Category Archives: socialism

Food Security and the Last Billion

atakpame-1983Yesterday, Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Administration, complained that this year, due to the global food crisis, an additional 40 million humans are joining the ranks of the chronically food insecure around the world, and the total for the seriously at-risk is now at least about 963 million. About 1 billion around the world are now at dire imminent risk of starvation and debilitating malnutrition. Needless to say, Afrikan countries, most run by anti-Afrikan, indeed anti-human kleptocrats and neo-colonialists, serve up some of the highest numbers. Likewise for India, China, and elsewhere in the third world.

Perhaps in the wake of the urgency with which Mr. Diouf testified to the UN’s food agency, now may be a time to muse about the implications of our individual eating habits on global ecology and food security. In what I’ve learned of agronomy, it seems vegetarianism is the most ecologically sustainable diet that human populations can pursue. Even in rural settings, runaway grazing eats up land and depletes its moisture carrying capacity far more quickly than even conventional mono-crop rearing. Eating fruits and using herbs from the forest – minimally invasive in practice – seems like the total opposite of grazing, factory farming, and other practices that have led to extreme deforestation and desertification, including the misguided steps being taken in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere to convert old-growth broad-leaf rainforest into vast groves of palm oil for bio-fuel export.

I think the Afrikan that moves away from meat is making a profound move. Not only is it in pursuit of the primal health colored folks will need to fight imperialism and neo-colonialism and establish a united Afrika serving and enriching the lives of Afrikans, but it is also an engagement with the carrying capacity of the Earth, and an acknowledgment of the delicate balance needed for the planet to replenish itself. It suggests we are willing to share and allow what the Earth can bountifully give to us, so long as we don’t take in excess and destroy the ecosystem in the process. It is well documented how much more water, land, food and fuel inputs are needed for even modest styles of animal husbandry to feed one individual, compared to inputs needed to feed one person through plant-based means only. At one extreme is factory farming and agribusiness that rapes the Earth without recourse to the least iota of moral restraint, and on the other, I think, the Afrikan moving towards serious raw veganism.

It is a move for the zealots, most will probably conclude. So be it. It tastes good and at least we know we are on Earth’s side, custodians of ecological sustainability and food security, because of our dietary choices. Already there is enough food to feed the world’s population, just that it’s concentrated in granaries in the West, and its potential to be utilized sensibly in Afrika is thwarted by cash-crop export economies, political instability, pollution, war, runaway urbanization, land privatization and land misuse. How much more could the ability to feed the world be expanded if less of us opt for the most wasteful land-use patterns by going for the meat, especially the factory-farmed meat?

Not that the millennium development goals are worth a damn beyond their pretty letters on conscience-appeasing paper, but if we want to take Mr. Diouff’s grievances seriously and consider how we can contribute to food security, even if rather indirectly, perhaps more of us should consider putting the meat down. This is just a microscopic baby-step into being a bit more mindful of the planet and all its resources we usurp to feed us, given the choices we make, even in diet. We haven’t even begun to discuss the fundamental problem of parasitic capitalism and its imposition of hunger, ignorance, land theft, and wretchedness on the “developing” world.

Don’t you get tired of it being the 21st century and black folks (and Asians, Indigenous folk and Latin Americans too) are still starving, still part of the last billion?

To Be Agronomic…

This is actually the only real physical book I took back with me from the classes I took at University of Ghana and Ashesi University in the Spring semester of 2007. This book is Managing Agrodiversity the Traditional Way edited by Edwin A. Gyasi – the professor of the course I took with him, Sustainable Agriculture in the Developing World – and Gordana KranjacBerisavljevic, Essie T. Blay, and William Oduro. This course, a graduate-level class in the Geography department at Legon, was only attended by three students that whole semester – two of us from America (including a white woman from Northern California) and a young Ghanaian woman. It’s troubling, at best, that matters of agronomy, food security, and sustainable land management are not attended to by more students, particularly right in Afrika. But I consider it to have been a great honor to have studied the contemporary thought around sustainable development with Prof. Gyasi.

That is the man himself, during our field trip to Aburi Hills, where we visited Ebua Danso’s farm, the one I mention three posts down, where organic agroforestry impressed the hell out of me and blew my mind. And Ebua Danso wasn’t a master, world-renowned organic Afrikan farmer because of something he learned in a Western-oriented agronomy program somewhere. He was simply reproducing the beautiful and effective methods of traditional, local farmers in Ghana and elsewhere in West Afrika. I come back to all this subject matter and these past events in my life as I reflect on being a raw vegan/ fruitarian, an Afrikan, and a revolutionary concerned with food security, sustainable and plentiful food production and transport, and justice. Raw Vegans/ fruitarians like me eat a lot of tropical fruits and nuts. Bananas produced for the Bonita, Dole, and other big US corporations that maintain banana republics in Latin America – I eat them. I live in North Jersey, just outside NYC where I work and conduct all my business. And I enter the market and select all sorts of tropical fruits that were grown many thousands away, in the very tropics I am native to (and would probably rather be most of the time). If the Afrikan situation was correct, I would be there today with no looking back, doing work, being free, eating right off the land and most likely growing most of my own food. I know activists here in NYC that want to do something like establish organic herbal gardens in Cameroon which will grow medicinal herbs to be exported to the US. Yet the cost of such transport, and the relationship of cash-cropism – an economic practice I approach with some ire – might not be overturned in such an arrangement.

It is likely very impractical to imagine, at this point, a world which, in concern for the pollution and waste of intercontinental food trading – and realizing the injustice of cash-cropism imposed on the (tropical) third world by the (temperate) first world – moves to locovorism, where everyone is eating locally-grown whole foods. In New York state or New Jersey, what do we grow that I dig, apples? A lot of salad crops, yes? Many sorts of berries? Well, that is excellent and I eat the local varieties of those, and have visited apple farms in South Jersey, where I was impressed and felt my innate desire to be a rural, food-growing, simple-ass man, reinforced. But me, I eat a whole lot of tropical fruits. I eat citrus grown in Florida, avocados grown in California (as well as a lot of salad greens), pecans grown in Texas, as for this country. I eat avocados from Mexico, too, Ecuadorian bananas, Brazilian cashews, Chilean blueberries, Peruvian cacao beans, Canadian hemp-seed, Spanish unpasteurized almonds, even New Zealand Kiwis. And that’s certainly not all I eat. I feel concerned about being a non-locovore, a man eating from the global kitchen assembly line established long ago by European mercantilism and colonialism, the antecedents of contemporary cash-cropism. I don’t even eat fair-trade bananas (not even organic).

Does one like me just keep going this way? Agronomy is one of my many, many interests. I’m an urban-ass person, something I can’t apologize for because I was born into that, though I have friends who have moved on from that, and at least tried to dedicate more of their lives to agronomy and food security issues. In the meantime, I suppose we must be advocates for, aside from revolution, or in until its occurrence, clean-green-energy means of international shipping and sustainable locovorism to the extent that it is possible and practical. Surely those in cities and towns with land should say fuck a lawn, and grow food on their free land. Lawns are the invention of retards. Food security is undermined by lawns. Whenever I get a true place of my own, best believe I’ll be growing food on it like a hardcore farmer. But it could be the case, some day down the line, and within the context of repatriating, that I just move to the tropics, to Afrika, where everything grows, and grow durians, pineapples, avocados, mangos, oranges, cashews, cacao, and all that good shit, alongside other Afrikans, a beautiful sista, some little ones, sweating under the palms and sipping fresh juices by the sea (or in the valleys). Ah, to aspire to the good life…