Tag Archives: History & Culture

Informed Digest: Eating Land & Landscapes, Ebay of Seeds & the Anthropocene

Keeping up & in the know…

GRAIN: Hungry for Land—Small Farmers Feed the World with Less Than a Quarter of All Farmland

“Despite the inherent shortcomings of the data, we feel confident in drawing six major conclusions:

  • The vast majority of farms in the world today are small and getting smaller
  • Small farms are currently squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world’s farmland
  • We are fast losing farms and farmers in many places, while big farms are getting bigger
  • Small farms continue to be the major food producers in the world
  • Small farms are overall more productive than big farms
  • Most small farmers are women

Many of these conclusions might seem obvious, but two things shocked us.

One was to see the extent of land concentration today, a problem that agrarian reform programmes of the 20th century were supposed to have solved. What we see happening in many countries right now is a kind of reverse agrarian reform, whether it’s through corporate land grabbing in Africa, the recent agribusiness-driven coup d’état in Paraguay, the massive expansion of soybean plantations in Latin America, the opening up of Burma to foreign investors, or the extension of the European Union and its agricultural model eastward. In all of these processes, control over land is being usurped from small producers and their families, with elites and corporate powers pushing people onto smaller and smaller land holdings, or off the land entirely into camps or cities.

The other shock was to learn that, today, small farms have less than a quarter of the world’s agricultural land—or less than a fifth if one excludes China and India from the calculation. Such farms are getting smaller all the time, and if this trend persists they might not be able to continue to feed the world.”

TED: How We Can Eat Our Landscapes

“Can you find a unifying language that cuts across age and income and culture that will help people themselves find a new way of living, see spaces around them differently, think about the resources they use differently, interact differently? Can we find that language? And then, can we replicate those actions? And the answer would appear to be yes, and the language would appear to be food.”

-Pam Warhust

The Ecologist: Avaaz’s Global ‘Ebay of Seeds’ — How Did They Get It So Wrong?

“Nothing in the Avaaz proposal looks remotely workable.

  • For a start, the majority of farmers who might benefit from access to new seeds don’t have access to the internet — let alone electricity.
  • Then what kind of quality would such seeds be? Certified organic? Or just any seeds from farms that have a surplus to home requirement?
  • How could the origin of such seeds be known — and trusted?
  • There is also a very real danger that GM proponents and mischief-makers could drop GM seeds into a storage depot and they would instantly be spread around the world.

The entire project looks logistically unstable and would be highly likely to end up causing more problems than it intends to solve.

This deeply flawed initiative should be abandoned — or reworked to support genuine bona fide local and regional seed organisations that have spent years diligently gathering, sorting, multiplying and swapping their seeds for the benefit of small and medium sized farmers in appropriate bio-regions all over the world.”

-Julian Rose

Infographic: Saving seeds, saving our vegetable biodiversity.

Click to enlarge

Grist: Is the Anthropocene a World of Hope or a World of Hurt?

“This debate has been brewing for years, and each side tends to caricature the other’s position. Suggest there’s a reason for hope and you are called a delusional techno-utopian; if you say there’s an imperative for humility, you are framed as an anti-technological doomer.

[…]

It seems to me that perhaps the real difference of opinion here is about how to talk about this: Do we point to the positive, or point to the negative? Is it more effective to show people what’s possible, or show people what’s horrible?”

-Nathanael Johnson