Groundswell’s founders and partners have worked for decades to enable thousands of rural communities and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to sustainably improve their lives. We have been at the leading edge of developing methods to spread agroecological farming practices, farmer innovation, farmer-to-farmer extension, community health, and strengthening local organizations to lead their own development processes. During this time we have also collaborated across borders to share our experiences, learn from each other, and return to our countries to apply those lessons and spread success.
Our global agricultural and food system is broken and needs to transition to one that is more sustainable and beneficial to the world’s population. This must happen in the face of the linked challenges of climate change, natural resource depletion, and worldwide economic and social upheaval. At the same time, farmer-led social movements are growing, and there is increasing recognition that agroecology and food sovereignty are key solutions.
In August 2009, 12 people from eight countries – Burkina Faso, Canada, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mali, the Philippines, and the United States – gathered at Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts to create Groundswell International as a global partnership to contribute to this movement and these bottom-up solutions. We are a partnership of local civil society organizations, NGOs and people grounded in diverse contexts and experiences, yet we share a common approach to supporting social change, a history of collaborating over many years, and a common dream.
Less than two months after laying the foundation for this new entity, Groundswell International was legally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in Washington, DC. Since then our founders and new members have achieved more than we could have hoped for in such a short time. We have expanded from supporting partners in Ecuador and Haiti the first year to supporting partners in seven countries – Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Mali – at the end of 2011.
In Haiti, Groundswell and its local partner organization, Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL), are currently strengthening nine farmers’ organizations, representing over 148,000 people, and will expand this to 11 more farmers’ organizations and another 120,000 people by 2016. We are working for sustainable rural development in the most marginalized and ecologically fragile areas of the country. Our program is increasing agricultural production and improving food security, promoting community health committees and practices, and strengthening community activities to protect and manage natural resources.
In Ecuador, Groundswell is supporting the non-governmental organization (NGO) EkoRural in its efforts to help some 10,000 farmers in Ecuador’s northern and central highlands to strengthen market linkages between them and their urban consumers; to improve local seed production; to support farmer innovation to improve water harvesting, management and irrigation to increase production in the face of changes in the local climate; and to improve community and reproductive health through education and training.
In Burkina Faso, Groundswell is assisting local community-based organizations (CBO) and NGOs in expanding effective agroecological approaches to new villages while improving the effectiveness of existing program work; documenting the context, process, and outcomes of “good practices” for agroecological production; and creating a network among community-based organizations, local NGOs, and other development actors to share lessons and improve each other’s practices. By the end of 2012 the work in Burkina Faso will improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of more than 18,000 families.
In Mali, Groundswell is working in partnership and with financial support from Oxfam America. The program is being led by our long-time colleague Roland Bunch, a respected global expert on sustainable agriculture. Within three years the work in Mali is expected to reach 26,000 women in 200 villages, permitting them to sustainably improve their agricultural production by introducing simple technologies to improve soil fertility, seed quality (short cycle seeds), and water management.
In Ghana, Groundswell is supporting the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) in the implementation of a program that combines agro-ecology and women’s savings and credit activities in the Upper West Region. The initial stages of the work are focusing on exchange visits between women leaders from this region and well developed women’s saving and credit groups in Burkina Faso, with the goal of sparking a self-help movement among Ghanaian women leaders.
Programs with our other new partners, Foundation for Northern Development AQ’AB’AL (FUNDENOR) in Guatemala and Vecinos Honduras, are still under development.
The shared vision of a diverse group of colleagues has solidified into a powerful Groundswell of local partners and tens of thousands of families working toward healthy farming and food systems that generate physical, spiritual and environmental wellbeing for all.