Charity Partner Story: The Gaia Foundation
Our projects and collaborations take us all over the world and we’ve been proud to contribute to and become involved with many inspiring charities. In this series, we’ll be telling the stories of organisations we partner with and support and keeping you abreast of our projects so that you can become part of the good work that we do, and choose to support it too.
Ethical practice is in our DNA so not only do we work directly with our artisans and producers, ensuring safe working conditions and fair wages, we also donate a portion of our profits to causes we care about. For our first charity story, we’re looking to the Gaia Foundation, a registered charity that has been upholding indigenous wisdom and earth-centred perspectives, working with communities and movements in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe for more than 30 years.
Our work with the Gaia Foundation has enabled us to fund projects and campaigns that we feel are essential to improving the lives of vulnerable indigenous people all over the world. With our support, the foundation has been able to continue protecting sacred lands, reviving traditional knowledge and practices and handing governance back to communities.
In The Philippines
This year we helped local activists in the Philippines take “In Defence of Life” – produced by Gaia Foundation and available to watch here – on tour to universities, local politicians and rural communities, to raise awareness of the harsh realities of the mining industry. The film features Didipio, in the Philippines, where locals are saying ‘Palayasin!’ (Get out!) to the foreign mining company that is devastating their farming land and water sources. Our support of this film’s production and its promotional journey helps to shine a light on laws that favour mining corporations over indigenous people’s right to their ancestral and sacred territories, and the importance of protecting the people and the fragile environments of the Philippines.
Despite centuries of violence against their people, lands and culture, from settlers, governments, missionaries and guerrilla movements, and the separation of their tribe by borders between Brazil and Peru, the Ashaninka are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Through Gaia Foundation, we have supported the local indigenous organisation APIWTXA, which unites Ashaninka communities along the Amônia River in Brazil. Their project, called Yorenka Tasori (Wisdom of the Creator), is about strengthening ties with Ashaninka people in Peru, to revitalise their culture and the protect their ancestral territories and sacred natural sites. A small group have travelled to sacred places along the Ucayali, Tambo, Ene and Perene Rivers, many of which are under threat from development or extraction projects, and will be making a documentary.
Traditional chiefs and spirit leaders of the Gutu clan, in Zimbabwe, asked for support to help local communities reconnect with the spiritual importance of their ancestral lands and become more food secure. The Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF) provided training nurturing soils and water resources, reviving indigenous seed diversity, and reconnecting with their spirituality. Local people are now building food sovereignty and rehabilitating their sacred forest and wetlands. Our support has helped to prevent any further erosion of the traditional cultures and practices so important to the Gutu clans – as they welcome a new era in Zimbabwe.
This year, we have supported the actions of one of Benin’s most active civil society groups, GRABE (Groupe de Recherche et d’Action pour le Bien-Etre au Benin), to protect endangered sacred forests. These fragile remnants of forest and tree groves have tremendous ethno-botanical, conservation and spiritual significance in Benin, as sites for religious (Voodoo) practices and the collection of plant material for traditional medicine. GRABE is putting conservation back in the hands of local communities and kingdoms along the Ouémé River, and tackling the drivers of deforestation.
Here at Sahara, contributing to the existence and impact of projects like these is part of what makes us so proud to call ourselves an ethical brand. Discover more about the causes we support in the next edition of our charity partner stories.
Liz Hosken, Director of the Gaia Foundation with the Gutu Clan in Zimbabwe.