The Afri Famine Walk is a unique and highly significant annual event in Ireland. Recalling a tragic episode from An Gorta Mór, with reverence and respect, it also promotes compassion, action and solidarity with those oppressed and excluded in today’s world.
The 2015 Hedge School was held in IT Blanchardstown and the focus this year was on climate change and its impact on human rights. Students from the Social and Community Development Course, with the guidance of their lecturer, Liam McGlynn, had been preparing for the Hedge School for several weeks and students were actively involved in contributing to all aspects of the day – including workshops on the theme of climate change and human rights as well as registration of attendees, creating a short film on climate change and organising the above action: “act now or pay later”.
As well as the students’ contributions, Maitet Ledesma from IBON International, spoke eloquently about the impact of climate change in the Philippines as well as the lead into the Paris conference on climate change. This was followed by a debate between Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth and Harold Kingston from the Irish Farmers’ Association on the impact of Irish Agriculture on the climate. Harold was arguing that the Irish climate is best suited for growing grass – which is then used in dairy or beef farming. He also maintained that the targets set by the EU were unrealistic. Oisin on the other hand, refuting this, stated that targets are essential to drive action to tackle climate change and held that the government weren’t even trying to meet the 2020 EU targets in order to get easier targets for 2030. Oisin also held that Ireland needs to do its fair share to tackle climate change and should not be looking for special exemptions. The debate was chaired by Afri chair Nessa Ní Chasaide.
After lunch Donal O’Kelly drew parallels between the nonviolent environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa and Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, in a dramatic piece. The day of the Hedge School itself coincided with the 20th anniversary of the hanging of the Ogoni 9 – of which Ken Saro Wiwa was part – by the Nigerian military dictatorship with the collusion of Shell. At the beginning of the day a candle was lit by one of the IT students – who is from Nigeria – in memory of the Ogoni 9.
The day concluded with a world cafe – an opportunity for all participants to reflect on how they felt about climate change – hopeful, angry, despairing and so on – and a chance to mingle with those who felt differently.
Afri would like to thank ITB and in particular Liam McGlynn for hosting the 2015 Hedge School
By Maitet Ledesma
They called it the GREAT IRISH FAMINE. But there was nothing great about the 1850s famine in Ireland. The famine was a man-made disaster. People died of starvation because the landlords owned the land. The local population who tilled the land did not own it, and therefore, had no access to it in order to grow food to feed themselves and their families.
And while the landlords enriched themselves and lived in the lap of luxury by exporting the food produced from their land by disenfranchised peasants, more than 1 million people were left to die of starvation or disease – to put that in today’s context, an equivalent loss of around 40 million people in the US.
The population at that time was further decimated as entire families, even whole villages left the country en masse because this was their only survival option. In 1847 alone 250,000 people left the country and over a six-year period, more than 2 million were forced to migrate.
The Great Irish Famine must be remembered as the ‘Genocide Famine’ and the keepers of this collective memory, the people of Ireland, must call on those historically responsible to render just retribution. Continue reading “Reflections on the 2015 Famine Walk”
Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism
Saturday, May 16th 2015
From Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo.
Registration from 12.45pm; Walk beginning at 1.30pm
Walk Leaders: Abjata Khalif (Kenya), Maitet Ledesma (Philippines) and Sharon Staples (Wales)
Music: RoJ Whelan
Please park cars in Louisburgh: no parking available at Delphi Lodge – a shuttle bus will be provided.
Many themes have been explored in the Famine Walk over the past 27 years. The Philippines was the focus of the first ever famine walk as Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison, outlined the experience of living under the Marcos military dictatorship. Significantly, the Philippines is again a focus of this year’s walk as Maitet Ledesma updates us on the current situation there, with particular reference to the devastating impacts of militarism and global warming.
The issue of food and famine has always been a central theme of the walk, as it is this year. As nations continue to turn to war as a first resort, in many cases, food security is further threatened, global warming is intensified and corporate control of food is extended, despite the fact that small-scale producers remain the mainstay of global food supplies. Food sovereignty is the common ground on which the realities and hopes of many of these small producers meet. Continue reading “Famine Walk 2015: Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism”
By coincidence, the Afri Hedge School 2014 took place on the 96th anniversary of the official ending of World War 1. I say ‘official’ ending as of course a monstrous machine of that size and ferocity doesn’t suddenly come to a halt all at once. Active battling in which several human beings lost their lives continued well after that iconic moment of the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month on which the leaders cried ‘stop!”. And signatures were made on a piece of paper. I say ‘official’ as the fallout, the ramifications of that horrific war, ironically titled in the recruitment propaganda as ‘the war to end all wars’, is still to this very day having its devastating impact. The battles continue long after Armistice. The trauma has traversed generations in the many insidious ways that trauma can. Palestine is just one of many, many ongoing casualties that continues to bleed and die.
The lives of those men who had chosen to become or had been forced to become soldiers and were sacrificed in that war are traditionally remembered by silence and ceremony on this iconic day.
The Afri Hedge School chose not to hold the silence, but rather to facilitate the raising of voices. It invited the testimony of witnesses and casualties beyond those in active combat. It welcomed the awkward questions. And it framed all of this within the matrix of conscience. Continue reading “Impressions from the 2014 Hedge School”