GRAIN staff and board meeting 2008
GRAIN held its annual planning and strategy meeting in the north of Argentina in October 2008. Our small staff (15 people) is scattered around the world and our annual meeting is the only time in the year when we actually meet. Of course, we are in constant contact, a process faciliated by internet phone services and other technological advances, but it is still important and satisfying once a year to get together. After the staff meeting, GRAIN also held its annual board meeting, which was attended by six board members.
A considerable part of both meetings was taken up by a lively discussion on the inter-connected financial, climate and food crises and how GRAIN should respond. Our special focus is the way these crises impact on farmers and on movements struggling against privatisation and corporate control in the areas of food, biodiversity and agriculture. Over the next year we shall be attempting to provide in Seedling and our other publications information on the global situation that feeds into these struggles, as well as using our outlets as a space in which movements can express their views and describe their struggles.
As always with our meetings, we took advantage of our location to visit groups with whom we work. One day we visited an indoor market run by small farmers working with the Movimiento Semillero de Misiones. They told us about their struggle to promote and exchange local seeds, to stem the advance of pine plantations and to prevent the introduction of genetically modified seeds. On another day we crossed the border into Brazil and visited Conquista na Fronteira, one of the oldest and best-known of the settlements run by the Movimento dos Sem Terra (MST), Brazil’s Landless Movement. The MST won this land through an occupation in 1986, and now a second generation of activists is beginning to take over the day-to-day farming activities. We were shown around by a couple of articulate and motivated young men in their early 20s, one of whom had been born in the settlement.
One bonus of holding our meetings in northern Argentina was our proximity to the breathtaking Iguazu waterfalls. After several long days of meetings, it was a delightful change to spend the day in the nature reserve on the Argentine side of falls. It had been raining heavily in the weeks prior to our visit, so the volume of water tumbling over the two-kilometre-long falls was huge. By chance, the sun was shining bright and hot on the day of our visit, so we had the best of both worlds. The shifting rainbows caused by the spray from the falls caught in the sunlight, through which hundreds of swallows threaded their flight, were quite spectacular.