Food sovereignty: we can feed the world

16 April 2010 by Esther Vivas


We live in the context of a multiple systematic crisis: economical, ecological, alimentary, care, energetic… And the capitalist system, far from providing answers to a crisis that itself has generated, bets for a gateway characterized by the same concepts: major privatization of the public services, plundering of the natural resources, technological answers to climate change, giving subsidies and financial grants to private companies and banc institutions.

The food crisis shows one of the most dramatic faces of the current capitalist system, with more than a billion people in the world, one out of six, who starves, especially in countries from the Southern hemisphere. Paradoxically, in the last twenty years, while population has been growing at a 1.14% yearly rate, the production of food has increased in more than a 2% rate. Therefore, and evaluating this data, we can conclude that currently we are producing enough food to feed the population of the whole world. Then, where does the problem lie? Well, that if there is not enough income to pay the price, people cannot eat.

The neoliberal policies applied to agriculture in the last thirty years (green revolution, delocalization, free trade, depeasantization…), have lead us to an increasing food and alimentary insecurity. Food has become a business, a privatized good in the hands of a few companies from the agrifood industry, which have the support from governments and international institutions.

Having to face this situation, summit after summit, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

, the International Monetary Fund IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
, the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). , together with the main companies of the sector, are telling us that in order to overcome this crisis a brand new green revolution is necessary, as well as more transgenics and free trade. They want us to believe that the policies that lead us to this current situation will help us overcome the problems generated by these policies themselves.

Local, peasant-like and ecological agriculture

But the alternatives exist. The relocalization of agriculture in the hands of the peasants, will allow us to guarantee a universal access to food. And this has been proven by the results shown in an extended international investigation which lasted four years and which involved more than 400 scientists, carried out by The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an evaluation project supported by the World Bank, in partnership with the FAO, the UNDP UNDP
United Nations Development Programme
The UNDP, founded in 1965 and based in New York, is the UN’s main agency of technical assistance. It helps the DC, without any political restrictions, to set up basic administrative and technical services, trains managerial staff, tries to respond to some of the essential needs of populations, takes the initiative in regional co-operation programmes and co-ordinates, theoretically at least, the local activities of all the UN operations. The UNDP generally relies on Western expertise and techniques, but a third of its contingent of experts come from the Third World. The UNDP publishes an annual Human Development Report which, among other things, classifies countries by their Human Development Rating (HDR).

, the UNESCO, government representatives, private, scientific and social institutions, etc., taking as a model the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Evaluation of the Ecosystems of the Millennium.

It is interesting to observe how, in spite of the fact that the report was backed up by all of these institutions, it concluded that the agro-ecological production would provide those least favored, the poorest population, with monetary and alimentary income, at the same time that would provide a surplus for the market, becoming a better guarantee for food and alimentary security than transgenic production. The report issued by the IAAST supported the local, peasant-like and familiar production, and the redistribution of the land in hands of the rural communities. The report was rejected by agribusiness and filed away by the World Bank, even though 61 governments quietly approved it, with the exception of the United States, Canada, Australia, among others.

A research study by the University of Michigan (2007) positioned itself along the same lines, concluding that agro-ecological farms are highly productive and capable of guaranteeing food and alimentary security all around the globe, on the contrary to industrialized agricultural production and free trade. Their conclusions pointed out, even taking as a reference their most conservative estimates, that organic agriculture could supply at least the same amounts as done currently; although, their researchers considered that, a more realistic estimate would be that ecological agriculture could increase the global production of food by 50%.

In the area of commercialization, and in order to break the monopolies of major distributions, has proven essential to support short circuits of commercialization (local markets, direct sales, groups and cooperatives of agro-ecological consumption…), avoiding intermediaries and mediators, and establishing closer relationships between producers and consumers based on trust and mutual understanding, which will lead to a growing solidarity between the countryside and the cities. Currently, the broad distribution (supermarkets, chain discounts, hypermarkets, etc.) monopolize the commercialization chain of food, obtaining the maximum benefits at the expense of exploiting workers, peasants and the environment.

Food sovereignty proves to be the best alternative to end world hunger. It is a matter of returning the control of the agricultural and food policies to the people (peasants, workers, consumers, women…), as well as their access to the land and the common goods Common goods In economics, common goods are characterized by being collectively owned, as opposed to either privately or publicly owned. In philosophy, the term denotes what is shared by the members of one community, whether a town or indeed all humanity, from a juridical, political or moral standpoint. (water, seeds…). A food sovereignty which will have to be deeply feminist, recognizing the role of women as a guarantee of food to a global level, and fighting against the oppression, not only of the capitalist system, but also of the patriarchal system.

**Contribution to the working group on agro-ecology, food sovereignty and degrowth at the Second Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity Equity The capital put into an enterprise by the shareholders. Not to be confused with ’hard capital’ or ’unsecured debt’. . March 26-29th 2010, Barcelona.

*Esther Vivas is a member of the Center of Studies for Social Movements of the
Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona; she is an activist and co-author of books like Del campo al plato (Icaria editorial, 2009) and Supermercados, no gracias (Icaria editorial, 2007), among others.

+ info en: http://esthervivas.wordpress.com/english/




Esther Vivas

est née en 1975 à Sabadell (Etat espagnol). Elle est auteure de plusieurs livres et de publications sur les mouvements sociaux, la consommation responsable et le développement durable. Elle a publié en français En campagne contre la dette (Syllepse, 2008) et est coauteure des livres en espagnol Planeta indignado. Ocupando el futuro (2012), Resistencias globales. De Seattle a la crisis de Wall Street (2009) est coordinatrice des livres Supermarchés, non merci et Où va le commerce équitable ?, entre autres.
Elle a activement participé au mouvement anti-globalisation et anti-guerre à Barcelone, de même qu’elle a contribué à plusieurs éditions du Forum Social Mondial, du Forum Social Européen et du Forum Social Catalan. Elle travaille actuellement sur des questions comme la souveraineté alimentaire et le commerce équitable.
Elle est membre de la rédaction de la revue Viento Sur et elle collabore fréquemment avec des médias conventionnels tels que Público et avec des médias alternatifs comme El Viejo Topo, The Ecologist, Ecología Política, Diagonal, La Directa, entre autres.
Elle est également membre du Centre d’Études sur les Mouvements Sociaux (CEMS) à l’Université Pompeu Fabra.
@esthervivas | facebook.com/esthervivas | www.esthervivas.com

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