Encouraging life as farmers - “Your Own Tomatoes Really Are Sweeter”
Encouraging life as farmers - “Your Own Tomatoes Really Are Sweeter”
"My father was 103 years old when he died a year ago. In the countryside, he ate his own healthy fruit and vegetables, and he drank alkaline water from a stream. I know, it's an ideal situation that definitely doesn't exist everywhere, but I want his life to serve as a testimony that living in an unpolluted environment with basic but sufficient facilities offers a certain guarantee that one will live a long and happy life."
But one must match words to deeds and Zenaida (Zen) Delica Willison is exactly this kind of person. She will be retiring this year from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She hopes to establish her own demonstration farm that will feature organic agriculture together with her husband, who also works for the UNDP. They already own 5 hectares of land in Batangas City, about 100 kilometres outside of Manila. "I am fortunate that my husband and I feel the same way." There is already a lifestyle centre for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, including vegetarianism, called the Talumpok Lifestyle Center. The ground floor is used for lectures, workshops and for enjoying meals. The second floor includes the bedrooms. There is also a church. "In 1986, my life changed radically when I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is the best thing that ever happened to me."
The idea is that this project will serve as an inspiration for others to get involved. Delica Willison and her husband want to show city dwellers that life outside the city also has its significant advantages and charms. "The way you lead your life can serve as an example to others. There are never any absolute guarantees that what you do will have an impact. But, in your life, you have to do what you can within the realm of possibilities."
The lifestyle they are promoting is patterned after NEWSTART: The N stands for Nutrition. Delica Willison: "You have to eat the right foods in the correct quantities and at the right time. We will teach people how to cook well and with good ingredients." The E stands for Exercise. "We need to be active: move, walk, ride a bicycle, climb, etc. Even in rural areas, people are no longer used to walking far to go to work or school for example: they use scooters or motorbikes." The W stands for Water, which underscores the importance of "drinking a lot of pure alkaline water to help neutralise the acid levels in our bodies. At least eight glasses a day." The S, for Sunshine: a source of vitamin D. The T stands for Trust in God, which Willison says is at the core of a righteous lifestyle. R stands for Rest: we need at least eight hours of sleep every day, Delica Willison claims, plus a full day's rest every week. The last T stands for Temperance. "Do not use anything that is bad for your body, such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs, and don't exaggerate the good things either."
The farm is not yet fully operational. "We are busy planting trees. Fruit trees such as mango, coconut, banana, avocado, papaya, and tamarind. But also mahogany and nara. And there are also vegetable gardens." A lot of people have come to look, especially city dwellers from Manila and Batangas. "They enjoy coming here, to get away from the polluted city and become reinvigorated by the country life. After they establish themselves here they will begin to offer seminars, lectures or visitors can enjoy Zenaida's brother's bonsai garden or his koi carp pond. People will be able to camp here by simply pitching a tent. Guests will not be required to pay, although most visitors donate some money for cleaning. After their stay, visitors return to their urban lifestyles because very few people are willing to get their hands dirty. And farming is not easy, I know from my own experiences. When people are still young, they hear that they have to get good grades in school, that they have to study hard so they can get a nursing job or something equivalent in the United States or Europe, and there attain a luxurious lifestyle. That is the mentality of entire generations of Filipinos: their hope lies in the West. So why should they learn to plant tomatoes and grow fruit?" Yes, a diploma is important, but not at the expense of a holistic lifestyle.
Delica Willison believes that an integrated approach is necessary to make country living appealing again. "This should begin at school, where youngsters could learn how to plant tomatoes in school gardens. They should be taught to appreciate this type of work. Children have to experience how it is to taste the fruits of their own labour - they really do taste sweeter!"
The demonstration farm and the lifestyle centre are seamlessly aligned with her great desire: the revitalisation of agriculture and the revaluation of the countryside. "My perspective has always focused on the local community."
Dreaming Our Own Dreams
As a young student in the early seventies, Delica Willison was actively involved in opposing then-Filipino President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. Delica Willison was eventually arrested in 1974 and received a substantial prison term. She was imprisoned together with her two-year-old daughter. She was eventually released after spending 801 days in prison due to international pressure organised by Amnesty International. "But we have to dream our dreams and be prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true."
Delica Willison studied nursing, sociology, business administration and public health in the Philippines and development practice including humanitarian and refugee law in England. She is considered an expert in the field of disasters and disaster risk reduction and has built up an impressive track record. "Natural hazards turn into a disaster only when vulnerable people are not able to cope. For example, because they are completely unprepared. This goes for natural disasters such as typhoons, but also manmade disasters. Thus, it is important to design prevention, mitigation, preparedness and emergency response measures. It is my job to point this out to governments, organisations and people in general." She has been based in Bangkok since 2005, where she works as a UNDP advisor in the field of disaster risk reduction.
She admits it was 'pretty tough' putting her ideals into words, "because there are so many problems in my country that are screaming to be addressed all at once: corruption, unemployment, low productivity. But if I had to start somewhere, I would start in the countryside. I want to encourage farming once again."
This desire obviously comes from her dislike of Asia's mega-cities. "Practically all of Asia's cities are terribly congested. There is an utter lack of discipline. Not only is traffic a stinking mess, but it is also next to impossible to walk on a sidewalk or get around easily because of how shops, restaurants and workshops sell their goods. Regulations are not enforced. We are so unhealthy because of the lifestyle that urban living promotes. If the countryside were to be redeveloped, we could encourage people to go and live there."
The economic possibilities that cities offer act like a magnet for the rural population, for whom the economic prospects are indeed "very small" and the chances of improvement virtually nonexistent. "Because it is becoming more and more difficult to be a farmer due to the land issues, farmers end up migrating to the city where they often end up joining the growing informal sector. They are then faced with housing, health and safety issues. If something unforeseen happens in their lives, if they suffer a setback, this can quickly turn into a personal catastrophe. Because they have nothing and nobody to fall back on. In the countryside, at least they could still grow their own food."
It won't be easy to convince farmers to remain behind in the rural areas, or to encourage former farmers to return to the countryside, where there is often the threat of political armed conflict. "Militarisation has a negative impact on local farmers, who are subject to various restrictions. This is coupled with the increasing cost of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and agricultural machinery, and the difficulties in accessing low-interest credit. So, any migration back to rural areas must go hand in hand with various incentives such as the promotion of organic farming, setting up and providing good health care services, and organising the sale of agricultural products. All these things have to occur simultaneously."
The city is attractive for many real reasons: there are more economic opportunities and children have a better chance of getting a good education. "That is true. That is why it's not enough to say that people 'must' return to the countryside. Education in rural areas must improve considerably by, among other things, paying better wages to the teachers so that the good teachers will not abandon rural community schools. Today, the best teachers head to the city, where they can earn more, and the bad ones stay behind. It's also equally important to have a good health care system in place. In rural areas, at present, there are no doctors, not even midwives." This health care doesn't even have to be expensive. "In the cities, health care is about hospitals and expensive medicines. But in rural areas, there is a lot of knowledge about traditional health practices, herbal medicine and preventive care."
Each region needs to utilise its own specific resources and measures. A fishing community is different from a peasant village in the mountains. "If you know that a certain community is unable to grow rice or grains, but it excels in making special handicrafts, then you have to support the latter. Each community produces what best fits that particular community. Make sure that these communities can sell their products to each other, so they can take as much advantage as possible of each other's expertise. This requires a proper transportation system. I don't claim that this is the only solution, but it could be a hopeful step in the right direction."
Delica Willison thinks that the city will continue to be the centre of cultural and intellectual life. "There will always be people going to the cities. That's not a development I want to stop. But I do want to see a balanced approach between urban and rural areas. If you promote resilient cities, you should also promote resilient rural areas. The same goes for safety, health care, education, and tourism: distribute things fairly across the country. I'm not advocating lowering the development of developed areas. But start developing underdeveloped rural areas. We need to correct these skewed kinds of development.
Nurse becomes a disaster expert
Zenaida Delica Willison (1950) was brought up taking care of others. In her village, her father was a traditional herbalist with informal training who healed people for free using simple means and medicines using bark, leaves, water, and heat. Young Zenaida also wanted to be a doctor, but her parents didn't think that was a good idea. Instead she was encouraged to become a nurse. After two years, she switched to business administration at the Lyceum of Batangas, where, like so many of her generation, she got involved in protests against the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. She eventually relocated to Manila. After four years of protesting against the dictatorship, she was arrested in 1974 and jailed together with her two year old daughter. Delica Willison studied in the Philippines and in England. She has worked in disaster risk reduction her entire working life and also serves as a consultant for various organisations. Her daughter now works in the same sector as her mother.
Read more about this subject
News / 29 June 2020
On 23 July 2020 a global network of NGOs working to strengthen corporate accountability for environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including Both ENDS, published an open letter to European Commission DG Justice Commissioner Reynders. The letter is a response to his recent commitment to propose legislation in 2021 on both corporate due diligence and directors’ duties as part of an initiative on sustainable corporate governance.
News / 26 June 2020
Countries could be facing a wave of cases from transnational corporations suing governments over actions taken to respond to the Covid pandemic using a system known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. Cases could arise from actions that many governments have taken to save lives, stem the pandemic, protect jobs, counter economic disaster and ensure peoples' basic needs are met. Threats of cases have already been made in Peru over the suspension of charging on toll roads, and law firms are actively advising corporations of the options open to them. 630 organisations from across the world, representing hundreds of millions of people, are calling on governments in an open letter to urgently take action to shut down this threat. The letter below is published today.
Press release / 22 June 2020
Amsterdam, Copenhagen 22 June 2020 – In these times of increasing climate crisis, corporate social responsibility also means that investments in fossil gas must be phased out as quickly as possible. In a world in which a maximum temperature rise of 1.5 Celsius is the norm, fossil gas cannot be a 'transition fuel' towards sustainable energy. This is the message from five European environmental organisations (Both ENDS, the Danish AnsvarligFremtid, Fossil Free Sweden, Fossil Free Berlin and the Italian Re:Common) to pension funds in their countries that still invest in fossil gas companies. They are promoting that message with a new campaign called "Gas Free Pensions", which is being launched today.
Publication / 19 June 2020
Blog / 16 June 2020
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
News / 3 June 2020
Last Friday, 29 May, it was announced that both the Fair, Green and Global Alliance (FGG) and the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) have been selected as two of the 20 potential strategic partnerships of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the 2021-2025 period. Both ENDS is pleased that the Dutch government is seriously considering extending its support to these networks, as they show that cooperation on the basis of equality between grassroots organisations and NGOs throughout the world can continue to bring about change in the position of women, in respect for human rights and in making trade chains and financing systems sustainable.
Blog / 28 May 2020
The Rio de la Plata Basin in South America extends across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The livelihoods of the millions of people who live there – city-dwellers, small farmers and fishers, and indigenous peoples – are under pressure from soya cultivation, mining and logging, and by the construction of dams and ports. The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation even worse.
Blog / 20 May 2020
'Comfortably staying home with the family': three women in Latin American villages about the Covid-19 crisis
"The Covid-19 crisis is affecting everyone, but in different ways. In some countries, people are feeling the consequences less than in others, in cities the problems are completely different to in the countryside, and men are suffering from the restrictions totally differently to women. Some of the organisations that we work with in Latin America talked to rural women about the effects of the crisis on their everyday lives and what they are doing to keep their heads above water. Below is a small selection from these conversations (freely translated from Spanish) to give some idea of the situation women in remote areas are finding themselves in, of the enormous solidarity they are experiencing and of the solutions, which largely lie in stimulating local food production." - Danielle Hirsch
News / 19 May 2020
Communities in the Niger Delta have been affected by air and water pollution due to Shell's activities for decades. This year, at Royal Dutch Shell's annual meeting, Kebetkache Women's Resource and Development Centre held Shell accountable for the consequences of their activities. Clean-up of oil spillages and ending gas flaring is becoming even more urgent in the fight against COVID-19, in which clean water is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus.
News / 19 May 2020
On Monday 11 May, at the government's request, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published an emergency advisory report on how the Netherlands can make an effective contribution to the worldwide fight against the Corona virus. Together with companies, scientists and environmental, human rights and development organisations, Both ENDS is today presenting a response to this report, in which we make a number of suggestions for investing in countries and people with insufficient resources to tackle the crisis effectively.
Blog / 13 May 2020
You can't eat gold, copper and gas
"The virus is spreading quicker than the information" – that was the first we heard in the Netherlands about COVID-19 in many African countries and the measures they were taking to tackle it. While states of emergency were announced, borders were closed and we saw image after image of violent police and army responses, many people outside the big cities did not know that what was going on. When the situation became clearer, serious concerns arose about the consequences of the measures that had been taken: the informal economy coming to a standstill, food shortages and internal migration flows.
Blog / 12 May 2020
Post-corona economy: five recommendations for the Dutch government on achieving the SDGs and the goals of the climate agreement
By Daniëlle Hirsch and Maria van der Heijden
The social debate on the Netherlands' role in the global economic crisis is now in full swing. At the centre of the debate is the question: how can we compensate for the setbacks affecting the Dutch economy without losing sight of efforts to make international trade and production chains more sustainable? We – Both ENDS and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) – are particularly concerned about what we hear in these discussions about human rights, climate and the environment. That these are 'luxury problems' which we have no time to address at this time of crisis. And this, while the Corona crisis is showing us just how closely our current economy is irrevocably intertwined with the pollution of the planet and is making people all around the world more and more vulnerable. In short, we have to make our economy more resilient to such shocks. And that means committing ourselves to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We therefore address ourselves first and foremost to the government.
Press release / 6 May 2020
The value of ABP's pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies has fallen by 44% from end of last year to its lowest point on March 16 this year, while the value of the rest of the portfolio decreased by 26%. This impact can be seen in simulations based on the publicly available equity portfolios of Dutch pension funds ABP and Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), carried out by research agency Profundo on behalf of Both ENDS. The simulations show that the risks of investing in the fossil fuel sector are increasing.
Blog / 5 May 2020
Today the Netherlands is celebrating freedom. Our freedom goes further than living in peace. We have the freedom to discuss policy to our hearts’ content on, for example, ending the lockdown on television, in the press and on social media. We can do that freely because we know that our rights to freedom of expression are well protected. But how different that is in countries where authoritarian leaders are grasping the crisis as an excuse to throw these rights out with the trash and rule with an iron hand.
Blog / 30 April 2020
COVID-19is placing our economy under a magnifying glass. Now that a large part of global trade has come to a standstill, the tension between international economic activity and local well-being is becoming more visible. That is very clear in northern Mozambique, where one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered in 2011. Dutch companies are investing in the processing and transport of the gas.
Blog / 20 April 2020
The world is turned upside down in this pandemic. Ordinary life is disrupted on our end. Many people suffer from the ‘polder lockdown’, although fortunately we have enough resilience and safety nets to meet our most urgent needs. Unfortunately, outside the Netherlands this all too often lacking. Especially in countries where public health structures are weak and where people are in a total lockdown. Because local communities that are shackled today may be hungry tomorrow. And aid and money does not naturally flow to the most vulnerable citizens there. So extra financial support is urgent.
Blog / 16 April 2020
In this time of crisis-driven reflection we can read telling analyses of past and present on all sides which are being translated into agendas for action. Many of the analyses address issues like inequality, climate, the financial sector, health care, education and women’s rights. They talk about ‘what’ and much less about ‘who’ or ‘how’.But a different future can only be built together with everyone, young and old, men and women. This future will not simply happen to us; we ourselves have a hand in it. It is time for new faces around the table, with new voices. It is time for a new future.
Blog / 15 April 2020
After Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had brought the fury of the Southern European countries down on his head on 26 March by blocking the European emergency fund, the Dutch were suddenly 'small-minded and selfish‘ (Parool) and we should ‘go on holiday somewhere else‘ (RTL News). The tone was set. The difficulties encountered in making agreements on support at European level contrast sharply with the speed with which the welcome support measures for employers, entrepreneurs and companies had been announced in the Netherlands two weeks earlier. We have learned nothing from our own past, while everyone benefits from greater priority for solidarity.
In these times of worldwide lockdown all attention is focused on the care sector, on the sorrow of those who are losing their loved ones, on children getting home-schooling and the neighbour who can no longer go the supermarket herself. Politicians and civil servants are hard at work trying to control the COVID-19 crisis and the economic crisis it has caused.
Blog / 14 April 2020
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often seen as an institution in crisis, powerless and no longer relevant, and especially after US president Donald Trump decided in 2019 to pull the plug on one of the WTO’s most important bodies (the one dealing with trade disputes). Now, more than 150 civil society organisations, networks and interest groups from around the world have signed an urgent letter to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, because they are seriously concerned about the state of affairs within the organization.