Honduras, Ethiopia and the crazy logic of food supply

News in June 2011 that Honduras had begun to import beans from Ethiopia caused some anxiety amongst local food producers in Honduras who questioned policies which seemed to run counter to the idea of food security and very much in favour of growing biofuels.[i] The strategy is promoted by the World Bank and USAID (US Agency for International Development). The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations notes that in Honduras 60 per cent of the population have no salaries, no access to the means of production and no way of ensuring adequate food provision.[ii]

The worst element of this strategy is that red beans are now being imported into Honduras from one of the poorest countries of the world, Ethiopia, a country with 13 million people dependent on food aid from the international community. Ethiopia has a policy of renting or selling vast expanses of land to foreign companies and expelling from those lands the peoples who have used them for hundreds if not thousands of years.[iii]

The Indian company Karuturi Global leases 2,500 sq km of fertile land in the Gambella region of Ethiopia at a knock-down price of $245 (USD) per week for fifty years. The company plans to grow and export palm oil, sugar, rice and other foods. In all, Ethiopia has offered 3 million hectares of land to foreign corporations, and companies from 36 countries have leased land there.[iv]

Although local government officers deny claims that people are being forcibly displaced to make way for these companies and their farming techniques, others report that no consultation was carried out with local people. Kassahun Zerrfu from Gambella’s Department for Investment has acknowledged that 15,000 people are being relocated “to give them better access to water, schools and transport,” but claims that “it is a coincidence that the investors are coming at the same time as the villages are being relocated.”[v]

Honduras used to be self-sufficient in beans, one of the staple crops of the Honduran diet. Now, the most fertile land in Honduras is being used for biofuel crops such as palm oil and other crops for export. In Ethiopia on the area taken over by Karuturi Global, the land is also remarkably fertile and full of organic matter – as project manager Karmjeet Sekhon states, “We don’t need fertiliser or herbicides. There is absolutely nothing that will not grow in it.”[vi]

This is the logic of big capital. It can show that yields and overall food production increase. It can glory in its own success. But at the same time, it increases landlessness amongst those who need it most; it reduces food security and food sovereignty; it increases dependence; and the final result is increasing hunger. The logic of finance and the profit motive fail humanity.

[i] Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH) (21 June 2011) ‘Rapiña de territorios: el olor a saqueo de los frijoles importados de Etiopía’, email communication, OFRANEH, La Ceiba.
[ii] La Tribuna (9 June 2011) ‘Más de la mitad de los Hondureños sufren por hambre’, La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa.
[iii] Op.cit.. (OFRANEH).
[iv] John Vidal (21 March 2011) ‘Ethiopia at centre of global farmland rush’, The Guardian, London.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.

New Costa Rican Law allows workers to be reinstated quickly

The following article features Didier Leitón Valverde, from the Costa Rican SITRAP union. An interview with Didier is featured in the Costa Rican interviews section of this website. The article is taken from Banana Trade News Bulletin No. 57 (November 2017) and is reproduced here by kind permission of Banana Link.

After years of work and much political and legislative wrangling the Labour Procedures Reform (RPL in Spanish) finally came into force in Costa Rica in July 2017. The independent trade unions that have struggled for years to defend workers they consider to have been sacked unfairly in the banana and pineapple industries, having to put up with tribunal procedures that could take up to 5 or 6 years, are seeing the first tangible results from the new legislation.

The law now means, amongst other advances, that hearings and decisions on reinstatement after unfair sacking can be expedited in just a few weeks from sacking to reinstatement. Since the RPL came into force two women and eight men working at different pineapple and banana plantations have all regained the jobs from which they were unfairly dismissed, thanks to their affiliation to the SITRAP trade union.

The workers took their cases to the Labour Ombudsman which is the new body established to present cases in the Labour Court. They used the special rapid procedure for cases of alleged discrimination that is one of the measures included in the Reform. In all ten cases in the last few weeks, the pineapple and banana workers, sacked because they were members of the union, got their jobs back in Grupo Acon, Del Monte and Dole plantations and packhouses.

Didier Leitón Valverde

The reinstatements were ordered by judges within less than one week of the cases being presented. In cases where the employer is reluctant to accept the court order, Labour Ministry staff are empowered to accompany the worker back to their former job.

The trade union’s General Secretary, Didier Leitón Valverde, comments that:

this shows us that the RPL is benefiting working people and shows that some people were wrong to say that it would be of no value to workers. It also demonstrates that there are good professionals in the Ombudsman’s office and Labour Courts who are interpreting the legislation properly. People who did not join the union before out of fear that the employer could sack them indiscriminately are now losing their fear.
Banana Link website: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/

SITRAP website: http://www.sitrap.net/quienesSomos.html

The European Union authorises the sale of campesino seeds

8 May 2018
By Axel Leclercq
For ‘Biodiversidad en América Latina y El Caribe’

After years of struggle, defenders of biodiversity have finally got some satisfaction. From May this year [2018] you can have access to your seeds without being outlawed for it. Victory! As of May, organic farmers can sell the seeds of their own produce. Thus decided EU Deputies, much to the disgust of Monsanto and similar companies.

Until now, only seeds listed in an official catalogue could be legally commercialised. As the French newspaper Le Figaro indicated, “the majority of these seeds belonged to multinationals such as Monsanto. The result was a standardisation of fruit and vegetables, a standardisation of our diet and an impoverishment of biodiversity.”

But last Thursday [Thursday 3rd May 2018] Deputies of the European Union put an end to the ‘criminalisation of so-called campesino seeds. With a view to new legislation whose aim is to support organic agriculture, they adopted a measure which permits organic farmers to sell seeds from their ‘domestic’ crops.

This decision, which becomes active in two and a half years, in 2021, brings to an end 37 years of restrictions – the commercialisation of seeds outside the official catalogue was prohibited by a 1981 decree.

All organic farmers will be able to develop their own varieties and to commercialise them as had always happened in the past. The aim is to promote the vitality of our biodiversity, to revive thousands of varieties of fruit and vegetables which exist and to counter the worrying statistics supplied by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and re-broadcast by Le Figaro: namely, that three-quarters of our current foodstuffs come from only twelve plant species and five animal species.

¡La Unión Europea autoriza la venta de semillas campesinas!

Link de este artículo: http://www.biodiversidadla.org/Principal/Secciones/Noticias/!La_Union_Europea_autoriza_la_venta_de_semillas_campesinas

Autor Axel Leclercq Idioma Español Pais Europa Publicado 8 mayo 2018 09:11

Después de años de lucha, los defensores de la biodiversidad finalmente obtienen satisfacción. A partir de ahora, se podrá acceder a sus semillas sin ser forajidos.

Victoria! A partir de ahora, los agricultores orgánicos podrán vender semillas de sus propias producciones. Así decidieron los eurodiputados, para disgusto de Monsanto y compañía.


Hasta entonces, solo las semillas listadas por un catálogo oficial podrían comercializarse legalmente. Como señala Le Figaro, “la mayoría de estas semillas pertenecían a multinacionales como Monsanto. “El resultado era una estandarización de frutas y verduras, una estandarización de nuestra dieta y un empobrecimiento de la biodiversidad”.

Pero el jueves pasado, los eurodiputados pusieron fin a la “criminalización” de las llamadas semillas campesinas. Con motivo de una nueva legislación cuyo objetivo es apoyar a los orgánicos, adoptaron una medida que permite a los agricultores orgánicos vender semillas de sus cultivos “domésticos”.

Esta decisión, que entrará en vigor en dos años y medio, en 2021, pone fin a 37 años de restricciones (la comercialización de semillas fuera del catálogo oficial fue prohibida por decreto en 1981).

Todos los agricultores orgánicos podrán desarrollar sus propias variedades y comercializarlas, como siempre ha sucedido en el pasado. El objetivo es promover la vitalidad de nuestra biodiversidad, revivir las miles de variedades de frutas y verduras que existen y vacilar las inquietantes estadísticas proporcionadas por la FAO (Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura) y retransmitidas por Le Figaro: tres cuartas partes de nuestros alimentos actuales vendrían de solo 12 especies de plantas y 5 especies de animales.

Esta medida fue reclamada por años. ¡Buenas noticias!

The Rights of Small Farmers

A posting from Heidi Chow, a campaigner for the Global Justice Now network.

5 December 2018

Key words: food sovereignty; small farmers; global agribusiness; La Vía Campesina.

For the last few years, we have mobilised to support the process for a UN declaration of rights for small farmers. And last week, a committee of the UN General Assembly voted in favour of the declaration.

This is a significant step for the global movement for food sovereignty as the UN declaration recognises the rights of small-scale food producers who feed the majority of the world’s population. Small farmers across the globe are facing mounting levels of violence, oppression and discrimination. Their livelihoods and communities are threatened by the expansion of global agribusiness, which is grabbing their land and seeds and destroying the environment they rely on for food production.

It’s taken around two decades of negotiation, advocacy and lobbying – spearheaded by our global allies, La Via Campesina (LVC) – to get to this point. Together, we have mobilised at key moments during this process in the last few years in solidarity with LVC.

This declaration will be an important tool for civil society to resist further agribusiness expansion and protect themselves against state repression. It’s a victory for farmers’ rights and a step in the right direction towards more powerful, binding rules which offer international protection for small farmers around the world.

The struggle against corporate power in the food system is not over but let’s take a moment to celebrate in solidarity with small farmers across the world for the milestones that we achieve together along the way.

The UN General Assembly plenary will formally ratify the declaration later this month