Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Way Forward Is With Socialism

Growing Food Trade, Shrinking Self-Sufficiency


WASHINGTON - As society reaches the limits of available farmland and accessible irrigation water, many countries have turned to international markets to help meet domestic food demand. Imports of grain worldwide have increased more than fivefold between 1960 and 2013. However, importing food as a response to resource scarcity creates dependence on global markets, writes Gary Gardner, director of publications at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute's latest Vital Signs Online article (

"In 2013, more than a third of the world's nations---77 in all---imported at least a quarter of the major grains they needed. This compares to just 49 countries in 1961," writes Gardner. "Meanwhile, the number of grain-exporting countries expanded by just 6 between 1961 and 2013."

Food import dependence has several roots. One problem is the steady loss of fertile land and fresh water. In 62 countries, the area of farmland is insufficient to meet domestic consumption needs, and in 22 countries, the consumption of agricultural products (not just grains) requires more fresh water than each country can extract.
Despite the importance of farmland, land continues to be degraded or paved over. Farmland near cities is regularly converted to accommodate housing, industry, and other urban needs. The United States, for example, lost 9.3 million hectares of agricultural land to development--- an area the size of the state of Indiana---between 1982 and 2007.
Pressure on water supplies for agriculture is also becoming widespread. A 2012 study in the journal Nature estimated that some 20 percent of the world's aquifers are pumped faster than they are recharged by rainfall, often in key food-producing areas.

Another threat to national endowments of farmland has emerged in the practice of "land grabbing"--- the purchase or leasing of land overseas by investment firms, biofuel producers, large-scale farming operations, and governments. Since 2000, agreements have been concluded for foreign entities to purchase or lease more than 42 million hectares, an area about the size of Japan. The bulk of the grabbed land is located in Africa, with Asia being the next most common region for acquisitions.
"The largest source of land grabbing is the United States, where investors see an opportunity to make money on an increasingly limited resource," writes Gardner. However, "contracts often do not take into account the interests of smallholders, who may have been working the acquired land over a long period."

Importing food as a response to resource scarcity has two clear dangers. First, not all countries can be net food importers; at some point the demand for imported food could exceed the capacity to supply it. Already, many major supplier regions are themselves experiencing resource constraints. Second, excessive dependence on imports leaves a country vulnerable to supply interruptions, whether for natural reasons (such as drought or pest infestation in supplier countries) or political manipulation.
An import strategy may be unavoidable for some nations, but it should be considered only reluctantly by countries that can meet their food needs in more conventional ways. It is crucial to conserve agricultural resources wherever possible.
The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs. 

from here

The World Bank’s Sham Conference on Land and Poverty 


Every year for the last fifteen years, the World Bank has organized “The Conference on Land and Poverty,” ostensibly to discuss how to “improve land governance.” And every year, the World Bank Group has been accused of financing projects that support often brutal grabbing of land and other resources from local communities.
This year, the 16th such gathering will take place in Washington DC from March 23 to 27. And yet again, the hypocrisy of their claims to be leaders of just and fair land reform will be called out with opponents pointing to the impact of some of their recent investments in places like Uganda (2011), Honduras (2012), and Cambodia (2014).

The big question is whose interests the World Bank really serves. While they spend considerable time and money painting themselves as champions of the poor, the Bank has a battery of practices and policies that suggest a very different truth.

Firstly, patterns of investment show a systematic prioritization of the needs of large multi-national agricultural and financial corporations. Just last year, for example, the Bank created a $350 million facility to cover the risks of investments made by the Silverlands Fund, a private equity fund that has been accused of financing land grabs.
Secondly, through its high profile Doing Business report and accompanying advisory services, the Bank uses its considerable financial and political might to force countries to adopt “business-friendly” reforms, which focus on creating conditions that make it as easy as possible for agribusiness giants to get access to developing countries’ land and natural resources.
Thirdly, by commoditizing land and encouraging farmers to get credits through mortgaging their property, the Bank does not protect famers’ fair and durable access to this crucial asset.

For the Bank’s PR rhetoric to hold water, it would need a far stronger focus on the needs of smallholder famers, who currently produce up to 80 percent of the food in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This would require measures to protect existing land users, including anti-eviction laws and recognition of customary systems.
The crucial role of smallholder farming in fighting poverty and bringing sustainable development has recently been highlighted by UN organizations such as FAO and IFAD. In a world where economic and food price instability is the rule, sustained access to land is a prerequisite to ensure livelihood support for family farmers and pastoralists.

Among other benefits, sustaining smallholder agriculture will help preserve the environment, enhance biodiversity, increase rural employment, and help realize inclusive development. These goals are threatened by the Bank’s vision of land as a marketable commodity and by its efforts to enable corporations’ exploitation of natural resources.
We therefore call on all stakeholders, including the United Nations, civil society organizations, farmers groups, and trade unions, to reject the Bank’s sham Conference on Land and Poverty and denounce its attempt to influence land governance for the benefits of a few.

from here with links

Note the common thread between the two articles above. Whichever way you look at it the capitalist system has the basic requirement to include profit making at every possible step and juncture without any consideration for the knock-on effects on either the majority of people or the planet. Adding support to today's post relating to the upcoming election in the UK - here -  these posts show the only way to change the course away from capitalist destruction is to come together across the world in order to supersede it with world socialism.


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