Global warming underlies India’s “giant agrarian crisis”

November 29, 2018

Farmers on the march as drought pummels productivity

A guest post by NAGRAJ ADVE, first published in The Wire (India)

A few years ago, a group of us from Delhi, along with members of the Gujarat Agricultural Labour Union and the International Union of Foodworkers, went to eastern Gujarat to speak to farmers about how a changing climate could be affecting their livelihoods. We found that warmer winters, particularly higher night-time temperatures, had resulted in a reduced or complete absence of dew. This was adversely affecting the rabi crop.

“Winters have been getting less cold for about 7-8 years,” a group of farmers told us in Jer Umaria, Panchmahal district. “Our wheat production has halved. The dew does not fall anymore.”

Village after village in Panchmahal, being unable to afford wells and with poorly developed water markets in this predominantly Adivasi belt, most marginal farmers faced sharply reduced yields thanks to lesser dew. Many were forced to leave their land fallow.

Rising temperatures have also been impacting agriculture in faraway Sikkim, but differently. Across the Hindu Kush Himalaya, the average temperature has risen by 1.24º C in 1951‒2014, about twice as much as India’s average rise over the same period.

A demonstration by farmers on 2 October on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Photo: PTI/ Arun Sharma

Together with a steep rainfall decline in the Northeast – 15% below normal over the last 20 years – and prolonged dry spells, this has left many mountain springs with lower discharge, if they haven’t dried up entirely.

As a result, “the productivity of crops has drastically declined,” Ghanashyam Sharma, Head, The Mountain Institute India, Gangtok, said. “In Pendam, East Sikkim district, many farmers now cannot cultivate wet rice due to water scarcity. Its impacts are unequal [–] Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Labour’s climate policy rely on monstrous techno-fixes like BECCS?

March 12, 2018

Will a future Labour government perpetuate myths about monstrous techno-fixes for climate change? Or advocate radical policies to deal with global warming that don’t heap the pain on the global south, and industrial strategies to hasten the transition away from a fossil-fuel-centred economy?

This question was raised – by implication, anyway – at the Campaign Against Climate Change conference in London on Saturday. The 200 people present heard essentially opposing answers from

Photo by Garry Knight under a Creative Commons Licence

Barry Gardiner, Labour’s front-bench spokesman on climate change, and Asad Rehman, chief executive of War on Want.

The contrasting approaches were starkly evident when a question was asked from the floor about Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) – an untried technology on which the world’s most powerful governments are relying heavily to claim they are on course to meet their climate targets.

Basically, BECCS would involve growing plants, burning them in power stations, and then capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and storing it somewhere. (See also “Quick technological catch-up” below).

Despite the fact that BECCS has never been used anywhere yet, the latest (fifth) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has included huge amounts of it in its scenarios that plot how the world economy could move away from dangerous global warming. To make the numbers add up, Read the rest of this entry »


Kazakhstan: land protesters face police rampage

May 25, 2016

Street protests, against plans to step up land privatisation, were broken up by police in many of Kazakhstan’s largest cities on Saturday. The demonstrations were organised by informal on-line networks, rather than by any of the recognised opposition groups. Here are key points from a report by ANDREI GRISHIN, published here on the Fergana news site (in Russian):

Special rapid-reaction police detachments attacked small groups [of demonstrators] wherever they gathered. They grabbed everyone, regardless of gender, age and nationality. Dozens of journalists were arrested.

Kazakhstan had waited for the events of 21 May with bated breath. [Protesters had named that as a day of action after a previous wave of demonstrations had forced the government to pull back from planned land reforms. See an earlier report here.] The official media had railed against the protests. And it all ended – grgrgkazza3as it has so many times before – with the “slaughter of the innocents”, but this time more brutal than usual. The detention of dozens of journalists, including foreigners, was proof of that.

However, for the first time, people came out to protest all at once, in a number of cities and towns, without any leaders – because these leaders had either been arrested in advance, or had agreed to the authorities’ demands [after the previous demonstrations] and joined the [government’s] land commission.

[In Alma-ata in the south-east, the largest city in Kazakhstan and former capital, Read the rest of this entry »


Kazakhstan: land protests force president to back down

May 6, 2016

Here ANDREI GRISHIN reports on the mass movement that yesterday (5 May) forced Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to scrap plans to privatise swathes of land. This fierce defence of common access to land brings Kazakh people together with similar movements across the world; their defiance of a violent and bullying government is an inspiration. This is an edited version of a report published yesterday on the Ferghana.com web site in Russian.

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced a moratorium on land code regulations that were due to take effect on 1 July this year. The regulations […] that “called forth a reaction from society” will be put on hold until 2017, the president said. At the same time, the national economy minister Erbolat Dosayev was dismissed and the agriculture minister Asylzhan Mamybekov reprimanded.

The “reaction from society” that the president mentioned was a wave of protest meetings, held without permission on the squares of Kazakh cities. Many hundreds of people attended, to protest against the sale of land or its lease to foreign leaseholders.

[Here is the time-line over which the movement unfolded:]

24 April. The first demonstration against land sales took place in Atyrau in western Kazakhstan [in the heart of the main oil-producing region]. No-one expected it – least

Protesters in Atyrau on 24 April

Protesters in Atyrau on 24 April

of all two local activists, Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, who posted on Facebook that they would stage a picket at Isatay-Makhambet square, against the authorities’ plans to more than double the lengths of land leases to foreign entities. Two thousand people Read the rest of this entry »


‘A vector of inequality, degradation and violence’

August 31, 2014

Review of The Ecological Hoofprint: the global burden of industrial livestock by Tony Weis (Zed Books, 2013)

The rapid expansion of world meat consumption is (1) an indication that more people are getting better fed, right?

This “nutritional transition” is (2) great news for human health, right?

And (3), notwithstanding issues of excessive cruelty to animals, industrial

... and not only Walmart. (Photo from the Mercy for Animals web site.)

… and not only Walmart. (Photo from the Mercy for Animals web site.)

meat production is just a high-tech version of what humans have been doing since they started hunting, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Tony Weis argues.

Weis demolishes justifications for the global process he calls “meatification” with a rigorous analysis of how it exacerbates inequality, and widens the rift between capitalist economies and the natural environment. It’s damaging and unsustainable.

At a time when academics are forced to focus more and more narrowly, he looks at the big picture.

On question (1) – who benefits from growing meat consumption – Weis unpacks the extent of inequalities: people in rich countries consume more Read the rest of this entry »


Cameroon land grab meltdown

September 20, 2013

A monumental and very slick land grab in Cameroon, west Africa by a US-based company appears to be heading for collapse. The Herakles Farm project “appears to have now gone off the rails”, the Oakland Institute, which monitors land grabbing, said in a press release.

“Herakles Farms had purported to herald a new era of ‘sustainable agriculture’ by replacing old-growth rainforest with palm oil plantations”, Read the rest of this entry »


Up to half of all food is wasted: agri-industry and supermarkets are culpable

January 14, 2013

Between 30% and 50% of all food produced – 1.2-2 billion tonnes/year – is wasted or lost, a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) says. It argues that the waste is caused mainly by marketing techniques in rich countries, along with poor practice and/or insufficient investment in harvesting, storage and transportation.

Wasted foodThe report, published last week, highlights the vast amounts of farmland, energy, fertilisers and water swallowed up by the production of food that is thrown away or left to rot.

In my view the report points to an important conclusion: it is the way food is produced and sold for profit, in a process controlled by agri-industrial giants and supermarkets – rather than food consumption or human population growth as such – that pushes at the earth’s natural limits.

The IME says that in poor countries, “wastage tends to occur Read the rest of this entry »