51: Elizabeth Mpofu of La Via Campesina on peasant leadership and fighting together

Elizabeth Mpofu is the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, a global coalition of more than 164 farmer organizations from 73 countries.  She is also a small-scale farmer in Zimbabwe, the leader of the Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmers’ Forum, and an advisor to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  In this episode, she describes her unexpected path to leadership in the food sovereignty movement, the fight to be respected as peasants around the world, and the struggle for representation of the people most affected by development decisions.  We spoke at the Thousand Currents offices in Berkeley last year.  

Photo: DFID (CC 2.0)

10: Brian Dowd-Uribe on Burkina Faso, GMO cotton, and making alliances across inequality

Brian Dowd-Uribe is a food systems researcher and assistant professor at University of San Francisco.  He met Devon in the Environmental Studies PhD program at UC Santa Cruz.  There, Brian’s research took place in Burkina Faso, where he looked closely at the introduction of genetically modified cotton and its impact on state and its cotton companies, and at the impacts of liberalization on farmer livelihoods.  At the same time, with a group of other PhD students at UC Santa Cruz, Brian co-founded the New Roots Institute for the Study of Food Systems.  He worked as a post-doc at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, looking at community gardens in East Harlem, and then for three years at the University of Peace, a United Nations-affiliated university in Costa Rica.  He and his family recently returned to Northern California, where he grew up, for a tenure-track position at University of San Francisco.  In this episode, Devon and Brian talk about Burkina Faso’s unique high-quality cotton industry, prospects of genetically modified crops in bringing economic development to the poor, and the need to (and joy of) creating alliances and relationships across unequal differences in power.