The week has been an interesting one full of global challenges, with escalating violence propagated by the military coup in Myanmar, resulting death of a young protester from a bullet wound[i], the SARS Cov-2 lockdowns and curfew Netherlands[ii], with an exponential evolution of mutant strains of the Covid virus resulting in increasing virulence and patterns of morbidity and mortality[iii]. The global death toll from Covid-19 has reached 2,450,499 as on Saturday, 20-02-2021[iv]. In addition, Africa not being omitted from the global stage, Ebola virus resurrects itself in Guinea.[v]
Recent developments in India, Brazil, Ivory Coast and South Africa with reference to farming trends are becoming a major threat to international food security, empire building of various corporations, as well as the stability of governments, impacting on climate change. Globally, Climate change is a serious threat multiplier for the undernourished people. Countries with high levels of poverty are also most vulnerable to climate change and have a low capacity to adapt to ensure sustained food security. Climate change affects food production and availability, access, quality, utilisation, and stability of food systems. The challenges impact on all aspects of the food production and distribution chain, in an uninterrupted manner.[vi]
The Farmers Protest in Delhi, India which commenced in November 2020[vii] with the anarchist storming of the historic and iconic Lal Qila, Red Fort[viii] built at the time of Emperor Shah Jahan of the Mughal dynasty[ix] and climbing the flagpole indicates a serious malady in the governmental systems which will impact on global supplies of good quality rice, vegetables and consumables such as cotton.[x]
The Indian agriculture acts of 2020, often referred to as the Farm Bills[xi],[xii] are three acts initiated by the Parliament of India in September 2020. These agricultural reformation acts inspired the protests, which have resulted in deaths of three farmers who were unarmed.[xiii] These governmental reforms are not accepted by the farmers who are of the opinion that the new system will empower the large corporations and remove control of agriculture from the farming body, members of which are poverty stricken and often commit suicide due to enormous debts incurred to landlord. There is also widespread abuse of these farmers and their family by the rich Thakurs. On 20 September 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the bills as a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture and stated the bills will “ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector” and empower tens of millions of farmers.[xiv] The farmers, as well as the government has been unrelenting, and a standoff has resulted.[xv]
This interruption in farming activities will result in global shortages in the agricultural products grown by these Indian farmers. The impact of this will only be felt at least six months on, while the impoverished farmers are further disempowered in the interim.[xvi]
In Brazil and other South America countries, the eternal problem of large-scale deforestation, timber exploitation and use of the land for cattle farming is well documented. Suffice it to state that removing trees, which are thousands of years old will result in loss of C02 utilisation by the forest flora and the promotion of animal farming, which is more profitable will result is global warming and aggravating the effects of climate change. This is further exacerbated by cartels, illegal timbering activities and widespread corruption amongst the authorities at various levels, throughout Latin America.[xvii] The destruction of natural habitat of various species of animals, as well as ground exhaustion n from industrial scale farming will eventually result in challenges in the food security chain, while there is temporary relief in terms of generation “Farm Dollars” from more profitable and lucrative agricultural profiles.
In Ivory Coast the challenge is slightly of a different nature[xviii] Extensive deforestation has resulted in the poor African country losing 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of forest in its cocoa-growing regions in 2020, as reported on 18th February, despite industry pledges to halt deforestation. The nation is exploited by large corporations to ensure a supply chain in which ever manner possible for it multibillion-dollar chocolate industry. Here the traditional farmer who previously tilled the land carefully are now lured by large chocolate industries in Europe to deforest land and instead grow cocoa, resulting in a tremendous impact of climate change. It is recommended that consumers throughout the world of expensive and fiendishly delightful chocolate should reflect on what they are causing by taking a bite of their chocolate. Needless to note, that the full cream chocolates are increasing the incidence of non- communicable, lifestyle diseases, globally, with additional health care burden on the economy, with resultant obesity, diabetes and associated medical complications.
In South Africa, the challenges facing the farmers are totally different. Historically, most of the farmlands belong to the White, minority population of the South Africa.[xix] This was the result of Dutch, Portuguese and finally British colonization of southern Africa since 1652 with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, a coloniser of Dutch origin.[xx],[xxi]
At the time the local indigenous populations wee enslaved and used as labour on these massive farms, some of which progressed to become leading producers of very expensive, much sought after, fine wine, in Europe and North America.[xxii] The wine industry in South Africa was started by the Dutch East India Company. They established an outpost in Cape Town, which was a stop on one of the primary shipping routes at the time, to the East where spices where much sought after.[xxiii] Wine production was started to support the crews of the ships passing through. The first successful wine made in South Africa was bottled in 1659.
South Africa has a dual agricultural economy, with both well-developed large scale commercial farming and more subsistence-based production in the deep rural areas. These areas are poverty stricken.[xxiv] After 1994, with peaceful transformation to democracy, under President Nelson R Mandela[xxv], most white farmers emigrated[xxvi] to Australia and New Zealand. The farms were then expropriated under the Land Expropriation Act and were then owned by Black South African farmers. These disempowered farmers had no proper farming experience and the farms were literally transformed into arid, non agricultural land, with significant cuts in food production. This happened in Zimbabwe as well[xxvii].
Presently, a new challenge is “Farm Murders” in South Africa, where bands of African youth are reigning terror on elderly white farmers, who are being murdered by these gangs.[xxviii] Often the victims are elderly couple who are living for years on isolated farms. A particular case[xxix] generated great media publicity with rising racial tensions, when a young white farmer was tied to a tree and ruthlessly murdered. This single incident generated great racial disharmony
These incidences are slowly decimating the white farmers[xxx] and rapidly destroying their farms which become economically unviable and unproductive, resulting in food security issues with the ever-increasing population of South Africa. The situation is often repeated in other sub-Saharan African Countries, with severe famine, abject poverty, undernourished children, and outbreaks of serious diseases including HIV, TB, and presently SARS Cov-2 pandemic. The future is indeed bleak for Southern Africa.
In conclusion, the different types of challenges faced by farmers globally, will impact on food security, with widespread food shortages in the future and abysmal starvation.
Prof. Hoosen Vawda, BSc, MBChB (Natal), ATLS, ACLS (NZ), PhD (Wits):
-Community Health and Indigent Programme Services–Social Outreach, Medical Programme (Not for Profit Organisation)
-Lifestyle Change Management – PR: 1501305, MP: 0193801
Tags: Letter to the Editor
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Feb 2021.