Community partner Fatima Obeidat talks Jordanian food-based livelihoods

Four Stories community partner from Jordan, Fatima Obeidat, stars in two new videos. She is founder of Kananah Women’s Organization, which assists Syrian refugee women and low-income Jordanian women to develop food-based livelihoods.

In the first video Fatima talks about za'atar that her organization prepares for export to the US. Za’atar is the name for both an herb (Origanicum syriacum, related to thyme) and an archetypal Palestinian spice blend, which combines the herb with sesame seeds, sumac and other spices.

The video starts with two bags, one with dried za’atar (Origanum syriacum) and the other with the same product but ground. No spices added yet. The za’atar spice mix is in the containers (it is called Dukkah in Arabic, with a hard k in the middle). It is also called za’atar baladi (original zaatar) and its ingredients are simple: the thyme-like herb mixed with sumac, roasted sesame, and salt.

Fatimah says that za’atar when eaten with olive oil on bread – a favourite snack through Palestine – provides a complete meal, with added health benefits from the herb. (The other voice in the video is just reminding her of her steps, including tasting the product.)

A little online research indicates that za’atar has some impressive health benefits: boosting the immune system and skin health, building strong bones, increasing circulation, clearing the respiratory tracts, soothing inflammation, boosting energy, improving mood, aiding memory, and treat chronic diseases. (We can’t vouch for all these benefits!)

In the second video, Fatima talks about makdous, the contents of the metal cans prepared for export to the US. It is a preserved/ pickled eggplant that is usually eaten for smaller meals (breakfast and dinner) or as a side dish with lunch (the main meal). Makdous is almost always part of a mezzeh platter.

Fatima describes the process:
blanched small eggplant
chopped walnuts
diced sweet and chili peppers (some people use fresh and others powder)
diced garlic
olive oil
Once the eggplant is blanched, make a slit on the side and stuff it with a mix of the other ingredients. Preserve in olive oil. Fatima mentions that between the nuts, garlic and vegetable, makdous is a very healthy meal addition at any time.

Fatima hopes that her export project will be successful and that people of Arab descent living in diaspora will be able to find both products in America and thus eat something from "home." She praises all the children who are living and working away from home in order to help their families.

Documentary: The Thinking Garden

A film telling the inspiring story of South African women seeking food justice

This is a film about resilience – three generations of older women in a village in South Africa who came together in the dying days of apartheid to create a community garden. In the midst of severe drought and political turmoil, older women with limited access to land and little political voice joined together, beyond the household, beyond their kin, to make something new. They named their garden Hleketani – “thinking” in the local xiTsonga language – a place where women gather to think about how to effect change. The garden provides affordable vegetables to local people, nourishes those living with HIV/AIDS, and offers land, community, and opportunity for women. In short, the garden has helped restore the lives of people pushed to the edge. Filmed against the backdrop of a new drought gripping southern Africa, The Thinking Garden tells the remarkable story of what can happen when older women take matters into their own hands, and shows how local action in food production can give even the most vulnerable people a measure of control over their food and their futures.

More information on the Hleketani Garden can be found at Dr. Elizabeth Vibert's website,

Dr. Elizabeth Vibert: “Apartheid, Dispossession and Legacies in Jopi Village, South Africa”

As part of a lecture series on Decolonizing Settler Societies, Dr. Vibert gives a presentation on the history of apartheid and dispossession in Jopi Village, South Africa and the lasting legacies from that history.

*This lecture was originally presented to an undergraduate seminar class in the History Department at the University of Victoria

News from La Guajira: “Community Gardens Restore Hope to Indigenous People of La Guajira”

The following article brings some good news from La Guajira, where a participatory-research project has resulted in a thriving community garden.

Currently, they have crops of watermelon, squash, corn, beans, melon and yucca. The rainwater has also made possible the significant increase of goats and goats, and the care of the cows recently incorporated. This production directly benefits 45 families from the Taiguaicat, Pañarrer and Limunaka communities of the Manaure reservation, in which 206 people live.

Huertas comunitarias devolvieron la esperanza a indígenas de La Guajira

News from La Guajira, Colombia on the impacts of COVID-19 in Wayuu communities

The Crop Captain

"And here I am asking Juya - Father of the Rain, to visit these lands soon, because the livelihood and economy of hundreds of families throughout the La Guajira peninsula depend on the rain and much more in this confinement due to the pandemic."

Photographic rights of: Belkis Fontalvo Ramírez

By Covid 19 Hunger and thirst get worse in Wayuu territory

"With the closure of all commercial activities by governments as a preventive measure to avoid the spread of Covid-19, the Wayuu are forced to abandon their daily activities such as the street selling of food, checheres and handicrafts, the offering of means informal transportation systems, and the high migration flow that takes place at the border to commercialize anything that can be bought or sold has stopped."

Photo License: Miguel Iván Ramírez Boscán

Colombia: Indigenous Children at Risk of Malnutrition and Death

"'The indigenous communities of La Guajira do not have access to enough food or the water necessary to practice basic hygiene, including washing their hands, and information and access to health care is extremely deficient,' said  José Miguel Vivanco , director for the Americas from Human Rights Watch. 'This situation has contributed to the fact that for years the Wayuu have suffered one of the highest levels of child malnutrition in Colombia, and it is extremely worrying in the current context of Covid-19.'"

Hunger: the other pandemic of the Wayuu

"The coronavirus pandemic has further undermined the fragile situation of Colombian indigenous peoples. One of the most worrying cases is that of the Wayuu, who make up 20 percent of the total indigenous population of the country. As the data shows, the situation was dire before covid19 arrived."

Plants that heal the body and soul

"According to the Wayuu, although the healing properties of traditional medicines are not scientifically proven, several cases of daily life in the communities show encouraging results about their usefulness in preventing and curing the symptoms of covid 19."