О воскрешении крестьянства


О воскрешении крестьянства

Эксперты МГИМО: Николас Коллофф

Продовольственная безопасность является одной из важнейших проблем, которые сегодня стоят перед человечеством. На фоне климатических изменений и роста цен на продовольствие ввиду глобального экономического кризиса население продолжает расти. Можно ли накормить 9 миллиардов людей, которые будут населять нашу планету к 2050 году? Директор по стратегии и инновациям международной организации «Оксфам» Николас Коллофф считает, что можно — и путь к этому лежит через воскрешение крестьянства. По приглашению Секретариата ректора и ЕУИ при МГИМО господин Коллофф прочитал мгимовцам курс лекций «Продовольствие и справедливость в современном мире». Специально для «Экспертов МГИМО» он сформулировал основные тезисы своих выступлений.

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Nicholas Colloff: The Ressurection of the Peasant

The challenge of producing enough food for the world to eat has never been more challenging. There are two interlocking key problems.

The first is the problem of secure production.

The global economic crisis made it impossible for governments to contend that all was well in the world of agriculture. For 50 years agricultural production has grown at a faster rate than the human population. Today, that productivity growth has shrunk to little more than one percent — near parity with the human population growth rate.

The post-war production boom depended on abundant oil and natural gas, together with irrigation and selective breeding that focused on increasing yields of grain per individual plant. This approach, while successful, is challenged from many directions.

The oil and gas that go into pesticides, fertilizers and the fuel to run farm equipment are finite. Their prices have risen, and are likely to go on rising. The terrible waste associated with the careless use of irrigation systems, too, is under attack as water tables and underground aquifers shrink and as climate change makes rainfall more uncertain. Meanwhile, the science of hybrid seeds seems to have reached a plateau, while the newer science of bio-engineering remains controversial.

The obvious paths to a renewed 'green' revolution are closed. Yet by World Bank estimates we have to produce 50% more food by 2030.

The second key problem is the changing nature of the demand for food.

February 2011 saw the highest food prices for key staples ever recorded (sparking widespread unrest with political consequences). The drivers of this volatility are complex. But amongst them it is clear that climate, speculation in commodities and competing demands for land between food and bio-fuels play an increasing part.

Looming, over all, are two key trends: that of demography and diet. The world population is expanding (from 6 to 9 billion by 2050) and, as people grow relatively more prosperous, their diet changes, demanding more meat and dairy products that are less 'efficient' users of land.

Where is the food to feed this increased population to come from? The need for a new 'green' revolution has never been more urgent. And the potential solution comes from an unexpected source: the resurrection of the peasant!

Most of the world’s food continues to be grown by small producers; however, since the birth of 'scientific agriculture' they have been sidelined and ignored by agriculturalists and policy makers alike.

However, the moment seems ripe with opportunities for small producers (SP). Their production meets a universal human need, and demand for food is growing. The knowledge and experience of SP is very much in demand. But there is no question that, as in the past, there are visions of development that would ignore them.

What might be different for small farmers this time?

First, there is a lack of consensus on technology. The Green Revolution of the 1960s entailed significant investment in inputs that were derived off-farm and therefore represented a new capital cost for farmers to absorb. This time, in part informed by the unanticipated social and environmental costs of the last Green Revolution, there is a big and relatively open debate. There are not just NGOs and farmers’ organizations on both sides of the debate, but national governments and inter-governmental institutions as well.

Second, climate change has given a whole new impetus to long-standing environmental concerns as to the sustainability of agricultural practices. Choices about what people eat and how it is grown have taken on an environmental dimension that has been lacking in industrial societies since the time that food production became a specialized activity that takes place away from where the majority of people live. Farmers have always worried about the weather; now consumers are worrying about the weather, too.

Third, visions of development are shifting. The public resources made available to development are subject to their own fashions and whims. But it is possible to argue that there is a moment of greater pragmatism in the fashion; that the certainties of the 1980s and 1990s have eroded under the (heavy) weight of global economic recession, increased volatility in agricultural commodity prices and the real if hard to cost burden of unaccounted for environmental damage.

Where then can some synergy be created between small producers’ need to survive and thrive in uncertain times and the global policy debates that are putting SP in the mainstream of the discussion?

The challenges are many but the opportunities for change in agriculture have not been greater since the world emerged from the carnage of WWII. Historian Eric Hobsbawm has famously written that the most profound social change of the second half of the 20th century was the «death of the peasantry." Perhaps a profound social, economic and political change of the first half of the 21st century will be resurrection of the peasant.

Renewed support for small-scale farmers can be found in the current debate. It is found in governments’ food security concerns, in agribusiness’ interest to secure supplies and to develop new markets, in consumers’ demands for more equitable trade, in intergovernmental organizations putting more emphasis on tracking abuses to international law and human rights, and in small producer organizations professionalizing their role with young and better educated leaders.

The challenges ahead are surely enormous, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, it seems that reports of the peasantry death may have been greatly exaggerated.

The next 'green' revolution is not a 'technological fix' but a renewal of a knowledge-based agriculture that serves the interests of both producer and consumer and is genuinely green: being environmentally sustainable into the future and it is in the hands of the small farmer who produces 75% of the world’s food.

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