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 »

They could soon be betting on water supplies

November 11, 2012

Financial markets on which speculators can bet on the cost of clean water supplies are getting closer, STEVE DRURY writes.

Food policy commentator Frederick Kaufman has called on financial market regulators to stop the betting on water supplies before it starts, in an article in the renowned scientific weekly Nature.

“Currently, no-one is trading water futures, but it won’t take much to spark the market into life”, Kaufman warned. After the recent drought in the USA, Read the rest of this entry »

Scramble for land: paths of resistance

August 12, 2012

This is the second of two linked posts, by Steve Drury. The first one is HERE.

To think about resistance to “land grabbing” and the way to develop socialist thinking on land, it is worth considering historical analogies. The twenty-first century global land rush by capital brings to mind the crushing of the British peasantry, from medieval times to the nineteenth century, by Enclosure of the common land on which they largely depended for subsistence.

The March for Justice, for land rights in India

Moreover, land speculation creates the conditions for stepping back to the worst form of feudal serfdom, where former small peasants lose what tenancy to land they once had, work exclusively for the new landlord and survive at that landlord’s whim. Such semi-slavery is the source of the highest possible rate of profit from agriculture apart from fully-fledged slavery.

With the modern emphasis on mechanised agriculture, another analogy is the Clearances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in Scotland and Ireland especially, that simply expelled entire populations in the interests of Read the rest of this entry »

Scramble for land: a continent up for sale

August 12, 2012

This is the first of two linked posts, by Steve Drury. The second one is HERE.

The global land grab now in progress is being touted by international agencies as the way to improve food security for people in the least developed countries. But the reality is that small farmers are being forced from the land, opportunities to raise small-farm productivity are being squandered, and class divisions deepened. The World Bank, through its private sector arm the Read the rest of this entry »

Cities: working out a socialist critique

April 1, 2012

Twenty-first century socialism needs a critique of cities. Why don’t we ask ourselves whether these monsters in which most of us live – at the same time awful and wonderful – will survive in a communist future?

Kibera slum outside Nairobi (population estimated between 170,000 and 1 million)

We might question the assumptions in much twentieth-century socialist thinking that cities are a necessary part of human development … and revive and rethink nineteenth-century communist ideas that envisaged communism breaking down the division between city and countryside.

This article sets out some ideas on this, and aims to put in context a prescient article on this subject written by Amadeo Bordiga, the Italian left communist, in 1952 – which People & Nature publishes here in a new English translation for the first time.

The rise of the city is one of capitalism’s most obvious achievements. In 1800, the urban population was 3% of the world’s total population (27 million people); in 1900, it was 14% (225 million); and in 2000 it was 47% (2.9 billion).  In this decade, the majority of humans – in 2010, 50.5% (3.5 billion) people – are living in urban areas for the first time, according to a recent UN report.[1]

Read the rest of this entry »

Indonesia: struggles for land, and global warming in the here-and-now

November 27, 2011

 A vivid account of the battle for land in Indonesia has been published by Wildcat, the German communist group, here. It’s well worth reading. The Wildcat activists describe “two front lines” in the struggle for land. First, peasants are fighting for the return of land grabbed under the Suharto dictatorship and handed over to state plantations. Second, they are battling private corporations that grab land, often for palm oil production or for mining – a process that takes a heavy toll on Indonesia’s forests, as well as on those who live on the land.

Peasants who don’t sell up to the corporations, for fear of becoming dependent, face conflict. Read the rest of this entry »

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