A few years ago the “cheap energy” mentality discovered that “more food could be produced with less effort” by replacing sunlight with fertilizers and pesticides based on fossil fuels, and the result was that the typical calorie of energy from food requires about 10 calories from fossil energy. As we let others feed us, the bill adds up to at least a fifth of the greenhouse gases.
At a glance and many edges
In order to understand the real alternatives that people have in the face of the food crisis that is settling in the world, we gather experiences, voices, reflections, techniques and proposals from organizations, communities, researchers and people who have their attention in new forms of understand solutions that have worked for centuries for peasant groups (those for whom cultivating the land is not a job, but a full way of life and caring for the world), solutions that may be the only ones capable of guaranteeing us a future as humanity.
Peasant production is essential to feed the world. Sustainable peasant agriculture with its food sovereignty consumes up to eighty times less energy than industrial agriculture.
Food sovereignty implies prioritizing the use of local resources to produce food, minimizing the amount of imported raw materials for production and transport. The food thus produced is consumed locally. It is not logical to eat asparagus from the Highlands in Europe, or fresh green beans from Kenya.
Throughout the history of agriculture, peasants and peasants and the people who inhabit rural centers have obtained energy from their agricultural lands to meet their daily needs. Peasant families are using coconut or sunflower oil, biogas, firewood, wind or water to generate electricity for their local use. These methods are sustainable and integrated into the food production cycle on their land.
It is imperative to design and adopt responsible attitudes in the consumption of food and adjust our way of eating, knowing that the industrial model of production and consumption is destructive, while the model based on peasant production uses responsible energy practices.
Peasants around the world have experienced the devastating effects of free trade and WTO policies on their lives and on local food production. That is why we defend the right of each country to protect its local markets, to support sustainable family farming and to market food where it is produced.
We do not understand how the G8 intends to solve the food crisis with more free trade, if the liberalization of agriculture and food markets is what is leading us to the current crisis. Our fight is against the power of the large transnational companies and the political systems that support them. The energy crisis should not be seen as an isolated problem but as part of the entire crisis of the current development model, where benefits take priority over people.
We support small-scale, diversified agriculture, centered on people, local markets and healthy lifestyles, using less energy and less dependence on external resources. Sustainable peasant families fulfill the fundamental mission of agriculture: to feed people. To protect ourselves from the instability of world markets, the population must consume local food, from local markets. We don't need any more imported food. Peasants and small food producers produce most of the food on the planet. Via Campesina, “The peasantry produces food, biofuels generate hunger and poverty”, July 2008.
From the cornfield [the farm] you can see the whole world. The biggest threat to native corn is that it is little grown already. Sowing corn and other sovereign crops allows us a gap to not ask anyone for permission to be, thus promoting a community resistance — real, political, social, economic, of knowledge, dignity and justice — against capitalism and its megaprojects.
Someone who loses the seed has a much higher risk of having to migrate than someone who still has it. You have to keep good seed for yourself, for the community, for the land to which you have access. A seed that responds to the needs and tastes of each town. If tastes are standardized or needs are tried to match, the quality of the seeds is lost: their diversity.
The people that do not have diversity is a people that becomes dependent. The new laws want to force the peasants, the indigenous, to become dependent. But we have to ask ourselves what we need to take care of, to preserve life, with or without the permission of the law.
That the raising of corn is collective is what has maintained its wealth. We not only exchange seeds but knowledge. There are different seeds because there are different kinds of knowledge. We know knowledge in bits and pieces, and only among many is great knowledge made. The wealth of varieties never ends. Each person, family or community through which a variety passes adds or changes something. Never forget that we ALL know. When we accept that someone treats us as ignorant, that we do not know, that we have no ideas, we are accepting that knowledge about seeds is lost.
It is essential to try to get out, as much as possible, of the money economy, of the markets. Producing to sell and buying to eat makes us lose food sovereignty, the labor sovereignty of the corn peoples.
A people that buys seed and that buys food is a people that cannot command itself. We have to be proud of planting corn for the family and the community to eat, strengthening the knowledge of the elderly and the new comprehensive techniques that match and complement those knowledge. It is important that everything that the communities produce is consumed, so that the community understands that we can produce our own livelihood. Casifop, Corn and life in the sowing, indigenous testimonies of corn and autonomy, Mexico, 2005.
The guardians of the seeds. In the distribution of roles in peasant families, the woman is the one who preserves the organic, native, native, creole seed, as we want to call it. It is the one that, every year, at harvest, is responsible for storing, cleaning and protecting for the next planting. So, somehow, we always say that woman is the guardian of that original, healthy and organic seed. With more reason now in this situation, of the production at the world level, women have to work hard in that role of guardian, which is becoming increasingly difficult, because our healthy seeds are being contaminated by transgenics, which are planted by everywhere. It is a whole process of protection and exchange. Even in these meetings, there are also situations of exchange of seeds, of exchange of knowledge, about production.
This event ("Rural women in struggle for food sovereignty. Building proposals against climate change"), is part of a training process, where the participation and protagonism of the peasant companions is particularly sought, an involvement in strong themes that are affecting our families today, such as climate change, State policies, and reinforcing our fight for food sovereignty. María de los Ángeles, MoCaSe Vía Campesina, interview with the BiodiversidadLa News Agency.
We are the first settlers, children and water cultivators of this continent, and for the peoples that inhabit it there is no wild species, or wasteland, because for millennia we have been knowledgeable and knowledgeable in living with nature, that is why we are an environmental authority ... The looting and appropriation of the biological wealth of our mountains and forests , of waters, minerals, and knowledge, it is oriented to control over the territory —the space and its inhabitants—, supplanting our authority, autonomy and self-determination, and destroying our ancient cultures.
It is the duty of the Misak people and their authorities to care for, protect and conserve all our territory, which is sacred, including the moors, mountains, forests and wetlands, large or small, lakes and springs, sources or water-producing mattresses, hydrographic basins. , the large or small rocks where our gods and spirits that protect us and give us life are, and the areas where we live and produce our livelihood, so that it continues to be a collective heritage under our responsibility and care.
All the lands of the Misak territory will be used as a priority to meet the requirements of the Misak life cycle and identity. Those suitable for production must first be dedicated to increasing and improving the production of healthy foods for self-consumption, in order to improve the nutrition, health and general well-being of the misak. Commercial and industrial crops will not be able to displace the production of our food. Guambia Council and the Ancestral Authority of the Misak People, Misak Law for the Defense of Greater Law, Heritage of the Misak People.
Grow, store, care for and freely exchange your own seeds, natives that we do not have to certify or register before anyone because we have them since before the Mexican State existed, it is an inalienable right that no one will take away from us and we will continue to exercise autonomously. These seeds are everyone's hope for the future.
We are against the biopirate projects that Monsanto does with agricultural and academic organizations to steal native corn and knowledge through the Master Project of Mexican Corn ...
We oppose the certification and registration of seeds and denounce it as one more way to privatize seeds to control the peoples.
We reject the promotion, diffusion, experimentation, cultivation, commercialization and consumption of transgenic seeds. These seeds threaten the environment and endanger the health and food sovereignty of millions of Mexicans.
We demand respect for the right to food sovereignty based on our autonomy, customs, cultures, traditions and agricultural practices.
We demand that the criminalization of the peasant way of life, which is carried out through legislation that protects business interests, stops.
We will continue to defend the autonomy of our peoples, the community, the assemblies and their self-government, whose fundamental base is the territory and the cultivation of native corn as part of our life. Network in Defense of Native Corn, Mexico City, July 10, 2008.
What we are doing has to do with a scream, with a festive gesture, of celebration and pain, of struggle. Our objective is to put a message of alert, of risk, of serious risk, that we are having due to the monoculture of soy and a supposedly liberal, free market management, in the hands of a few, which later is not "free". We are not free, because we are not free to handle Argentine food, which is handled by 8 large multinationals and their accomplices, and their subordinates who are small, medium and large businessmen. They have nothing as producers, producers are the ones who get on the tractor and work on it.
I am from that very indigenous, Andean and Amazonian experience that "he who wants to hide sooner or later shows himself." So, the cry that these people have given about the retentions to soy, that "let's not demonize soy", sooner or later will decay, the "polvaredal" that their arrogant and virulent interventions have left will subside, and people will reflect. And the fact that they have shown themselves as they are, thus with this arrogance of cutting routes, of "being illegal", that "they cannot repress or touch them", is going to become a boomerang. The Argentine people should not be underestimated, not at all. Do not underestimate any people in human history.
Little by little and sooner or later the underlying debate will be uncovered on the Argentine table: "soy and monoculture", more deeply "agribusiness and agro-exports". Do we want to be a country in the international division of capitalism? A merely exporter of raw materials for the benefit of the industries of the 8 most powerful countries on earth? Or do we want to be a sovereign, independent country. Ángel Strapazzón, MoCaSe, Vía Campesina, interviewed by the Biodiversity News Agency
Grow in the city even a small part of our own food is, as Wendell Berry put it thirty years ago, one of those solutions that actually drives more solutions instead of causing more problems (as ethanol or nuclear energy "solutions" inevitably do) ). It's not just carbon savings - growing even a little of our food drives many valuable habits. We can stop relying on specialists to take care of ourselves. We can discover that our body is still useful for something and that something is our own sustenance. If the experts are correct, if the oil and time run out, these skills and habits will soon be crucial. And it is very likely that they urge us food. Can vegetable gardens provide them? Well, during World War II home gardens (called "victory" because they seemed crucial to obtaining it) provided as much as 40% of the vegetables Americans ate.
In addition, we would begin to heal the gap between what we think and what we do; reweave in a single identity our facets as consumers, producers and citizens. This is likely to lead us to start new relationships with neighbors, because the idea is to produce, give away, exchange, lend tools or borrow them ...
Great things happen when you grow your own garden, some related to climate change, others indirect. We forget that growing our food obeys the original solar technology: calories are produced through photosynthesis. A few years ago the “cheap energy” mentality discovered that “more food could be produced with less effort” by replacing sunlight with fertilizers and pesticides based on fossil fuels, and the result was that the typical calorie of energy from food requires about 10 calories from fossil energy. As we let others feed us, the bill adds up to at least a fifth of the greenhouse gases. Michael Pollan, "Straight to the Source," The New York Times, April 20, 2008.
The land is always a garden, pharmacy, hunting ground or pasture for someone (or all these things together). If it seems "underused" it is perhaps due to its fragility or the role it plays in protecting ecosystems. Those who propose a more intensive or different use of the land in question may harm the livelihoods and survival of others.
There are Brazilians who insist that marginal areas of the Amazon can be selected to be converted to produce sugar cane for ethanol (but they say nothing about the expansion of soybeans in ecologically sensitive areas such as El Cerrado and the caatinga). However, indigenous communities such as the Ka'apor and Tembe in Brazil, the Chacoba in Bolivia and the Panare in Venezuela, use 20 to 50% of the tree species for food and another 10-30% for medicine. This reality of the Amazon is repeated in forests, savannas and semi-arid plains throughout the world. Migrants, from Mexico to Indonesia, seek to settle to grow corn or rice or raise cattle, but in the meantime, they seek additional calories and vital nutrients in the surrounding forests. It is common for these families to bring highly valued species with them to adapt them to the new lands, but in any case the forest is their direct source of food and medicine, it is their genetic reservoir to improve the domesticated relatives of their crops. Even well-established farming families in places like Swaziland and Thailand see the surrounding forests as an important source of food after their main cultivation. While women and children regularly consume uncultivated food, a study of adults in Eastern and Southern Africa showed that the so-called “hidden harvest” of “wild” foods is vital for household food security. Forests and savannas produce essential vitamins and minerals that cannot be grown or purchased. The use of this hidden crop varies from season to season. There are families that for weeks are almost totally dependent on the wild foods they obtain in the months or weeks leading up to harvest. Food harvested from “marginal lands” contributes one-third to one-half of the nutritional requirements of the poorest of the rural population. In times of famine or high food prices, access to these marginal lands is the difference between life and death. Pat Mooney, Ciao FAO, another summit to review the usual mistakes, ETC Group statement, June 2008
A way to break the distance between farm food producers and so-called consumers can be found on the outskirts of the city of Geneva in Switzerland. This is where the Jardines de Cocagne works, which is a Geneva cooperative for the production and consumption of organic vegetables. Each of the partners pays a kind of contribution in money (according to their salary) or in work, to ensure that each week a wide variety of vegetables is produced and distributed.
The fundamental difference with almost all associations between farmers and consumers is that here the “consumers”, in addition to having a direct relationship with the market gardeners, do not pay a price for what they receive, because that would imply leaving the risk to the farmers. Instead, what they do is contribute to the fund that allows production, assuming jointly with the farmers the risks and bonanzas of a good or bad season, through shared and egalitarian decisions. It would seem a small thing, but that difference, and the possibility of contributing work to production, are one of the most interesting experiments in self-management of cultivation that in fact erase the difference between "producers and consumers", and rather open a kind of permanent training of more and more people to the tasks of sowing to harvest.
Of course, the people of Les Jardins de Cocagne "defend the idea of food sovereignty, of a viable, healthy, ecological and local agriculture". Les Jardins are linked to the peasant movement in Switzerland, in Europe and worldwide and have outreach projects in poor communities in Europe and Africa. The central idea, in addition to the libertarian vision, is the deep analysis that the city and the countryside "feed off each other", they "meet again". Les Jardins de Cocagne, www.cocagne.ch
Morning appears in El Colorado, a town of about 13 thousand inhabitants, in the interior of Formosa, a province in the interior of Argentina. It's Saturday very early, but you can already see people in the square; they await the arrival of the almost one hundred “small” producers of the “El Colorado Fairground Association” who bring their products to sell or exchange: squash, beans, corn, vegetables in general, fruits, cassava, sweet potato, milk, cheese, ricotta, eggs, goats, pigs, turkeys, chickens, etc. Before the middle of the morning, none of the almost 30 stalls at the fair have products, everything has been sold. This happened, every week, while the peak of the roadblocks lasted and the resulting local food shortage, caused by the "strike of the farmers."
This initiative had emerged in the heat of the 2001-2002 crisis. The first years knew how to be an alternative to the problems of the urban population to access food. At the fair there were products that had a maximum price of 20% less than in stores. Little by little, the shops of the formal market were rebuilt as the main food outlets in the town, offering products from the agri-food complexes controlled by large agro-industrial companies. This caused the fair to lose its first momentum and centrality.
Both in its origin and in its current and brief greening, the fair for small producers, peasants, stands as an alternative to the dominant circuits. When the "system" does not respond, these strategies "from below" emerge, as "emerging ruins", forged by the peasants themselves, based on face-to-face with consumers and neighbors, outside the concentrated and centralized production chains. , food processing and distribution.
It is not an isolated case. In Chaco, Misiones, Corrientes, Santiago del Estero there are experiences of this type, mainly carried out by former cotton producers or converted tobacco growers. It is probable that there, as in El Colorado, the crises or moments of suspension of the food supply, via agroindustrial chains, have constituted opportunities for the emergence and expansion of those "alternative" or "peasant" agri-food chains. Diego Domínguez, “Emerging Ruins”, Page 12, September 19, 2008
Currently located on the margins of the world economy, there are people in the world who, when they challenge economic assumptions in theory and practice, find support in the traditions of ancient societies and cultures. Throughout the world there are experiences of communities that do not fit the classifications distorted by the glasses of economists.
These people see their resistance as a way to creatively reconstitute their basic forms of social interaction in order to break free from economic chains. Thus, in their neighborhoods, towns and neighborhoods, they create new areas of community that allow them to live on their own terms.
They are the heirs of communities and even entire cultures that were destroyed by the industrial economic form of social interaction. After the extinction of their subsistence regimes, they tried to adopt various forms of accommodation to the industrial form. Failure to do so was a precondition for reinventing its areas, with the additional stimulus of the development crisis.
After equating their food with the technical activities of production and consumption, linked to the intermediation of the market or the State, they lacked sufficient income and suffered from food shortages. Now they are regenerating and enriching their relationships with each other and with the environment, nourishing their life and their lands anew. They generally manage to deal well with the shortfalls that still affect them, sometimes severely — as a consequence of the time and effort required to remedy the damage caused by developmental methods. It's not easy to get out of commercial crops or get rid of addiction to credit or industrial inputs: but intercropping, to which many are beginning to return, regenerates the land and culture, and over time improves nutrition.
Despite the economy, ordinary people on the margins have been able to keep another logic alive, another set of rules. In contrast to economics, this logic is embedded in the social fabric. Summary and fragments of "Myths and realities of sustainable development", by Gustavo Esteva, June, 1996.
A recent history of indigenous generosity and vision in the conservation and strengthening of ancestral seeds is that of the Zapatista Snail of Oventic, in Chiapas, which, like other Mexican peoples, revitalizes its native corn by exchanging seeds, in a more conscious way, through its trusted channels. What is new is that now the Tsotsil peasants in the area, grouped together in their autonomic project, decided to start sending Zapatista seeds wherever they are needed. Now in Africa, while large foundations and governments and organizations such as FAO seek to establish mechanisms to introduce technological packages and laboratory, hybrid and transgenic seeds, the Zapatistas are already sending native ancestral seeds, free of transgenic contamination, to populations in Mali. , and in Kenya. For some of the communities that received it in Mali, the seeds were so good that instead of consuming the first harvest after completing its cycle, they set aside a good quantity that is already beginning to flow to other sites in Africa.
There is an inverse relationship between the size of a farm and the amount of crops produced per hectare. The smaller they are, the higher the performance. This was discovered by the economist Amartya Sen in 1962, and confirmed by dozens of subsequent studies.
In some cases the difference is enormous. A recent agricultural study in Turkey found that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times more productive than those of more than 10 hectares1. Sen's observations have been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay. And they seem to hold up everywhere. The discovery will surprise any industry, because we have come to associate efficiency with scale. In agriculture, the controversy raises its head because from the industry it seems very strange because the common thing is that small producers do not have their own machinery, have less capital or access to credit and are not aware of the most recent techniques.
Some researchers argue that this inverse relationship between size and yield is the result of a statistical artifact: fertile soils support larger populations than worn-out lands, so that with high productivity, farm sizes would appear smaller. But later studies have shown that this inverse relationship holds true in various fertile lands. Furthermore, it works in countries like Brazil where the large estates are the ones that seized the best lands.
The most plausible explanation is that small farmers invest more work per hectare than large farmers. This workforce consists largely of their own families, which means that their labor costs are lower than on large farms, with better quality of work. With more labor, peasants can cultivate their land more intensively: they spend more time terracing or building irrigation systems; they plant very soon after harvest; they plant many different crops in the same field.
The Green Revolution proposed the opposite: the larger the farms, they would have more access to credit, and they could invest in new varieties and expand their yields. But as these new varieties spread to small farmers it turned out that this was not true.
If governments were serious about feeding the world, they should break up big farms, redistribute them to the poor through serious land reform, and focus their research and funding on supporting small farms. There are many reasons to defend small farmers in poor countries. The economic miracles of South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan stemmed from their land reform programs. The same occurs in China, despite the fact that its emergence was delayed forty years by collectivization.
Small farm-based growth tends to be more equitable than growth that arises from capital-intensive industries. The ecological impact of small farms is much lower despite the fact that the land is used more intensively. Where small farms are absorbed by large companies, the displaced move to other lands and barely survive. I once followed some peasants expelled from Maranhao, in Brazil, and witnessed how the land of the Yanomami was torn to pieces more than 3,000 kilometers away.
But the prejudice against small farmers is unshakable. It gives rise to one of the strangest insults in English: when you call someone a farmer, you accuse them of being self-sufficient and productive. Peasants are equally hated by capitalists and communists. They have both always tried to take over their lands, and they have a fixed idea of belittling and demonizing them. In its profile of Turkey, the country where its farmers are 20 times more productive than large landowners, FAO says that "as a result of having many small farms, agricultural yields ... remain low." The OECD states that “it is essential to stop the fragmentation of land” in Turkey “and to consolidate larger properties to increase agricultural productivity 2. Neither the FAO nor the OECD provide any evidence. George Monbiot, "Small is Bountiful," The Guardian, June 10, 2008, www.monbiot.com
The Ecovida Agroecology Network, formed in 1998 (and made up of some 3 thousand families of family farmers gathered in about 200 groups, plus 35 NGOs and 10 consumer cooperatives) aims to organize, strengthen and consolidate ecological family farming in 24 regions that reach 170 municipalities in the states of São Paulo Paraná, Santa Catarina y Rio Grande do Sul, en el sur de Brasil. Los núcleos regionales promueven la capacitación de sus miembros, el intercambio de alimentos e información, y la credibilidad del producto ecológico mediante un sistema participativo de garantía que involucra activamente a agricultores y consumidores.
Como la comercialización es un cuello de botella para expandir la propuesta, por las dificultades de mantener un mercado local abastecido durante todo el año con productos diversos, de calidad y en suficiente cantidad, se ideó una alternativa construida con el trabajo colectivo de la Red Ecovida. Y desde 2006 funciona el llamado Circuito Sur de Circulación de Alimentos.
El circuito funciona con base en siete estaciones-núcleos y diez subestaciones. Hay reuniones bimensuales para discutir las disposiciones, la operación y el monitoreo de las actividades, se consensan los precios y se revisan las cuentas de las transacciones realizadas entre las organizaciones en el periodo anterior.
Para integrase en el Circuito es necesario que los alimentos ofrecidos sean ecológicos y estén certificados por el sistema participativo de Ecovida. Deben ser oriundos de la agricultura familiar y producidos en sistemas diversificados que aseguren un alto nivel de autoabasto alimentario. La economía de esta agricultura familiar es concebida como el total del abasto alimentario propio de las familias más los productos trocados en los mercados, privilegiando la seguridad alimentaria de los productores y los consumidores con criterios de justicia y transparencia.
Las organizaciones de la red que venden, también se comprometen a comprar productos de otras organizaciones del circuito, permitiendo ampliar la oferta de alimentos en los diferentes espacios (ferias, entregas a domicilio, puntos de venta, autoabastecimiento de las familias y grupos de Ecovida, mercados institucionales y otros). Eso favorece la reducción de costos y el flete, ya que los camiones siempre viajan cargados entre las estaciones-núcleos. La circulación de dinero es menor, ya que, en muchos casos, los productos se truecan. Natal João Magnanti, Centro Vianei de Educação Popular, Santa Catarina http://www.ecovida.org.br
1 – Fatma Gül Ünal, octubre de 2006. Small Is Beautiful: Evidence Of Inverse Size Yield Relationship In Rural Turkey. Policy Innovations. http://www.policyinnovations.org /ideas/policy_library/data/01382
2 – http://www.new-agri.co.uk/00-3/countryp.html, y OECD Economic Surveys: Turkey, volumen 2006 número, 15, p. 186
Nota: Biodiversidad es la revista Biodiversidad, Sustento y Culturas de Graim http://www.grain.org