Why do nearly 50% of our calories come from the same three crops: wheat, rice, and maize? What led to such a homogenisation of our diets? Underutilised crops (UCs) or forgotten crops are less common species, landraces, cultivars, or heritage varieties whose use, production, and consumption is currently limited. Despite their current depreciation, they boast a long history of cultivation in many parts of the world and hold great nutritional and environmental promise for the future of our food systems. What role for policy and a value chain approach which considers access to seeds, the ecological aspects of agricultural production, the power positions of stakeholders, the nutritional value of food, and food security and sovereignty?
At a meeting in Havana on August 11 attended by government ministers and the press, Cuban National Assembly President Esteban Lazo communicated a message to Cuba’s Minister of Agriculture from the Assembly, whose recent session ended on July 22. The ministry would be “transforming and strengthening the country’s agricultural production,” to initiate “a political and participatory movement that would unleash a productive revolution in the agricultural sector.” The National Assembly dealt primarily with Cuba’s present food disaster. The lives of many Cubans are precarious due to food shortages, high prices, and low income.
March marks the end of the 13th month of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. Hostilities in Ukraine have slowed because March in Ukraine is a month when the roads are muddy and heavy equipment cannot pass over them. Military trenches are flooded with water, and travel or evacuation becomes problematic, especially in combat areas where roads are already wrecked. Both sides in the conflict are now gathering their forces, and both sides are warning about an impending large-scale counterattack by the enemy once the ground dries out sufficiently. Ukrainian forces are being pushed into a counterattack by their Western sponsors, primarily the United States.
When we think of greenhouse gas emissions, we typically think of coal-burning power plants, vehicle exhaust or maybe forests being cleared to make way for methane-belching cows. However, there is another important agricultural source of climate pollution: nitrogen-based fertilizers. A new study from University of Cambridge-based researchers has calculated these fertilizers’ total contribution to the climate crisis for the first time, but also revealed how that contribution could be reduced to around a fifth of current levels by 2050. “Our work gives us a good idea of what’s technically possible, what’s big, and where interventions would be meaningful — it’s important that we aim interventions at what matters the most, in order to make fast and meaningful progress in reducing emissions,” study co-author Dr. André Cabrera Serrenho from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering said in a press release.
When you encounter a rural, farming and food community as the one encountered in Loire-Atlantique, one which to some extent is actively seeking out opportunities to work together and to share, this resonates with an old idea – that of mutual aid. Each of the four main sections above displayed this – community wellbeing, institutional relationships, systemic cooperation, engagement and alliance building. Each can be seen as an iteration of the spirit of mutual aid as a strategy for building solidarity economies. This community and institutional engagement work also chimes with ideas as developed in the English speaking world in Cleveland and Preston (UK). With these models, community wellbeing means institutions are asked to step up to the plate, as it were, and be a reliable, core, not-for-profit hub in the region, helping drive the required transition via local circular economic activity where possible.
More than 70 animal rights activists stood outside a courtroom in St. George, Utah on Tuesday holding up a giant image of Utah Attorney Gen. Sean Reyes. A word bubble hovered above his head saying “I cover up animal cruelty.” The group had gathered in support of whistleblowers Wayne Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer of Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, a global network of activists working to achieve revolutionary social and political change for animals in one generation. Both currently face felony burglary and theft charges that could amount to over 10 years in prison. In March 2017 Hsiung, Picklesimer and three other DxE investigators infiltrated Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farms in Utah to document the conditions of its pregnant pigs.
For African-American farmers -- afflicted by the legacy of slavery, racism, and land theft -- the struggle for emancipation has not been easy. I was therefore excited to learn about Jubilee Justice, a fledgling project that is trying to reclaim farmland for BIPOC farmers and secure their economic livelihoods. Besides embracing cooperatives and community land trusts, Jubilee Justice is dedicated to an open-source, climate-friendly type of rice farming and to courageous "transformational learning journeys" for racial healing. You can learn more about these experiments in commoning in my interview with Konda Mason on the latest episode of my podcast Frontiers of Commoning models of restorative economics and finance.
In at least two regions of the African continent food deficits are a major concern for political officials and humanitarian organizations. The Russian special military operations in neighboring Ukraine have brought to the surface a number of persistent economic problems which have plagued the world since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged during the early months of 2020. President Macky Sall of the West African state of Senegal, the current elected chairman of the 55 member-states African Union (AU) along with AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, visited the Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss measures which could alleviate the escalating problems related to the lack of food and agricultural inputs.
At 43 and 45 years old, husband and wife farmers Angie and Wenceslaus Provost, Jr., hope they live to see age 70. They don’t fear terminal illness or a farm accident that could consign them to an early grave. Instead, they fear stress could do them in. Years of trying to protect family land from encroaching banks and government agencies have worn on them, despite their love of farming. After years of mounting debt with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a bank, the New Iberia, La. sugar cane farmers filed a September 2018 lawsuit against a USDA-approved lender. The suit alleges that Wenceslaus, known as “June,” was all but run out of the profession in 2015 after the bank reduced his crop loans over successive years, effectively underfunding his farm operation.
Monte Sinaí Commune is a young organization working hard to foster communal production and strengthen non-market social relations. This commune’s territory reaches into both Anzoátegui and Miranda states, but has its epicenter in the small town of Santa Bárbara in the Guanape Valley. Various crops, including coffee, cocoa, black beans, diverse tubers, and avocado, all grow in this lush and varied region. Since the coffee trees here are old and low in yield, the commune has built a plant nursery to grow coffee seedlings to replace the old trees. The process of forming the Monte Sinaí Commune began about a year ago. Since then, we have been working very hard. As the saying goes, we are a diamond in the rough, but the beauty of the project is beginning to show. Our parliament meets every Wednesday no matter what. That is where we bring our ideas to the table, debate, and plan.
As Ukraine continues to fight against Russian forces, experts warned of potential fallout for the U.S. agriculture industry. On Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine, and Russian troops stormed into the country. Reportedly, tens of thousands have died, and about half a million people have fled their homes, according to The New York Times. The same day as Putin’s announcement, Ukraine's military halted all commercial activities at its ports in the Black Sea. Also that day, a missile struck a ship chartered by Cargill, according to Reuters. Multinational agricultural corporations stopped operations in Ukraine as farmers expect the Russian invasion of the country — and the subsequent economic sanctions — to drive up already high prices for fertilizer, a key input for U.S. growers, according to interviews and company statements.
A new case study by NGOs detailing the environmental and social harm that would cause the Omega Biofuel refinery being built in Paraguay by the Brazilian company ECB has garnered an inaccurate response from the company in the form of a press release issued on 2 April 2022. The organizations behind the report–Centro de Estudios Heñói, Stay Grounded, Biofuelwatch and Global Forest Coalition–assert that Grupo BSBIOS Paraguay/ECB ignored several requests for comment and is denying the facts and merely engaging in greenwashing, a common practice for these biofuels projects that seek to obscure their true harm to biodiversity and human rights. The organizations mentioned in the undated press release by Grupo BSBIOS Paraguay/ECB (signed by Analítica Comunicaçao), object to the company’s false statements.
Their names are Ben and Karah. And they grow my food. I shake hands with and hug them on most Sundays when I visit the farmer’s market in my town. Sometimes I drive out to see Ben and Karah on their farm just outside of town where I pre-order and pick up my food for the week. I walk the farm. I take it in. The pastures, bull calves grazing in the distance, Ben and Karah’s children running down the lane. I duck into a hightunnel greenhouse to see the purple kale variety bursting through the soil in the middle of January (yes, with the right farming practices, you can grow fresh green vegetables in the dead of winter in the soil in Pennsylvania). The same kale that I will sauté for dinner that evening. This is my spiritual practice.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $1 billion in projects that encourage farmers, ranchers and owners of forested land to employ practices that help mitigate the effects of climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions or catching and storing carbon, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters on Monday. The new program is called the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. President Biden has committed to cutting agricultural emissions in half by 2030 and has asked farmers to lead the way, as U.S. agriculture is responsible for more than 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, CNBC reported.