THOUGHTS BY A SPECIALIST ON AGRICULTURE

The solutions which I recommend for healing the planet, that is, the creation for every family of a domain of about one hectare, free of taxes and transmitted by inheritance only within the family from generation to generation, is supported here by a specialist who reaches the same conclusions but with a completely different approach, that of an agricultural specialist. Translated from the French.

THE WORLD is HUNGRY (excerpt)

By Philippe Chalmin

Chapter VIII

MAN AND THE EARTH

 

(Translation of who Philippe Chalmin is, being very rough here, the rest of the article is better)

Philippe Chalmin is a professor of economic history at the University Paris— Dauphine. Awarded a diploma by HEC, qualified teacher of history, doctor in letters, is considered as one of the best world specialists in raw materials. Member of council of economic analysis with the Prime Minister, he is the author of more than forty works, of which Le Poivre et l’Or Noir) (Bourin Editeur 2007) and The World is Hungry (Bourin Editeur 2009) from which this excerpt is taken.
He is the economic adviser of the Euler group since 2003. He is councillor for the foreign trade of France (1993), member of the council of forward-looking European and international for the agriculture and the food (2003), consultant for the World Bank, and member of the council of economic analysis with the Prime Minister of France (2006).
Specialist of the raw materials market, he considers them as an evil plague resuming the example of the Dutch disease [1]. He coordinates every year the publication of the report Cyclops (Cycles and orientations of products and exchanges) on the world markets.; Philippe Chalmin is also the founder and the driving force*} since 2000 of the Club Ulysses, one of the main clubs of French economists.
Columnist, he intervenes in the broadcast “Ya pas que Ca !” on I-Télé, but also on France Music, and signs numerous columns in the press, in “Le Monde”, in “La Croix” and in the New Economist.
He is a knight of the order of the Legion of Honor, has received the national order of merit and the order of the agricultural merit. He has received the golden medal of the Academy of Agriculture.

(…).

The history of agriculture is that of the relationships of man with the earth. In the course of the centuries the model which has stood out as the most effective, the most profitable in terms of cost and productivity, is that of small family exploitations with the occasional hiring of seasonal workers. One of the failures of Rome, which precipitated some centuries later the fall of the Roman empire, was not having been able to preserve the exploitations of their legionnaire—farmers and to have developed in Italy and in Sicily large property landowners. Later, at the end of the 19th century, it was the big difference between the United States and Argentina on one side, farmers cultivating their plots of land, and the other one, the constitution of vast extensive domains. Let’s mention the systemic failure of all the large collectives of land that began in the 20th century: the sovkhozes and Soviet kolkhozes, the Chinese popular municipalities, all the forms of “cooperatives” which developed in the Third World, from Algeria to Indonesia after the independence and expropriation of the colonists.

We have the same observations with the large “capitalist” exploitations held by companies or investors. With the weak profitability of invested capital connected to the cost of land tax, rare are the examples of success in what we could call “the agribusiness”.

After the crisis of the 1970s, the world had an important wave of agricultural investments: a part of the money from petroleum and raw materials was dedicated to this. The Bay countries invested in Sudan, of which they wanted to make the attic of the Arabic world. Côte d’Ivoire dashed into an enormous program of huge farms and complex sugar plantations. The Shah’s Iran instituted an agrarian reform (by seizing the lands of the Shiite clergy, what explains its hostility to the monarchical regime), and created strange state farms with private capital. The idea was everywhere the same: go fast, make large exploitations out of nothing (even if it means monopolizing the irrigated perimeters), and concentrate on what was plannable. At best, it was hoped that the peasant communities surrounding these huge farms would benefit from the ripple effect. Three decades later, the failure of such endeavours is widespread. The complex Ivory Coast sugar plantations have returned to nature; Iran is one of the biggest importers of wheat in the world; Sudan is in the midst of a war civil (but for other reasons). The agribusiness has shown all its limits. And nevertheless we saw it reappearing in 2008 with projects financed by Libya and countries of the Bay in sub-Saharan Africa. The most delirious were that of the South Korean company Daewoo which rented 1.3 million hectares of farms in Madagascar to produce corn and palm oil intended for the Korean market. The general outcry which arouse in November 2008 at the announcement of the negotiations between Daewoo and the Malagasy government allows us to hope that this will not come to pass.

Collective or capitalist, the solutions to agricultural problems—that we could think easy to plan in the comfort of air-conditioned offices, in Rome (FAO) or in Washington (World Bank)—collide with the particular character of agricultural activity: an activity influenced by climatic and natural hazards, different from one plot of land to the other, and that cannot be really dissociated from that the one who cultivates them directly: the farmer.

The system that evidence has proven allowed the extraordinary development of western agriculture is indeed that of the individual farmer. The model of family size domestic exploitations is obviously the basis on which we can ensure the development and the modernization of agriculture in the Third World rather than on hypothetical foreign (or public) investments which would continue to marginalize the true wealth of agriculture: the people who work the land.

It is difficult to explain the complex relationships of man with his earth. Let us notice that it’s the individual exploitations which, under all climates, in all civilizations, has given—and by far—the best results. Even the production cooperatives based on voluntary service (and not the “cooperatives” of the Soviets or the Chinese), so appreciated by anti-globalization circles, has in agriculture not had enough success in the long run. Any agricultural policy thus has to help and lean on the needs and knowledge of the individual farmer, and that’s what makes it so complex to manage.

A point about the earth must be underlined: that is, who owns and has access to the land for small farmers? In many countries, the agrarian reforms which happened between the 1920s and 1960s resulted in a more or less admitted collectivization. The fall of communism and the current liberalization at the end of the 20th century has created the inverse movement, often in the most total chaos: the question of who can own the land has not been resolved in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Central Asian countries or China, if not for the benefit of some local oligarchs with whom the projects of “farms” going up to the million hectares (in Russia) is outright scary. In many other cases, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s the quite simple problem of the absence of cadastre {land registry} that arises. The usual rule that says that the land belongs to the one who cultivates it, is at the heart of many ethnic tensions, on the Ivory Coast for example, between natives of Burkina Faso and Baoulés.

The existence of a right to own the land, allowing the development of individual property beyond any shape of collective control, is in our opinion an indispensable condition for agricultural development in many regions. Let us remind ourselves that the agricultural renewal and development of first the British and then the French really took off from the moment that the communal rights remaining from feudal times were abolished. In many Third World countries, this has not yet happened and rather than being amazed at the survival of more or less tribal communities, it might be important to understand that these are often an obstacle to agricultural development.

From Brazil to Russia, from Sahel to China, the question of the land tax remains a major obstacle, as it was in the time of Rome or the Greeks. This needs to be at the heart of the renewal of all agricultural policies (…).

 

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