Around thirty people gathered for Afri’s 3rd annual food sovereignty assembly, which took place in the town hall in Westport on the 20th May this year to examine food sovereignty issues and to explore what practical steps are necessary to implement the ideas of the Food sovereignty Proclamation which was agreed and posted in 2015. Among the questions discussed at this year’s event were: how can we accelerate the transition to a low carbon, fair and resilient society?; how can we produce both food and energy in ways that reduce greenhouse gases and their negative impact on the planet? Among the many suggestions was to continue to have April 24th – the actual date of the 1916 Rising – as a food sovereignty day in future years as it was this year.
A series of memorable events will take place in Mayo on May 20th and 21st as part of a Famine Walk week-end, organised by Afri.
On Friday, May 20th the 3rd annual ‘Food Sovereignty Assembly’, bringing together people involved in many aspects of growing, distributing and cooking food, will take place in the Town Hall in Westport from 2pm to 6pm.
On Saturday May 21st the Doolough Famine Walk will take on added significance, one hundred years on from the 1916 Rising. Remembering and commemorating acts of resistance in Ireland and abroad have been key themes of the Walk since its inception. (more…)
Saturday, May 21st, Registration from 12.45pm (€20 per adult participant)
Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo
The first Dromore West area Famine walk took place on Sunday, October 18th at the Dromore West workhouse in West Sligo. The Walk began at St Farnans Shrine, Doonaltonin and after an initial welcome at the Holy Well, walkers made the journey of four miles along country roads back to Dromore West workhouse. Organised by the Afri Choctaw Famine Landscape Project and LEAP Community Project in Easkey, the purpose of the walk is to “commemorate, heal through remembering and stand in solidarity with those who still suffer in a world of plenty” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser.
The Afri Famine Landscape project has held Famine walks in Derry, Falcarragh, and Ballyshannon. Gary White Deer, a Choctaw, was the walk leader for the West Sligo commemoration. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies to help feed Irish Famine victims after undergoing similar suffering. “Let’s honour Ireland’s forgotten” said White Deer, referring to the unmarked Famine grave at the Dromore West workhouse. “And then together we can walk into the future remembering others.”
Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Concern Worldwide
Around thirty people gathered at the Guild Hall on Friday, July 31st 2015 to take part in Derry’s first Famine walk.
Deputy Mayor of Derry city and Strabane District council, Thomas Kerrigan of the DUP officially launched the walk which was also addressed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Helen Henderson, director of St. Columb’s Park House, spoke about the importance of the walk and the danger of history repeating itself. She warned especially about the dangers of TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, regarding things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations and has been described as “an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Following the opening speeches, walkers proceeded from Guildhall Square across the Peace Bridge to the Londonderry Poor Law Union Workhouse, located on Glendermott Road, the Waterside. First opened in 1840, Derry’s workhouse didn’t close its doors until 1948. The Walk had been called “The Longest Walk”, referring to the 13 steps to the workhouse master’s quarters that starving families once had to climb to ask for admittance. (more…)
Report by Gary White Deer
They began in late May of this year on a Saturday afternoon, 85 walkers starting from the old Famine storehouse in Falcarragh, the Afri banner carried by a South African and Ghanian living in Donegal, people all flowing together through the town and then surging on past the edge of things, out by Saint Finian’s. Minutes before, a flower basket had been lowered from the same storehouse window that grain had once been sold from during Famine times, grain sold to waiting families who were starving.
The flowers were meant for the mass Famine grave at Dunfanaghy, a small yellow bouquet passed from hand to hand. The air was cool and thick and the clouds brimmed with the smell of rain. The walkers proceeded in a long and winding line as they came onto the back roads and laneways, curving and twisting before Muckish Mountain, moving slowly out of the Gaeltacht toward a distant Famine workhouse. They were from all over Ireland, but many were from Northwest Donegal and so Ulster Gaelic was spoken up and down the winding line. (more…)
Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by
featuring 5 short plays on global justice themes with suggestions for follow up activities suitable for school groups, youth theatres, college students and others
And release of ‘Turned Away’ – a specially composed instrumental piece by the multi-talented
“A beautifully evocative melody” – Tom Sparkes
Live music with Imogen Gunner & Friends and reflections by Pete Mullineaux
Imogen’s CD and Pete’s book will be available to buy on the night.
Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Whenever Rosemary Grain looks out her office window, she steps through a time portal. Below her third storey office, hungry families once gathered holding half a crown. A bag was lowered from the window, and the coin was placed inside. Then food was lowered back down through the same window. Why the bag? So workers wouldn’t catch Famine fever.
Now called The Yard, previously Mc Carthy’s store, the building in Falcarragh where Rosemary works was once a Famine storehouse. “The starving waited anxiously at a spot near the front door for the food to be lowered in a bag from where my office is on the top floor. Those distributing the food were terrified of catching any diseases from the poor famine victims of the parish. I often look out the window and think of the desperation our ancestors must have gone through.and how fortunate we are to live here now,” says Rosemary, administrator and Information worker at The Yard, which houses Pobail le Cheile Community Development (LCDP).
At the end of this month, the old Famine storehouse will host “In the Footsteps of our Ancestors” a Famine commemoration walk, which will leave from The Yard and head to the Workhouse Museum in Dunfanaghy. “It’s a great way to commemorate the famine. The involvement of Waylon Gary White Deer is very symbolic because Choctaw Indians, sent money to the Irish during the famine. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland.” Rosemary adds. (more…)
The purpose of the walk is to honour the sacred memory of Ireland’s Famine dead; to heal the wounds of Ireland’s Famine through living remembrance; to raise food sovereignty awareness; and to place the Great Famine in solidarity with those who yet suffer from lack of food, water, shelter and other human rights.
With guest speakers, music, poetry. Tea, coffee and refreshments on arrival (bring own water and snacks for the walk). Shuttle bus available for the return journey.
Social afterwards in The Gweedore Bar, Falcarragh, Saturday 30th May from 9pm.
To see who’s going see facebook event page here
The Irish-Choctaw Famine Link
In the spring of 1847, ordinary Choctaw people donated $170 (€8,000) from ‘meagre resources’ to the victims of an Gorta Mór, the Great Irish Famine. Described as an act of ‘one poor, dispossessed people reaching out to help another’ the money was used to buy wheat for Ireland. This unique Famine link is an ongoing legacy of solidarity and remembrance between the Irish and Choctaw peoples.
Famine History Presentation Talk on Friday 29th May, 8pm in The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)
Organised by Afri and supported by Concern
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. (more…)
“During the 1840’s a new disease was found in the Irish potato crop… By May 1846 the price of potatoes in Carlow had risen to fifteen shillings per barrel. This was about three times the normal rate. The situation continued to worsen rapidly. At the end of 1846 the crop had completely failed and no potatoes were available in the County” – The Famine in Carlow
IT Carlow chaplain, Fr Martin Smith spoke about the profound significance of this famine graveyard, situated in the grounds of the college. He stressed the need to be silent in this sacred place, to become aware of those buried there and to embrace the reality that these were real people, as real as the students who are now attending the college, largely unaware of the extraordinary history associated with the ground on which they tread. Church of Ireland Minister, Reverend Williams lives close to the graveyard and referred to the strong presence that can be felt there. Three to four thousand Famine victims lie buried together in Carlow Town, many of them children. The veil is thin in such places.
“The Poor Relief Extension Act 1847 empowered Guardians to grant relief at their own discretion to the aged and infirm and to widows with two or more dependent children. The Guardians were also empowered to grant food aid to able-bodied persons for limited periods… In Carlow the guardians were firmly against such measures. This attitude gave rise to the overcrowded conditions in Carlow Workhouse from late 1846” – The Famine in Carlow
When the potato blight hit Ireland, only the lumper variety was affected. Over one million men, women and children died because they had been forced to depend on a single crop, the lumper potato, though enough food was being exported out of Ireland to have sustained them. If ignored, such epic human trauma stays trapped within a nation’s soul.
Last February, we gathered again in Carlow Town. Afri partnered with the Carlow Institute of Technology and with Carlow County Council. A pilgrimage was made from the Institute to the cemetery, where a strong spirit was felt and a Famine memorial unveiled. Such healing acts of remembrance let us see more clearly how essential biodiversity is for human survival, that there is still enough to eat in the world and that access to food and water are basic human rights which in solidarity, we must all work to ensure.
Report by Gary White Deer
“Community Pays Tribute to Famine Victims During Walk” in the Carlow People
Former speaker at Féile Bríde, Kathy Kelly has just begun a 3-month prison term, having been arrested when she went to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base Missouri, which operates drones over Afghanistan.
Here is an update from Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the organisation of which Kathy is the Co-ordinator:-
Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kathy Kelly will turn herself in to the federal prison camp in Lexington, KY on Friday, January 23. She will begin serving a three-month sentence for her June 1, 2014 protest of drone killings at Whiteman Air Force Base, in Missouri.
Kelly asserts that drone warfare jeopardizes the security of ordinary people and that the U.S. Constitution protects her right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. She was arrested when she went with Georgia Walker and other activists to the gates of Whiteman Air Force Base to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of the base, which operates drones over Afghanistan. At her trial in December, Federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth found her guilty and sentenced her to three months. (more…)
Developmenteducation.ie and the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) have created a new, online space to showcase projects, advocacy, campaigns and actions in development education for schools, community and youth groups. Afri’s 2013 Famine Walk is one of the case studies that you can now read about: http://www.developmenteducation.ie/taking-action
‘From Famine to Food Sovereignty’ was the theme of the 2014 Afri Famine walk in The Doolough valley in May. Here is a short film about the Walk made by Dave Donnellan
Where can you start in talking about the Afri Famine Walk? Well, 1849 is the best point because the Famine Walk is the re-enactment or retracing steps of a real tragedy that happened to people who died walking that way 165 years ago. There is a sense in which the ground we walk on is sacred, holy, or marked because we know some of the terrible things happened in that very place.
But the Afri Famine Walk is not some ethereal revisiting of a past, if tragic, time. It very directly links past, present – what is happening in the world today with causes similar to or the same as what caused and exacerbated the Great Famine in Ireland – and future – and asks us to recommit ourselves to ending famine. There was food, there is food, the question is who controls the food and what happens to it. Some walkers carried posters of the names of individuals who died in that and more recent famines. (more…)
Our food system is failing, both in Ireland and internationally. Failing to provide a secure income for farmers, failing to provide healthy food for citizens, and failing to nurture and care for our environment and the heritage of future generations.
The globalisation of agricultural markets long promised to bring prosperity and stability to farmers and consumers. Instead we have seen the eradication of our own local and traditional high quality food production and an abundance of low quality, mass produced food. Farmers cannot guarantee prices which cover the costs of their production and are increasingly trapped in a vicious circle of falling prices and rising input costs.
Furthermore, processors and retailers undermine and fail to reward the work that farmers do by selling adulterated and heavily processed food to citizens. At the same time, organisations, individuals and collectives are developing new ways of organising the production, distribution and consumption of food in their localities. They propose an alternative political framework for food and agriculture in our society, based on the principles of Food Sovereignty.
Food Sovereignty means the people of Ireland reclaiming the right to how our food system is organised. It means dignity for farmers in their work, and healthy food for Irish citizens. It means ensuring high quality food for our local markets instead of high quantities for global markets. It means working with nature and developing production systems which do not rely on external inputs. It means citizens and farmers coming together to take a stand and build a better way of producing, distributing and consuming food in Ireland and around the world.
This conference in Castlebar is a first step in starting this discussion, and towards building a better food and agricultural system both in Ireland and worldwide.
It will include contributions from Paul Nicholson (Basque Farmers Union and member of Via Campesina), Luis Jalandoni (involved with sugar workers and peasant settlers in Negros, Central Philippines), John Brennan (Leitrim Organic Farmers Coop), Rose Kelly (Afri) and a speaker from United Farmers Association.
Join us on the 16th May at 7.30pm in the TF Royal Hotel, Old Westport Road, Castlebar, Co. Mayo (opposite Mayo General Hospital).
Organised by Afri in association with Food Sovereignty Ireland. This event is organised to coincide with the Annual Famine Walk in the Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo. For details about the Famine Walk, go here or see our Facebook event
You can also download the Food Sovereignty Assembly Brochure
The 2013 Famine Walk will long remain in the memory of those who were there to experience it. The opening of the gates of Delphi Lodge and the welcome extended by proprietor Michael Wade to walkers carrying the names of those who died on the original walk in 1849 was particularly poignant. The planting of an oak tree and potatoes supplied by Willie and Mary Corduff were powerful symbols of new life while the hauntingly moving words of Declan O’Rourke’s Famine song echoed: ‘you Connacht orphans, bare of foot, who walked ten miles at 7 years/ you took your little sister’s hand and walked her to the poorhouse door/ and when they had but room for one/ you left your little sister there/ and feint with hunger all day long/ you walked the ten miles back again”. There was a profound sense of history being made, of those who had died being fittingly remembered, of at least some wounds being healed.
Earlier we heard moving words from Salome Mbugua recalling recent famines, including in Somalia where over 200,000 died virtually unnoticed by the outside world in the period 2010-2012, and we were inspired by Gary White Deer’s reflection that “as we retrace the steps of the people whose names we bear, we believe that they will be with us on our journey”. (more…)
Film of the 2013 Famine Walk, “Opening the Gates: Sowing New Seeds” made by Dave Donnellan