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Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East

February 14, 2018 in Blogs

By Sean Keller, Local Futures

How the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement promotes democracy in North Kurdistan.


In Rojava, a region in Syria also known as North Kurdistan, a groundbreaking experiment in communal living, social justice, and ecological vitality is taking place. Devastated by civil war, Syria is a place where a cessation of hostilities often seems like the most that can be hoped for. But Rojava has set its sights much higher. What started as a movement for political autonomy in the city of Kobane has blossomed into an attempt to build a radical pluralist democracy on the principles of communal solidarity — with food security, equality for women, and a localized, anti-capitalist economy at its core.

The Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM) has been at the heart of Rojava’s democratic revolution since its inception. The Movement grew out of single-issue campaigns against dam construction, climate change and deforestation, and in 2015 went from being a small collection of local ecological groups to a full-fledged network of “ecology councils” that are active in every canton of Rojava, and in neighboring Turkey as well. Its mission, as one of its most prominent founding members, Ercan Ayboğa, says, is to “strengthen the ecological character of the Kurdish freedom movement [and] the Kurdish women’s movement.”

It’s not an easy process. Neoliberal policies, war and climate change have made for an impressive roster of challenges. Crop diversity has been undermined due to longstanding subsidies for monocultures. Stocks of native seeds are declining. The region has been hit by trade embargoes from Turkey, Iraq, and the central Syrian government, and villages have been subject to forced displacement and depopulation. Groundwater reserves are diminishing, and climate change is reducing rainfall. Many wells and farms were destroyed by the self-described Islamic State, and many farmers have been killed by land mines. Much of the region is without electricity. And there has been an influx of refugees from the rest of Syria, fleeing civil war.

As MEM sees it, the solutions to these overlapping problems must be holistic and systemic. Ercan gives an impressive rundown of MEM’s priorities: Decreasing Rojava’s dependence on imports, returning to traditional water-conserving cultivation …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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