There are a couple of things I found interesting today. One was the new report that claims that the Zimbabwe land reform, although somewhat agressive has not been the complete failure that the western media claims it to be.
I found a few articles in the British Media on the subject but nothing in the USA. That means if you are not tuned into the BBC you would have no idea. This was played up in the media as an irrational attack on healty white owned commercial agriculture at the time of the accelerated land reform in 2000. The reports were that Mugabe gave land to his cronies and destroyed the agricultural base of Zimbabwe in the process. It seems not to be exactly true.
This report shows that agriculture in rural Zimbabwe, while not the commercial success it was before land reform, is developing and that small holder agriculture is not the disaster that the media indicated. It seems that poor black people can grow crops successfully and if they were capitalized to a greater extent they could do even better.
I found something called the Human Development Report, it is a UN report on the status of humanity now vs 1970 and it finds that there has been improvements in the standard of living for most of the people in the world with some areas doing better than others. It seems that the ravages of colonialism that destroyed much of the third world has begun to be alleviated as more countries gain some control of their economic well being. The question is how sustainable are these developmental paths?
Zimbabwe did not do so well on that report. But then this new report on the agricultural reform seems to indicate that the changes are more small scale and may take time to show more impressive results. Changing to small holder production for need rather than for the agribusiness market may not make the capitalists happy but perhaps in the long run it is better for the people of Zimbabwe and ultimately the world.
Also I have listed related reports from Global Issues and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Some of the issues include the lack of advancement in efforts to preseve global diversity, and the commodification of food which has resulted in a miss match between productivity and consumption. The IFAD report seems to be all for increasing that model although they seem supportive of small holder agriculture.
From Institute of Development Studies Site.
Producing food for the world’s people is an important issue. Returning to a hunter gatherer society is not practical with today’s population. But there must be an alternative to agribusiness with its heavy dependency of oil based fertilizers and industrial production. Perhaps a more human intensive small holder methodology is more appropriate. The question is can the problems of agricultural production and distribution be solved under capitalist methodology?
Zimbabwe’s land reform ten years on: new study dispels the myths
16 November 2010
A major new study published this week asks what has happened in the ten years since large areas of Zimbabwe’s commercial farm land were invaded by land-hungry villagers - and it challenges the view that land reform was an unmitigated disaster.
“Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities”, by IDS Fellow Ian Scoones together with Zimbabwean colleagues Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene and Chrispen Sukume, presents the findings of the first comprehensive study into the controversial policy and its effects.
The book is based on ten years of detailed research across 16 sites in Masvingo province, involving 400 households from both small and medium scale farms.’
While the Masvingo experience is of course different to other parts of the country, it does represent an important, and as yet untold, part of the land reform story,’ said Professor Scoones.
A radical change in agrarian structure since 2000, land reform has resulted in the transfer of around 8 million hectares of land across 4,500 farms to over 160,000 households, representing 20 per cent of Zimbabwe’s total land area, according to official figures. If the ‘informal’ settlements, outside the official ‘fast-track’ programme are added, the totals are even larger.
The book challenges five myths through a detailed examination of field data:
Myth 1 - Land reform has been a total failure
Myth 2 - The beneficiaries have been largely political ‘cronies’
Myth 3 - There is no investment in the new resettlements
Myth 4 - Agriculture is in complete ruins creating chronic food insecurity
Myth 5 - The rural economy has collapsed
Professor Scoones explained: ‘What comes through from our research is the complexity, the differences in experience, almost farm by farm; there is no single, simple story of the Zimbabwe land reform as sometimes assumed by press reports, political commentators, or indeed much academic study.’
While not downplaying the violence, abuses and patronage that have occurred, the authors argue that a more balanced appraisal of the land reform policy is needed. As Professor Mandivamba Rukuni, founder and executive director of the Wisdom Afrika Leadership Academy and formerly chair of the Commission of Inquiry into Zimbabwe’s Land Tenure Systems said: ‘The book uses evidence to argue that the land reform programme may well be the foundation needed for broad based economic efficiency and new livelihoods in the fight against poverty.’
For example, the book shows that:
While production of wheat, maize, tobacco, coffee and tea has declined, other crops such as small grains, edible beans and cotton have increased or remained steady. Overall it is a very mixed picture.
A core group of ‘middle farmers’ - around half of the population in the Masvingo study areas - are generating surpluses from farming.
There is substantial agricultural production on smallholder farms, with the majority producing enough to feed their families and sell to local markets in good rainfall years.
Significant investment in the new land has included plots clearing, well digging and home building. In addition, schools have been built, roads cut and dams dug.
New market connections are being forged, unleashing a dynamic entrepreneurialism in the rural areas.
Professor Scoones said: ‘If the new resettlements are to contribute not only to local livelihoods, but also national food security and broader economic development, they unquestionably require external investment and support - just as was done from the 1950s for white agriculture.
‘There are also major future policy challenges for Zimbabwe. These include implementing an effective land administration system to root out abuses and corrupt practice, and investing in smallholder farming to drive economic growth.’
From the New York Times
Human Development Report Shows Great Gains, and Some Slides
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: November 4, 2010
UNITED NATIONS — The world has made significant progress in income, education and health over the past 40 years, but the gains have been uneven and in some places war and the ravages of AIDS shortened life spans, according to a United Nations report on Thursday.
Over all, average life expectancy around the globe jumped to 70 years in 2010, up from 59 in 1970. School enrollment through high school reached 70 percent of eligible pupils, up from 55 percent, and average per capita income doubled to more than $10,000 in the 135 countries for which numbers were available. The statistics cover about 92 percent of the world’s population.
While the broad measures advanced globally, life expectancy declined in nine countries and improved by varying degrees in others. Arab states measured an 18-year jump in life span, according to the report, while the average for people in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 8 years.
The authors of the report said the changes among such a variety of nations underscored that there was no one policy answer to the question of development. “There are no universal prescriptions which we can see taking effect in all of the countries,” said Jeni Klugman, the lead author.
In certain African nations — the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland — life expectancy decreased because of the AIDS epidemic or war, the report found.
But in some parts of the former Soviet Union where life spans shortened, specifically Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, the reasons were harder to gauge. The report noted that alcohol consumption combined with the stress of changing to a market economy was the likely cause.
The countries improving most since 1970 are Oman, China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco.
Human Development Report
Human Development Tree
Sustainability and Development From Global Issues Site.
Biodiversity 2010 target not met
Perhaps predictably, meeting the 2010 target did not happen.
As the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report summarizes, despite numerous successful conservations measures supporting biodiversity, none of the specific targets were met, and biodiversity losses continue.
In addition, “despite an increase in conservation efforts, the state of biodiversity continues to decline, according to most indicators, largely because the pressures on biodiversity continue to increase. There is no indication of a significant reduction in the rate of decline in biodiversity, nor of a significant reduction in pressures upon it.”
Diverting Resources to Non-Productive Uses
It is perhaps natural to assume that we are growing food to feed people, but are struggling to keep up. Reasons are frequently attributed to the effects that rapid population growth places of poor countries as the ultimate cause. However, we make more than enough food to keep up with population growth, although environmentally damaging industrial agriculture threatens future sustainability.
Yet how is it that there is so much hunger, and that farm workers are usually the hungriest people in the world?
An indication of the answer lies in what is less discussed in the mainstream: the purpose of agriculture in today’s world. Like many other markets, food is available to those who can afford it, not necessarily those who need it. Most food is therefore produced to meet consumer demands, not the needs of the poor or hungry. When money talks, the poor have no voice.
This leads to a major diversion, and even wastage, of environmental resources from productive uses to non-productive uses. For poor countries that need to earn foreign exchange to pay off huge debts, cash crops offer the chance of money. For elite landowners, this is the only way they can make money, as the poor have little. As professor of anthropology, Richard Robbins, summarizes:
To understand why people go hungry you must stop thinking about food as something farmers grow for others to eat, and begin thinking about it as something companies produce for other people to buy.
•Food is a commodity. …
•Much of the best agricultural land in the world is used to grow commodities such as cotton, sisal, tea, tobacco, sugar cane, and cocoa, items which are non-food products or are marginally nutritious, but for which there is a large market.
•Millions of acres of potentially productive farmland is used to pasture cattle, an extremely inefficient use of land, water and energy, but one for which there is a market in wealthy countries.
•More than half the grain grown in the United States (requiring half the water used in the U.S.) is fed to livestock, grain that would feed far more people than would the livestock to which it is fed. …
The problem, of course, is that people who don’t have enough money to buy food (and more than one billion people earn less than $1.00 a day), simply don’t count in the food equation.
•In other words, if you don’t have the money to buy food, no one is going to grow it for you.
•Put yet another way, you would not expect The Gap to manufacture clothes, Adidas to manufacture sneakers, or IBM to provide computers for those people earning $1.00 a day or less; likewise, you would not expect ADM (“Supermarket to the World”) [A large food processing company] to produce food for them.
•What this means is that ending hunger requires doing away with poverty, or, at the very least, ensuring that people have enough money or the means to acquire it, to buy, and hence create a market demand for food.
From International Fund for Agricultural Development site.
Keynote address by IFAD President at the High-level Conference on Development of Agri-business and Agro-industries in Africa
Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Acting President
I should like to suggest four courses of action to ensure the development of agribusinesses and agro-industries in Africa:
First, African countries’ investment in agriculture must meet the Maputo target of at least 10 per cent of GDP. While a few countries have already achieved this – and should be congratulated for doing so – unfortunately many have yet to come close1. So I call on those countries to make a special effort to boost their public spending on agriculture – because time is not on our side.
Investments – by the international community as well as by developing country governments – need to be smart. Investments need to be in the research and development of new technologies to enhance productivity and intensify production. They need to be in natural resource management, to conserve the environment while increasing yields. And they need to be in the development of infrastructure to facilitate access to markets. Indeed, support for rural infrastructure is a crucial element in the value chain approach – including last-mile roads, electrification, post-harvest facilities, support to rural institutions, such as associations and cooperatives, and access to land and irrigation facilities.
Second, African governments must create the right policy environment to allow agribusinesses and agro-industries to develop and flourish. Market liberalization and macroeconomic policies, such as fiscal and exchange rate policies, have brought much-needed improvements already. But there is still more that governments can do both to help existing agribusinesses grow and to encourage the start up of new agribusinesses, providing much-needed employment for Africa’s youths.
Third, smallholders need support to enable them to compete in domestic, regional and international markets. For example, training can help improve smallholders’ managerial skills. Training can also help small agribusinesses meet the increasingly stringent sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards required by the burgeoning supermarkets for their increasingly demanding customers.
And fourth, access to financial services needs to be addressed holistically. Poor access has long hampered rural agribusinesses. The recent development of microfinance in rural areas has eased some short-term constraints. But more effort is required to ensure the long-term financing needed to attract investments in activities that can sustain the viability of agribusinesses.
From Wikipedia article on IFAD.
“Soaring food prices and the rural poor
The prices of basic food commodities have increased rapidly over the past three years. In only the first quarter of 2008, wheat and maize prices increased by 130 percent and 30 percent respectively over 2007 figures. Rice prices, while rising moderately in 2006 and more so in 2007, rose 10 percent in February 2008 and a further 10 percent in March 2008. The threat to food security in developing countries increases in stride. Coordinated action by the international community, and by the United Nations in particular, is essential.
IFAD’s immediate response has been to make available up to US$200 million from existing loans and grants to provide an urgent boost to agricultural production in the developing world, in the face of high food prices and low food stocks. But IFAD will also continue to press for rapid and urgent longer-term investment in agriculture, including access to land, water, technology, financial services and markets, to enable the 450 million smallholder farms in developing countries to grow more food, more productively, and thereby increase their incomes and resilience, and respond to the increasing global demand for food.”