Radio Mundo Real

1ro de noviembre de 2011 | | | |

Agribusiness: Luxury agriculture

Paulo Groppo (FAO): Industrial agriculture is incapable of solving world hunger

Paulo Groppo is the Officer of Rural Development of the Land and Water Division of the Natural Resources Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). He follows the national, regional and global agendas on land use and tenure. Real World Radio interviewed Groppo on the main problems on which these talks were focused: the increasing land grabbing and the agrarian reform.

He says agribusiness as it is conceived now may be compared to a Ferrari car: “it needs highways, fuel, etc. That is to say, the best lands, which are limited in the world, are being reduced. At the same time we know that the increasing productivity of the five main agriculture products has been reduced in the past 50 years, reaching its genetic limit, so it is unthinkable that this kind of agriculture will be able to solve the problem of hunger in the world. What do we have left? Family farming as a social relation of humanity with nature”.

The Italian expert, which has just came back from Haiti, explained a diagnosis that requires to revert land grabbing from a strategic point of view: although there is growing global population, we have almost reached the limits of productivity of the main food crops and the reducing amount of agriculture land and agribusiness have proven to be unable to cover the global food demand.

Groppo has a critical view of the state’s level of understanding of the problem of land grabbing and he proposes dialogue, concertation and negotiation as the only reasonable way to address these issues.

Before and after

Already in 1979 the FAO would called the attention about these problems, says Groppo, through the first World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, a process that was interrupted in the 80s with the arrival of conservative governments like that of Margareth Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the UK and the US.

Consequently this issue had remained absent from the debates for almost two decades, making way to the “market agrarian reform” streams.

This was the situation until the Second World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in Porto Alegre (ICARRD) in 2006 which, according to the movements set the tone for the later relation with FAO.

It was clear then that “diversity required plural solutions through dialogue and concertation. The market will not solve the problem, nor the state alone. The solution required hard work and modesty, which sometimes international auditors lack”, says Groppo.

Since Porto Alegre, says Groppo, there has not been a radical change of paradigm in the FAO in the way of addressing this problem, going from a vision focused on results to another one focused on processes.
From a FAO that considered itself the center of knowledge to an organization that aims to create knowledge with the communities.

That is to say “the issue of the asymmetries in power on the issue of lands was addressed. Without addressing this issue there is no chance of progress”.

Growing pressure

This change of paradigm took place from 2006 to 2011, when the pressure on what Groppo defines as “the natural resources package” including agriculture land and fresh water as its main elements, has increased. “Nobody is looking for deserted lands to invest in, they all look for the best land”.

The growing urbanization, for example in China, which implies taking population from the countryside to industrial production also brings about the need for land to feed this population, who will not longer produce their food.

“Therefore the special attention given to China as one of the ’land grabber’ states is a phenomenon that transcends China: it is a gap between detecting the problem and the institutions’ ability to respond”, says the FAO official.

Groppo, with over two decades of professional experience and personal commitment on land issues, he insists in the need to agree on a participatory method: “Because if we are thinking that the market should solve this, we will be wrong once again”.

“The land markets is closed, i.e. there is no land transfer from those who have to those who don’t, but transfer between those who already have land”, he added.

It is the states, the ones who are in charge of addressing this issue with its strategic importance, says Groppo for whom “the production model is definitely in crisis after decades of discredit of peasant and family farming that was the basis on which our societies developed. Europe comes from there: centuries of economic capitalization and capitalization of knowledge of different family farming practices”, he concluded.

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