#Rural Development: Food crisis analyzed on the example of Guatemala

When I visited Guatemala, seeing all the richness of fruits, vegetables and other food offered on the markets,  I had no idea that Guatemala could face severe food crisis. Unfortunately I was wrong.

Even if there are huge fields where food is grown, all the best land are used for export products, not for feeding Guatemalans. 60% of the population are rural families, most of them fight for survival via farming, but the left over land is very poor or unsuitable for growing food, so they struggle to feed their families. Guatemala is constantly forced to ask for food aid thanks to lack of access to arable land. In addition, the trade policies of wealthy countries undercut their aid policies. For example, Canadians have given the most food aid to World Food Program (WFP) so far, but this way they also undermined the local markets. Furthermore Australian, Canadian and American cheap food products – because via  “negotiated” free-trade with Guatemala- are flooding into the land, leaving local growers without any chance on their own markets,  while restricting import tariffs are in place to safeguard the own wheat and corn producers. Without access to those markets or arable land,  farmers can neither generate income nor grow enough food to feed their own families. (1) Wouldn’t it be better to use local products for food aid, if available?

The drought caused by lack of rain in the last years also was made worse by rising food prices, the global financial crisis, cost increases for agricultural items, such as fertilizer and pesticides, and a decrease in job opportunities.(2) The increasing palm oil business expands in Guatemala unregulatedly, causing severe problems: pays workers only poverty wages, contaminates the ground and water supply with agrochemicals, encroaches on protected tropical forest areas, and takes land away (even via landgrabbing) from producing food for people to eat. (3)


Unfortunately malnutrition and chronic food shortages are not unusual in Guatemala. Lack of investment in small-scale agriculture has reduced food production over the years, and the country now has the highest rate of malnutrition among children under five in Latin America: nearly 50 percent (indigenous children 70%) according to the WFP. Oxfam is helping local organizations and citizens in following areas:

All this sums up to a cost, which is much smaller than the food aids. Which one is the more intelligent solution then?

Furthermore, investing in local, small scale agriculture (i.e. increase equity and mechanization, fight soil reduction, develop infrastructure etc.) and local market (i.e. enable better access to credits ) is needed. This way we can assure, that food production takes place in the area where most of the vulnerability can be found. Investing in small scale farmers can be productive, efficient, sustainable and competitive. There are some success stories to take as examples i.e. in Vietnam and Brazil.

Guatemala is only one on the list of countries fighting severe food crisis. Food insecurity, climate change effects, oil peak, population growth, soil erosion, water contamination can easily lead to humanitarian disasters in many regions, which again cause international insecurity. It is in everyone’s interest to deal fairly with the challenges mentioned before, isn’t it?

Beyond think tanks we need now more than ever think+do tanks, like the one below, to solve the food crisis in a sustainable and fair way:

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo



(1) Pail Webster(2011): Canada’s Role in Guatemala’s Food Crisis, Retrieved from  http://www.readersdigest.ca/magazine/canadas-role-guatemalas-food-crisis?page=0,2

(2) UN (2010): Lack of funding for Guatemalan food crisis appeal sparks concern at UN http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34323

(3) Global food crisis: Palm rush proves costly for Guatemala’s small farmers http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/may/31/global-food-crisis-palm-oil-guatemala

(4) Chris Hufstader: Food crisis in Guatemala (2009) Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/articles/food-crisis-in-guatemala





How to stop population growth #Rural Development

What kept me busy since we started with our Rural Development class was the video we watched about how to stop population growth with Hans Rosling. He stated that the only solution to stop population growth is to increase child survival. Is it really as simple as it sounds? What else can be done to stop population growth?

Population growth is defined as the “change in the size of a population – which can be either positive or negative – over time, depending on the balance of births and deaths” (Encyclopedia 2002). This is the global view and immigrations or emigrations don’t matter. Right now there are 7,022,236,217 people (Worldometers 2012) living on our planet and the distance between the poorest and the richest is greater than ever (Rosling 2010). The number is continuously growing to estimated 9.1 billion people in 2050 (United Nations 2010), the growth will mainly take place in developing countries.

Population growth is a huge problem because we have limited resources on our planet and more and more people cause environmental and health problems, like deforestation for food production, overcrowded cities and expansion of diseases (Vaux). Additionally population growth puts an enormous pressure on the food system, which has not only to produce more, but more in a sustainable way without the overexploitation of natural resources. The FAO (2009) estimates that the food production has to increase by 70% to be able to feed the “larger, more urban and richer population” in 2050.

So how to stop population growth? The measures can be divided into three sections – Education, Birth Control and Government Incentives (Vaux) – all accompanied by an increase of child survival.

“When you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” says Kalunde from Tanzania (Carrington 2011)

Education is crucial in reducing population growth. Women who know about family planning and how to care for their babies will have fewer children and a better quality of life. Additionally women need to be empowered and get access to education and healthcare (Oxfam 2011, 14).

Birth Control describes the possibility to prevent fertilization through several techniques, e.g. condoms or birth control pill. Hence birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies and increase the self determination of women.

The Government can give Incentives, like tax breaks, to keep the family size low. These incentives can be accompanied by education projects to raise awareness about the costs of big families.

It doesn’t matter which way a government chooses to reduce population growth, one thing should be considered always: increase of child survival. Hans Rosling mentioned, that an increase of the life expectancy of children will result in a lower population growth, because woman can be sure that their children survive and count on quality rather than quantity. This is directly related to the fourth Millennium Development Goal, which aims to “Reduce child mortality” (UNDP 2012). You can watch here the Millennium News from Kenya on the fourth Millennium Development Goal (7:51 min):

Pinche aquí para ver el vídeo

“Almost nine million children still die each year before they reach their fifth birthday” (UNDP 2012) – the causes are mainly preventable.

Life expectancy (“average life span of a newborn”, Rosenberg 2010) can serve as an indicator on how healthy a country is. It will decrease if there are famine, war or diseases prevalent in a country and it can increase due to enhancements in health and hygiene. This already gives the starting point for the roadmap on how to increase child survival: Through improved hygienic condition, safe access to food and education and political stability. The main challenge will be to create the need for the governments to act and to overcome the unequal power relations.

I personally think that the strategy to stop population growth is a mixture of all measures described above and it must be adjusted to regional conditions. Child survival might be the key, but cannot remain the only action. We need education on family planning, at the same time techniques for birth control and enhancements in health and hygiene. We need to ensure a sustainable social and ecological development, equal opportunities and an increase of access to education.

Resources, last accessed 15.02.2012:

Carrington D (2011) Why women’s education in Tanzania is critical for slowing population growth, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/oct/24/women-education-tanzania-population

Encyclopedia (2002) Population Growth, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Population_growth.aspx

FAO (2009) How to Feed the World in 2050, http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/expert_paper/How_to_Feed_the_World_in_2050.pdf

Oxfam (2011) Growing a Better Future, Food justice in a resource-constrained world, http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/growing-a-better-future-010611-en.pdf

Rosenberg M (2010) Life Expectancy, http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/lifeexpectancy.htm

Rosling H (2010) Hans Rosling on global population growth, http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth.html

UNDP (2012) Millennium Development Goal 4, Where do we stand?, http://www.beta.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/mdg_goals/mdg4/where_do_we_stand.html

United Nations (2010) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision Population Database, http://esa.un.org/wup2009/unup/index.asp?panel=1

Vaux R (without year) Ways to Stop Population Growth, http://www.ehow.com/way_5266375_ways-stop-population-growth.html

Worldometers (2012) Current World Population, 15.02.2012, 18:46, http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

Rural Development – Food security, to end poverty and achieve Sustainable development

In my discussion i will talk about three things; poverty, food Security and sustainable development in developing countries.

We will define Food security as having access to nutritious, safe, personally acceptable and culturally appropriate foods, produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just. Poverty will be defined as lack of basic human need, which commonly includes claen and portable water, nultrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. Sustainable development will be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

I will try to point out how the three are related and see how Poverty and Food insercurity affect Sustainable Development in the context of developing countires. In the developed countries,most of the population live in the cities, and are able to buy food from the shops and eat for their daily life, this is different in developing countries, where 85% of the population live in rural areas and depend on what they produce for both their food and financial sources.  Most of these people are illiterate, poor and vulnerable to alot of crisises, and this also affects their ability to produce and this results in food insecurity. There are also other problems which affect their ability to achieve food security like










Since 85% of the population in this developing countries live in the rural areas, and are exposed to these chalanges, and they are in a dilema on how to get food which is the main basic need for life, and the major challenge is that most of these countries economy depends on the agriculture sector. Pro-poor transformation of rural economies requires increasing agricultural productivity and efficiency along value chains, diversifying economic activity, and integrating the rural economy into the broader economy through sound market systems.

From The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003 (http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/006/j0083e/j0083e00.htm). ‘In general the countries that suceeded in reducing hunger were characterised by more rapid economic growth and specifically more rapid growth in their agriculture sectors. They also exhibited slower population growth, lower levels of HIV and higher ranking int he  Human Development Index. We can see here that food security is related to health, education as well as population growth, and this can well explained why most of the poor countries are having population, health and education problems. I personally feel that achieving food security at household level, can contribute a lot in economic growth of a country.  This will be through different ways like;

When we look at Human Development Index which is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living,of a country, attaining food security at household level can greatly improve perfomance of a particular developing country through improved health, education and living standards, this will result in a lower rank in the HDI. Even if we want to measure the country using the Gross national Hapiness (GNH), we will still have these countries ranked low, since food is the main source of hapiness for every human being.  It is also the agriculture sector which provides raw materials to most of the manufacturing and services, therefore improving the production of the raw materials will also improve the the manufacturing industry and may result in penetration into the global markets, hence improved economic growth.

The question now lies on how we can achieve food security at household level? I personally feel that the following can help;


Lastly let me point out how poverty and food insecurity affects sustainable development in the least developing countries.  generally, a human being will always try to survive where problems arise, in case of poverty, the majority have resulted in activities like deforestration for both firewood and charcoal selling, poaching, fishing, and other activities which are working against sustainable development. Most of the times, it is for the daily´s survival. All these activities are working against the attainment of food security in the long run, for example deforastation results in land degradation which affects the productivity of the land and it becomes a cycle. I therefor conclude that for us to achieve sustainable development, we need to start at houseohold level and that will improve the ladder as we go.

Food Security, http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Food_security#Achieving_food_security

Human Development Index, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index

FAO report, http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/004/X3936E/X3936E07.htm

Challenges to agricultural development in developing countries, http://www.pdfarticles.com/topic/food+security+problems+in+developing+countries+ppt.html#



Rural Development: Food-Aid/Local Agriculture/Food Self-Sufficiency –> Paradox

As the class of rural development started and the discussions of food security and food aid emerged. It started to seem obvious that there are evident flaws in food systems, that there is something wrong, on the way these programs are implemented and the problems they are trying to resolve. For this reason I felt intrigued to explore the broader picture and explore the causes and root problems of these issues.

The question to answer is: Why after decades of development aid and food aid, developing countries are still facing food insecurity? Traditionally food aid has been given by the commitment of developed countries (DC) to set up a food aid budget. From this derives the first problem which is that food aid is set up on monetary terms and not on metric units which mean the actual amount of food aid varies from year to year depending on food prices. Therefore on  years which food market prices increase (the years where food aid is the most needed due to the countries inability to import food) the least amount of food is given, because with the budgeted money DC buy a whole lot less food for the same price.

The outcome of this inconsistency in food aid from year to year causes that aid receiving countries can’t plan proper development strategies. There has been attempts to standardize this and eliminate this problems with initiatives like the “Paris Declaration” and the “Marrakesh Decision” which aim to reduce the negative impacts on net food importing developing countries. The main targets of the Marrakesh Decision are to encourage aid giving countries to commit to the provision of food-aid, technical and financial support, favorable agriculture export credits, and short term finance facilities that allow maintaining normal levels of food imports.  However there has been criticism against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in adequately implementing such mechanisms. Another important point is that increasing food aid and its predictability must not divert attention from corner stone of food security which is the need to rebuild the agriculture and enhance local capacities to produce food.

The main catch in developing local agriculture is also negatively affected by food aid. On a local market, food shortages trigger high food prices which incentives the investment in local agriculture industries. When food aid is given this automatically lowers the price of food stagnating the capacity building and the investment in the agrarian sector. Therefore is crucial for food aid programs to make sure they don’t cause distortions on local food markets that might affect local producer’s profit margins making agriculture not profitable.

Some might argue that food self-sufficiency increases food security only when agricultural potential exists for the country. It is said that in such countries, the amount of investment needed to develop the industry represents a high opportunity cost. Therefore it is better to produce other types of goods and generate wealth in order to have the capacity to import food. I think this approach is no longer valid due the new challenges facing humanity such as climate change and volatile and distorted food markets. However developed countries where agriculture is not very feasible are opting for these kind food self-sufficient initiatives such as Israel which has over years developed technology to enable food production. Nowadays this country with limited natural resources is largely food self-sufficient (except for grains and beef). Showing clearly that to make front to future food shortages around the world one of the best bets is the strengthening of the local agriculture sector and the development of cheaper agrarian technologies.

Food aid will continue to be necessary for developing as food it is a human right, but if there is will to change food dependency and insecurity on the long run is necessary to tackle this problem from the root by promoting self sufficient agrarian aid policies for countries at least on basic foods. As well as providing aid based on the specific needs of a determined population. I believe the aim of aid should be to get a country on its feet and be less dependent on external help. It is also worth mentioning that development programs throughout the years have clearly shown that if aid dependency is to decrease, bottom up approaches are more effective rather than dumping aid on a country.


Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr. Olivier De Schutter*, The role of development cooperation and food aid in realizing the right to adequate food: moving from charity to obligation

Agriculture Development and Food Security, Presentation of the Secretary-General’s Report to the 64th General Assembly







#Innovation# Open Innovation / Lead User Innovation

For a long time we have being bombarded with the idea that globalization promotes the integration and connection of people around the world. But there is another result of this process that has been observed in the recent past and has an enormous impact on companies’ ability to compete, which is the gain of importance of the final consumer on setting up the characteristics of companies’ supply chain and products. Regardless the main causes for this, which could range from the quick diffusion of consumer’s level of satisfaction among other potential ones (fear) to the perception that it’s possible to capture people needs easier and faster (proactive), this trend has been observed in many markets.

In innovation it’s not different. Companies realized that their costumers can be part of the innovation process, having an input as important as or even more important than those inputs emerged inside the institutions by professionals. It led some companies to apply the ideas of open innovation and lead user innovation. As stated by Baldwin, Hienerth and von Hippel (2006), most of the relevant innovation in many sectors emerged from consumers’ interaction with producers.

There are many well succeed cases of this theory. One good example of co-creation involving costumers and company is the rodeo kayak industry, also presented by Baldwin, Hienerth and von Hippel (2006). The industry started its commercial activities basically during the 70’s when some users responded to potential purchasers’ demand designing and producing boats similar to those that they made for themselves. The whole industry was then created by users and afterwards it evolved to a very collaborative market.

An example among the big players in the world is the program Connect+Develop of Procter & Gamble. The program calls costumers and institutions to innovate, applying a wide range of alternatives which involves co-creation¹ and crowdsourcing². Examples of these approaches are, respectively, partnerships with universities or other institutions and direct channels to be used by the final individual costumer.

3M, a company recognized for its ability to innovate is also promoting open innovation processes. They work with external scientists and institutions, interacting with final costumers through communication tools, such as blogs.

There are a countless number of initiatives like this being undertaken by companies and this theory is gaining support worldwide. According to Gassmann, Enkel and Chesbrough (2010), “taking stock of these different trends, it seems clear to us that open innovation has quite a long life left ahead of it, as there is a long and growing list of phenomena that it can help us understand and interpret. However, we should note that it is unlikely that ‘the last word’ will ever be spoken on a topic as dynamic as innovation. Open innovation should instead perhaps be viewed as ‘the next word.’” To conclude, it’s clear that innovating in the innovation process is a key factor to assure competitiveness to companies and opening it for external participants seems to be critical for the success of companies.

¹ Co-creation is the act of involving consumers directly, and in some cases repeatedly, in the product creation or innovation process. Companies engage with consumers on initial product concepts and ideas, and they use consumers as a resource throughout the product development life cycle

² Crowdsourcing is “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call


Baldwin, C. Y., Hienerth, C., & von Hippel, E. (2006). How user innovations become commercial products: A theoretical investigation and case study. Research Policy, 35(9), 1291-131

Gassmann, O., Enkel, E. & Chesbrough, H. (2010), The future of open innovation. R&D Management, 40: 213–221.




Climate Change: Clean Development Mechanism: BRT Metrobus Insurgentes, Mexico

This blog tries to analyzed the project BRT Metrobus Insurgentes developed in Mexico. It is a project included as a CDM registered in 10 August 2011. The projects host is Mexico while the country participant is Spain and reduce 46,544 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum. The objective of the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Metrobus Insurgentes in the Zona Metropolitana del Valle  de  México (ZMVM) was to establish an efficient, safe, rapid, convenient, comfortable and effective modern mass transit system based on a BRT system. The ZMVM has nearly 20 million inhabitants. The project transports annually around  80 million passengers.

Map 1. BRT Line of Project

The core aspect of the project was mainly to create a new infrastructure consisting of a BRT bus-only route with a length of 19.6 kilometres serviced by new articulated and bi-articulated Euro 3 or Euro 4 diesel buses with at-level boarding and alighting, real-time next bus information displays, pre-board ticketing and fare verification and rechargeable electronic cards for payment to streamline the boarding process.

Concerning to the sustainable development, the project contributes in a significant manner:

  1. Improved environment through less GHG and other air pollutant emissions, specifically particle matter, NOx and sulphur dioxide. This is achieved through a more efficient transport system and through new buses.
  2. Improved social well being as a result of less time lost in congestion, less respiratory diseases due to less particle matter pollution, less noise pollution and fewer accidents per passenger transported.
  3. Less accidents due to improved public transit organization and management.
  4. Economic benefits mainly on a macroeconomic level basically by reducing the economic costs of congestion.

The first BRT was established in Curitiba, Brazil in the 70ties. Bogota/Colombia then took a leading role early this century in world-class BRT systems. However it has not been technology transfer to the current project.

On the other hand, regarding to the environmental impact of the project, it was considered positive. The main impacts expected were the following:

Figure 1. BRT Bus Insurgente

The potential negative impacts detected were typical of road construction such as cutting trees, debris, noise and air pollution during construction, etc.

Regarding to the additionality of the project, it was determined using the “Tool for the demonstration and assessment of  additionality (version 05.2, EB 39 Annex 10)” (more information in CDM,2006).

On the other hand, the baseline case was included in order to estimate the impact without the project. The baseline emissions included the emissions that would have happened due to the transportation of the passengers who use the project activity, had the project activity not been implemented. This was differentiated according to the modes of transport (relevant vehicle categories) that the passengers would have used in the absence of the project. The baseline was a continuation of the current transport system consisting of various transport modes between which the population chooses: NMT (Non-Motorized Traffic) with bikes and per foot; Private passenger car; Taxis; Motorcycles; Buses and Metro or LRT.

For all above listed transport modes the emissions per passenger kilometre (PKM) were calculated except for the rail-based. Figure 1 gives an overview of baseline and project emissions. The baseline scenario incorporated technological advancements in terms of emissions per distance driven of various modes of transport as well as eventual fuel changes of baseline modes of transport during the project activity.

Figure 2: Baseline and Project Emission

Source: (CDM,2006)

In conclusion, the project by itself is causing a very positive impact in Mexico. However, it could not fulfill all the requirements to be considered as a CDM. Mexico is the first Latin America country to accredit verifiers agencies to control greenhouses emissions (Excelsior, 2011). Thus, although Mexico is located at No. 13 among the top of 15 greenhouse gas generators, it approved in 2009, the Special Climate Change Program 2008-2012, in which Mexico is committed to reducing GHG emissions by 20% in 2020 and 50% in 2050. So, it can be inferred that probably, Mexico is trying to improve the transport because it is one of the major contributors of greenhouse gases (bionero, 2012). Finally, regarding to the vulnerability to future climate change, the vulnerability of the “Valle de Mexico” appears to be high because it will cause droughts, rainfall and more severe cyclones, thereby affecting the availability of water. It is not appear to have consequence to the project by itself.



(Bionero, 2010). Retrieved 14/02/2012 from: http://www.bionero.org/ciencia/tiene-mexico-potencial-para-reducir-42-emisiones-de-co2

(CDM,2006). Clean Development Mechanism. Project Design Document Form (CDM-PDD). BRT Metrobus Insurgentes, Mexico. 6/05/2011Version 03 – in effect as of: 28

(Excelsior, 2011). Retrieved 14/02/2012 from: http://www.excelsior.com.mx/index.php?m=nota&id_nota=737295

(Verde, 2011). Retrieved 14/02/2012 from: http://www.verdebalam.com/blog/el-cambio-climatico-vuelve-mas-vulnerable-el-valle-de-mexico/



Rural Development Blog: “A Global Call for Adaptation of Values.”

Up to now no serious consideration has been paid to different impacts of global warming across countries, in especial, within the developing world. However few more degrees Celsius of planet warming will make developing countries suffering the worst effects.

An additional worrying fact is that around 70% of the inhabitants of these countries lives in rural areas with a direct dependence of agriculture and ecosystem services, therefore impacts such as: deaths, risk of desertification, water shortages, land degradation, health impacts, economic losses, weather variation and disaster and habitat loss will be worsened when local environmental conditions are already difficult.

Source: Climate Vulnerability Monitor Report 2010

Conversely climate change does not only pose a great risk for agriculture production but actually at same time is the biggest contributor for it with around 17 and 32 per cent of all human-induced greenhouse gases in the world, mainly by  the release of  CH4 from cattle and  land-use change. However poorer countries that are mostly reliant on agriculture and natural resources are not the big emitters by far, but the industrialized countries that farms on large scale utilizing agro technology intensively.

In order to deal with looming social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change impacts, a new strategy, is receiving significant approval in the world political agenda which is adaptation measures, meaning, the adjustment to the actual ad expected climate change effects that should be done in complement to further mitigation measures.

It has been revealed that Adaptation is an urgent priority in developing countries, costing around $100bn a year by 2020 according to Oxfam. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, conference in Durban, November last year outlined a framing for national adaptation that includes:

(a) To reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, by building adaptive capacity and resilience;

(b) To facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation, in a coherent manner, into relevant new and existing policies, programmes and activities, in particular development planning processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels, as appropriate;

Planning for adaptation at the national level is a continuous, progressive and iterative process, the implementation of which should be based on nationally identified priorities, including those reflected in the relevant national documents, plans and strategies, and coordinated with national sustainable development objectives, plans, policies and programmes.1

In the same conference at Durban an agreement on climate change adaptation came in the form of the official launch of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a funding and financing mechanism for both mitigation and adaptation efforts from developing countries. However it is important to point that most affected countries have in fact, the least capacity to adapt, hence here the need for the big emitters and richer countries to commit to more funding for adaptation measures.

Nonetheless climate change is a global problem because distribution of possible impacts across countries is an equity issue of all of us. Thus climate change adaptation resolution requires global cooperation through global policies, legislation and collaboration frameworks, and most important, the requirement of an adaptation of values towards an equitable and sustainable society worldwide.

20 years ago this was the principle outlined by UNFCCC: “Principle 3.The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992.

Since this date, the situation of most exposed countries and societies has been worse off due negative impacts from climate. But perhaps there will be some hope that the next Summit in Rio this year will set the right adaptation actions and values in other to reverse this vulnerable scenario.



Cline (2007): ‘Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country’, Center for Global Development. Available at: http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/14090

Stockholm Resilience Center: The nine planetary boundaries. http://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/researchnews/tippingtowardstheunknown/thenineplanetaryboundaries.4.1fe8f33123572b59ab80007039.html

Oxfam International. (2011). Growing a Better Future, Food justice in resource-constrained world report.



Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010


Global Adaptation Index™ (look only at the Vulnerability Index)


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


National Adaptation Plans


RD: Is food speculation the 21st century colonialism?

Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as ” the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas”. Colonialism has been a recurring stage all along the time; from Egyptians, Greeks, Portuguese and Spanish and so on. However, these colonialisms have changed towards a neocolonialism where large companies and entities are controlling politically, economically and socially some countries based on privatization, expropriation, land buying and land renting, marketing and speculation in commodities such as food.

2007 and 2008 were very hard years because of the economic recession and the drastic increase of food prices causing a dramatically increasing the number of hungry people globally (FAO, 2012). This situation has caused different problems in the poorest communities.  Not only because of the security of food supply by itself but also because the families have less money to spend in education or health. Although the main causes of this crisis appeared to be the rising in demand (China and India), low food stock due to bad harvests, restrictions on exports, production of biofuels, high prices of fertilizer and oil, as well as climatic factors, there is another factor more important: market speculation.

Figure1.  Index numbers of world trade price

Source: Jayati (2009)

The capitalist system has achieved the well-being in a large number of countries (India, China, Indonesia and so on). However, it also has allowed the creation of tools and mechanisms that are increasing the gap between richest and poorests. While the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in percentage terms, in absolute terms, these has risen (UN, 2012). The treatment of food (commodities) as financial instruments is squandering most of the possibilities of the poorest to reduce this gap. In fact, every day more speculators are investing in food markets, controling the food prices, while millions of people are dying each day by their inability to purchase food. For instance, according to (Lines, 2010), the number of outstanding contracts in maize futures increased from 500,000 in 2003 to almost 2.5 million in 2008.

In order to avoid this food chaos, the starting point must be to improve the transactions between companies (including international organization such as World Bank and the International Monetary Found, World Trade Organization) and countries. This improvement must lie in the control of the relationships between the companies and the governments without bargaining power; and the reduction of the subsidies to developed countries products in order to allow producers from developing countries to compete with developed countries products.

On the other hand, reinvestment and equity distribution has to be one the main economic policies to boost the development. Once the country has achieved the wealth from transactions, the international agencies should help them to redistribute it fairly between the population. It is important also, that inside the governments, the regulatory agencies, the politics and public agencies are able to understand and face the problems arose from the market speculation. It is necessary to acquire expertise in commodity markets, instead of regulating commodity derivatives and financial derivatives. Thus, agencies and governments and investors must distinguish between financial derivatives and commodity derivatives (Oliver, 2010); it is not the same to “play” with basic need than with secondary and tertiary sector activities. Another solution could be, according with (Munang, 2011), to promote more investment in locally-led, small-scale farming. It would help ensure longer-term food security for  the world’s most vulnerable under a changing climate and bring environmental benefits.

Moreover, not only the markets have to be revised but consumers should be the drivers of this change. Consumers have to limit the consumption of meat with a much higher ecological footprints (Oxfam, 2011) and to consume products with eco-labels such as Fair Trade (2012). It promotes the development of more sustainable products considering not only economical criteria but also political, social and ecological ones (including the rights of the producers).

In conclusion, although I think that currently we are facing to a new stage of colonialism due to big companies speculation, I really hope the future will be much greener, equitable and less selfish. Capitalism yes, but with socialism. How much we have to wait to get a total Decolonialism?


Javiti (2010) Jav¡ti Ghosh, The unnatural coupling: Food and Global Finance. (2010). Data retrieved 29/03/2009 from: http://faostat.fao.org/.

FAO (2012). Retrieved 29/01/2012 from: http://www.fao.org/news/story/0/item/20568/icode/en

FairTrade (2012). Retrieved 29/01/2012 from:  http://www.sellocomerciojusto.org/es/

Lines (2010). Lines, T. 2010. Speculation in food commodity market. World Development Movement

Munang (2011). Munang, R. and Nkem, J.N. (2011) Using Small-Scale Adaptation Actions to Address the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Going beyond Food Aid and Cash Transfers. Sustainability. 3: 1510-1516. www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/3/9/1510/

Oliver (2010). Oliver de Schutter. Briefing note 02- september 2010. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food

Oxfam (2011). Growing a Better Future, 2011. Retrieved 29/01/2012 from: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/growing-a-better-future-010611-en.pdf

UN (2012). Retrieved 29/01/2012 from: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/



The Paradox of Hunger and Obesity

Through our course on Rural Development, I learned of the complexities within the global food market, and how problems of food insecurity have arisen as a result of several factors, such as poverty, inequality, and social conflict. The problem of food insecurity has also been exacerbated by the processes involved in globalization, international trade, and technological advancement.

Among the many issues we touched on in class, however, one topic that I was able to learn more in detail (due to the group work that was assigned to us) was regarding the paradox of hunger and obesity. It is a fact that the two problems could co-exist in a given society or community. According to the New York Times, the paradox could exist in the same household or even in the same individual: “the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat” (Dolnick, 2010).

Fresh Produce

The country that my group decided to focus on was India because naturally the idea that we had on the topic of hunger vs. obesity mainly involved developing countries and economies in transition. We wanted to look at how the rapidly growing economy of India is dealing with these major issues and how it is affecting the development of the country.

However, reading more and more on this issue made me think of developed countries such as the United States, and how they too are experiencing this sort of problem. But in industrialized countries like the U.S, hunger or more accurately referred to in official reports as “food insecurity”, may not necessarily be physically apparent. For example, a person could be living in hunger, but due to the lack of access to fresh produce or inability to go to a proper grocery store, he or she will turn to eating whatever is available which could be pizzas, doughnuts, and other greasy types of food. These instant and unhealthy forms of food are often available at relatively low prices and frequent consumption of it causes individuals to become excessively overweight.

As explained by Mr. Berg, author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?,  “When you’re just trying to get your calorie intake, you’re going to get what fills your belly…And that may make you heavier even as you’re really struggling to secure enough food” (Dolnick, 2010).

Surviving on Fast Food

Many cases of food insecurity can be found in districts of New York, especially in boroughs like Brooklyn and the Bronx. From my own experience of living in New York City, I can see how the two problems of hunger and obesity could co-exist. As a young student with limited budget, I myself often frequented McDonald’s and other fast food joints simply because they were more accessible (their chains can be found at any given block in NYC) and because they were able to offer meals at low prices. However, I was fortunate in that I possessed other options to choose from, such as fresh vegetables and halal meat because I could afford to purchase them at the local grocery store.

Imagine the limitations of other groups of youth who may not be able to afford such options, and so have no choice but to survive daily on dollar menus that consist of fatty burgers and greasy fries.

According to Dr. Rundle of Columbia, the problem of hunger and obesity among the poor can also be caused by their lifestyle, an outcome of poverty: “Poor people ‘often work longer hours and work multiple jobs, so they tend to eat on the run’… ‘They have less time to work out or exercise, so the deck is really stacked against them’” (Dolnick, 2010).

Indeed the curious case of hunger and obesity is one that researchers are still trying to understand. It may be surreal for some of us to think of overweight people as individuals who are actually living in hunger. But the truth is that it happens and it is happening now as I write this blog post, which is why it is crucial for community leaders, legislators and policy-makers to understand that it is a hidden form of poverty, and can be linked to unemployment and major health concerns. If not seriously addressed, the paradoxical relationship between hunger and obesity will continue to persist and has potential to bring negative impacts to society as well as impede the sustainable development of a nation.

Obesity Trends in the U.S. from 1985 – 2003

Rural development: Terra Madre, an example to follow!

Recently, a project on “Using Small-Scale Adaptation Actions to Address the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Going beyond Food Aid and Cash Transfers” published by Sustainability – Open Access Journal[1] has concluded:

Small scale solutions guided by science/research have never been more critical to achieving food security than they are today. New research and new thinking will be indispensable as we adapt our farming systems to the challenges of climate change. Research and pilots that are conducted/ developed through democratic approaches not only better serve farmers working in the most difficult conditions, but they are the only way we can shift towards an agricultural paradigm with sustainability, food security and the prioritization of small food producers at its heart, rather than an agenda which raises aggregate food production in large units serving the global markets. The lessons learned from this project demonstrate that exposing food security solutions to the public by presenting it as a democratic issue, helps counterbalance the influence of vested interests and in levelling the playing field in favor of small producers. With transparency and accountability to those whom it is meant to serve, small scale adaptation solutions to food systems could spread their benefits much more evenly across communities of farmers and consumers alike”.[2]
Only trying to fix this scenario and engaging the worldwide small producers in a fair value network we could give them an opportunity to survive, as human being before and as farmers afterward. 

Following this philosophy Terra Madre brings together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable

agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity[3]; by now the network includes 2,000 food communities representing over 300,000 small-scale farmers in 153 countries, plus 1,000 cooks, 500 academics, and 1,000 youth[4], committed to establishing a good, clean and fair food system for all. Day by day this vast network is impacting the lives of over 1 million people through its activities and values.

This Organization is willing to give voice and visibility to the rural food producers who populate the world; to raise their awareness, as well as that of the population at large, of the value of their work. To sustain their ability to work under the best conditions and for these reasons, constructing a global network—with information-sharing tools, the means to learn from each other, and opportunities for collaboration in many ways—seemed invaluable. We must continue to have fertile lands, lands on which sprout and grow plants and animals appropriate to those environments, rather than needing to be pumped full of chemicals to make them thrive artificially. And we must also continue to have the people capable of stewarding these lands, to have their know-how, so we can have food that still carries the tastes of our once.

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Furthermore this growing network, besides the international meetings (The inaugural gathering of Terra Madre launched the network in 2004 in Torino, and was on an unprecedented scale. This first edition brought together 5000 producers from 130 countries and shone global media attention on their crisis) is acting even in different projects among  which Education, Biodiversity and Short chain

helped by an essential partner which is Slow Food[5] whose rallied public institutions as well as local, regional, and national bodies to collectively form the Terra Madre Foundation, further partnering with private companies and numerous like-minded networks, some of which were established specially for the event.

This vision is in direct opposition to pursuing a globalized marketplace, with the ongoing, systematic goal of increasing profit and productivity. Such methods have substantial externalities for which we, the guardians and inhabitants of this planet, pay the price. And the damage begins with small producers, lacking the means to create markets even within their own regions, who become crushed by subsidy systems that render their working conditions unfair.

[1] http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
[2] http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/3/9/1510/
[3] http://www.terramadre.info/pagine/welcome.lasso?n=en
[4] http://www.terramadre.org/pagine/fundraising/donate/welcome.lasso
[5] http://www.slowfood.com/donate/



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