Consumers vs. the Consumed: The Grocery Store

'If you want produce grown on the farm down the road you'll have to go to Kuala Lumpur.'

In my past few blogs I have discussed different environmental based development practices, which negatively impact small farmers and local peoples across the globe.  While I have touched upon the role consumers play in the exploitative agricultural system, I have avoided diving more deeply into the matter.

The politics of blame vs. responsibility is crucial to understanding the role consumers play.  It is easy for consumers to shift the blame to larger and more powerful actors.  I mean it appears as if consumers have relatively little sway over the system, but in reality consumers are fueling the system.  Even though big agribusinesses, multinational corporations, and state governments are making most of the development decisions consumers still walk into the grocery store every day and buy into the system.  In order to break down the exploitative system consumers need to take responsibility for their actions, step up, and speak out.

When consumers walk into the grocery store they are presented with thousands of different options.  I live in Massachusetts, yet when I walk into the grocery store I can buy pineapples, mangos, and bananas year round.  I’m no botanist, but I am pretty sure pineapples don’t fare well in the snow.  As consumers we demand this variety in our diet, but we often disregard where this food comes from.

The rise of grocery stores in the United States and other developed countries encouraged the demand for foreign foods.  To meet the demand for foreign foods development practices have shifted to favor produce desired by consumers.  It is no coincidence that I discussed monoculture, GMO seeds, and land grabs in my past blogs; they all tie directly into the food system driven by consumers.

Each of the practices mentioned above promoted an easier way to streamline foreign produce to consumers in different regions of the globe.  In India traditional farming is no longer economically viable and farmers would profit more by transitioning to high-value crops; however, for many farmers the transition is hindered by high initial investment costs and environmental degradation (Gandhi 1).

On top of that, even if small farmers are making more money growing high-value crops the transition still predisposes them to food insecurity.  A Kiel Institute policy report found that in Ghana the standard pineapple market is dominated by multinational corporations; however, small farmers can enter the market by growing organic pineapples (Kleeman 6).  So small famers have a chance to become profitable, that’s good news right?

Yes and No

  • Organic agriculture looks like a path to success for small farmers, but in the long run small farmers will be unable to compete in the competitive global organic produce market (Raynolds 181). Jumping to conclusions and avoiding future predictions are dangerous in the development world, historically causing avoidable problems.
  • When looking at this situation it is important to understand that small famers in Ghana only have to change their agricultural practices because of the system forced upon them in the first place. Large corporations and state governments created situations in which small farmers were marginalized and then left to find their own way back to success.  These corporations are essentially sponsored by consumers demanding foreign produce.

Grocery stores are stocking their shelves with high-value crops because that is what consumers are asking for.

If consumers ask, grocery stores will give.

If grocery stores give, small farmers are consumed.

The global food system is an incredibly complicated, but the base structure of the system is crystal clear.  So this presents the question as to why consumers are not concerned with the current system?  I mean organic is the new fad right?

The answer to this question may lie in what parts of the food system are particularly concerning to consumers.  While climate concerns, environmental degradation, animal treatment, and farmer rights are important in the minds of many, health concerns usually hold more sway in the minds of consumers (Haspel 1).  This highlights the nature of privileged consumers to think only of themselves.

Is there a way to change the mindset of Americans and other prominent consumers?  If there is one, I don’t know it.  The most I can do is educate those who are willing to listen and participate in movements working to combat the corrupt food system.


Gandhi, Varun. “The Real Shoots of Economic Revival Lie in Agriculture.” Hindustantimes. Hindustan Times, 10 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Haspel, Tamar. “The Surprising Truth about the ‘food Movement’.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post Food, 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Kleemann, Linda. Organic pineapple farming in Ghana: A good choice for smallholders?. No. 1671. Kiel Working Papers, 2011.

Raynolds, Laura T. “The Organic Agro-Export Boom in the Dominican Republic: Maintaining Tradition or Fostering Transformation?.” Latin American research review 43.1 (2008): 161-184.

Blog 5: The Freshwater Crisis, More Solutions

For my last post involving the Global Freshwater Crisis I will be discussing, not unlike my first post, solutions that can be implemented to help solve the problem. Droughts have become a massive problem across the globe and although places like California are suffering it is the Third World countries like Pakistan or Ethiopia that are going to be hurt the most.

If we can find a way, or even several ways, to not only stop using so much water for things like agriculture, but to also create more sources for fresh, clean water then we could be saving thousands of lives. One thing that we as a planet do have on hand is the largest source of water ever; the ocean. People around the world have been working on ways to get water from the ocean, desalinate it using reverse osmosis, and then give it back to the people as fresh drinking water.

A couple of things that we need to be careful of when it comes to large desalination plants like the one in the video above is that removing the brine from the water and then putting it back into the ocean can upset ecosystems and ruin the living processes of marine life. Another thing that people tend to forget about is that like the rest of the planet we are polluting the ocean. Not only do we need to find ways to remove the salt from the water but if we want it to be drinkable and healthy then we need to find ways to remove any sort of bacteria that could be hiding inside. Waterborne diseases kill thousands of children every year so keeping the ocean clean not only helps them when we create fresh water with it but it also helps the animals that live there.

Above is a video about a bucket that two surfers created that constantly pulls trash from the ocean. Giving people access to clean and fresh water is one step but keeping the ocean clean is another one. The ocean is so severely polluted with our trash that, as seen on Netflix, there is a land mass in the middle of the ocean that is purely waste;the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The plastic that we use and dispose of everyday doesn’t just disappear nor does it biodegrade, it just sits. There are millions of landfills all around the world that seep and leak trash sewage into our ecosystems, and there are incinerators that produce harmful dioxins and release them into into the air. “In 2010 alone, more than 300 tons of plastic was produced worldwide” (Wolff), out of that 14 billion pounds is put into the ocean. 3% of that trash and plastic floats to the top, the rest sinks to bottom where we still have not developed the technology to get to.

If we want to help the people who cannot get fresh and clean water then we have to help the ecosystems that provide us the resources.

Last is a water bottle called the Fontus, although it’s a prototype and has flaws of its own it’s a start.

This invention is small scale, it’s a water bottle, but it works the same way the Warka Towers from my original blog post does but on a quicker and more efficient scale. If we could use this technology, and the other technologies above, the Fresh Water Crisis might diminish faster then you’d think.



“Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow”


Across the Caribbean, food imports have become an expensive problem, prompting Jamaica, one of the world’s most fertile regions, to reclaim its agricultural past. Imports roughly doubled in price over the past decade. To combat the rising cost, rather than turning to big agribusinesses, officials recruited everyone they could to support their bold new strategy: make farming patriotic and abundant, behind homes, hospitals, schools, even prisons. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production isn’t simply a sales pitch, it is a government motto.

Still, farming is often seen as a reminder of plantations and slavery in these regions, it’s a deep challenge. Yet at regional meetings for years, it has be emphasized by Caribbean officials that “food security,” primarily its availability and access, is at top priority. A number of countries are responding by branding foreign food like meats and high-calorie snacks a threat, and locally grown food responsible and smart. Jamaica started earlier than most. About a decade ago, the government unveiled a national food security campaign whose slogan is “Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow.” Grocery stores now market local produce with large stickers and noticeable displays.

As a result they even have an “Eat Jamaican Day” This past year in November of 2015 they were happy to note that their food import bill which declined by some 4.5% in 2014, is continuing along that trend in 2015. Even in the wake of droughts and bush fires, the agricultural sector grew by some 3.3%, thus contributing to the overall 1.5% growth in the economy. The agricultural sector continues to be a critical source of employment and income generation and foreign exchange earnings, as well as rural and national development. Eat Jamaican fittingly and concisely captures the Ministry of Agricultures’ desire to continuously enhance and expand agricultural production to ensure food security and food safety for all Jamaicans, as well as utilizing the sector to grow the Jamaican economy and so increase the welfare and prosperity of Jamaican people.

The spread of local knowledge plays a huge part in this. Local knowledge compiles complex bodies of know-how. It is practices and skills that are developed and sustained by peoples/communities with shared histories and experiences. This knowledge provides a framework for decision-making in a number of social, economic and environmental activities and livelihoods among rural peoples. In Jamaica, as elsewhere, such knowledge has been shaped and modified by continuous farm level experimentation over many generations. Local knowledge, and its associated skills, has been developed outside the formal educational system and is embedded in culture and steeped in tradition. The Jamaica 4-H has been active in the spread of local knowledge and youth are a vital aspect of in it. Young people are contributing significantly to the transformation of agriculture in Jamaica and have begun to make a significant impact on the way business is conducted in the sector.

In 2015 Jamaica faced one of the most devastating droughts in their recent history. Despite that, the agricultural sector, though slow, continued to record growth. Andre Anderson, Jamaica 4-H Clubs National Centre Coordinator, attributes this to the fact that, “we have a younger and more brilliant set of farmers, people who are proud to tell you that they are farmers, because no longer is agriculture something to scoff at or turn up their nose at,”

Many of Jamaica’s current young farmers participated in their 4-H club, and due to the training members undergo, they enter the field knowledgeable on how to manage their operations, in particular soil conservation and parasite management. The impact of the Jamaica 4-H has already had impressive reach into the agriculture sector because, contrary to our belief, the average age of  Jamaican farmers is 37 years, which is 23 years lower than the previous 60 year average.

Anderson further challenged the nation’s young people “to continue to re-energize the Jamaican spirit of resilience, hard work and passion, genuine love for each other and unflinching faith for a better and brighter tomorrow.”

Jamaica serves as an outstanding example of the things a country can accomplish through unity and shared interest. Still, some questions arise such as: How practical/ wise is it for Jamaican’s to reduce their food imports? Is there some type of livelihood protection for Jamaican Farmers? Can Jamaica’s strategy be implement/or work elsewhere?





Work Cited:

Davidson, Andrine. “Youth Impact on Agriculture Highlighted.” Jamaican Information Service, 13 Mar. 2016. Web. <>.


Beckford, Clinton, and David Barker. “The Role and Value of Local Knowledge in Jamaican Agriculture: Adaptation and Change in Small-scale Farming.” The Geographical Journal 173.2 (2007): 118-28. June 2007. Web. <>.


Cave, Damien. “As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Aug. 2013. Web. <>.

“Government of Jamaica: Growth Agenda Policy Paper.” (n.d.): n. pag. Http:// Jamaica Chamber, Mar. 2015. Web. <>.

Kellier, Derrick. “The Eat Jamaican Day Expo.” Ministry of Agriculture, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. <>.

Blog 5: Solutions

The last blog… Climate change and the social inequality it brings about is a major issue in our world today. The solutions are out there and ideas are being conjured up, but it will for sure be a difficult process to accept and embrace. Many small scale projects are chipping away at the processes that are destroying our planet. This week I want to focus on one most of us are familiar with, the Leap Manifesto and possible solutions. The Leap Manifesto is a Canadian document that is calling to action radical restructuring of their economy as the use of fossil fuels comes to a close. Fossil fuels are a considerable greenhouse gas emitter and contribute to climate change in a noticeable amount. Extraction and processing of fossil fuels have disrupted the lives of many peoples while benefiting others in an unjust fashion. The release of the Leap Manifesto was during the time of a national election campaign and struck up a lot of discussion about its possibilities and future potentials.

With the Canadian election campaign focusing on the Leap Manifesto there is a large amount of media coverage on the issue and people’s ideas about it. The Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) are the main supporters and are seriously debating and looking into the Leap Manifestos potential. An article in The Guardian stated, “If we act according to deep principles of justice, combatting climate change can simultaneously address many other problems: creating hundreds of thousands of good, clean jobs; implementing the land and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples; reducing racial and gender inequalities; welcoming far more refugees and migrants; and localizing agriculture so that people eat healthy” (NEWS) with regards to the acceptance of the manifesto and the NDP’s views. The manifesto was written by the people being impacted by climate change and recognize the social unjust that has come from it: labor unionists, migrant rights activists, feminists, indigenous leaders, environmentalists and many more isolated groups. A local Vancouver news article stated the implications with the Leap Manifesto in that it openly rejects pipelines which is an issue for the province of Alberta whose economy heavily relies on the use of pipelines. The article then points out the NDP’s defense for this struggle with the idea that, “A progressive reduction in our carbon footprint does not mean elimination of pipelines and fossil fuel production. It means we must develop them with lower emissions, water use and greater benefits for our population” (LOCAL NEWS). The attention the Leap Manifesto is getting on media sources and through political debates is important for spreading the awareness of solutions towards climate change and social inequality.

Naomi Klein is a social activist who also supports the Leap Manifesto and was one of the initiating signatories for the document release. Klein has done a lot of work with regards to climate change and social inequality including here book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. In this book Klein discusses how we need to deal with a “savagely unjust economic system” which has been the sole mover of climate change. She suggests we need, “game-changing [policy battles] that don’t merely aim to change laws but change patterns of thought” and, “a space for a full-throated debate about values—about what we owe to one another based on our shared humanity, and what it is that we collectively value more than economic growth and corporate profits” (BOOK). It’s the idea of respect for lives and our planet, the ideology of stewardship and unselfishness that will bring about a solution. The paper Global Inequality and Climate Change by Roberts concludes with the idea that, “issues of equity will have to be dealt with at the same time as the environment” and that, “equity and ecology must be dealt with together” (REPORT). These ideas are the frameworks for altering the minds of the people in control towards halting climate change and social inequality. The presence of the issue and distribution of these ideas to a large scale audience whether through news sources, presidential elections, books, or manifestos is a major step towards a solution by which we begin to understand the planet we share together and the respect for all lives with an unselfish view, neglecting capitalism.


Works Cited

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk.” Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Lukacs, Martin. “The Leap Manifesto Opens Horizon for Bold New Politics in Canada | Martin Lukacs.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Roberts, J. Timmons. “Global Inequality and Climate Change.” Society & Natural Resources 14.6 (2001): 501-09. Web.


Organic Farming Elsewhere

The last four blog posts have all been about organic farming in Cuba. However, organic farming is practiced all around the globe. This blog post will explain the places around the globe where organic farming is practiced and is just as popular as organic farming in Cuba.

In a 2012 status report, it states that Wisconsin has seen an increase in organic farming by 157 percent from 2002 to 2007. Globally, 87 million acres were farmed under organic management in 2008, representing almost 1.4 million producers in 154 countries. The 2008 USDA Organic Agriculture Census ranks Wisconsin second in total number of organic farms; The census reports 2,714 organic farms in California, which is the top- ranked state, and 1,222 organic farms in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is ranked in the top five for many categories like organic hogs and pigs, organic vegetables and melons, Wisconsin also leads the nation in the number of organic dairy and beef farms with a total of 479 dairy farms and and 109 beef farms. Wisconsin ranks first in the number of farms raising several organic field crops including barley for grain or seed; corn for grain or seed; corn for silage or greenchop; hay; haylage, other silage and greenchop; oats for grain or seed; rye for grain or seed; and winter wheat for grain or seed.

The next area that has an expansion of organic farming is Australia. The earliest history of organic farming in Australia was 1944, says John Paull, who wrote the Journal of Organic Systems. Australia is a leading supplier of sustainable and organic fertilizers, and soil and crop health products. In 1999, there was an increase of popularity of Organic farming and three organic organizations were created: BFA, BDAA and NASAA. BDAA stated that it “trains farmers in Bio-dynamic practices”, and that there are three grades of certification; Grades A and B are produced without “artificial fertilizers or synthetic chemicals”, while for Grade C produce, “a minimum of chemical sprays have been applied.” NASAA stated that it promotes “sustainable agriculture”, and that its “systems exclude or severely restrict the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.” BFA uses the term “regenerative farming” (and neither of “sustainable” nor “organic”), however it states unequivocally that: “Artificial fertilizers, chemically synthesized weedicides, pesticides, fungicides, fumigants and growth promotants are not tolerated” (AQIS 1989).

Along with Australia, India also has a prominent organic farming system in place. The Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) was set up by the seniormost members of India’s organic farming community in the year 2002. The association was primarily set up to promote organic farming, lobby with government agencies and departments to pay more attention to sustainable agriculture, and assist farmers using chemicals and pesticides to convert successfully to organic farming methods. Similar to Cuba it India had to make the switch to organic farming: During the 1950s and 1960s, the ever-increasing population of India, along with several natural calamities, led to a severe food scarcity in the country. As a result, the government was forced to import food grains from foreign countries. To increase food security, the government had to drastically increase food production in India. The Green Revolution (under the leadership of M. S. Swaminathan) became the government’s most important program in the 1960s. Several hectares of land were brought under cultivation. Hybrid seeds were introduced. Natural and organic fertilizers were replaced by chemical fertilizers and locally made pesticides were replaced by chemical pesticides. Large chemical factories such as the Rashtriya Chemical Fertilizers were established. (Organic Farming in India | Fun Facts).

It is interesting to see how many of these counties/places have practiced organic farming for many years and like Cuba needed to make the switch in order to keep their livelihood.

Works Cited

AQIS, 1989, The Case for a National Approach to Certification of Organically Grown Products, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Canberra, ACT, November.

Deller, S. and D. Williams. “Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin by the Numbers.” 2012 Status Report: 2009.

“Organisation – Organic Farming Association of India.” Organic Farming Association of India: 2016.

“Organic Farming in India | Fun Facts.” 2016.

Paull, John. “Journal of Organic Systems.” Vol. 3 No. 2: 2008.


Final Post – Climate Change

I mistakenly thought that my last post was my concluding one, so this post will be one looking forward towards one of the greatest challenges we will face as a global community: climate change.

Climate change is an issue that threatens human health, the stability of nations, the stability of ecosystems and much more (McMichael 2013). The majority of the scientific community and many major players on a global scale have acknowledged these risks (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015).

USAID has gotten involved and already has instituted programs to help prepare for the problems that have yet to come (USAID 2016). Like other sources, USAID encourages climate mitigation (USAID 2016, McMichael 2013). USAID has also advocated for the preservation of biodiversity, reforestation and securing land tenure rights to help preserve peoples’ livelihoods (USAID 2016).

But is this enough? Some remain skeptical (The Local 2015). In December of 2015, nations from all over the world met in Paris to negotiate some kind of climate agreement to reduce the future potential increase in temperature (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016). Although the climate talks in Paris were widely celebrated, there was still a lot left to be resolved (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016). The U.S. wanted to agreement to be completely voluntary so that the agreement didn’t have to be passed through Congress (The Local 2015). China was concerned about raising the quality of life for its developing nation while still meeting its carbon emissions reductions goals (The Local 2015). The negotiator present form India emphasized that whatever changes were proposed, they should be affordable so that all countries can meet their emissions reductions goals (The Local 2015).

It’s clear that creating an agreement was incredibly challenging (The Local 2015). Many feared a repeated of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Talks that did not have any clear, established and agreed upon path forward (The Local 2015). The way all of these conflicts were solved was by offering countries the opportunity to update their emissions goals every five years (The Local 2015). Many countries fear that reducing or discouraging the use of fossil fuels will harm their economies (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016).

Many assume that reducing carbon emissions will reduce economic growth (Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). This assumption is logical since the U.S. began utilizing fossil fuels at the same time that it started to become a global player (Davenport 2016). However, in the last several years, more than twenty countries have shown that their rate of carbon pollution and rate of economic growth no longer directly correlate (Davenport 2016).

In the United States between 2000 and 2014, carbon dioxide emissions decreased 16% (Davenport 2016). Economic growth increased 9% (Davenport 2016).

Only 21 countries have achieved the same as the U.S. and almost 175 countries haven’t (Davenport 2016). GDP and carbon emissions still positively correlate on a global scale (Davenport 2016).

So what do we do about that? The Paris Climate talks are hoping for no more than a 2C increase in temperature (The Local 2015). Despite this, USAID and other organizations are encouraging preparation and mitigation (USAID 2016, McMichael 2013).

USAID has helped nearly a million people worldwide better manage natural resources in a more sustainable way (USAID 2016). They have also encouraged multiple countries in Africa to strengthen the way they protect land tenure so people have have security in their ability to access natural resources (USAID 2016). More specifically climate change related, USAID has a group of 20 countries working on a project to increase economic growth without increasing emissions (USAID 2016).

It’s clear that no one has come up with the answer to global climate change (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). However, many organizations are working to do something (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). Climate change will be a very challenging problem that poses a threat to not just our environment, but the very food on our plates and the stability of our nations (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). Climate change is one of the future issues we will have to face in International Development and we will have to do so collaboratively, as a compassionate global community (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015).


Work Cited

McMichael, Anthony J. “Globalization, climate change, and human health.” New England Journal of Medicine 368.14 (2013): 1335-1343.

USAID. “Environment and Global Climate Change.” USAID. U.S. Agency for International Development, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>. 

Davenport, Coral. “Can Economies Rise as Emissions Fall? The Evidence Says Yes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>.

The Local. “After Paris Climate Accord – Now What?” The Local. The Local, 13 Dec. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>

AED: Agriculture, Environment, Development

What are the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? What should be the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? Development thinking has, for a long time, focused almost solely on economics. GDP per capita has been the standard measure of how developed a country is. Agriculture has been heavily influenced by this thinking, with the expansion of industrial agriculture owned by transnational corporations. This can increase agricultural productivity in the short term, but can also have negative environmental consequences, and negative effects on local populations. Recently there has been a movement towards taking into account environmental and social consequences in development thinking that are not necessarily connected to economic indicators.

The importance of agriculture in developing countries was highlighted recently by famine throughout Africa. Rains have failed and temperatures have risen, leaving millions without food from Ethiopia to South Africa. This is partly due to Climate Change, and also to a particularly strong el-nino (2016). In particular this has put into sharp contrast Ethiopia’s recent surge in GDP growth, with its ability to prevent famine (see my last post).

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one organization that is influential in development thinking and practice. The foundation widely supports agriculture in developing countries. They especially focus on small farmers, and women, trying to target the most marginalized sections of society. Their stated goal is to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” This is one definition of development, and agriculture factors prominently in its achievement. The Gates Foundation specifically aims to increase the productivity of small farmers in an effort to bring prosperity to poor rural areas, and enable them to send their children to school. Their goal is to also do this in an environmentally friendly manner (2011). These appear to be laudable goals, that not many people would disagree with. However, many charities, including the Gates Foundation, have been criticized for not truly delivering on the improvements they say they will make. After completing a project and funding dries up, often the effects of that project dry up as well. In addition, the Gates Foundation mentions explicitly their funding of projects involving the research on and use of transgenic crops, which many environmental groups do not approve of.

Another viewpoint is through an academic and engineering lens. Sreekala Bajwa is a professor at North Dakota State University who is an agricultural engineer. He advocates an approach called precision agriculture. This approach requires the studying of specific environmental conditions on any land being farmed, as well as increased communication between farmers in the same area. This system allows farmers to know exactly how much irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. to use. According to Bajwa this will maximize production while reducing the carbon footprint and other negative consequences of agriculture (2015). However, many poor small farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, would have difficulty affording any of the technology or materials required to use this technique, and environmentalists often disagree with the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

In contrast to this view that agriculture is primarily a scientific and engineering issue, Annalies Zoomers, a professor of International Development, and George Schoneveld, a Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research in Nairobi, view agriculture in its place in the middle of social, political and economic practices. They advocate Inclusive Green Growth (IGG). Under IGG governments would play a bigger role in ensuring private investment, especially from transnational corporations (TNCs) would benefit everyone, as well as stopping land grabbing. Governments would concentrate more on aiding small farmers, including building infrastructure that would benefit everyone. Food should be produced by and for the local community and only exported when there is a surplus. The authors argue that these changes are necessary to achieve IGG, which has failed in the recent past due to the diminishing of the state and the power of the private sector. One main challenge that the authors admit is that in order to make these changes, a strong government is necessary, and strong governments are lacking in many places, especially Africa (2015). There are also questions about how productive agriculture can be without significant technological improvements. IGG extends to much more than just agriculture, though. It includes all natural resources and environmental protections. One recent innovation in attempting to achieve IGG gets around the troubles experienced by African governments. A group of Zambian villagers is suing the TNC Vedanta for polluting their water through mining operations…in London. Vedanta is based in London, and although its transgression was perpetrated in Zambia it might be held to account in its hometown (Vidal 2016). There are precedents for this in Europe, but so far none in America.

Incorporating social and environmental factors, such as food security, in development is a contentious issue. Recently there have been many ideas put forward, some of which I have written about such as low-carbon growth, green economy, agroecology and IGG. It is clear that humanity as a whole needs to increase agricultural production, but we also need to decrease our negative effects on the environment and decrease inequality. Treating development as purely economical and relying on free markets has not worked for us so far. It should be acceptable for states, especially wealthy states, to not have continuous economic growth. Food security should be more important than economic growth. Economic growth is not desirable if it only benefits a small percentage of a population and destroys the environment. Consumption should not be the ideal of a society. In order to feed everyone on Earth we need to waste less food. We need to improve scientific knowledge and technology related to agriculture. We need to promote social well-being as much as economic development. We need to support governments who will do what is best for everyone, and not special interests. Most of all we need to think to the future so that we will be able to continue to survive in the long term.


Bajwa, S. (2015). Precision Agriculture and International Development. Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World. Retrieved from:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2011). Agricultural Development: Strategy Overview. Global Development Program. Retrieved from:

IPPMedia (2016). ‘Little Boy’ devouring African Food. IPPMedia. Retrieved from:

Schoneveld, G, & Zoomers, A. (2015). Natural resource privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges for inclusive green growth. International Development Planning Review. Retrieved from:

Vidal, J. (2016). Mining Giant Vedanta Argues UK Court Should not Hear Zambia Pollution Case. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Consumers vs. the Consumed: Oh So Benevolent Land Grabbing


Land grabbing, a hot new development trend is the rage in developing countries.  Spreading advanced and better agricultural methods to improve the well being and wealth of all those in need is without a doubt the most benevolent gesture ever made by wealthy governments and corporations.  Using their superior knowledge, the civilized person is sharing their privilege with peoples across the globe.

Yikes, writing that made me feel like a terrible person.  I mean who actually believes that crap?

Oh yeah that’s right, countless national governments and an expanding list of corporations.

Before I get into the juice of this blog post and dissect what I have said thus far, I want to clarify that land grabbing may have developed a slightly new connotation, but is in no way a new development concept.  Land grabbing spans back centuries and has occurred across the globe.  Most notably during the age of imperialism when Western powers seized control of land on almost every continent.  Even here in the United States, a country that prides itself as being the land of the free and the home of the brave, over 1.5 billion acres were taken from America’s indigenous peoples by treaty and executive order (Ehrenfreund). Now over 300 million people live in the Untied States with millions claiming right to private property that they can call their own.  Do we, as Americans, even have the right to call this land ours?

This is a question that can be asked of any national government or corporation, which seizes control of land once controlled by local peoples.  Do they have a right?  What are their justifications?  Do they realize the implications of their actions?

The modern concept of land grabbing refers to “the purchase or long- term lease of vast tracts of land from mostly poor, developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations as well as private entities to produce food for export” (Daniel 1).  The economic crash in 2008 caused a spike in global food prices and the emergence of the modern day concept of land grabbing.  Initially the concept was seen as a way for food-insecure nations to develop a reliable food source, but it quickly became apparent that the primary driving factors of land grabs were natural resource allocation and profit gains.  Land grabbers come not for marginalized land, but land rich in nutrients.  Beyond displacing local farmers land grabbers use methods I have mentioned in previous blogs, such as GMO seeds and monoculture, which further hurt the environment and small farmers.

As with any development concept there are positives and negatives.  Yes, there are legitimate arguments for land grabs and there are circumstances in which local peoples benefit from them; however, these positives are uncommon.  Residents in Neemana, a small farming village in northeastern India, have willingly sold most of their agricultural land to a private corporation with the promise of jobs, infrastructure, and community development (Lakshmi 1).  While this village may see the benefits they were offered many people in the same situation elsewhere will not.  False promises are the fuel that keeps the land grab concept going.  As long as people have hope of a better future compliance is easy.

If people refuse to comply with land grabbers demands their land can be taken by force both legally and illegally.  People are pushed off of their farms and in many circumstances left jobless with no reliable source of income.  A Transnational Institution policy report found that even those who are incorporated into the new workforce, generated by large farms, are often left to struggle on their own because their voices are squashed and their labor is exploited (TNI 1).

The important take away here is that regardless of whether or not local peoples comply with land grabbers, the belief remains that local people need to change their agricultural practices and develop society.  This belief asserts that there is one way to life, the Western way.  Who are Western’s to say that the culture of another people is undeveloped and therefore inferior to Western culture?

Rather than coming in, grabbing land, and telling locals that all is for the best, land grabbers should be incorporating the voices and wants of those in the community.  “The public, and particularly the people likely to be affected, must be given due opportunities of information and hearings, and allowed to examine all aspects of the project, including the ‘public purpose’, and also the possibilities of achieving the same objectives through non-displacing or less displacing alternatives” (Saxena 1).  Land grabbing can be beneficial towards the community, but so can other development measures that place more power in the hands of local farmers.

This is where consumers join the land grabbing story line.  While consumers cannot directly control the food that appears in grocery stores they can choose where to shop.  The reason grocery stores have such a wide variety of food is because the food comes from farms around the globe.  The odds that the food comes from small farmers are slim, more likely the food comes from large monoculture agribusiness that often participate in land grabbing.  Consumers in developed nations of the privilege of variety, but we need to wake up and realize that we play a role in land grabbing, our privilege allows us to consume small farmers around the globe.



Daniel, Shepard. “Land grabbing and potential implications for world food security.” Sustainable Agricultural Development. Springer Netherlands, 2011. 25-42.

Ehrenfreund, Max. “Watch the United States’ 238-year Land Grab from Native Americans, in 87 Seconds.” Know More. The Washington Post, 19 June 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Lakshmi, Rama. “High-Tech Revolution Remaking Rural India.” Washington Post. The Washington Post Foreign Service, 01 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Saxena, NC. “Solution Lies between NAC and Govt’s ‘CAN'” Hindustantimes. Hindustan Times, 28 June 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

TNI. “The Global Land Grab.” Policy File. Transnational Institution, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

The Future of Sustainability in Southeast Asia

In previous blog posts I have focused on issues ailing the Southeast Asian region in the past and present. This concluding post will deviate from its predecessors, instead focusing on the future of this vibrant, yet rapidly changing area.

The hurdles and challenges facing the people, governments, NGOs, and international agencies in Southeast Asia are countless. Nearly every aspect of development in this region needs reform in order to veer onto a sustainable path. While I have spent extensive time detailing environmental problems such as dams in the Mekong, fishery collapses, and deforestation, these large scale events are largely unfelt by the average global citizen. Take for example the havoc being wreaked on coral reefs in the region. In the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, coral is beginning to bleach and die in response to rising sea temperatures and changing climatic conditions. One local source details, “If the temperature rises to 30.5 [degree Celsius] in the Gulf of Thailand and 28 [degree Celsius] in the Andaman Sea, bleaching is likely to happen,” (Wipatayotin). While the need is clearly urgent, the average person is not directly or immediately felt by the loss of coral reefs and its ecosystem service. How far will it take then to have these environmental disasters felt by and trigger response from the average person?

While environmental degradation is not felt significantly now, it is incorrect to say that it is having no impact. In fact, nearly one in four deaths are due to environmental factors like air, water, and soil pollution, with the “most environmentally-linked deaths [happening] in Southeast Asia, which accounted for 3.8 million such deaths in 2012,” (“Deaths in SE Asia”). Southeast Asia, whether it is the cause of degradation or not, is facing the brunt of the consequences. To the average Western consumer sitting at their computer, life continues uninterrupted, but to the individuals living in these regions, the changes they are encountering are only the beginning. Ultimately, a combined effort of NGOs, national governments, international agencies, and local stakeholders are needed to prevent the situation from getting worse. However, if the West fails to realize, assist, and pay for the harm its people and society is having on regions like Southeast Asia through avoidance of climate change accountability, then it is painstakingly up to national governments in Southeast Asia to save their own people. Eventually, Western officials who refuse to acknowledge delivering assistance will be forced to deal with similar problems in a few decades, however by then the damage will be impossible to mitigate.

Governments in Southeast Asia have typically been slow and unresponsive to ideas of sustainability and green technology as a source of energy. Natural gas, coal, and oil dominate the market, leaving renewables like solar and wind for small-scale village electrification. In fact, “The region will need more resources for itself as it develops further.

Graph detailing the amount by which each sector accounts for in Southeast Asia’s energy consumption.

There will be fewer surpluses for export. This is already the case for oil,” (Symon 241). In another instance the paper states, “With urbanization and growing incomes, motor vehicle ownership has risen rapidly. In Manila… the number of cars has doubled every seven years,” (Symon 243). Clearly, as the region grows economically and in terms of population, energy resources are going to be needed in greater demand. With a system in set for more coal, natural gas, and oil imports and production, there is little room or incentive for renewables. This is the time when governments and organizations like ASEAN need to push for sustainable initiatives and energy. If these governments are not capable of establishing a precedent for sustainable energy and independence now, then once resources become strained and populations and economies grow, there will be no room for switching to green technology.

Map detailing which regions are vulnerable to climate change, with a greater numerical value equating to more vulnerability.

While the outlook for energy independence in this region looks bleak, sustainable ideas and programs are appearing throughout Southeast Asia. As aforementioned in previous posts, tourism has the potential to place power in indigenous people while developing local economies. However, tourism also has the potential to be environmentally destructive, with the industry accounting for 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions through pollution and waste (“UNEP”). When used effectively, countries and local people can make huge economic gains, as described “in the Galapagos Islands and Palau, [where] visitors pay an entry tax to protected areas,” generating over $1.3 billion in Palau annually since 2009 (“UNEP”). The future success of ecotourism is one that requires collaboration with local people, organizations, and governments in order to ensure that the actions committed are in fact sustainable and supporting indigenous groups and conservation.

The future of sustainability in Southeast Asia is one that remains contingent on a variety of political stakeholders, two of those being the current global powerhouses China and the United States. With increasing Chinese influence, the United States has begun to intervene and divest leadership in these nations in order to remain sovereign. The idea of whether this is an American ploy to dominate the region is another debate, but one thing is clear, Southeast Asians are going to feel an increasing pressure from outside forces. As one article describes, “Southeast Asian nations are reluctant to choose sides, wary about being wed as pawns in a geopolitical struggle between superpowers,” (Nakamura). The theory has historical basis, with Korea and Vietnam serving as reminders of geopolitical struggles. The only solution is for global independence to be established, whether that be regional security through the ASEAN or security on a national basis, free from global powers. While establishing security, Southeast Asian nations would be in a position to launch and create sustainable agendas such as energy independence and environmental programs. Doing so would enable freedom from the oil and energy market while decreasing the need for reliance and influence from superpowers like China and the United States.

While Southeast Asian nations play an interconnected role in the global world as both exporters and importers of goods, the nation’s composing this region are at a crucial fork. An opportunity exists for these nations to become independent, free of influence from larger political entities, generating policies and development projects based on their specific economic, social, and environmental needs. Therefore, the future sustainability of this region is not bleak, but one filled with optimism that local groups, national governments, and international organizations can collaborate to promote independent, sustainable livelihoods, addressing the key issues facing the largest environmental crises of the 21st century.


“Environment to Blame for 3.8 Million Deaths in SE Asia since 2012, WHO Finds.” Malay Mail Online. Malay Mail Online, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Nakamura, David. “Obama Welcomes 10 Southeast Asian Leaders to California Summit.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Symon, Andrew. “Fuelling Southeast Asia´s Growth: The Energy Challenge.” ASEAN Economic Bulletin 21.2 (2004): 239-48. JSTOR. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

“Harnessing the Power of One Billion Tourists for a Sustainable Future.” United Nations Environment Programme. United Nations Environment Programme, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Wipatayotin, Apinya. “Andaman Coral Reef Sites May Close.” Bangkok Post. Bangkok Post, 10 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Indigenous Values Should Be a Key Component of Our Response to Climate Change

Thus far, I have written posts on what sustainable development is, sustainable development in Peru, the ways indigenous land entitlement can be seen as sustainable development, the differences between community sustaining development and government mandated development and the role of microfinance and digital payment in development in Peru. To conclude this set of blog posts, I would like to write more about agriculture and development with a focus on terminator seeds (seeds that are genetically modified so that the second generation of seeds are sterile). Many problems arise from terminator seeds including soil degradation and increased farmers’ dependency on large seed providers such as Monsanto and Syngenta because new seeds need to be bought each year.

An article in a Mexican news forum, Quadratin, points out that agricultural chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer were not actually invented for agriculture but were a product of war. They report that these strong chemicals, can have serious health consequences. For example, in Peru in 1999, 24 children died because they were poisoned by eating food contaminated by Parathion, an insecticide. Problems of contamination, however, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the problems caused by terminator seeds and chemical farming.

The organization Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) held a community meeting in 2005 to discuss the potential impacts of terminator seeds on Peruvian agriculture. About 70 indigenous leaders met together for this discussion and produced a report for the UN working group to submit at the next Convention on Biological Diversity. The main worries voiced included fear that the “pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life (ANDES),” worry about increased dependence on monster seed distribution companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, and concern that terminator seeds could put Peru’s 3,000 varieties of potatoes at risk as reported on History Commons. The concerns also include loss of biodiversity, “erosion of indigenous knowledge and innovation systems” which include knowledge of seed saving and exchange, loss of food sovereignty, cutting back of indigenous human rights and marginalization of women (quoted from the report itself). History Commons quoted Felipe Gonzalez, a member of the indigenous Pinchimoro community who said, “[t]erminator seeds do not have life…[l]ike a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.”

A letter signed by representatives of 34 indigenous communities provides another example of the struggle against ending the international de facto moratorium on terminator seeds. As IIED reports ‘the coalition says Syngenta’s claims that its patent for ‘terminator technology’ potatoes is neither relevant nor applicable in the region are “deeply offensive.”’ The coalition requests that Syngenta disown the patent of a genetic modification that can stop potatoes from sprouting. Despite the de facto moratorium, research continues and corporations want to see the ban revoked. One quote that really stuck out to me in this same article was said by Alejandro Argumendo who is part of ANDES. He said “We feel greatly disrespected by corporations that make a single genetic alteration to a plant and then claim private ownership when these plants are the result of thousands of years of careful breeding by indigenous people.” In the end, the moratorium on terminator seeds was not relaxed to the relief of the indigenous Quechua working so hard against it in Peru as well as to people all over the world yet an end to the moratorium in the future is still a very real possibility.

One prime example of a program ANDES operates that works with bio cultural conservation is the Potato Park where six Quechua communities live and cultivate about 1,500 varieties of potato. As the ANDES website explains “[t]he communities’ traditional knowledge, customary laws and spiritual beliefs that nurture these resources are in turn shaped and sustained by the Andean ancestral landscapes and their sacred mountain gods or Apus.”

Respect for indigenous values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples “is a key component in the response to climate change.” Various organizations, including ANDES are coming together to bring attention to the power of having indigenous cultural and spiritual values as central in the fight to slow global warming.  The brief “Indigenous spiritual and cultural values to guide climate change adaptation” quotes Karenna Gore, the director of Center for Earth Ethics saying, “[i]ndigenous spirituality seeks powerful connection to larger purposes and meaning, celebrates biodiversity and promotes inclusion…[t]he world especially needs that kind of worldview at this time. This great body of knowledge has a wealth of adaptive capacity. It not only protects the wellbeing of indigenous peoples; it also promotes an awareness of our deep interconnected relationship with nature that can enhance our world as a whole.” This powerful quote resonates with me personally. I strongly believe that indigenous valuation of the earth must be central to a reformed society that is truly able to take care of the earth, which is why I chose to write my blog posts on the topic of sustainable development and the Quechua and Aymara peoples of Peru.




Alcalá, Salvador. “Los Orgánicos.” Quadratin. 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Biocultural Conservation – Sallqa Ayllu.” ANDES. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“COP21 ANDES in Paris.” Asociación ANDES. 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Indigenous Peoples of Cusco, Peru on the Potential Impacts of Terminator.” Letter to Hamdallah Zedan. 27 Sept. 2005. 27 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“‘Insulted’ Andean Farmers Pick GM Potato Fight with Multinational Syngenta.” International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 12 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>

Profile: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES).” History Commons. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.