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Global food crisis: Capitalism, agribusiness and the food sovereignty alternative

By Ian Angus

[Second of two articles. Click here for part one.]

“Nowhere in the world, in no act of genocide, in no war, are so many people killed per minute, per hour and per day as those who are killed by hunger and poverty on our planet.” —Fidel Castro, 1998

May 11, 2008 -- When food riots broke out in Haiti last month, the first country to respond was Venezuela. Within days, planes were on their way from Caracas, carrying 364 tons of badly needed food.

The people of Haiti are “suffering from the attacks of the empire’s global capitalism,” Venezuela's President Hugo Chàvez said. “This calls for genuine and profound solidarity from all of us. It is the least we can do for Haiti.”

Venezuela’s action is in the finest tradition of human solidarity. When people are hungry, we should do our best to feed them. Venezuela’s example should be applauded and emulated.

But aid, however necessary, is only a stopgap. To truly address the problem of world hunger, we must understand and then change the system that causes it.

No shortage of food

The starting point for our analysis must be this: there is no shortage of food in the world today.

Videos: Cuba's green revolution

A clip from the BBC's Around the World in 80 Gardens (2008) introduces the urban organic food gardening revolution in Havana, Cuba. Click HERE for a three-part talk by Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez that delves deeper into Cuba's green revolution, and an interview with the makers of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, the film in which Perez featured.

So there’s nothing to stop us from emulating the Cuban farming revolution.

Global food crisis: ‘The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model’

By Ian Angus

[First of two articles. Click here for part two.] 

“If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave. If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that's OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we’ll die of hunger.” — A demonstrator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

April 28, 2008 -- In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating “mud biscuits” made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.[1]

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is currently paying $225 for each pig killed in a mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Hog farmers, squeezed by low hog prices and high feed costs, have responded so enthusiastically that the kill will likely use up all the allocated funds before the program ends in September. Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to Haiti.

This is the brutal world of capitalist agriculture — a world where some people destroy food because prices are too low, and others literally eat dirt because food prices are too high.

Adding insult to injury: Bush says starving India eats too much

By Kavita Krishnan

May 7, 2008 -- Karl Marx, born on 5 May, 1818, nearly two centuries ago, had in 1867 laid bare the ``intimate connection between the pangs of hunger of the most industrious layers of the working class, and the extravagant consumption, coarse or refined, of the rich, for which capitalist accumulation is the basis'' (Capital Vol. 1, Ch. 25). In May 2008, nearly a century and a half later, as we hear Emperor Bush hold forth on global hunger, we are reminded that capitalism and global wealth remains just as intimately wedded to hunger.

For related Links articles, including a video by Hugo Chavez, click here

African agriculture and the World Bank: Development or impoverishment?

By Kjell Havnevik, Deborah Bryceson, Lars-Erik Birgegård, Prosper Matondi & Atakilte Beyene

December, 2007 -- Agriculture's dominant role in Sub-Saharan Africa's local, national and regional economies and cultures throughout pre-colonial history has been foundational to 20th century colonial and post-colonial development. No other continent has been so closely identified with smallholder peasant farming. Nonetheless, smallholder farming has been eroding over the last three decades, perpetuating rural poverty and marginalising remote rural areas. Donors' search for rural ``success stories'' merely reinforces this fact. Certainly many farmers have voted with their feet by increasingly engaging in non-agricultural livelihoods or migrating to urban areas. In so doing, the significance of agriculture for the majority of Africa's population has altered.

Video: Chavez on food sovereignty

Click here to see and hear Venezela's President Hugo Chavez discuss food sovereignty in Latin America, Africa and the world.

http://www.links.org.au/node/262

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