Campesino Do We Ever Wonder Reaction Paper

Pages: 5 (1742 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture


Do we ever wonder where our food comes from? Do we ever wonder just what it takes to ensure that ripe strawberries are available during most of the year, or how we have lemons and limes in the bitter cold months? In fact, the entire process of the food regime is tied up with capitalism, globalism, and international relations. It is not necessarily about the food produced, but the internal and external labor and distribution issues surrounding food. Many, in fact, argue that the world's food crisis is a result of an overdependence on fossil fuels, inflation and financial speculation, the concentration of agribusiness, and the supply and demand curve which often seems to require continual exploitation of indigenous populations. In fact, food may be thought of as more of a political "regime of global value relations" (Schanbacher).

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What it seems as if we are seeing, more and more in fact, is many becoming dissatisfied with the political and economic policies of the developed world -- the affluent and industrialized countries, who maintain a surplus of food while many in the underdeveloped world still starve. Clearly, this is not 100% true of all countries or organizations. We have the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and even organizations that use micro lending to provide greater hegemony from the poor, as well as the potential for growing more of their own food. However, who decides what foods to grow and how to keep the process sustainable? Herein, authors, scholars and this reader agree that sustainability is not a single issue, but rather one that is based on multiple roles and economic interests. "Behind the apparent social consensus for 'sustainability' lies a conflictive arena of struggle in which different business interests, political institutions, cultures, countries, states, municipalities, towns and villages, families, and individuals sort out the costs and benefits of environment and development"(Holt-Gimenez, xvi).

Reaction Paper on Campesino Do We Ever Wonder Where Our Assignment

Looking at this from a more historical viewpoint, however, we find that this entire concept of "food security" is really an outgrowth of much of the political and social changes brought about after World War II. A number of previous countries were involved with decolonialization and created a very complex food model that was typically managed by the Developed World, yet staffed through the old colonial system. As societies tended to move towards globalization, however, trade policies became more the operating model for food production and distribution. On one hand, this seems viable -- the more the process of globalization extends, the more markets become open to smaller, less developed economies. This makes sense that if a country has a product to export that is common for them they would use it as leverage to improve their own economy -- and works well in some cases. However, one only need look at the coffee debate to see cases in which it does not.

Global trade in food has grown dramatically in the last few decades as the demand curve has increased. At the same time, because of efficiencies in transportation and the agribusiness, many prices for goods have decreased. This does not necessarily help the poor or those farmers in the developing world because prices do not necessarily match their costs. Too, most research shows us that markets are not very predictable at times, consumer's tastes are fickle, and margins can plummet and rise several times in one season. This is unfortunate because small farmers must plant far in advance in order to take advantage of both local co-ops and agreements with larger buyers who, most of the time, come to their local areas only once or twice per year. It seems as if the nature of the food business is that the developed world wants its products to be available exactly when their consumers demand -- regardless of the implications this may have for local farmers.

What I perceive is that there is a clear divisiveness between two ideas. On the one hand, the theory of food security provides farmers like those in the campesinos a way to actualize and make a living, sometimes at a higher standard than expected; on the other hand, the food sovereignty model looks at a more positive aspect of food being part of the mutual dependence paradigm; sustainability and cultural diversity. Food security, reinforces globalization, capitalization, and humans as labor.

These ideas are reinforced in a number of ways in the book Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America's Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture (Holt-Gimenez). but, like most debates, those that are doing the arguing are not those who are doing the growing -- they simply do not have the time to pontificate when their livelihood is on the line. Indeed, local farmer's, given the chance, are usually closer to the land than many others and understand the nature of what it takes to grow more products while remaining sustainable. "Results of compositing, legume rotations, and new crop associations & #8230; were rapid and recognizable. Maize yields jumped from one-half ton per hectare to three or even five tons… Crops diversified and production and small service co-ops were formed" (Holt-Gimenez, p. 9).

This seems a perfect example of many in the west simply staying out of the way and allowing the experts to do what they do naturally -- covet and live within the bounds of nature and the land in the best way possible. Instead of long and windy debates on what the best possible ways people in the developing world can produce the model should change so that the sustainable nature of the product is part of the responsibility of not only the export market, but the local civic agricultural offices. I am reminded of the issues of microloans to poorer countries. For example, over the past few decades, I know that the idea of microfinance has grown from the idea of small lending "experiments" to a valuable and useful paradigm of thousands of financial service providers working together to help the developing world. These providers, known as microfinance institutions (MFI), are organizations that provide a wide range of products that help the poor. While many vary considerably in the types or services offered, they all share a few common characteristics. In fact, the paradigm shift that has occurred shows that the poor are "bankable," that is, it is possible to offer loans, banking services, and other financial tools to individuals and groups who are traditionally distanced from more formal, institutionalized, banking and finance. In fact, the main tools for delivering these services to clients in the underdeveloped world are designed to work less individually and more through: 1) relationship-based financial services for individual entrepreneurs and small businesses, and 2) group-based models in which several entrepreneurs merge to apply for loans and services (Armendariz and Morduch). So, if we expand this model to the developing world, we have a different view of how agriculture "could" work in the future.

I am also reminded of the links between the Campesino culture and the politics of other goods -- for instance, coffee. We are all familiar, of course, with the idea that coffee is part of a huge globalization issue, particularly since it grows in the Third World but primarily consumed in the First. Researching this in terms of sustainable agriculture and fair trade, I found that in the past few years coffee consumption has risen about 700%, prices consumers pay rise, but just a bit; yet over the last five years, prices paid to growers for raw coffee beans has plummeted from $3/pound to less than $.50/pound (Talk About Coffee). When one considers that it takes a full year for one pound of coffee to grow on a bush, one must ask -- how many coffee bushes, at $.50/pound, does it take for a small family of 4 to survive for a year?

If we take the top three countries that produce coffee, Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia; we find that in Brazil the GDP per capita is about $12,000, in Vietnam $3,300, and in Columbia $10,100. So, in order to make even the basic living in Brazil, one would need 24,000 bushes; in Vietnam 6600; and in Columbia 20,200 bushes. Statistics show that the average farmer, though, while producing almost 80% of the total coffee available, produces only about 2205 pounds per annum, or a wage of $1,103 -- in other words, about 10% of the basic living for their countries (Coffee Industry Stakeholders; Central Intelligence Agency). One then begins to see the tremendous inequity that exists within the market -- while corporations are gorging themselves on profits, the small farmer is barely, if at all, surviving the capitalistic laws of supply and demand. This is huge when one thinks of how this can tax the system, contribute to illness and mortality, not to mention the effects it might have on production. This model is not only unsustainable, it is unethical.

However, if one takes the Campesino movement to heart, one can see that it can, like… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Campesino Do We Ever Wonder.  (2012, May 21).  Retrieved November 25, 2020, from

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"Campesino Do We Ever Wonder."  21 May 2012.  Web.  25 November 2020. <>.

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"Campesino Do We Ever Wonder."  May 21, 2012.  Accessed November 25, 2020.