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). I was to appear on this panel with a few other people representing their work and organizations like organizers with Seeding Sovereignty, and Indigenous Iowa, Farm School NYC and the Black Farmer Fund, and more.

Next Gen Seed Keepers Farmers

Statewide Next Gen Farmers group meeting in Northern New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Next Generation Farmers & Seed Savers

Additionally, some of the main goals of the UN gathering this year were to review theprogress and identify of gaps and challenges to fulfilling the 1995 Beijing Declaration (en español) on women’s rights, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since my invitation to participate in all of this, my neurons have been firing with excitement thinking about the ways the projects throughout my state are working to empower women and fighting for a sustainable future. Writing about the bold voices and choices of womxn, LGBTQ and indigenous people in my community is a topic I am still very excited to expose on the international stage. There is an amazing scope of work occurring in New Mexico working to cultivate knowledge, build community, seeds, soil, and sustainable farming. There has always been a sense of urgency to preserve and contribute to these projects, but in light of the pandemic- this urgency is more apparent than ever to all of our communities.

seedsorting

Youth organizing seed packets for the opening of the Espanola Healing Foods Oasis seed library. Photo credit: Emilt Arasim

If you have not heard or seen it yet, New Mexico has a vibrant and thriving local food movement. Literally on every level- from preserving the native seeds or foods, regenerating soil, building sustainable farms and urban agriculture corridors, to fighting for food, land and water sovereignty and social justice. All these efforts are not new to our communities, and wisdoms from the past still inform the work of today. Combined with our use of acequias, a centuries-old communal watering system, some could say our state fosters a strong foundation for an agroecological movement. New Mexico and the surrounding regions entail diverse cultures, living within equally diverse landscapes, and carrying a very complex history of colonialism that still impacts communities today. There are many ways that communities are harnessing traditional knowledge and practices that sustain our communities, rebuild our natural environments and work towards social justice. Even in the time of a global pandemic, we are exercising our resilient local food system, and grow food that is accessible and nutritious.

SoilDemo-lr

Soil comparison at the first soil health crash course at the developing community farm and agroecology center sponsored by Project Feed the Hood. Photo Credit: Stefany Olivas

The opportunity to participate in the UN events arose through my involvement as an undergraduate student in Biology and University of New Mexico but was a perfect fit because of my evolving community activism over the past 7 years. In particular I have been “in training”  with organizations like the Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS), and Project Feed the Hood, a food justice campaign of the 40-year-old organization, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP). My hope and excitement for the social justice work in New Mexico has been growing exponentially since my learning has been enriched by the Chicana/o Studies and taking classes with the Sustainability Studiesprogram at UNM. I have had the amazing privilege of linking my passion for cultivating food and community with a critical analysis on the agrarian heritage, resilience and radicalism of our communities throughout the state. This foundation makes it easy to image why I think we have a lot to offer when it comes to international discussion of seeds, soil, sustainability and climate action.

Equally important is the need to de-romanticize this perspective of our “Land of Enchantment.” Despite great efforts and potential of our local food system, governments continue to allow and subsidize Fracking in Northern New Mexico, or the military-industrial complex in Albuquerque. These are some of the same leaders that leveraged our local farm movement throughout their political careers. Our small farmers still do not make a living wage, and they still cannot afford to purchase the organic food they cultivate. Despite the many barriers and challenges to bolster our resources to full-blown local food movement- farmers are still growing and finding ways to distribute their fresh, nutrient rich produce in the time of this pandemic.

Agroecology also holds an international stage at the United Nations, as one of the many promising platforms to mitigate climate change and bring about social reform. This practice and praxis could also help us achieve milestones of the 2030 SDGs. To the local agroecologist, growing food in harmony with the environment doesn’t just restore biodiversity, and nutritional foods. It also means actively confronting industrial agriculture and extractive industries that destroy the land, its ecosystems, and the communities that live there. We may not call it agroecology yet, but New Mexicans are working diligently to grow, process and consume food communally, sustainably, using traditional (and contemporary) methods, while also working to achieve sovereignty, realize food justice, and ultimately use local food as a tool to organize for all types of social justice.

My top fan-girl interests in general:

Rapid-response initiatives providing basic needs and cultivating knowledge:

-Posted by Stefany

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