Monday, April 11, 2016

Regional Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean

Regional Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean     Last year in this publication I wrote on the subject of Water Security. This year I will try and cover the other half of the equation, Food Security. “Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she [the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver] told a packed audience in Amsterdam. One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.” “The 2009 global food crisis signaled the need for a turning point in the global food system”, she said at the event hosted by the Transnational Institute (TNI), a leading international think tank.      In the Caribbean region we are going to be affected by climate change,  as  we all realize,  or should realize, climate change has already started affecting most countries. In the Caribbean the IPCC states ‘By mid-century, climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands, e.g. in the Caribbean and Pacific, to the point where they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods’. To this we have to add the likelihood of an increase of cyclone / hurricane activity that can negatively impact agriculture.  During a FAO hosted a two-day International Symposium on Agroecology  for Food Security and Nutrition,18 -19 September 2014 in Rome , FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stated [as]  “Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies it is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed,”    For those not familiar with Permaculture, here is a definition; Permaculture is a conscious integrated design system based on ecology and sustainability principles to create resource efficient and productive human environments and reduce our footprint on the earth. Permaculture provides a framework for consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature that provide diversity, stability, and resilience. These systems yield an abundance of shelter, water, energy, and food for the provision of local needs.      Globally, small farmers produce seventy percent of the food for  the of the worlds population. However, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the world needs to produce more food with fewer resources.  This is especially true for the Caribbean (and less so for Latin America) given that today a large portion of our foodstuff is imported. Importation means that we become dependent on resource pricing from another region of the world. If we take California as an example, where they are suffering from a drought, Water Year 2014 – overlapping with California's driest calendar year -- ended on September 30 as the state's third driest in 119 years of record, based on statewide precipitation.  Needless to say the price have increased on lettuce, tomatoes, fruit and nuts produced in the state. California's agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.  In Florida orange juice prices have historically been affected by freezing winter temperatures, furthermore, crop diseases and blights can easily wipeout regional mono-crops, which are favored by the corporate agriculture industry. Chicken is now been shipped from the United States to China for processing, which adds food miles and raises the potential for contamination, as the world has witnessed in the past. In small island developing states (SIDS) we may also suffer from salt water intrusion into our water tables, where the freshwater floats on top of the salt water. This is already effecting traditional agriculture in some Pacific island states.  “The nutritional value of food is largely a function of its vitamin and mineral content. In this regard, organically grown food is dramatically superior in mineral content to that grown by modern conventional methods. Because it fosters the life of the soil organic farming reaps the benefits soil life offers in greatly facilitated plant access to soil nutrients. Healthy plants mean healthy people, and such better nourished plants provide better nourishment to people and animals alike .”     Genetically Modified Crops.  In the United States legislation covering GMO crops and ingredients do not mandate listing ingredients, meaning consumers are unable to identify GMO ingredients of food products they are purchasing.  In Canada and the USA labeling is voluntary, while in Europe all food (including processed food) or feed that contains greater than 0.9% of GMOs must be labelled .     Fish Stock Depletion According to the Nature Conservancy website, it's [Jamaica’s Pedro Banks are] also the primary harvesting area for the largest export of Queen Conch from the Caribbean region and a potential refuge for several endangered coral species. With an estimated 99 per cent of mainland Jamaica's reefs in danger, the coral reefs on Pedro Bank are vital to long-term reef conservation in the country. In July 2004, the bank was declared an underwater cultural heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust .  A BBC article dated 2012 entitled How The Worlds Oceans Could Be Running Out Of Fish states ‘Global fish stocks are exploited or depleted to such an extent that without urgent measures we may be the last generation to catch food from the oceans . In light of this fact perhaps regionally  we should be emulating Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste who came together in 2009 to form the multilateral Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) partnership, and agreed on a Regional Plan of Action, with a suite of collaborative and national actions to support productive, sustainable fisheries. And it’s part of the reason why WWF has continued to invest in programmes in the Coral Triangle for the better part of 20 years . The  tiny Island Nation of Palau  is burning illegal fishing boats to prove a point, as it wants to protect its 230,000 square miles of pristine waters for tourism, “Illegal fishing operations waste as much as 2 billion pounds of inadvertently caught fish a year in the United States alone, indiscriminately killing sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks”. Establishing marine sanctuaries as Palau has done in ecologically sensitive locations can reverse declining fish populations, support food [security and] production, and bring new tourism opportunities, such as scuba diving and snorkeling .      Transportation In the event of a spike in oil prices, imported food, and in fact all imported goods, will rise in price. In the last few weeks there have been two bombings in Eastern Saudi Arabia at Shia Mosques, and yesterday thirty-eight Saudi military personnel were killed in Anbar province. This could be the work of the Islamic State, or could be seen by the Shia majority in Eastern Saudi Arabia, as a Fundamentalist Salafi initiative against them. Whatever the case may be,  rising social tensions leading to conflict would rapidly drive petroleum prices upward. One must be cognizant of the fact that today’s low petroleum prices  are a political ploy undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America against Iran and Russia. According to the Eurasia Group’s  president Ian Bremmer it’s been decades since the geopolitical state of the world was what it is today, “I happen to believe that we are entering into this period of geopolitical creative destruction,” Bremmer told Business Insider in a sit-down interview. “The last time we’ve seen something like that was after WWII. I believe this is a G-Zero environment.” Bremmer argues that the world has grown more dangerous and increasingly multi-polar over the last twenty-five years .  Furthermore, there is a strong argument put forward by the late Matthew Simmons  stating that the Saudi oil reserves, which are a State Secret, are much smaller that the Saudi government would have you believe. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has not made a find of any major oil field of significance in forty years.  Ghawar Field  (Arabic: الغوار) is an oil field located in Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. Measuring 280 by 30 km (174 by 19 miles), it is by far the largest conventional oil field in the world,  and accounts for more than half of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia. Ghawar was discovered in 1948 and put on stream in 1951. This field has a rate of decline of 8% per annum.    It is interesting to note that KSA is installing huge amounts of solar power and have been negotiating with the French nuclear company Areva for two nuclear power plants.   In conclusion, having looked at the benefits of growing ones own organic, non-GMO crops with superior nutrition, available with no food miles or transportation costs, the argument in favor of locally produced crops using permaculture is overwhelming. Furthermore, supporting our local farming community and small farmers is a win-win situation. © Caribbean / Latin America Disaster Preparedness Manual