Food for Thought/Fuelling the Debate
The world is in a pickle, we all know that. But how many of us stop to think about what we can do to change things? I’m sure that lots of us try to recycle what we can, and many of us are reducing our carbon footprint too maybe.
Some people may be trying even harder and running their diesel car on bio-fuel. Which brings us to the point of my blog – the land grab that is going on in Africa. Whole tracts of Africa’s most fertile land is being (or has been) bought up by companies (many of them government backed) from the Far East, India, the US, and Europe (including the UK). Sometimes these companies are not even involved in agriculture – hedge funds, investment banks and even your pension providers are desperate to get a piece of the action.
One investor alone is intending to buy a total of 500,000 hectare of land in Ethiopia – the same Ethiopia that is suffering a famine affecting two million people. To put that into context the UK has a total landmass of 24,350,000 hectares. The total enterprise expects to create 10,000 jobs which works out at one person per 50 hectares (in UK agriculture we employ one person per 96 hectares).
On the face of it this is good. Well not really – the employment opportunities are minimal in the overall scheme of things, the profits will not remain in the country (and up to twenty countries are involved), the improved infrastructure will only happen in the immediate area of these facilities and between them and the ports, people are displaced and there is the issue of water for this intensive farming too.
What has driven this land grab? Russia imposing a levy on grain exports was one of the first drivers. Food is now regarded as a commodity by the increasingly powerful commodity traders. Our near dependence on out of season fruit and veg. The Gulf states want to shift a large chunk of their food production due to their own concerns over fresh water. And the EU target of biofuels accounting for 10% of our needs by 2015.
So what can we do about it?
We can try to buy seasonal UK grown produce. Not as easy as we would like – I practically live on tomatoes and peppers.
But what about bread? Times are tight for many families – not everyone can afford to seek out an artisan baker.
The bio-fuel one is easy – don’t use it! I work in the motor trade, and cars running in this fuel do have a higher fuel pump failure rate than those run on “real” diesel. This can cost up to £1500 to repair!
But, truth be told, none of the above will make much difference. Maybe it’s time to face the truth – the biggest problem is that the population of the planet needs to decrease. The only way to preserve our standard of living and the earths resources is for less of us to ask too much of it.
But that will never happen either – the corporations couldn’t afford for it to happen.
Sorry if this is all a little gloomy – I’ve had this written up for weeks, but was unsure whether I should type it up and post it or not.
- 31 Oct, 2011
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