A digestible solution to global conflict
The innovative collaboration supports refugee and immigrant resettlement through local, sustainable agriculture. The program is a digestible solution to traumatic, international conflict. Their approach embodies, and emboldens, the common adage ‘think globally, act locally’. The program is creating space for participants to transplant their uprooted lives, adapt to a new climate and develop market-based skills.
We caught up with Mercy Corps Lead Grower Lauren Morse at the SE Nepalese Gardens to learn more.
Morse explained that Mercy Corps has been invaluable to the expanding population of immigrants, refugees and beginning American growers in Portland since 2006. The 2010 formation of the Portland Growers Alliance with Grow Portland was created to address the challenge of establishing market outlets for the gardeners. “It makes a more sustainable livelihood for everyone involved in the program,” Morse explained.
The alliance is addressing participant’s needs through access to land, equipment, supplies, financial support, trainings, business planning and marketing support. The growers practice organic, ecological agriculture in both Portland and Damascus. You can find the Portland Growers Alliance produce at Portland Farmer’s Market, Lents International Farmer’s Market, Thompson Farm Stand, various restaurants and through their Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Most participants are former subsistence farmers who are now learning to cultivate for local tastes with limited land. Participants originate from locations as diverse as Bhutan, Somali, Russia and Burma. Morse explained to Real Time Farms how cultural and language differences have created a dynamic work environment. “All of these different, little idiosyncrasies make this project crazy. Overall it is amazing what we are doing: producing so much good food and getting it into local outlets,” explained Morse.
My world vision remarkably manifested, despite my lack of funds, through either the divine will of the universe or predatory lending schemes. Either way, I fled the confines of the USA on a journey through Egypt, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Africa and India over the course of three years. I continue to reconnect to the compelling lessons I absorbed en route through my work in Conflict Resolution.
It was the hottest day of the year when Tracy Francis, of Hybrid Theater Works, and I arrived in Cairo. A gust of heat hit me as I looked out over the desert city. “It is hot huh?” Tracy’s boisterous uncle asked me. “Not too hot,” I giggled nervously while finding it difficult even to breath.
We pilled into the car and headed off on our journey. “See those lines on the road?” My best friend warned me as we hit the highway, “they are merely a suggestion.” Indeed, Cairo taught me to be resourceful and think outside the box!
Tracy’s flamboyant, Egyptian family welcomed us to the big, filthy city. I would soon come to love Cairo for few, but passionate reasons. I left a bit heartbroken after a too short, summer semester at the American University in Cairo.
When I arrived in Ghana I felt a thousand times more comfortable despite the open sewers. Women are more an outspoken part of society in Southern Ghana and people are intensely friendly. Volunteering in the jungle (literally) on Lake Volta to create a learning garden, and traveling through the (frighteningly) expanding Sahara was intensely liberating.
I was challenged and inspired throughout the experience of adapting to the absolutely opposite world of West Africa. I acquired a new set of values while absorbing Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina and Mali’s rich and varied cultures. Africa’s women transformed me with their generosity, kindness and resilience. West Africa is a world where relationships, family, ancient traditions and art forms are the measure of success. I learned to appreciate West African rich culture, vibrant traditions and resilience.
After six months I was again wrenched away and deposited in Cape Town.“Your pizza will be ready in three and a half minutes.” What! Ironically, I was bombarded with my first dose of culture shock in Africa’s most westernized city. Shifting into Cape Town’s post-apartheid state was painful. Yet, I found my love of journalism while teaching for the Media School in a local township during my spring semester at the University of Cape Town.
Africa inspired me to work for Jubilee Oregon in fighting for International Debt Relief for the world’s poorest countries to free them from the burden of economic slavery. Through my graduate program in Conflict Resolution I studied participatory approaches to development while interning with Navdanya, which is the largest fair-trade, organic network in India and founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva. My journey has motivated me to create space for marginalized people to participate in global dialogues and meaningful relationship building.
Standing up for social change requires the joining of hands in a collaborative enterprise.
The potential for peace blooms when we share a transformative vision, and actively build social justice in our communities, in tandem. The transformative vision I seek to share is embodied in World Pulse’s uprising of women around the world. These women join hands to project their voices above the apathetic cacophony of defeat.
Women like Achieng Beatrice Nas and her resilient peers in the Voices of Our Future Network have overcome unfathomable circumstances to act as leaders in the struggle for social justice and equality. Their journeys prompt us to inquire: how can we empower, and be empowered, to harmonize our voices and stand up for social change?
My circumstances in easy Portland, Oregon are less poignant. However, I seized the opportunity to answer the prompt and amplify my convictions by joining millions of people around the word as they Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The annual Stand Up campaign takes place over three days to provide a forum for civil society to demand global leaders uphold their international commitments to the MDGs and End Poverty by 2015. The eight MDGs include the following commitments: end poverty and extreme hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and to build a global partnership.
My collaborative vision for the Stand Up campaign manifested in the form of a participatory art festival.
I designed the event to engaged Portland State University‘s campus by tapping into Portland’s prolific reservoir of local artists. The unique event mobilized over three hundred people to participate as performing and visual artists, speakers, volunteers and spectators. I was proud to see Congressman David Wu as our opening speaker affirming his commitments to upholding the MDGs. Organizations such as Mercy Corps, Jubilee Oregon, Portland Area Global Aids Coalition and Bread for the World participated avidly in creating the event and spoke about the MDGs during the festival.
My transformative experience creating space for an alliance of peace builders proved that collaboration is the key to generating a global uprising. We can unite and fortify the ties that uplift social justice by building a dialogic alliance, that values diversity and people’s creative potential. Let us collectively amplifying our demands and participate in the global decision-making process.
Fore more information about the Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty and for the MDGs please visit:
Read more about Portland’s Stand Up Art Festival: http://jubileeusa.typepad.com/blog_the_debt/2008/10/portland-artists-lead-in-portlands-standup-event.html