Friday, April 19, 2013

Teresa Lopez of Simiente

Today we present a guest blog from Craig Frayne of Horizons of Friendship in Cobourg. On April 16, 2013, Horizons hosted a presentation at the Bookshelf by Teresa Lopez of Simiente, a non-profit organization that does support and development work in Honduras.

Wisdom to know the Difference: A Honduran Visitor Speaks of Human-Scale Change in Dark Times

On a cool spring day in Guelph, Ontario, local citizens packed into the Bookshelf. A diverse mix of retired people, university students, and professionals was present to hear the guest speaker, Teresa Lopez from Honduras. Teresa is the Gender and Community Development Coordinator of Simiente Foundation (‘Seed’ Foundation). Her presentation was part of a two-week tour hosted by the Canadian non-profit organization Horizons of Friendship, which supports social change projects across Central America and southern Mexico.

The crowd listened as Teresa, who is soft-spoken and sincere, presented the harsh reality her communities face in southwest Honduras. The country is now considered the second poorest in the hemisphere (after Haiti) and has the highest violent crime rate in the world, now surpassing Mexico. Teresa’s work focuses on an area of the country faced with drought, migration, and neglect by most donor agencies and government.

Teresa did not mince words about Canadian foreign policy and corporations in Honduras. In 2009, a military coup d'├ętat ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras. Teresa explained how there has since been a deterioration of human rights in the country, with politically motivated targeting of journalists, members of the LGBT community, landless farmers, or virtually anyone who speaks out. Since the coup, Canada has not only failed to denounce these rights violations, but has tightened economic and political ties with the post-coup government.

It could all be a tragicomic fiction: the contrast of casino capitalism, mine concessions, and charter cities with poverty, violence, and human suffering. Perhaps most ironic is that these activities are often proposed as “development” projects.

Teresa Lopez explained the practical work her group is doing amid this bleak backdrop  with rural women in some of the poorest regions of Honduras. Simiente projects revolve around the concepts of Being, Knowing, and Having: being active members of their society, aware of their value and rights as persons and women; knowing skills and building the knowledge they need, such as how to plant a garden or care for their health; having the necessities for a basic life, such as access to clean water or seeds to grow vegetables.

Much development work begins and ends with the having, which, Teresa explained, does not respect the whole human: the capacity and freedom to think, act, and create. Teresa showed how building local networks and food systems is an act of resistance—resistance to a global economy that forces families to migrate North to find work; to propaganda saying they should buy junk food rather than grow vegetables; to drug cartels offering the Faustian elixir of quick wealth and power.

Indeed, in a time of decreasing international development and aid funding, one reason Teresa Lopez came to Canada was to gain financial support for Simiente’s work. Given regressive Canada/U.S. policy in the region (with respect to the drug war, free trade, immigration, foreign investment, etc.), it is clear that investing in grass-roots efforts like Simiente has little to do with charity. We can do our small part as private individuals. But as citizens, we can also ensure we are not part of the root problem.

You can view Teresa's presentation here:

- Craig Frayne, Horizons of Friendship

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