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Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers! November 26, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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???????????Coffee (Buna) originated from Oromia2Study on Agroecology (OAKLAND INSTITUTE) in Africa Sweet potato harvest. Credit to Aminah Jasho, KHCP.

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!

GRAIN, Ecologist

22nd November 2014

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN – and it’s justified by the need to ‘feed the world’. But it’s the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

The United Nations declared 2014 as theInternational Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual ‘State of Food and Agriculture‘, which this year is dedicated to family farming.

Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world’s farmland and produce 80% of the world’s food.

But on the ground – whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain – rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.

A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world’s farmland – or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN’s report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.

How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world’s farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world’s farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN’s findings.

Just what is a ‘family farm’

The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)

Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO’s count of ‘family farms’.

What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country’s battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?

Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.

It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land. Instead, the FAO focuses its message on how family farmers should innovate and be more productive.

Small farmers are ever more squeezed in

Small food producers’ access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations.

In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares – the size of almost all the farmland in India – has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating.

In the next few decades, experts predict that the global area planted to oil palm willdouble, while the soybean area will grow by a third. These crops don’t feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex.

Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South.

While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming.

Small is beautiful – and productive

The paradox, however, and one of the reasons why despite having so little land, small producers are feeding the planet, is that small farms are often more productive than large ones.

If the yields achieved by Kenya’s small farmers were matched by the country’s large-scale operations, the country’s agricultural output would double. In Central America, the region’s food production would triple. If Russia’s big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.

Another reason why small farms are the feeding the planet is because they prioritise food production. They tend to focus on local and national markets and their own families. In fact, much of what they produce doesn’t enter into trade statistics – but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.

If the current processes of land concentration continue, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on.

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.

Agrarian reforms can and should be the springboard to moving in this direction.

To double global food production, we must support the small farmers

Experts and development agencies are constantly saying that we need to double food production in the coming decades. To achieve that, they usually recommend a combination of trade and investment liberalisation plus new technologies.

But this will only empower corporate interests and create more inequality. The real solution is to turn control and resources over to small producers themselves and enact agricultural policies to support them.

The message is clear. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems worldwide.

FAO’s lip service to family farming just confuses the matter and avoids putting the real issues on the table.



UN Report: Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World September 8, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Agaw people, Food Production.
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???????????Oromo coffee farmer

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World

Nick Meyer | AltHealthWORKS

Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled“Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.

The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.

The New UN Farming Report “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.”
The New UN Farming Report “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.” Click here to read it.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.

According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.

Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

It also said that global trade rules should be reformed in order to work toward these ends, which is unfortunately the opposite of what mega-trade deals like the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are seeking to accomplish.

The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.

Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.

“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.

You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.

Africa: Agribusiness Feeds the Rich; Small Farmers Feed the Rest February 18, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Africa Rising, African Poor, Agriculture, Aid to Africa, Climate Change, Colonizing Structure, Corruption, Development, Domestic Workers, Economics: Development Theory and Policy applications, Environment, Ethnic Cleansing, Food Production, Human Rights, Knowledge and the Colonizing Structure. African Heritage. The Genocide Against Oromo Nation, Land Grabs in Africa, Ogaden, Omo, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo Nation, Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia, Self determination, Slavery, State of Oromia, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, The Tyranny of Ethiopia, Uncategorized, Youth Unemployment.
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“Agribusiness feeds the rich; small farmers feed the rest. Yet we have a strong interest in feeding the world and are concerned that food conferences dominated by agribusiness directly threaten our ability to produce affordable, healthy, local food.Solving world hunger is not about industrial agriculture producing more food – our global experience of the green revolution has shown that the drive towards this industrial model has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor. Feeding the world is about increasing access to resources like land and water, so that people have the means to feed themselves, their families and their communities. Small family farms produce the majority of food on the planet – 70% of the world’s food supply! If conferences, like this one, exclude the voice of small farmers, then the debate about feeding the world is dominated by the rich and the solutions proposed will only feed their profits.”
A farming revolution is under way in Africa, pushed by giant corporations and the UK’s aid budget. It will surely be good for the global economy, writes Sophie Morlin-Yron, but will Africa’s small farmers see the benefit?

Many millions of small farmers that were once merely poor, will be propelled into destitution, the chaff of a neoliberal market revolution as pitiless as it is powerful.
World leaders in agriculture and development gathered in London last week at the The Economist’s ‘Feeding the World Summit’ to discuss global solutions to tackling Africa’s food security crisis.

At the event, which cost between £700 and £1,000 to attend, industry leaders spoke of new innovations and initiatives which would help fight poverty, world hunger and malnutrition, and transform the lives of millions of farmers worldwide.

Just one farmer

But there was only one farmer among the speakers, Rose Adongo, with barely a handful more in the audience. A Ugandan beef and honey farmer, Adongo was unimpressed by the technical solutions offered by the corporate speakers.

For her, the main issue was land ownership for farmers – and desperately needed changes in Ugandan law, under which women have no right to land ownership even though 80% of the country’s farmers are women, and they produce 60% of the food.

If only a woman could own land – currently passed down from father to son “she can produce more food”. Besides that she wanted cheaper fertilisers and an end to the desperate toil of hand working in the fields. Much of the land is currently plowed by hand which “can take weeks to do”.

Among the excluded …

But many were excluded from the event – and desperately wanted their voices to be heard. Among them was Jyoti Fernandes, from The Landworkers’ Alliance (member of La Via Campesina), a producer-led organisation representing small-scale agroecological producers in the UK.

“Agribusiness feeds the rich; small farmers feed the rest”, she said. “None of our members could afford to attend the Feeding the World Summit.

“Yet we have a strong interest in feeding the world and are concerned that food conferences dominated by agribusiness directly threaten our ability to produce affordable, healthy, local food.

Solving world hunger, she insisted, “is not about industrial agriculture producing more food – our global experience of the green revolution has shown that the drive towards this industrial model has only increased the gap between the rich and the poor.”

Improving access to land and water

“Feeding the world is about increasing access to resources like land and water, so that people have the means to feed themselves, their families and their communities.

“Small family farms produce the majority of food on the planet – 70% of the world’s food supply! If conferences, like this one, exclude the voice of small farmers, then the debate about feeding the world is dominated by the rich and the solutions proposed will only feed their profits.”

As Graciela Romero of War on Want commented in The Ecologist last week, it is that small farmers are feeding the world – not corporations:

“Millions of small-scale farmers produce 70% of the world’s food. Yet they remain excluded and forgotten from exchanges which affect their livelihoods or concern how to end world hunger.”

Private investment

Among the 27 speakers at the event were Nestlé Head of Agriculture Hans Joehr, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, Cargill Vice-Chairman Paul Conway, UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition David Nabarro, and representatives from the World Food Program and World Vision.

And despite the involvement of some NGOs, academics UN officials, the main topic of discussion was private sector investment in agriculture.

Lynne Featherstone, a junior UK minister for International Development, said the way forward is newly developed efficient fertilisers, pest tolerant crops and private sector investment:

“There is substantial room for improvement, and helping farmers increase productivity while consuming fewer inputs is a priority. With partners such as CGIAR we have developed more efficient fertilisers and pest tolerant crop varieties.”

UK spending £280m to support private sector engagement

She also outlined the Government plans to invest £280m from its aid budget funding in businesses and organisations under the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (AFNC).

This private sector initiative – which has also involves 14 Governments – ostensibly aims to lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty by 2022, by attracting more private investment in agriculture. Featherstone explained the rationale:

“Economic growth in these countries is best achieved through agricultural growth, which has the power of raising incomes and getting people out of poverty. And the private sector can catalyse that agricultural growth with sustainable agricultural investment.”

But is it really about land grabs?

But critics fear that is has rather more to do with getting governments on-side so corporations can carry out land grabs – taking the best watered and most fertile land away from African farmers and delivering it up to investors to plant cash crops across the continent, while turning once independent small farmers into a a proletarian underclass of landless plantation workers and rootless urban workers.

Paulus Verschuren, Special Envoy on Food and Nutrition Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands attempted to strike a balance:

“We are not going to fix the zero-hunger challenge without involving the private sector, but we need to set the criteria for these transformational partnerships. They need to have a business outcome and a development outcome.”

Corporations keen to help small farmers …

Representatives of major food corporations also insisted that they wanted to work with small farmers and help them to produce their crops efficiently while meeting development objectives.

Nestlé’s Corporate Head of Agriculture, Hans Jöhr, claimed to be willing to work with small farmers as well as large to fulfil development objectives and improving resource efficiency:

“The issue of feeding the world has to been seen in perspective of rural development, and not only technology”, he said. “And it’s definitely not about talking small versus big farmers, I think that was really the yesterday talk. It’s about people, individuals, it’s about farmers.

We cannot go on polluting and destroying

“So in this meeting about farmers, when we are talking about farmers, we are going back to what we have listened to, the restrictions we all face in business is natural resources, natural capital. It’s not only about the land, it’s mainly about water.

“This leads us to looking into production systems and methods and understanding that we cannot continue to go on with polluting destroying and depleting natural resources and with wasting them.

“Farmers who don’t know how to farm waste a tremendous amount of natural resources and agricultural materials because they don’t know how to store, and are not linked to an outlet to markets. That means that we have to help them better understand the production systems.”

Productivity must be raised

Vice Chairman of Cargill, Paul Conway, emphasised the importance of secure land ownership: “The number one thing here isn’t technology, it isn’t finance, it’s security of tenure of the land, which is absolutely critical.”

And Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant played down the importance of genetic modification in improving crop yields in Africa, from 20 bushels of grain per hectare to India’s typical level of 100 bushels.

“There is no reason Africa shouldn’t be close to India, it’s all small-holder agriculture. Why is it 20 today and not 90? Now forget biotech, that’s eminently achievable with some sensible husbandry and land reform ownership, the tools are in hand today.”

“We have set goals to double yields in the next 30 years with a third less water, agriculture gets through an enormous amount of water. The first 70 per cent of which goes to agriculture, the next 30 per cent goes to Coke, Pepsi, swimming pools and everything you drink and all of industry, and that isn’t sustainable.

We believe our sole focus on agriculture is vital as the world looks to produce enough nutritious food to feed a growing population while conserving, or even decreasing, the use of precious natural inputs such as land, water and energy.”

Farmers ‘invisible and irrelevant’

But Mariam Mayet, Director of African Safety for Biosafety – which campaigns against genetic engineering, privatisation, industrialisation and private sector control of African agriculture – was not convinced.

To the constellation of famous speakers and corporate representatives, she said, small farmers were a simple obstruction to progress:

“We know that all of African farmers are invisible and irrelevant to those at this summit. These producers are seen as inefficient and backwards, and if they have any role at all, it is to be forced out of agriculture to becoming mere passive consumers of industrial food products.

“Africa is seen as a possible new frontier to make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular.

“The recent investment wave must be understood in the context of consolidation of a global food regime dominated by large corporations in input supply such as seed and agrochemicals especially, but also increasingly in processing, storage, trading and distribution.

“Currently African food security rests fundamentally on small-scale and localised production. The majority of the African population continue to rely on agriculture as an important, if not the main, source of income and livelihoods.”

Can the chasm be bridged?

If we take the sentiments expressed by corporate bosses at face value – and why not? – then we do not see any overt determination to destroy Africa’s small farmers. On the contrary, they want to help them to farm better, more productively and efficiently, and more profitably.

And perhaps we should not be surprised. After all that suits their interests, to have a growing and prosperous farming sector in Africa that can both buy their products and produce reliable surpluses for sale on global food markets.

The rather harder question is, what about those farmers who lack the technical or entrepreneurial ability, the education, the desire, the extent of land, the security of land tenure, to join that profitable export-oriented sector? And who simply want to carry on as mainly subsistence farmers, supporting their families, producing only small surpluses for local sale?

The small subsistence farmer has no place

Stop and think about it, and the answer is obvious. They have no place in the new vision of agriculture that is sweeping across the continent, with the generous support of British aid money.

Their role in this process is to be forced off their land – whether expelled by force or by market forces – and deliver it up to their more successful neighbour, the corporation, the urban agricultural entrepreneur, to farm it at profit for the market.

And then, either to leave their village homes and join the displaced masses in Africa’s growing cities, or to stay on as landless workers, serving their new masters.

This all represents ‘economic progress’ and increases in net production. But look behind the warm words – and many millions of small farmers that were once merely poor, will be propelled into destitution, the chaff of a neoliberal market revolution as pitiless as it is powerful.

Is this really how the UK’s aid funds should be invested?

Sophie Morlin-Yron is a freelance journalist.

Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologis



A landmark G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers.

Ten countries made more than 200 policy commitments, including changes to laws and regulations after giant agribusinesses were granted unprecedented access to decision-makers over the past two years.

The pledges will make it easier for companies to do business in Africathrough the easing of export controls and tax laws, and through governments ringfencing huge chunks of land for investment.

The Ethiopian government has said it will “refine” its land law to encourage long-term land leases and strengthen the enforcement of commercial farm contracts. In Malawi, the government has promised to set aside 200,000 hectares of prime land for commercial investors by 2015, and in Ghana, 10,000 hectares will be made available for investment by the end of next year. In Nigeria, promises include the privatisation of power companies.

A Guardian analysis of companies’ plans under the initiative suggests dozens of investments are for non-food crops, including cotton, biofuels and rubber, or for projects explicitly targeting export markets.

Companies were invited to the table through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative that pledges to accelerate agricultural production and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

But small farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the programme, have been shut out of the negotiations.

Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said governments had been making promises to investors “completely behind the screen”, with “no long-term view about the future of smallholder farmers” and without their participation.

He described Africa as the last frontier for large-scale commercialfarming. “There’s a struggle for land, for investment, for seed systems, and first and foremost there’s a struggle for political influence,” he said.

Zitto Kabwe, the chairman of the Tanzanian parliament’s public accountscommittee, said he was “completely against” the commitments his government has made to bolster private investment in seeds.

“By introducing this market, farmers will have to depend on imported seeds. This will definitely affect small farmers. It will also kill innovation at the local level. We have seen this with manufacturing,” he said.

“It will be like colonialism. Farmers will not be able to farm until they import, linking farmers to [the] vulnerability of international prices. Big companies will benefit. We should not allow that.”

Tanzania’s tax commitments would also benefit companies rather than small farmers, he said, adding that the changes proposed would have to go through parliament. “The executive cannot just commit to these changes. These are sensitive issues. There has to be enough debate,” he said.

Million Belay, the head of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), said the initiative could spell disaster for small farmers in Africa. “It clearly puts seed production and distribution in the hands of companies,” he said.

“The trend is for companies to say they cannot invest in Africa without new laws … Yes, agriculture needs investment, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bring greater control over farmers’ lives.

“More than any other time in history, the African food production system is being challenged. More than any other time in history outside forces are deciding the future of our farming systems.”

AFSA has also denounced the G8 initiative as ushering in a new wave of colonialism on the continent.