The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that, every minute, a child is pushed into hunger in fifteen countries most ravaged by the global food crisis. Twelve of these fifteen countries are in Africa (from Burkina Faso to Sudan), one is in the Caribbean (Haiti), and two are in Asia (Afghanistan and Yemen). Wars without end have degraded the ability of the state institutions in these countries to manage cascading crises of debt and unemployment, inflation and poverty. Joining the two Asian countries are the states that make up the Sahel region of Africa (especially Mali and Niger), where the levels of hunger are now almost out of control. As if the situation were not sufficiently dire, an earthquake struck Afghanistan last week, killing over a thousand people – yet another devastating blow to a society where 93% of the population has slipped into hunger.
Food and Agriculture
In farming, high crop yields are often associated with the use of human-made fertilizers. But what if these abundant results could instead be achieved by using farming practices that were more environmentally friendly? An extensive new study of 30 farms in Africa and Europe has shown that the combination of small amounts of fertilizer with natural farming methods like mixing compost or manure with the soil, cultivating a wider variety of crops and cultivating plants like clover or beans that amplify soil’s fertility can result in high crop yields while maintaining the harmony of agricultural ecosystems, a press release from Rothamsted Research said. The study found that a significant amount of chemical fertilizers could be replaced by adopting these more natural techniques, which would have multiple benefits.
In 2018, 48% of U.S.-based churches had their own food-distribution ministry or supported efforts run by other churches or organizations such as food pantries or food banks. These faith-based ministries, unlike government programs, provide immediate help to hungry people with no requirements. And more than two million people volunteer at a food pantry, soup kitchen, emergency shelter or after-school programs in the U.S., working more than 100 million volunteer hours a year—according to Hunger in America 2014, a study conducted by Feeding America. This wave of charity recognizes a serious problem in the United States: Despite being a wealthy nation, food insecurity remains high.
Much attention is being given to the impacts the conflict in Ukraine and the US sanctions on Russia will have on our food supply this year, but farmer Jim Goodman, president of the National Family Farm Coalition, explains why our food system has been in crisis for a long time. Goodman discusses how the causes of the broken food system - corporatization, consolidation, a rigid supply chain and the climate crisis - are all coming together to make farmers reconsider whether it even makes sense to plant crops. He also explains that farmers could feed the world in ways that are good for our health and for the planet, but this requires returning control to the small farmers and communities throughout the world.
Global food systems are at a breaking point. Not only are they responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, they are also the top contributors to water pollution and biodiversity collapse. On top of that, many aspects of our food systems are extremely vulnerable to disruptions from climate change and other shocks, as we saw in the first months of the pandemic. Agroecology — an approach to farming long practiced by Indigenous and peasant communities around the world — could transform our food systems for the better. And agribusinesses in the Global North are actively looking to agroecology to rebrand and build new markets under the banners of carbon farming and regenerative agriculture.
We feel like we are sandwiched between unfair market competition at the bottom and unfair production regulations at the top. The industrial baking industry has all the comparative advantages of size, it uses standardized raw materials and many types of additives. We have all the disadvantages of standards tailored to industrial production. These rules have not been adapted to the possible risks of our small-scale artisanal production methods. With lower production volumes and higher labor costs, we are disproportionately burdened by these over-regulations, which hardly help to fulfil the goals they are supposed to serve. As competent, independent and socially responsible craftspeople, we are disenfranchised and penalized by rampant bureaucratic regulations.
More than half of the world’s agricultural soils are already degraded, and both scientists and UN agencies agree that the remaining soil will only take us another 40 to 50 years. Yet despite the threat this poses to biodiversity, the climate and global food security, soil health receives less attention than other looming environmental crises. That’s why yogi, mystic and visionary Sadhguru has set off on a 100-day, 30,000 kilometer (approximately 18,641 mile) motorcycle journey to save soil. “Everybody knows the problem. Everybody generally knows what is the solution, but they’ve all been waiting for one idiot to come and bell the cat,” the 64-year-old said during a talk in Tbilisi, Georgia, on day 37 of his journey. “So here I am.”
Geneva - On Saturday, 06/11, La Via Campesina began its mobilizations against the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization that is underway in Geneva this week. An international delegation of peasants – representing social movements, peasant and indigenous organizations and farm unions – from the rural territories of Kenya, Korea, Paraguay, USA, France, India, Indonesia, Canada, Thailand, Spain, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Mali and Gambia took to the streets of Geneva with a massive demonstration against the World Trade Organization (WTO). The message was loud and clear: FREE TRADE FUELS HUNGER, WTO OUT OF AGRICULTURE!
Look no further than to the fruit and vegetable farmers in Europe and the United States who destroyed perfectly good produce because corporate food processors lacked the resiliency to adapt to changing consumption demands. The 2.5 million farmworkers in the U.S., at the same time, risked their lives for poverty-level wages without personal protective equipment. Meanwhile, just four corporations, globally, control 75 percent of the world’s grain trade and 60 percent of our seeds. In the U.S., four firms dominate 75 percent of the fertilizer supply and 85 percent of beef processing. Such concentration takes freedom from farmers, taking from them the ability to negotiate the prices of what they sell and the inputs, such as feed and seed, that they purchase.
Providence, Rhode Island - Workers at three Seven Stars Bakery locations in Providence, Rhode Island publicly announced their intent to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 328 on June 10 after they issued a letter to ownership seeking voluntary recognition. Workers began organizing six months ago when one of the longest serving employees was turned down for a raise, despite years of stellar performance. In response, a group of workers across several locations began talking about how they could improve conditions together. The first thing the workers at Seven Stars Bakery want people to know about their union drive is that they love their coworkers, they love their jobs and they want their union to help make them even better.
How should the global agricultural system change in order to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis? A group of young activists believe the answer is a global shift towards plant-based diets, and they are not afraid to make their voices heard. The campaigners disrupted a meeting at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, on Friday to call for a Plant Based Treaty. “This is a do or die decade, particularly when it comes to the methane crisis,” Plant Based Treaty campaigner Yael Hanna said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. “We need an immediate and rapid shift away from animal-based foods to plant-based foods in response to the climate emergency. The science presented by the IPCC is irrefutable, a vegan diet is the optimal diet for the planet and we need to negotiate a Plant Based Treaty now.”
In March 2022, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a ‘hurricane of hunger’ due to the war in Ukraine. Forty-five developing countries, most of them on the African continent, he said, ‘import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, with 18 of those import[ing] at least 50 percent’. Russia and Ukraine export 33% of global barley stocks, 29% of wheat, 17% of corn, and nearly 80% of the world’s supply of sunflower oil. Farmers outside of Russia and Ukraine, trying to make up for the lack of exports, are now struggling with higher fuel prices also caused by the war. Fuel prices impact both the cost of chemical fertilizers and farmers’ ability to grow their own crops.
The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have identified numerous states warranting immediate attention as the problems of climate change, internal conflict, economic downturns and the continuing war in Ukraine are exacerbating the current crisis. In the Sahel region of Africa, the nation of Chad, is challenged by grain supplies which have dropped to dangerous lows forcing the transitional military-dominated government to declare a food emergency requesting that aid be sent into the country to avoid further food deficits. Chad has been severely impacted by drought leaving large areas of farmland unproductive. A landlocked country in Central Africa consisting of 16.4 million people, historically the former French colony has suffered from political instability engendered by its ongoing dependency on Paris and the United States for economic assistance and military involvement.
A confluence of crises—lockdowns and business closures, mandates and worker shortages, supply chain disruptions and inflation, sanctions and war—have compounded to trigger food shortages; and we have been warned that they may last longer than the food stored in our pantries. What to do? Jim Gale, founder of Food Forest Abundance, pointed out in a recent interview with Del Bigtree that in the United States there are 40 million acres of lawn. Lawns are the most destructive monoculture on the planet, absorbing more resources and pesticides than any other crop, without providing any yield. If we were to turn 30% of that lawn into permaculture-based food gardens, says Gale, we could be food self-sufficient without relying on imports or chemicals.
Ten months before Russian troops poured into Ukraine, that country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bill into law authorizing the private sale of farmland, reversing a moratorium that had been in place since 2001. An earlier administration in Ukraine had instituted the moratorium in order to halt further privatization of The Commons and small farms, which were being bought up by oligarchs and concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. As documented in a series of critical reports over ten years by the Oakland Institute based in California*,* the moratorium on land sales in Ukraine aimed to prevent the acquisition and consolidation of farmland in the hands of the domestic oligarch class and foreign corporations. The marketization of farmland is part of a series of policy “reforms” that the International Monetary Fund stipulated as a precondition enabling Ukraine to receive $8 billion in loans from the IMF.