October Hunger Notes: the conflict between corporate agriculture and campesinos, Syrian families and war, and more

by Lane Vanderslice

Lane Vanderslice, Hunger Notes editor

October 31, 2016

By Lane Vanderslice

Agroecology “Lite:” Cooptation and Resistance in the Global North by Eric Holt-Giménez and Miguel Altieri describes how agriculture as practiced in developed countries harms poor farmers in developing countries, who are better served by improving systems that the farmers themselves had developed over centuries.  An excellent statement of this critical issue.

The beating pulse of food security in Africa concerns Elizabeth Mpofu, who grows maize, legumes and different beans on her ten-hectare farm in Zimbabwe.  In spite of a severe drought in Zimbabwe, and the failure of the maize crop, she managed to harvest 150 kg. of dried beans, which enabled her to have food to sustain her and her family through the drought.  Dried beans and peas are drought resistant, rich in protein, and an example of crops that local farmers have planted for generations, and selected seeds that adapted the  plants to local circumstances, unlike the one-size-fits-all of commercial crops.

Michael Pollin thinks the U.S. food system is broken.  In  Why did the Obamas fail to take on corporate agriculture? he first summarizes why:

A food system organized around subsidized monocultures of corn and soy, I explained, guzzled tremendous amounts of fossil fuel (for everything from the chemical fertilizer and pesticide those fields depended on to the fuel needed to ship food around the world) and in the process emitted tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas — as much as a third of all emissions, by some estimates. At the same time, the types of food that can be made from all that subsidized corn and soy — feedlot meat and processed foods of all kinds — bear a large measure of responsibility for the steep rise in health care costs: A substantial portion of what we spend on health care in this country goes to treat chronic diseases linked to diet.

He then describes the difficulties President Obama and Michelle Obama, with her concern for nutritious food, faced in advancing the cause of healthier food.

There are about 11 million displaced Syrians.  Two stories this month help us understand their plight.  We live in Aleppo. Here’s how we survive by Omair Shaaban and What does it mean to help one family? by Jodi Kantor and Catrin Einhorn.

The U.S. foreign-aid budget, visualized by Max Bearak and Lazaro Gamio gives a good overview of U.S foreign aid, an overview that is usually difficult to get, as it must be pulled together from various U.S. government accounts.   Definitely worth seeing are the maps — one for humanitarian aid, the other for military — that show countries sized proportionally to the amount of U.S. funding they receive.  Which country receives the most foreign aid?  An interesting question, which this article answers.  If you don’t already know the answer, the answer will surprise you.

Finally, Gang violence drives internal displacement in El Salvador by Edgardo Alaya  illustrates how even people in small towns in El Salvador are subject to gang violence and the dislocation they suffer when they flee their hometown.

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