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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable food system

A man-made famine

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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/15/amanmadefamine
By Raj Patel, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday April 15 2008

There are many causes behind the world food crisis, but one chief villain: World Bank head, Robert Zoellick

For anyone who understands the current food crisis, it is hard to listen to the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, without gagging.

Earlier this week, Zoellick waxed apocalyptic about the consequences of the global surge in prices, arguing that free trade had become a humanitarian necessity, to ensure that poor people had enough to eat. The current wave of food riots has already claimed the prime minister of Haiti, and there have been protests around the world, from Mexico, to Egypt, to India.

The reason for the price rise is perfect storm of high oil prices, an increasing demand for meat in developing countries, poor harvests, population growth, financial speculation and biofuels. But prices have fluctuated before. The reason we’re seeing such misery as a result of this particular spike has everything to do with Zoellick and his friends.

Before he replaced Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, Zoellick was the US trade representative, their man at the World Trade Organisation. While there, he won a reputation as a tough and guileful negotiator, savvy with details and pushy with the neoconservative economic agenda: a technocrat with a knuckleduster.

His mission was to accelerate two decades of trade liberalisation in key strategic commodities for the United States, among them agriculture. Practically, this meant the removal of developing countries’ ability to stockpile grain (food mountains interfere with the market), to create tariff barriers (ditto), and to support farmers (they ought to be able to compete on their own). This Zoellick did often, and enthusiastically.

Without agricultural support policies, though, there’s no buffer between the price shocks and the bellies of the poorest people on earth. No option to support sustainable smaller-scale farmers, because they’ve been driven off their land by cheap EU and US imports. No option to dip into grain reserves because they’ve been sold off to service debt. No way of increasing the income of the poorest, because social programmes have been cut to the bone.

The reason that today’s price increases hurt the poor so much is that all protection from price shocks has been flayed away, by organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank.

Even the World Bank’s own Independent Evaluation Group admits (pdf) that the bank has been doing a poor job in agriculture. Part of the bank’s vision was to clear away the government agricultural clutter so that the private sector could come in to make agriculture efficient. But, as the Independent Evaluation Group delicately puts it, “in most reforming countries, the private sector did not step in to fill the vacuum when the public sector withdrew.” After the liberalisation of agriculture, the invisible hand was nowhere to be seen.

But governments weren’t allowed to return to the business of supporting agriculture. Trade liberalisation agreements and World Bank loan conditions, such as those promoted by Zoellick, have made food sovereignty impossible.

This is why, when we see Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the IMF wailing about food prices, or Zoellick using the crisis to argue with breathless urgency for more liberalisation, the only reasonable response is nausea.

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Written by Tseday

September 21, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Hunger levels soar in East Africa

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THIS IS A MAN-MADE FOOD CRISIS!!! IF AFRICANS HAD ACCESS TO A FAIR TRADE, THIS WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED…AMERICA WANTS/NEEDS FAMINE BECAUSE THAT IS HOW THEY SUSTAIN THEIR OWN AGRICULTURAL SECTOR (USAID) …THAT DOES NOT HELP THE AFRICAN FARMER BECAUSE HE WILL BE UNABLE TO SELL HIS OWN HARVEST…USAID IS A FAKE FIX…UNFAIR TRADE IS THE PROBLEM…IMF/WORLD BANK IS THE PROBLEM…SELFISH WESTERN GOVERNMENTS ARE THE PROBLEM!!! IN THE MEAN TIME, INNOCENT POOR PEOPLE ARE DYING BECAUSE OF AN AID/TRADE SYSTEM THAT FAILED THEM! God will judge us for this…
“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/7626562.stm


Nearly 17 million people in the Horn of Africa are in urgent need of food and other aid – almost twice as many as earlier this year, the UN has said.

Some $700m (£382m) in emergency aid is needed to prevent the region descending into full-scale famine, it said.

Top UN humanitarian official John Holmes said food stocks were critically low in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, northern Kenya and Uganda.

The area has suffered from drought, conflict and rocketing food prices.

The number of those at risk could rise still further “as the drought deepens and the hunger season continues”, Mr Holmes said.

“What we need essentially is more funds, and more funds now, otherwise the situation is going to become even more catastrophic than it is today.”

The estimated total for the rest of this year for those in need is $1.4bn. Almost half of that has been raised, Mr Holmes said, but there remains a shortfall of $716m.

“We may need significant funds after that period – this is not the end of the story,” he said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation blames worldwide rises in food prices for helping to push 75 million more people into the ranks of the world’s hungry last year – bringing the total to 925 million.

Written by Tseday

September 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Stuffed and Starved – Raj Patel

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In Stuffed and Starved, Raj Patel lists 10 changes we must make to make a difference in the world.

 

1. Transform our tastes – don’t eat processed food, eat slowly, prepare your own food, and savour it.
2. Eat locally and seasonally. 
3. Eat agroecologically — try to eat food grown in harmony with its local environment, learn about your local environment and grow your own food.
4. Support locally owned business.
5. All workers have the right to dignity — freedom to organize and work without persecution.
6. Profound and comprehensive rural change — build rural areas with economic opportunities and a quality of life that attracts families.
7. Living wages for all.
8. Support for a sustainable architecture of food — rethink open space and sprawl as we develop.
9. Snapping the food system’s bottleneck — among other things, end subsidies to agribusiness, aggressively police their monopolies and tax processed food to a level where it reflects the harm it does.
10. Owning and providing restitution for the injustices of the past and present — that rich countries of the Global North such as Britain forgive debts and pay reparations to countries exploited in the Global South.

Written by Tseday

August 16, 2008 at 4:46 pm