Our Helen recently attended the Lush Spring Prize event, where Kindling was shortlisted for an award.
"After what happened here in Manchester last Monday, it’s hard to know how to start a piece about the event that I was at the time. But it also feels in some way like the right way to respond - both to what happened in Manchester and to the madness of the global shift to the right - with stories of hope and of incredible and inspirational people struggling against all odds to create a fairer, more just world.
The event was the new Lush spring prize for social and environmental regeneration (for which Kindling was shortlisted) and over two days I met people and heard stories that have humbled and inspired me. Stories of extraordinary people working to regenerate the soil, eco-systems, their communities and world. Stories reminding me that another and better world is possible - indeed that it is already happening in little (and not so little) corners all over the world. A better world that will most definitely not be brought about by violence; nor by voting in our coming elections out of fear, rather than for what we believe in and care about.
Social and environmental regeneration is basically about putting back more than we take – be that in regards to soil, eco-systems or people and it’s about the way you work. So all of the projects were about working collectively and democratically, with ecological and social justice at their core.
The 11 winning projects came under the categories of: intentional, young, established and influence and demonstrated a wide range of solutions to the destruction or degradation caused by our current mainstream system.
Benaa (Egypt) work with and empower disenfranchised youth to build sustainable development projects and create an interactive enabling environment. Increasing skills, but also crucially they say transforming potentially negative forces in their society into a real force for social change.
Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities (Malawi) is great example of peer learning. They support smallholder farmers to build healthy, equitable, and resilient communities using farmer-led participatory research, ecological approaches to farming, local indigenous knowledge, and democratic processes.
The established projects are inspiring examples of change happening on a wide scale. Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania has brought over 2000 smallscale farmers into the agroecological farming movement by demonstrating and practising agroecological principles in 72 groups from 52 villages using participatory farmer field schools.
Timbaktu works in over 172 villages and reaching about 20,000 marginalised families. They support women, landless people, small farmers and young people - to form co-operatives, regenerate unproductive land, make their voices heard and more (too much to list!).
La Via Campesina won the influence award and are using their prize money for their work towards a UN Peasant Rights Declaration. This is a set of collective rights to protect millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers.
The event was full of discussion, ideas and advice from the established projects to the intentional and young projects. Possibly my favourite was that even though you often feel like everyone else is against you and you aren’t getting anywhere stick at it, because you can make a huge difference, because regeneration is so important – and because ‘if you just stand by and let it carry on as it is you will feel like shit!’
All of the projects really were amazing and when the video of highlights of the event come up we will let you know as they are worth looking at if you’re having a moment of losing hope. As one of the audience said after the panel on reason’s to be cheerful (when the world appears to be going to hell in a hand cart), I’ve never before been at an event where every contribution is interesting and inspirational. Or where I’ve heard so many stories about lions and snakes for that matter – but that’s a whole other story!
So I hope that helps lift your spirits a little and (whether you think it’ll make a difference or not) remember on the 8th June, vote for what you care about not what your scared of. And then go out from the polling station and do something really useful to change the world from the grass roots".