Friday, August 19, 2022

The Capitalist System and the Food Crisis

 Worsening harvests, infertile soil and increasing food poverty are affecting the majority of small farmers across the globe, especially in the Global South. But the climate and food crises are not isolated phenomena. They are the result of a global capitalist system that has prioritised big corporate agricultural profits over people and the planet.

“Most farmers can no longer produce adequate food for their families,” says Vladimir Chilinya, a Zambian coordinator for FIAN International, an organisation that campaigns for the democratisation of food and nutrition.“Profit-making entities control our food systems… including the production and distribution of seed.” He explained, “Under recent policy changes, priority is given to maize production. This is one of the key drivers for monocropping, which is responsible for the reduction in varieties of available foods in Zambia.” 

FIAN is documenting how the corporate control of agriculture is weakening food security. Seed systems have gone from being cooperative-led (which gives farmers more agency and fair prices) to being corporate-led (which prioritises profits).

In May, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the number of people living in famine conditions has increased by more than 500 percent since 2016, and more than 270 million people are now living in extreme food insecurity.

While Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia has exacerbated this crisis climate change and capitalism are the primary engines behind this global food emergency.

By 2030, global warming will have diminished the world’s average agricultural production by more than a fifth

In Zambia, the maize harvest for 2021/22 is expected to be down by a quarter, thanks to droughts and flash floods between 2019 and 2021,

The so-called “Green Revolution”  was a collaboration between India and the U.S. with USAID and the Ford Foundation being key actors)] and was dependent on agrochemical usage and intensive plant breeding. High-yielding hybrid crops were introduced – the main one being IR8, a semi-dwarf rice variety – alongside the use of fertilisers, pesticides and lots of groundwater (these high-yielding crops required a lot more water). Calorific food was valued over nutrition, and these foods had costly inputs.

Despite occupying less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland, small-scale farmers provide 70 percent of the world’s food

This shift towards big agriculture and more profitable monocultures made small farmers more dependent on expensive chemical fertilisers, forcing them into ever greater levels of debt. In India, 10,677 agricultural workers were reported to have taken their own lives in 2020, many of them farmers trapped by mounting debts resulting from the high costs of these farming inputs.

 “Land degradation is affecting food production in Kenya because of the overuse of chemical fertilisers,” said Leondia Odongo, co-founder of social justice organisation Haki Nawiri Afrika.

In 1980, Kenya was one of the first countries to receive a structural adjustment loan from the World Bank. It was conditional on reducing essential subsidies for farmer inputs, such as fertilisers. This process instigated a shift towards farming cash crops for export, such as tea, coffee and tobacco, instead of farming key staples for the local population, such as maize, wheat and rice.

Save the Children and Oxfam found that 3.5 million people in Kenya are already suffering crisis levels of hunger – and this is likely to rise to 5 million. Meanwhile, only 2 percent of the $4.4 billion required in humanitarian aid (for Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia) has been funded.  In the country, malnutrition remains concerningly high, with 29 percent of children in rural areas and 20 percent of children in cities being stunted. Despite experiencing deficits which threaten its population’s food security, Kenya remains a vital food exporter, with major exports in tea, coffee, vegetables and cut flowers.

Capitalism is causing the food crisis, not war | Progressive International

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