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The food system, costs, crises, and occupations - October 26

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Fertiliser cost warning

Staff, Indaily News
THE rising cost of fertiliser has reached the stage where some Australian farmers are reducing production to save money, the CSIRO warns.

CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship says phosphorous fertiliser in particular has doubled in price over the past 10 years, imposing a financial limit on productivity gains.

Flagship director Dr Richard Simpson said some meat and wool producers were reducing stocking rates.

“In addition, the cost of energy needed to source and produce fertilisers is rising, so further steady increases in fertiliser costs are expected,” he said.

The CSIRO is researching how to improve fertiliser efficiency such as by breeding plants that can better utilise phosphorous from the soil or can grow in lower-phosphorus soils...
(23 October 2011)
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The Food Crisis Strikes Again

Esther Vivas, ZSpace
The threat of a new food crisis is already a reality. The price of food began to rise to record levels again, according to the FAO Food Price Index of February, 2011, which does a monthly analysis of global prices of a basic food basket made up of grains, seed oils, dairy products, meat and sugar. The Index came to a new historic maximum, the highest since the FAO began to study food prices in 1990. In the past months, prices have levelled off but analysts predict more hikes in the coming months.

This increase in the cost of food, especially basic grains, has serious consequences for southern countries with low incomes and dependency on food imports, and for the millions of families in these countries that devote between 50 and 60 percent of their income to food—a figure that rises to 80 percent in the poorest countries. In these countries, the rise in the price of food products makes them inaccessible.

We are approaching a billion people—one out of every six on the planet—that today do not have access to adequate food. World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, affirmed that the current food crisis has increased the number of persons who suffer chronic hunger by 44 million. In 2009, this number was surpassed, reaching 1.023 billion people undernourished on the planet, a figure that went down slightly in 2010, but without returning to the levels before the food and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

The present crisis takes place in the context of an abundance of food. Food production has multiplied over the three decades since the sixties, while the world population has merely doubled since then. There’s plenty of food. Contrary to what international institutions like the FAO, World Bank and World Trade Organization say, it’s not a problem of production, but rather a problem of access to food. These organizations urge an increase in production through a new Green Revolution, which would only make the food, social and ecological crises worse...
(23 October 2011)



Occupy the Food System!

Eric Holt Gimenez, The Huffington Post
In the past few weeks, the U.S. Food Movement has made its presence felt in Occupy Wall Street. Voices from food justice organizations across the country are connecting the dots between hunger, diet-related diseases and the unchecked power of Wall Street investors and corporations (See Tom Philppot's excellent article in Mother Jones).

This is very fertile ground.

On one hand, the Food Movement's practical alternatives to industrial food are rooted at the base of our economic system. Its activities are key to building the alternative, localized economies being called for by Occupy Wall Street. On the other hand, Occupy provides a space for the Food Movement to politicize its collective agenda and scale-up community-based solutions by changing the rules that govern local economies.

Of course, in the U.S., what we refer to as the "food movement" is really more of a loose "food network" of non-profit organizations and community groups (CSAs, food policy councils, community gardens, etc) with a sprinkling of bona-fide family farmer organizations and food worker organizations. There's nothing wrong with this. The network has blossomed over the past decade, creating an amazing social infrastructure that is actively using the food system to make us healthier and happier. In the Food Movement we re-learn and re-invent ways of farming, cooking and eating. In doing so, we put back in the social, economic and cultural values robbed by the industrial food system.

But if the community gardens, CSAs, farm-to-school programs and sustainable family farms in the Food Movement are so great why isn't everyone doing it?...
(21 October 2011)



Women Farmers Feed the World

Christa Hillstrom, Yes! Magazine
It's harvest season in Burkina Faso. Throughout the West African nation's rural regions, small farmers—mostly women—are harvesting millet, rice, and sorghum to feed large families. After a full day gathering grains, each wife will continue the work, tending her own small garden to feed her children.

The harvest marks the end of the "lean season," the dangerous months after the year's food supply has dwindled and the next crops have not yet arrived—a time that leaves many women foraging for their children.

West Africa—and much of the rest of the world—is facing a food crisis. Nearly one billion people are hungry, according to the World Hunger Education Service, and farmers throughout the Global South are experiencing escalating anxiety over the appropriation and control of land, seeds, and farming techniques by foreign governments and corporations—manifested in "land-grabbing," seed monopolization, genetic modification, and the imposition of high-tech, water-, chemical-, and energy-intensive monocrops.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a Gates Foundation-funded initiative based in Nairobi and spearheaded by Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the U.N. It's a multimillion-dollar project that seeks to increase food production in Africa by implementing vigorous Western-style agricultural techniques, promising high-yield results for food-insecure populations.

According to the Gates Foundation and other supporters, it's an African-led endeavor, modeled on the previous Green Revolutions of Latin America and the Indian sub-continent but placed in the hands of Africans. It sounds like a good idea.

But a growing movement of local farmers—largely led by women—argue that the surest path to food security is securing food sovereignty. It's a concept that was put forward in the early 90's by Via Campesina, an international alliance of peasant, indigenous, and women's organizations that advocates for communities' control over how food is produced, and who gets to eat it.
(22 October 2011)

Editorial Notes: Photo credit: Groundswell International

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