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A Focus on FoodKent Patterson for Salem-News.com
Farmers hope for a significant monsoon season to supplement water supplies until the end of the growing season.
(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - In the Paso del Norte borderland, food activists and local residents have spent the summer organizing around the concept of food as a human right. Meeting in small groups in southern New Mexico’s Dona Ana County and neighboring El Paso, Texas, community members have been compiling testimonies and proposals for a bigger meeting next month that could result in legislation for next year’s law-making session in the New Mexico state capital of Santa Fe.
“We’ve managed to get a local voice,” said Veronica Carmona, lead organizer for the Las Cruces-based Colonias Development Council (CDC). According to Carmona, small group meetings have been held in the rural, low-income communities of Anthony and Vado, among other places. The gatherings have attracted the young and the old, food producers and food consumers and immigrants and non-immigrants, Carmona told Frontera NorteSur.
Other groups endorsing or participating in the growing border food movement include La Mujer Obrera, the Border Agricultural Workers Center and La Semilla Food Center, among others, she added.
The information and ideas bounced around the small group sessions will be discussed at a public forum scheduled for August 20 at the Vado/Del Cerro Community Center, which is located right off Interstate 10 between Las Cruces and El Paso.
Carmona said that unemployment, high food prices and the difficulties sometimes encountered in finding transportation to even obtain food have ranked high on the list of concerns raised by meeting participants. In a year of intense drought, the issue of water quickly emerged as a primary topic. “The first problem is water,” Carmona said. “Apart from the quantity, it’s the quality.”
In Dona Ana and El Paso counties, farmers are generally reliant on irrigation water supplied by New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID). But an extreme shortage of supplies forced the EBID to severely limit deliveries to New Mexico growers during the 2011 season.
According to the EBID’s website, producers are “pumping ground water this year” and “hoping for a significant monsoon season to supplement water supplies until the end of the growing season.”
Carmona said there is greater local interest in new food production and distribution initiatives, but that many potential farmers and processors are hampered by a lack of access to land, water and capital.
“This is the challenge,” Carmona ventured. “How do you connect the production-consumption circle in order to push local production?”
According to the long-time border activist, this summer’s food-focused meetings build on two previous campaigns by the CDC and other local groups that framed immigration and youth issues around rights laid out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration reads in part:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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