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Sustainable Rural Development, ecological distributive conflicts and environmental retentions

Sustainable Rural Development, ecological distributive conflicts and environmental retentions

By Dr. Ing. Agr. Walter Alberto Pengue

The only way to resolve the serious land conflict in Argentina is to move towards a process of comprehensive agrarian reform where it is managed according to its purposes by farmers tending to a production process in the hands of family farming that encourages and encourages food sovereignty


“There is too much suffering and pain from the excessive use of those who own the goods. We speak then of injustices, of families without food and without what is necessary for a decent life, which cannot be resolved by saying: "This has always existed." Yes, it has always existed and will exist, if we men do not radically change life ”.

Monsignor Enrique Ángel Angelelli, 1970.

Argentina, a country, a course ...

To speak of rural development, within the framework of a country that, facing its Bicentennial, still survives on the path of underdeveloped countries and is quite remote even from those economies that with similar times of birth, today show different destinations and socioeconomic achievements consolidated, it is a complex issue and, at the same time, an interesting exercise, a challenge and an obligation for those who feel the sector as a non-delegable part of a country that, living in rural areas, generally viewed the entire process skewed, until a few months ago.

Objecting the question directly to rural development, it is incredible that even after an agricultural history of practically one hundred years, Argentina remains, after some advances and setbacks, in a period of primarization that keeps it in the recurrence of permanent growth but without an inclusive or integrated development.

The government field discussion, framed by the exclusive sectoral interest (from both sides), on the appropriation of the country's environmental income, shows only the limited and scarce scenario of long-term analysis.

It is clear that when there is an exploitation of a natural resource, that due to its use implies an important transformation process, in some cases even overexploitation, that when this good is transformed and even forms part of a process of appropriation in the international market, that generates significant environmental income and, on the other hand, extraordinary temporary income (which sometimes drives degradation processes), it is a right and a State duty to take due account of the entire process and promote a recovery of the environmental asset via the appropriate mechanisms to do so and take advantage of them for the benefit of the region involved.

Distributive ecological conflicts and environmental retentions

Argentina is a rich country with a good part of its population impoverished and a concentration of wealth, which despite distributive discourses, is not reflected in the improvement of general well-being.

The original discussion of the environmental problem resides in a struggle for the appropriation of income from natural resources (generally to the point of exhaustion) both by foreign sectors and by those who have historically concentrated and accumulated power from within.

Distributive ecological conflicts emerge from the discussion with which the different social actors relate to the natural world and to their own ways of life, referring in general to goods in dispute or to the affectation of certain sectors by others, derived from a misuse of these . Another related aspect may be related to the ways in which externalities are distributed (the impacts not calculated in the cost and profit accounts), produced by the economic system, the placement of these environmental liabilities, the power to do so, and the methodologies for its appreciation, if this were possible and acceptable. A related issue will be related to, on the one hand, access and, on the other, public, private or collective “rights”.

An important issue in the issue of conflicts will have to do with the new international order that has reassigned a specific use to natural resources (for example, food or energy) and therefore encourages a reappropriation and exploitation of nature in the era of globalization criticizing that this resolution cannot be made under the sole logic of the market when there are innumerable incommensurabilities that are not resolved or will not be resolved from the market or with “more market”.

Ultimately, distributive ecological conflicts result from existing tensions in the process of reproduction of certain development models and their existence also appears to be restricted to spatial specificities or discussions about some type of resource.

There are many cases of social conflict that support the thesis of the existence of an environmentalism of the poor, that is, the activism of poor women and men threatened by the loss of resources and environmental services that they directly need for their survival. The languages ​​they use can be, for example, that of human rights, or indigenous territorial rights or the language of sacred values ​​even though they are not members of the “deep ecology” brotherhood, as enumerated by the ecological economist Joan Martinez Alier . How many farmers and peasants who today fight in Argentina for land, for access to water, for the protection of their local forms of production and food, if one told them: you are an ecologist ... Will your mother answer you, ecologist? However, these are the actors who have always been in the fight for environmental justice, for a defense of the sustainability of its primary sources or for life itself. Thousands throughout this world have given up their lives in this fight. Environmental or Social? It is the same, if in short we talk about the same thing. The Zapatistas of a century ago are the popular environmentalists of today, in the words of the Mexican and Latin American ethnoecologist, Víctor Toledo.

In the case of Argentina, most of these conflicts are based on problems derived from the mismanagement of natural resources ...

The main existing environmental conflict is, in fact, the conflict over the earth. From the non-resolution of it, many other problems derive that in the country have not been resolved. When considering land as a rental asset, the question resides in the discussion of the appropriation of its benefits and therefore of who owns its property. For one or the other purpose. On the other hand, there are many who consider that the land is not merely a resource. The land is much more than that, it is a living space and a tool for social transformation as declared by thousands of farmers federated or not and other peasant and indigenous movements for a long time.

The issue of the foreignization of the land and its concentration have the same origin in the country: the force of capital. Even if the land were bought for conservation purposes the issue would not be resolved. We would only achieve more spaces for feudal lords to decide who enters and who does not in their preserves or with better intentions than these, it would not be enough for a sustainable management of the resource.

The only way to resolve the serious land conflict in Argentina is to move towards a process of comprehensive agrarian reform where it is managed according to its purposes by farmers tending to a production process in the hands of family farming that encourages and encourages food sovereignty. To think that the insertion of the country in global trade will provide a solution to these problems is simply a fallacy impossible to sustain, when we are clearly seeing the destination and the way in which national production is managed.

Today the overexploitation of the resource is the bargaining chip with which this targeted intensification is paid. The result is the deforestation that in Argentina it reaches a rate higher than 250,000 hectares distributed in the Dry Chaco, Humid, the Yungas, even the relics of the Pampean caldenal. The agroenergy or agrofuels model will put even more pressure on practically 3,000,000 new million hectares of marginal lands, which are entered only with technology and inputs.

The problems of degradation and erosion they begin to manifest themselves again despite the existence of new agricultural practices such as direct sowing, which applied in monoculture conditions or with inefficient rotations from the agronomic point of view do not solve the problem of erosion and of course can increase others, such as the increase in chemical pollution.

The biodiversity loss It is a growing phenomenon that threatens most of the Argentine ecoregions. Biodiversity is a property of ecosystems and societies that must be preserved and used for their joint benefit.

The aquifer pollution problemsare a matter of concern especially in a country where the intensification of industrial agriculture is a successful event, precisely because it does not include or pay for any of the environmental and social costs it generates.

The access to water sources and their use is another important problem insofar as some capitals want to appropriate them for themselves and for their private enjoyment (headwaters of Patagonian rivers, wetlands) or to use the bodies of water as recipients of pollution, as in the case of the pasteras. Both conflicts have generated a strong social response that overcame and somehow teaches officials and technicians ways.

The overexploitation of forest resources and fishing, generates socio-environmental conflicts in different regions of the country due to the effect generated by the disappearance of the resource, the pollution of the environment, effects on health and employment.

The agrochemical pollution in towns and cities Again, it is a factor that caused several communities to organize themselves even above their political decision-makers, who by mistake or omission or other less holy interests, look the other way.

Worse still is the pollution and predation caused by opencast mines that once again have the assemblies and social actors as reactionary emerging from this new environmentalism of the poor and the not so poor.

The extraction of mineral resources, practically subsidized by laws that threaten the country, as well as the forms of production and exploitation of other non-renewable resources such as oil or gas, deserve a deepening of the analysis and knowledge of the issues by the State.

Obviously these issues are not solved with more trade. If not, only with more justice and democracy.

Of course, the natural resources with which this Argentina was born (land of silver, land of wealth) are to be used for the benefit of all and not just a few.

All the cases mentioned involve an important environmental income, until today poorly studied and even less considered in the accounts and calculations of economists. These calculations are not only supported by monetary balances, but by improvement or loss accounts of the environmental asset and ultimately the substrate or the resource base of these assets held by the country.

It is on this environment, on the usufruct of a resource that transcends the property of a private party, on which the costs should be calculated. withholdings, and be seen not as a single element to appropriate a temporary improvement in international prices, but as a compensation to the country for the extraction of the good, for the remediation of part of its damages and, especially, very especially, as a restitution measure. of funds to sustain a productive model over time.

To grow and develop, it is necessary to produce. And producing in many cases means transforming. This surely involves major changes in the landscape. Today this process happens in a messy and disorderly way and even worse without any national development objective. Argentina is only growing… in the numbers of exportable balances of grains, minerals, oil and even biodiversity (export of species or products and also in the illegal trafficking of fauna).

None of the environmental or social conflicts especially over the question of land or resources has been resolved. It is a moment of opportunity, beyond the conjuncture. Thinking of a land use planning that is not carried out without the participation of all sectors will generate only a partial result, then clearly insufficient. We will continue to be like this, producers of diagnoses on a growing problem, perhaps the biggest problem in Argentina: As the country grows, the one that, beyond everything, will continue to do so hand in hand and rational transformation of its resources.

The reason for environmental retentions and the resource base

It is clear that the sustainability and growth of the economy of developing countries comes from the strength and appropriation with which they defend the use of their natural resources.

The actors of the global world (developed countries and corporate groups) have long detected this capacity of countries like Argentina to produce goods and obtain them at low costs.

Policy-makers (environmental, agricultural, energy) in Argentina have had little to do with the installation on the country's national and international agenda of a line that defends and enforces the goods that our economies export and the companies or traders “take at zero costs”. The same is done today by the large financial groups, who have become investors in tangible goods such as food or energy, and who have the already remanufactured "sowing pools" in Argentina and neighboring economies, also at their center.

Or perhaps, the basic resources from which these have been produced or extracted are valued in the accounts of our exportable goods (grains, meat, milk, wood, oil, gas, minerals), such as the landscape, the transformed natural environment, the extraction of rich nutrients from still somewhat rich soils of the Pampean and Chaco land, virtual water, solar irradiation per unit area or the climate that allows to duplicate crops in the same time.

Just as the siren fields are heard about the benefits of many new technologies, some will be true and others as many, only fallacies will have to be listened to even more carefully, the considerations in this 21st century about the value of our natural resources (not only of exportable goods in the world market!), but the base of these resources that sustain them, and until now (only so far we have not considered).

Nor do the richest economies, large economic groups and traders in agricultural or energy businesses pay poor nations any fee for this "rent" of their living space. But it is clear, they use it.

It is time to start doing it. The calculation and compensation for the use of resources, via environmental retentions, can be a novel factor to maintain the resource base and help build development in the deep interior, where the goods come from but where practically nothing flows. again.

The export of nutrients and other environmental goods also serve to help understand irrational forms and trends in resource use and are especially important to see, for economies like ours, based on them.

Precisely in the Argentine case, the question of the export of nutrients is a vital issue. The country exports, along with its grains to overseas markets, the greatest wealth of the Argentine pampas and the extra-pampas regions. If one of the seven richest nutrient basins in the world like this one empties, the possibility of maintaining some kind of production is offered only through the incorporation of nutrients via synthetic fertilizers.


Is this emptiness and its consequences understood in the country? Apparently not. Argentina, from its short agricultural history, has made an unsustainable, at least not intensive use of soil resources, maintaining in some way and depending on the period the nutrient savings bank or its natural replacement.

With the arrival of agriculturization in Las Pampas, the process begins to be reversed and today with soy intensification the output of nutrients from the soil is permanent.

In terms of volume extracted with soybean cultivation, from the beginning of agriculturalization in the seventies (1970/71) until 2005, Argentina has lost 11,354,292 million tons of nitrogen (already discounted the natural replacement), 2,543,339 million tons of phosphorus and very high values ​​of the other nutrients and trace elements, despite, as I have commented, its good availability in a soil, which does not However it is emptying.

At dollar values, and only taking as a reference an equivalence with the restoration of what was lost (which we assume is a simplification of the reality of the nutrient balance), with mineral fertilizers, the costs are extremely high figures. Argentina has lost some US $ 2,895,344,460, 2,638,055,818, 890,168,650, 461,509,880, 86,251,130 and 71,531,320 for the exported nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium and magnesium.

You may not want to see this yet, until you reach the emptying of the pampas (Pengue, 2002, 2003). What is listed is not a market price, but it is a "value" that should somehow be recognized and managed, not only on a regional scale but as we will see with the problem of water on a global scale. The world's rich soils are increasingly scarce and it is not possible to “make new soil” in the terms in which humanity consumes, degrades and needs them. It is a future safeguard value that countries like Argentina you must take into account.

In the case of soybean production in the Pampas, the extraction of nutrients has been especially important, as this is one of the areas with the highest production of the oilseed.

The Pampean provinces (Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Córdoba) together reached a total extraction of major elements (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S) of 20,305,794 tons and 244,449,822 kilograms of micronutrients (B, Cl , Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Zn), always treating exclusively the extraction of soybeans.

The extraction per hectare, throughout the entire period, has also been very high, reaching 158 kilograms for the main nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S).

The degradation of the soil, in the case that concerns us with the extraction of nutrients, was always seen by some of the agronomists and some agricultural research institutes as “ a problem of balance”, Where to resolve the issue, it was only necessary to increase the replacement via mineral fertilizers. This is not entirely correct, as this analysis does not consider the costs incurred by the externalities produced in this process of increasing agricultural intensification and which are ecological (chemical pollution, physical degradation, eutrophication, increased environmental risk) and health (Increase in diseases caused by pollution, agrochemicals both in workers and in the rural and peri-urban population).

However, human activity is radically altering the nitrogen cycle through food production. The "Nitrogen cascade" It is an impact already verifiable on a planetary scale derived directly from activities that are increasing the amount of reactive nitrogen circulating through land, air, and water. The reason for this is the manufacture of reactive nitrogen as a fertilizer to increase production (Geo Yearbook, 2003).

So, the recommendation to permanently fertilize crops hides this growing environmental cost on the one hand and an obligation to the farmer for the payment of mineral fertilizers to replace in an artificial and short-term process, on the other.

Of course, Argentina, instead of returning to a process of greening its agriculture and therefore reconstituting lost resources, is going the opposite way, creating a direction of mineralization that logically points to the fertilization of fields via synthetic nutrients. Be careful !, legislators with what they promote.

The "natural" nutrients and fulfilling their cycles in the pampas soil are another value that the country has and that one way or another should be accounted for in the environmental and economic accounts in the future beyond the conventional theory of income that also includes this undervalued environmental rent. Who does not know this? From Mr. Frers, from the Sociedad Rural Argentina at the beginning of the last century, who recommended in his writings to his colleagues at that institution, leasing the fields (from the landowners) to Italian immigrants (our first “farmers”), with the commitment to return them planted with alfalfa, I knew it clearly.

Many of those farmers, renters of fields at vile prices, never! They got to have a land market. Let's poke around in history ...

In those days, Argentina was written with "A" ... for alfalfa. Even those who today rethink the need for livestock rotation that we should never have abandoned or those who from the outside look at the pampa as that land rich and "supernatural" in nutrients, which at lower costs for some campaigns, will allow them to appropriate an environmental income that no longer exists elsewhere. Everyone knows it, or almost everyone ...

If the land is important, so is the water, which is increasingly scarce and more polluted. World agricultural trade can also be thought of as a gigantic transfer of water, in the form of raw materials, from regions where it is found in relatively abundant and cheap form, to others where it is scarce, expensive and its use competes with other priorities. (Pengue, 2006). We will have to see these issues, and begin to claim those who win with our resources in the global system, for them.

It is still little diffused in our culture, but the fact that Patagonia is also a very important source of drinking water (the second source in the world in terms of quantity per inhabitant) awakens considerable interest for those who strategically plan the future of the world, guaranteed through of infinite rivers, streams, slopes and even large expanses of continental ice. The spaces of the planet that have availability of fresh water and low population density have become the spoils of the powerful of the world, who dispute them to guarantee their well-being and quality of life.

And so they can follow the analysis with respect to other resources. Even more, as would the economic transaction systems if, in addition to the calculations on the physical exchanges of the resource bases, the energy costs of the production processes not included today in all of them were considered in the exchange accounts.

To start the process, the calculation is already possible on tangible goods such as nutrients or water. From here, the outflow of resources could be clearly estimated and their valuation technically determined to discuss the construction of the indicator that allows the calculation of this environmental retention. Of course, this calculation will not be the same for the different ecoregions, but may incorporate variables such as types of soils, structure, initial levels of nutrients, organic matter, types and destinations of production (it is not the same to calculate nutrients "than they leave the system "in exports, than those that can" return "to the system, to be used locally), technological levels and others.

It is clear that environmental retention is a new figure, different from the concept of appropriation by way of mobile withholdings, which has become solely in the interest of appropriating by the State an extraordinary and conjunctural income, but responds to the search for a sustainable management and administration of natural resources, beyond these situations of extraordinary prices and that should continue to be established even in situations of normal prices.

Environmental retention, as has been said, will be different for each type of natural good, but what must be ensured is adequate compensation for its use, which will ensure in the future, productive alternatives if it is an exhaustible good such as oil. or gas, or a sustainable use if it is a good such as the soil resource.

Chacareros and chacareras….

Latin America is the most urbanized region in the developing world. The level of urbanization was 75.3 percent in 2000 and it is estimated that it will reach 80.4 percent in 2020. Argentina is one of the faithful representatives of these figures.

Nowadays it is much more likely that you, reader friend, meet and talk face to face, and day by day, with an urbanite, with an urban man, than with someone from the rural environment.

However, a country, especially of the territorial dimensions of Argentina, faces a serious strategic risk, if it is emptied of people, if it is emptied of farmers ...

Keeping the farmers in the field is a strategic matter. Our politicians could learn something from the Europeans or the North Americans, or why not, from the Japanese or even the New Zealanders, who subsidize them "to stick their guampa in the ground" and not move.

But how to remember the "chacareros", if not even the media remembered this name. They were like talking about the chata, the sulky, the garlochas, the espadrilles, the sevenup or the bataraza panties. Already from the cacophony of rural "clarinets" we knew how to read every Saturday, for more than a decade, that the new name for countrymen, should be the of "chacrers" (as some baptized them from these columns), "farmers" or producers ... Or the "discovery" of the field by rural sociologists who had stayed in the seventies in their studies without understanding the new alliances, the new actors and the enormous processes of change that we are experiencing, even the progressive journalism that desperately consulted that it was a hectare or a quintal or the most conservative, always more linked to the field of landowners ruralistas, worried about their Sunday barbecues at risk ...

If today, even the rural clarinet, talks about farmers ... How does the taba turn ...!

A shame, but also an opportunity. Today, in a crude and even brutal way, Argentine society, which lived like Buenos Aires, with its back turned to the interior, perceived that there are different things in the countryside. That beyond the mistaken alliance of rural sectors that defend different and even bitter interests, there are small and medium farmers and also large producers and they were even able to review their differences and objectives. It was also possible to see and understand that in some cases, peasant logic was able to show that it is closer to the construction of food sovereignty, important for the nutrition and revitalization of the interior.

The opening of the Argentine economy, the globalization process, technological intensification, especially in agriculture, the arrival of new social actors, the facilitation of access to natural resources (land, oil, gas, biodiversity) by foreign capital it has had no antecedents and it seems that there is no state interest in putting any limits on them (laws such as the foreignization of lands in Argentina or an essential law of leases, sleep the sleep of the just in the legislative drawers).

The results at the property and regional level have not been long in coming. With its differences, the problem of concentration it is found in all regions. A very intense increase in the productive scale, not only in agriculture but also in other regional economies, the displacement of small and medium agriculture, the displacement of local productions in benefit of agriculture for export and income, the loss of guidelines Cultural and social issues, the depopulation of the countryside, are nowadays unavoidable issues, which must be reversed quickly, if the sustainability of rural development in the Argentine countryside is to be ensured. Sustainability is not temporary growth. Sustainability is not shopping in the towns.

This depopulation of the countryside, which mainly affected small, poorer, or more indebted farmers in the nineties, not to mention the peasants and indigenous people (of whom now some government remembers to use them foolishly) always driven towards the cities to live in subhuman conditions, today it is a latent memory but also a permanent threat due to the appropriation of the lands of the small ones (of high value per hectare) by native and foreign investors, who allocate them to the pools of sowing.

The focus and concern must be put, that despite the warnings that have been made to policy makers, they never attended, on those who are quickly accessing the land, who in one way or another, for good or for the bad ones are abandoning small and medium farmers.

The Argentine countryside today is even more complex than before. It is practically a sectoral copy of what Argentina is. Very few rich, middle class and even a good number of poor in many eco-regions of Argentina. Especialmente estos últimos, fueron los más afectados en los años noventa y los guarismos estatales, mostraban la desaparición de prácticamente más de 100.000 agricultores, y sus familias durante esos periodos (Cuadro). Fueron muy pocos, los sectores que miraban este escenario de destrucción de la base rural de la Argentina.

En muchos casos, son estos pequeños y medianos agricultores, los sobrevivientes de ese período, los que han reaccionado con mayor énfasis sobre la aplicación de retenciones móviles, que en el caso de los más alejados de los puertos o en eco regiones con menor productividad que en las Pampas, literamente volverían a formar parte de los cuadros estadísticos de “ex productores”.

Cuadro. Pérdida de Establecimientos Agropecuarios en Argentina.

Censo AñoTotal PaísPampeanaNEANOACuyoPatagonia
1988421.221196.25485.24972.18346.22221.313
2002317.816136.34568.33263.84832.54116.750
Diferencia %– 24,5– 30,5– 19,8– 11,5– 29,6– 21,4

Actualmente, de los 170 millones de hectáreas agropecuarias de todo el país, 74,3 millones de hectáreas están en poder de tan solo 4 mil dueños. Son las propiedades que van desde las 5.000 hectáreas en adelante, debiéndose recordar que hay en el país casi 300.000 productores, lo que implica que el 1,3 por ciento de los propietarios posee el 43 por ciento de la superficie de tierra en Argentina. En la región pampeana, donde están las tierras mas cotizadas, hay 4.110.600 has en manos de solo 116 dueños. Además de la concentración de la tierra por parte de grupos económicos nacionales es ya insoslayable la preocupación por el acceso y llegada de grandes capitales internacionales que avanzaron sobre la propiedad rural argentina, mencionados en la presentación. Los ejemplos mas conocidos son los del grupo Cresud que compro 500.000 has y 200.000 vacunos. Nettis Impianti, con 418.000 has en La Rioja, con un pueblo adentro, la empresa australiana Liag, que compro 68.000 has en Salta y Formosa, el grupo italiano Radici, con 40.000 has en San Luis, el conde alemán Zichy Thyssen, dueño de 80.000 has en la misma provincia, y el grupo Benetton con 1.000.000 de has en la Patagonia. En Misiones un grupo chileno compraba en 2005, 172.000 hectáreas y las cifras siguen en todas las provincias argentinas. Todo legalmente. No existe ninguna limitación para el acceso, en cantidad, superficie o ubicación de los extranjeros al territorio argentino ni de los argentinos en cuanto a la escala de tierras a comprar.

Increiblemente poco se dice respecto a los dueños de la tierra, de grandes extensiones aún en la Argentina. The 75 % de la producción agrícola está hecha por arrendatarios. Aquí se mezclan los pooles de siembra con hasta pequeños y medianos agricultores, que compiten de manera desigual por las tierras para la producción. Ya se sabe quien gana…Si estos arrendatarios pagan en promedio un 40 % de lo cosechado a los dueños de los campos, estos últimos son unos de los grandes ganadores del negocio agrícola, que sin incurrir en ningún riesgo climático o productivo, obtienen grandes ganancias.

Es aquí donde la acción y el trabajo del gobierno es crucial. De no mediar una Reforma Agraria Integrada, que ordene el territorio en la Argentina, la inequidad, seguirá siendo la moneda de cambio en el sector rural, pero también en lo urbano.

La población pauperizada de las grandes ciudades da cuenta de esta inaccesibilidad nuevamente a una vivienda digna sobre una parcela de tierra. Existen voces que hablan de la emergente necesidad de una reforma urbana que supere la especulación inmobiliaria y de cuenta de los millones de seres humanos que no cuentan para ningún plan de desarrollo (por no tener ninguna vinculación al partido de turno) y sin embargo son fuerza bruta de trabajo y de servicios a la propia ciudad.

Campo, ciudad y ambiente están sin embargo, mucho más ligados de lo que se cree. Hemos dado cuenta de la importancia para los ciudadanos de la demanda de recursos pero más aún una mala gestión de los recursos en el campo o las presiones directas sobre el medio natural pueden desencadenar serios conflictos ambientales sobre las ciudades. La vulnerabilidad de las ciudades y pueblos y de los ecosistemas a fenómenos climáticos antes inexistentes u extremos da cuenta de cambios profundos que nos afectan de cerca con consecuencias no sólo económicas.

Una OPEP de los alimentos

En otra investigación, he analizado la crisis mundial alimentaria, que no es más que una crisis del sistema económico global y que no puede ser resuelto con los mismos instrumentos y los organismos, que han creado el problema. Existe una enorme responsabilidad de organizaciones globales, que en lugar de atacar la crisis, están colaborando en hacer crecer el daño producido.

La revolución verde, destruyó pautas culturales y de producción agrícola de millones de agricultores y de países enteros.

La nueva revolución del campo, promovida como la nueva alternativa, puede generar aún más problemas que soluciones.

Los agricultores deben volver al campo. A producir sus propios alimentos. A reproducir sus espacios de vida. Y los pueblos nutrirse de los productos de su propia gente y no de los provenientes solo de los grandes países exportadores, y de los grupos económicos que les dominan, que son los grandes traders cerealeros.

En los años ochenta, el clarificador libro Los Traficantes de Granos, de Dan Morgan, hacía solamente una advertencia de lo que sucedía y que vendría.

Hoy enfrentamos un escenario aún más complejo, desordenado y concentrado.

El ranking de todas las empresas exportadoras de la Argentina del año 2007 aparece encabezado por la compañía Cargill con ventas al exterior por u$s 4.317,6 millones; en segundo lugar se ubica el grupo Bunge con u$s 2.673,7; en tercer lugar se encuentra LDC Argentina (subsidiaria de Grupo Louis Dreyfus) con u$s 2.030,9 millones. Estas tres empresas cerealeras encabezan el ranking de todas las empresas exportadoras del país. Un puñado de empresas cerealeras (que se completa con Nidera SA, Noble Argentina (subsidiaria de Noble Grain), ADM Argentina S.A y Aceitera General Deheza SA) son las que manejan la exportación de granos del país. Por supuesto, que los productores tienen algo que ver con este negocio y se benefician en este punto poco de él. Los otros grandes grupos de los primeros diez grandes exportadores, responden a empresas petroleras (como Repsol), o exportadoras de cobre y oro como Minera La Alumbrera.

Las firmas cerealeras, liquidan al productor un precio menor al vigente en los mercados internacionales (basta mirar los precios diarios de Chicago y Buenos Aires) (descontados los derechos de exportación (retenciones), sumados los gastos de comercialización y flete correspondientes, a lo que debería sumarse un error de cálculo que merced a la anuencia de la SAGPyA estaría afectando a los productores, por un mal calculo entre las diferencias de aplicación de los valores FOB y FAS teórico, un guarismo creado y publicado por la primera. El hecho aparentemente beneficiaría aún más a los traders en detrimento de los agricultores.

Ahora bien, podríamos preguntarnos porque un país “cerealero” como la Argentina , no ha decidido aún, operar con su propio trader, una propia empresa estatal que maneje, en lo posible, el mayor caudal del negocio agrario de exportación y junto con otros países (Brasil ?, Paraguay, Bolivia, Canadá, Australia), discutir un nuevo modelo de negocios, que permita crear, como fuera en su momento, la OPEG , la Organización de Países Exportadores de Granos y hacerse en su propio beneficio, de un negocio que hoy solo beneficia a otros.

Desde esta nueva organización, será mucho más factible ayudar a organizar un mundo hoy hambreado especialmente, y ayudar a regular el sistema global de una manera más sostenible y humanitaria. No podrá hacerse de ninguna otra forma.

Hacia el desarrollo rural sostenible

Es verdad que entrando en este nuevo milenio, nuestra agricultura está teniendo transformaciones transcendentales. El nuevo sistema, permite incrementar – mediante la aplicación intensiva de insumos y su combinación con nuevas tecnologías de creciente aceptación – los rendimientos físicos de los cultivos de alta respuesta, pero con resultados y consecuencias ambientales, sociales y económicas que recién comenzamos a evaluar.

El sistema productivo es presentado por gobierno y empresas corporativas, como una única alternativa económica. En la campaña 2006/2007, los guarismos mostraran, lo que los economistas tradicionales y funcionarios repetirán hasta el hartazgo: el llegar a un nuevo record histórico absoluto de casi 93 millones de toneladas, superando en un 20 % el registro del año anterior y en un 35 % el de la década y hasta el interés actual de poder llegar en poco tiempo a los 150.000.000 de toneladas.

Hemos triplicado ya los niveles de finales de la década de los años setenta, donde arranca el crecimiento expansivo de la agricultura más intensiva. Los aumentos en productividad de los principales cultivos (maíz, soja, girasol y demás) muestran un salto promedio anual del 5 % en las ultimas tres décadas, que casi triplica por otro lado, el crecimiento de la economía en su conjunto (1,8 %).

Ahora bien, el aprovechar de la forma que hemos hecho estas ventajas comparativas, no ha garantizado un crecimiento sostenido del sector que derivara en algún momento en un desarrollo mas balanceado. Hablando específicamente del sector rural y de los agricultores, no necesariamente los resultados de estos “avances pampeanos” llegaran de la misma forma y se plasmaran en logros algo más que efectistas. Es mucho, el pequeño y mediano agricultor que no alcanzo la también creciente escala económica necesaria para sostenerse y de productor paso a arrendar su campo o a ser dirigido en sus acciones por pooles o grupos económicos mayores.

En el modelo actual de crecimiento rural, el destino que espera a estos agricultores, seguramente será el de prestadores de servicios en pueblos y ciudades rurales, o en “buscadores de campos o arrendatarios pequeños enloquecidos” o nuevos emigrantes.

Por eso es tan importante diferenciar crecimiento de desarrollo. El desarrollo rural es otra cosa. Es fomentar la ocupación en producción y trabajo, diferenciado y con distintos caminos y destinos bajo las múltiples alternativas disponibles en un país con eco regiones tan disímiles, hoy día muchas de ellas uniformizadas y disciplinadas por la tecnología y la inyección de capital foráneo.

Ni que hablar cuando se habla de un “desarrollo rural sostenible”. La sustentabilidad excede la mera conservación de los recursos naturales y del medio ambiente para convertirse en la expresión de un desarrollo económico y social estable y equitativo. El pasaje de una agricultura convencional a una sustentable es un proceso lento, complejo, que difícilmente se da en forma natural. Significa disponer de un conjunto de instrumentos económicos, sociales y de políticas, así como de tecnologías y conocimiento de procesos aplicables que orienten los mecanismos y señales de los mercados en función de esos objetivos. “El mercado puede ser un eficiente medio de asignación de recursos pero sus invisibles manos, muchas veces, deben tener quién las oriente”. A la capacidad tecnológica y productiva que tenemos, hemos de sumar de forma obligatoria la educación formal e informal, en todos los ámbitos y sectores. Todo ello necesita de Políticas Públicas.

Si una parte de la base de la riqueza argentina está en su campo y en la gente que la produce, favorecer, apoyar y mantener el modo regional y la cultura propia del medio rural junto con las personas que lo habitan, es una responsabilidad indelegable del Estado, nacional, provincial y municipal y de todos los organismos en sus distintos estadios que también tienen o deberían tener incumbencia directa en este proceso.

Favorecer y revitalizar la vida de los pequeños pueblos, reconstruir sus economías y movilidad local de sus productos, e impulsar modos y rescates de producciones específicas, construir con objetivos específicos y claros los conceptos de los alimentos como productos locales, regionales, delicatessen, especialidad, denominación de origen, amenidades, arte y alimentos especiales, que si bien son tan promovidos en el primer mundo, pueden ser aprovechados también aquí, tanto localmente como en el incipiente movimiento agroturístico o la actividad exportadora para quienes mediante la actividad cooperativa puedan lograr establecer los principios de cantidad, calidad y continuidad. Países como Italia, Francia, España, EE.UU., Australia, Nueva Zelanda, muy similares en su base agroproductiva a nosotros lo han implementado y sus resultados saltan a la vista. Muchos de ellos son subsidiados por entender que la agricultura no es solo producir un comoditie (materia prima), sino que implica valores y externalidades sociales, que deben ser resguardadas y reconocidas. Mientras estas economías se protegen, en nuestro caso, se atenta directamente contra un desarrollo rural integrado. No todo el sector rural es lo mismo ni mucho menos. Hoy día la agroindustria sojera o la economía basada en el maíz, tanto como la ganadería están mejorando. La renta que el Estado argentino toma para si como impuestos a la exportación (retenciones) deberían en lugar de utilizarse, luego ya de mas de cuatros años de aplicarlos a políticas de emergencia primero y clientelistas después, ser orientados directamente a las economías rurales y regionales y su diversificación en su forma mejor entendida, es decir, “valorando” el aporte de la agricultura familiar y de los técnicos dedicados al sector en beneficio al desarrollo nacional. El valor total de la producción podría estar superando los 20.000 millones de dólares, casi el doble que a principios del milenio, de los que el gobierno se quedara con más del 35 %. No podrían servir 9.000 millones de dólares, reflejo de un beneficio agrícola extraordinario, ser utilizados como base de un desarrollo rural mas sostenible que abarque a las áreas mas desfavorecidas y en el final, un desarrollo nacional inclusivo?.

En este Bicentenario, es necesario refundar a la Argentina. Repoblarla. Es una cuestión geopolítica, de ocupación del territorio. Es necesario apoyar a los pueblos y ciudades rurales. Afincar a nuevas familias en estos espacios. Facilitar la vuelta de millones de argentinos que viven pauperizada y dependientemente en los cinturones periurbanos como Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba o Resistencia a repoblar el campo, a trabajar en el, a producir de manera diversa.

Es indudable que favorecer un sistema productivo diversificado, que mantenga el paisaje rural y productivo e intercala estos elementos con el trabajo del hombre, permitiría mantener la calidad ambiental y sus servicios, preservar la biodiversidad, proteger el recurso suelo, administrar sosteniblemente la cuenca y sostener a la familia en el campo.

Para alcanzar un desarrollo rural sostenible en el siglo XXI, por encima de los crecimientos coyunturales, Argentina deberá aplicar ingentes y continuados fondos en sus sistemas de educación formal e informal “desde la base”, apoyar medidas y legislación para regularizar la cuestión del uso y tenencia de la tierra, promover un ordenamiento ambiental y territorial participativo y garantizar apoyos permanentes a la agricultura diversificada, la producción integrada, las pymes rurales, la familia y la juventud rural, la capacitación y promoción técnica y todos los actores de desarrollo agroproductivo.

El desarrollo rural integrado y sostenible esta asociado en forma directa a otro aspecto, pobremente apoyado en la Argentina: el de la Soberanía Alimentaria, como la plantearan organizaciones como la Vía Campesina. Las naciones más desarrolladas, a las que en muchos casos, se pretende emular, resguardan estos dos aspectos y no los sortean en las manos coyunturales de los intereses del mercado, por ser valores superiores los que están en juego, vinculado a la estabilidad del espacio vital y la verdadera gobernabilidad.

Es entonces necesario, discutir un plan nacional de desarrollo con la participación de todos los sectores sociales, especialmente los más vulnerables y definir esta estrategia que dirima de una vez, por lo menos en términos mínimos de 50 años hacia donde queremos ir como país. Repensar las nuevas Instituciones que deberán crearse para este Desarrollo Rural, como un Ministerio de Desarrollo Agrario, que no podrá tener relaciones, bases o actores provenientes de entidades ya vigentes e inútiles a todas luces en la mejora del desarrollo rural, como la secretaria de agricultura, que ha sido claro, ha tenido siempre otros objetivos.

El escenario global es confuso pero pleno de oportunidades. No obstante, la producción de alimentos no puede ni debe ser vista como una mera oportunidad de negocios. Sino como una enorme responsabilidad. De todos los actores de la sociedad. Argentina, con estas condiciones no puede no sólo tener un niño, un anciano que mueran de hambre, en un país que tiene tierras para producir alimentos para todos y no solo granos exportables sin valor alimenticio o del consumo de los argentinos. Tampoco debe tener más pobres. Es decir, un país que seguirá echando mano a sus recursos estratégicos, a sus bienes naturales pero pensando en el desarrollo de su pueblo, el bienestar de su gente, la lucha y eliminación del hambre y la pobreza. Es una oportunidad histórica…sí, lo es pero para eliminar para siempre, estos dos flagelos de todo el territorio argentino. www.ecoportal.net

* Ingeniero Agrónomo, Consultor Agropecuario e Investigador de la UBA www.gepama.com.ar/pengue

Exclusivo para

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