ARI intensifies its focus on food justice and peacebuilding to enhance its training and impact on the world.
Food is and always has been essential for all humans. Eating is an indispensable part of life for all creatures on earth. However, the meaning of food and the purpose of growing food has changed over the years. Farmers, in the past, primarily grew food for their families and their local communities. Only after feeding themselves would they sell the surplus. But now, many farmers grow crops to sell on the market so that they can buy food for their families. The main purpose is to earn a profit. Farming is then maximized by increasing the size of land and utilizing a lot of chemical inputs and technology. In this transition, food is transformed from being part of peaceful human coexistence to becoming an element of competition, even conflict, that may lead to violence.
At ARI, however, we promote peace and reconciliation through food justice.
Many of our graduates’ communities are in areas where war, conflict, discrimination, and other forms of injustice are rampant. Graduates are often engaged in the heavy physical, mental and emotional demands of peacebuilding. But although peacebuilding, along with healing and reconciliation, has always been an important part of life at ARI (indeed, ARI’s very foundation goes back to the goal of reconciliation and restoration from the destruction that Japan brought during World War II), we have not highlighted these themes in the Rural Leaders Training or during our community life activities in detail until recently.
We have now chosen a more intentional focus on reconciliation and peacebuilding in our training because we have access to abundant resources and a rich environment for nurturing leaders to address conflict situations. We also strongly desire to research and learn more intentionally how we can enhance our role in peacebuilding throughout the world.
Backgrounds of conflict
As I mentioned, many of the participants come from countries with conflict situations, countries such as East Timor, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Some come from ethnic groups marginalized in their own countries such as the Karen, Shan, Chin, and Kachin tribes in Myanmar. The roots and types of conflicts vary. In many of these areas, people are fighting for independence or more autonomy from their central governments. In Cameroon,
tension between English-speaking regions that demand independence and French-speaking security forces are escalating and the fight affects the daily life of the people. Terrorist groups continue to destabilize many areas of the world, especially in Africa and Asia.
Tomoko Arakawa, ARI Director