restricted access Chapter 11. Farming in Developing Countries
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CHAPTER 11 Farming in Developing Countries One striking feature of comments from participants in an eighty-nation agriculture "e-conference" in 1999 was the broad agreement in many nations about what ishappening to small farming,the environment, farmers ' access to markets, and the circumstances of farmworkers and food processors. The issues are similar around the globe. The economic, social , and psychological symptoms of change,and perhaps even the causes of change, are pretty clear on every continent. The exchange of e-mails in this conference drew a wide diversity of people: farmers, agriculture experts, university faculty members, and policymakers. What was surprising, though perhaps it should not have been, was the worldwide awareness of the multifunctionality of small farms. There was a clear recognition among these international observers of the value of small farms and their connection to social and environmental health, a concept featured only minimally in the agricultural policies of the United States. There was also widespread agreement in every quarter about the nature of the issues, and their causes, that farmers must deal with. Participants believed that, in nearly every case, globalization separates farmers from their markets, reduces family farm income, and finally separates them from their land. The rise of corporate control of farming,"mining the earth" instead of husbanding it, as several participants put it, leads to more and more contractual arrangements that strip farmers of their freedom. It creates a new form of It AllWorks Together, or It Doesn't Work atAll indentured servitude. Participants also expressed widespread concern for world food security. The environmental degradation caused by extensive chemical inputs led to some of the saddest comments from small farmers around the world. One of the most touching came in an e-mail that began pleasantly enough: "We, the farmers of Sri Lanka,believe that we speak for all of our brothers and sisters the world over when we identify ourselves as a community who are integrally tied to the success of ensuring global food security." What followed was devastating. We have watchedfor manyyears as the progression of experts, scientists , and developmentagents passed through our communities with some or another facet of the modern scientific world.We confess that at the start we were unsophisticatedin matters of the outsideworld and welcomed this input. We followed advice and we planted as we were instructed. The result was a loss of the varieties of seeds that we carried with us throughhistory, often spanning three or moremillennia . The result was the completedependence on high input cropsthat robbed us of crop independence. In additionwe farmers, producers of food, respected for our ability to feed populations, were turned into the poisoners of the land and living things, including fellow human beings. The result in Sri Lanka is that we suffer from social and cultural dislocation and suffer from the highest pesticide-related death toll on the planet. The e-mail concluded, "Was this the legacythat you the agricultural scientists wanted to bring us? We think not. We think that you had good motives and intentions, but left things in the hands of narrowly educated , insensitive people." Reg Preston, working with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Vietnam, seconded and then extended the comment of the Sri Lankan farmers with his e-mail description of the current dilemma: "The developed countries continue to mine their natural resources while most poor farmers in the developing countries actually practice integrated farming in the face of huge pressure from multinationals to promote monoculture for their own short-term ends, lack of technical and financial support from their own governments, most of whose advisors have been trained in 'agricultural mining technology' in the industrial world, and markets distorted by 'dumping' from the industrial coun202 Farming in Developing Countries tries." E. R. Orskov of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, UK, lent support to both the comments made above. "If multinational companies were rewarded for their contribution to poverty alleviation rather than maximizing profits for their shareholders we would do a lot better! Most of the high tech solutions have contributed more to poverty creation than alleviation. What have the bankrupted intensive animal production systems in South East Asia, supported by Western feed, Western animals, and Western medicine done for poverty alleviation?They have left a trail of poverty." For decades, as the United States engaged in a cold war with the Soviet Union, we saw a world conflict between East and West. Much of the rest of the world had a different...


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Subject Headings

  • Farmers -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • Agriculture -- United States.
  • Sustainable agriculture.
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