by intern Shanti Prasad
A Thousand Suns, a new short documentary by The Global Oneness Project explores the stark contrasts between the industrialized world and the natural world of The Gamo Highlands in the African Rift Valley of southwestern Ethiopia. The film shows how the indigenous people of The Gamo Highlands may be “holding keys to our own survival” through an in depth look at their interconnected culture, belief systems, and agricultural practices, which have remained intact for 10,000 years.
The documentary examines the involvement of two outside organizations that are potential threats to the Gamo Highlands. One is the evangelical Protestant church; it is introducing monotheistic traditions that have no place for worshiping nature, a central tenet of the Gamo system of laws and rituals.
The other organization is the controversial Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which was established by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. The movie illustrates how proponents of AGRA say that they are helping to provide technology to small-scale farms. Critics in the film argue that with agribusinesses like Monsanto, Cargill, and Syngenta involved, AGRA is profit driven, and its practices will result in reduced income for Africans. The Network for Eco-Farming in Africa argues that the knowledge of African farmers should be taken into account rather than relying solely on foreign technology and ideas.
This movie–available for free download, and airing on PBS this spring– reveals how the Gamo Highlands is an ideal example of a rich ecosystem that has been preserved through sustainable stewardship of the land. They are now a center of agricultural diversity, which gives them the resilience necessary to cope with agricultural adversity. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released a study, which concludes that organic agricultural systems are out producing traditional agriculture and are making “a significant contribution to hunger and poverty.” The Gamo people provide a lesson in how our holistic relationship with nature is deeply linked to our survival.