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January 21 2006

Globalisation and Agriculture: Every one suffers


The negative effect of globalisation on Agriculture and food production is not limited to the countries of the South but extends to the Northern hemisphere as well. This fact is emerging as discussions get underway at the Bamako, Mali, Polycentric world social forum.


At a panel discussion on Wednesday, speakers from diverse background agreed that globalisation has left peasant farmers generally poorer and the multi-national promoters of agro-business much more richer. They said there is the need to have an international solidarity across the regions in order to create alternative models that would protect the farmers and guarantee food security. According to them, it is madness to produce for profit and not the needs of the people.


Some explain further the issue of globalisation and agriculture in their respective regions:


Angela Miles, Canada


What happened was that farmers in the North were induced in the name of development to make huge investments on machinery, chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce mono-crops. And to change from producing a variety of foods to sell locally and eat in the home. They were induced to produce mono-crops, so they produce all wheat; all corn and you no longer have the mixture. And because they have large fields, they need large equipment. They went into debt to do this. And now what the farmers are receiving in the name of subsidies are not covering their costs. So they are very vulnerable to losing their farms. In fact the subsidies going to farmers in the North mainly go to the huge operators in the agro-business and the whole process - modern agriculture, mono cropping - is the process whereby the farmers are losing their farms. They are being consolidated into large holdings owned by the big corporations and sometimes the farmers remain to manage it and sometimes not. And the children leave because they can’t make a living. So we have a crisis and that is why the National Farmers Union of Canada is part of an international peasant farmers’ network to work to change things.


If we have the capacity that have been discussed here in Africa and the other regions to produce what we need, our trade relationship should be simpler so that we in Canada can have bananas, oranges, that are not needed here.


Antonio Tujan, Ibon Foundation, Philippines


Because of globalisation products come in very cheaply into our countries and our farmers who are basically subsistence farmers that produce very little for the market cannot compete with the very big corporations. Because of these many farmers in Philippines are losing their coffee farms because imported coffee is cheaper. Also in Indonesia rice farmers are losing because the Indonesian government is importing rice. The farmers are losing out because their prices are high, because the government does not support them and because the government embraces globalisation. So they are punched cold. After that the corporations come in and take over the land. The farmers are forced into contract growing arrangement or into leasing out their land to the trans-national corporations; and what is happening in the Philippines, in Thailand and Indonesia is that foreign corporations are directly controlling the land and the farmers are ending up as farm workers whose way of life is destroyed.


Jeremiah Kipkering, Kenya Producers Coalition


Globalisation has affected maize farmers in Kenya. They are facing high imports and actually the maize from other countries is cheaper and has actually affected maize production. Right away we have famine in two regions of Kenya despite the fact that there is enough that can be produced in the rift valley. But due to globalisation, the farmers lack credit facilities. We need to form farmers’ federation at regional levels that actually may articulate these issues – the issue of free trade, the issue of WTO - and review all the negotiations that have been carried on recently in WTO at Hong Kong.