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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Zimbabwe Resque Brigade, Revisted (Guest Blog)

Guest Blogger, Tristan Hayes responds to the The Zimbabwe Resque Brigade:

One particular item that bothered me about Mr. Holman's analysis was the solution of the commercial farming center on the Zimbabwean-Mozambican border. Some time ago I read an article mentioning the difficulties that the white Zimbabweans, who were forced off their lands have had in Mozambique. (The following article summarises these issues). I understand that for Zimbabwea to improve, that commercial farming is necessary. However, I do not feel that it is the international community's responsibility to bail these farmers out. The inequality was so great, what did they expect? I understand why Britain ceased its commitment to purchasing white owned farms for land redistribution, however, these farmers enjoyed two decades of prosperous farming following 1981. Equitable distribution of land was a central tenet of majority rule, and allowing descendants of colonialists to continue earning a rent from the status quo land distribution of pre-indpendence was simply untenable.

That said, I feel that Zimbabwe will have an immediate need for much more than 38 million UKBP for stabilization efforts. If the commonwealth does undertake the proposed commercial farming project, then benefactors of this project should be chosen out of the large swath of the educated and unemployed population, and not only those of colonial heritage. By instead using the 38 million UKBP for development projects involving the recently dispossessed, Britain will find itself in the perverse situation of reinstating the pre-independence land distribution.

25 comments:

  1. By instead using the 38 million UKBP for development projects involving the recently dispossessed, Britain will find itself in the perverse situation of reinstating the pre-independence land distribution.

    I think Tristan Hayes is getting the point. Being seen to reinstate the former order would do Britain's reputation a lot of harm across Africa.

    On the other hand. The Zimbabwean government has started a very lofty exercise in agrarian reform, which not only included land redistribution, but also tractorisation and mechanisation, and input support.

    This is what has to be supported by everyone involved.

    The only way they could (and should) return, is when everyone has access to the same amount of land. There is no real reason why anyone should have more than 100 hectares, if the land is well watered. There are many crops that can be grown commercially, that do not require perfect rainfall.

    Now if the British government can swallow it's pride, and admit that they too have made mistakes, everyone should get behind the program listed below (from October 18, 2007):

    (HERALD) All set for farming season

    All set for farming season
    Herald Reporter

    GOVERNMENT has secured enough seed, fertilizer, farming implements and fuel in anticipation of a successful 2007/08 farming season, says the Minister of Agriculture, Cde Rugare Gumbo. Speaking at a Press briefing in Harare yesterday on Zimbabwe’s agricultural preparedness for the forthcoming season, dubbed "The Mother of All Farming Seasons," Cde Gumbo said everything was in place.

    "But we really want to stress that emphasis is on yields and not hectarage. As the situation stands at present, most of our people are ready for the summer season. There is much enthusiasm," the minister said.

    Cde Gumbo said the country has targeted to put at least 2 million hectares under maize, 400 000ha under small grains (sorghum and millet), 600 000ha under tobacco, 120 000ha under soyabeans, 200 000ha under groundnuts, 400 000ha under cotton and 56 000ha under sugarcane.

    "These are the targets we want to achieve. The fact that we have indicated these figures does not mean we will stop," he said.

    ******

    "We are pleased with the performance of the operation in terms of providing inputs to rural areas," he said.

    He commended Government for phase two of the Farm Mechanisation Programme, which he said would go a long way in enhancing production among communal farmers who contribute at least 85 percent of the national maize output.

    Under phase two, Government distributed more than 50 000 animal-drawn implements including harrows, ploughs, cultivators and discs.

    In addition, Government distributed more than 1 200 tractors and combine harvesters to farmers as it intensifies its efforts to enhance agricultural production.

    ******

    A mother symbolises stability, care and everything good about life. So we are looking forward to the coming season we have termed ‘The Mother of All Farming Seasons’," Dr Gono said.

    He said at least 50 000 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer was available while 1 440 tonnes was with the GMB.

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  2. Equitable distribution of land was a central tenet of majority rule, and allowing descendants of colonialists to continue earning a rent from the status quo land distribution of pre-indpendence was simply untenable.

    the idea that it was a rent is pretty dubious.

    ere is no real reason why anyone should have more than 100 hectares, if the land is well watered. There are many crops that can be grown commercially, that do not require perfect rainfall.

    This is just wrong, in an economical sense.
    Furthermore if "perfect rainfall" wasn't required, why would the Zimbabwean government blame the drop in the output on rainfall ?
    I mean it's one thing to want to get rid of the Rhodesians, it's another to argue that the post-reform structure will simply ignore economies of scale or the need for irrigation (especially in a country with cyclical droughts).


    The Herald article sounds like a bolshevik pamphlet. Workers of the world, produce more ! Let's reach the goal of a million tons of steel ! It doesn't matter if you don't get from it or if no one buys it ! Just produce !

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  3. I agree with random african regarding the herald article. It sounds like it came straight from the PR office of Zanu-PF.

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  4. It sounds like it came straight from the PR office of Zanu-PF.

    That's insulting to Zanu-PF. I'm pretty sure they have smart people too.

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  5. Tristan,

    It doesn't matter what it 'sounds' like, it matters what it is.

    I have no reason to doubt what they are saying. If you do, please share.

    Random,

    ere is no real reason why anyone should have more than 100 hectares, if the land is well watered. There are many crops that can be grown commercially, that do not require perfect rainfall.

    This is just wrong, in an economical sense. Furthermore...

    No, no 'Furthermore...'.

    How is this 'just wrong, in an economical sense.'?

    Please substantiate your argument.

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  6. One real reason why anyone should have more than 100 hectares:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_scale

    On the perfect rainfall requirement:

    http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/zimbabwe/index.stm

    "The major constraint to agricultural production in the country is drought. Whereas in years of good rainfall the country produces enough to feed the nation and enjoys a surplus for export, in years of drought the reverse is the case. About 80 percent of the land area lies in NRs III, IV and V where rainfall is erratic and inadequate, making rainfed agriculture a risky venture. In these areas irrigation is a prerequisite for successful crop production."

    At the end, to come back to the pre-perform output level and hopefully surpass it, there will have to be mechanisation of techniques and land consolidation. You can wish all you want that a miraculous crop will eventually make the small-farm/no-irrigation model work as good (meanwhile generate as much revenue) as the commercial model, it's simply not the case right now.

    As I said, it's one thing to get rid of the white farmers, it's another to think that miracles happen.

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  7. well looks like land in Zimbabwe rightfully belongs to it's people.period.now if anyone wants land to farm go the lands ministry and apply for land.tell me why the settlers thought god gave them land,because they killed the native to weaken them and grab their land.so what has happened is no suprise to africans it was just the people got theirs back.so all critics should keep quiet.

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  8. Random,

    One real reason why anyone should have more than 100 hectares:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_scale


    Just mentioning 'economies of scale' is not enough. Firstly, having 100 hectares in no way precludes anyone from belonging to a cooperative and purchasing inputs or machinery near wholesale prices, or using them collectively. They can still belong to an organisation that takes care of transportation, marketing, etc.

    Secondly, farmers can farm more intensively, when they have 100 hectares, as opposed to 1000 hectares. They use their land more efficiently, and can give more attention to individual crops, resulting in a better product. They can also have more biodiversity in their fields, which translates into natural pest control, better use of composting and crop rotation, etc. There will also be a greater diversity of crops, and less area under a single crop, which will reduce pests and diseases. And, one reason people cite for bee colony death, is that they are being fed a diet for corn only, on these huge agrobusinesses.

    One reason why these estates often barely have 10% of their land under cultivation, is because a single farmer can only farm so much land. This is the real reason why 80% of arable land is not under cultivation (together with a lack of irrigation).

    On the perfect rainfall requirement:

    http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/zimbabwe/index.stm

    "The major constraint to agricultural production in the country is drought. Whereas in years of good rainfall the country produces enough to feed the nation and enjoys a surplus for export, in years of drought the reverse is the case. About 80 percent of the land area lies in NRs III, IV and V where rainfall is erratic and inadequate, making rainfed agriculture a risky venture. In these areas irrigation is a prerequisite for successful crop production."


    The constraint is absence of water, not drought - those are not the same thing. Because of lack of hydrology, most of Zambia's rainfall ends up in the rivers. If instead water was diverted to natural aquifers, or seasonal rivers were dammed, or water was fed into the groundwater through digging swales, then water would be available most of the year.

    This video on permaculture designer Geoff Lawton, called Greening The Desert gives a good view of the effect of swales on groundwater levels.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

    On small farms:

    Small farms fit

    Sustainable farms are small. They're mixed -- mixed crops, mixed trees and mixed livestock, with all three mixed together in an integrated pattern that mimics natural biodiversity and reaps the benefits of collaborating with nature.

    The main benefit is health: healthy crops and livestock, healthy soil, and healthy yields, along with low input costs.

    This kind of farming is intense and needs close management, and since they're usually family farms, this is why they're small: a family can't manage a bigger farm properly.

    Anyway, there's no need to: mixed family farms provide sustenance, food security and a healthy surplus for sale or barter -- they far out-produce the bigger, mechanized farms.


    Also, more medium sized farms will do more for job creation and raising income levels, than a few large farms will.

    And they're completely sustainable, don't need huge amounts of fertilizer and can be handed down from generation to generation.

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  9. Firstly, having 100 hectares in no way precludes anyone from belonging to a cooperative and purchasing inputs or machinery near wholesale prices, or using them collectively. They can still belong to an organisation that takes care of transportation, marketing, etc.

    You're right it doesn't. However there are coordination issues in cooperative, not to mention the fact that in most places, it's the huge farms that drive the price of inputs down for everybody.

    Secondly, farmers can farm more intensively, when they have 100 hectares, as opposed to 1000 hectares. They use their land more efficiently, and can give more attention to individual crops, resulting in a better product. They can also have more biodiversity in their fields, which translates into natural pest control, better use of composting and crop rotation, etc. There will also be a greater diversity of crops, and less area under a single crop, which will reduce pests and diseases.


    hmm.. i'm a bit confused.
    I don't know what you mean by farming more intensively or using land more efficiently.
    Are you saying a small farm uses more or its land at any given time ?

    On crop rotation, diversity of crops, or even conservation, the story may be more complicated. The more land one has, the easier it is to grow different crops. to put some on fallow, to experiment with different stuff or to use some as collateral without too much risk.

    One reason why these estates often barely have 10% of their land under cultivation, is because a single farmer can only farm so much land.

    that's why God invented division of labour, employment and all those weird features of the capitalist economy !

    The constraint is absence of water, not drought - those are not the same thing.

    No, the constraint is the irregularity of the rainfalls. With is an almost universal contraint once you get away from the equator.
    So yeah, you're right, diverting rivers, daming seasonal rivers is a solution. However I don't see how that translates into "There are many crops that can be grown commercially, that do not require perfect rainfall."


    You should really stop swallowing so much alter-globalist luddist sort-of-green propaganda. The mention of family farming, the implication that subsistence agriculture is a beautiful thing, the focus on biodiversity before productivity are really annoying.

    It's really an issue of priorities. And those people value esthetics and their preference for a world where people are stuck in family farms for generations more than actual agricultural producitivity. Now that's nice and everything, but when so many of us are suffering from hunger or at risk of potential hunger, I would think that Africans should value producing cheap food first.

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  10. Random,

    hmm.. i'm a bit confused. I don't know what you mean by farming more intensively or using land more efficiently. Are you saying a small farm uses more or its land at any given time ?

    Among other things, yes. Percentage wise, they have more of their land under cultivation. Also, they can spend more time taking care of the land, and create more biodiversity.

    Many farmers in the west are turning away from chemically based agriculture, and using their land smarter.

    For instance, they have their soil always covered by one crop or another, to prevent soil erosion. They use crop rotation, to make use of the different root lengths of differen species of plants, and to return nitrogen to the soil naturally, through nitrogen fixing crops.

    On crop rotation, diversity of crops, or even conservation, the story may be more complicated. The more land one has, the easier it is to grow different crops. to put some on fallow, to experiment with different stuff or to use some as collateral without too much risk.

    It is just as easy to use crop rotation on a 10 hectare farm as it is on a 1000 hectare farm. Also, they are moving away from leaving the land fallow and without crop cover to prevent erosion.

    And the farms I suggest aren't that small. They are 100 hectares, the average size of a commercial farm in Europe. This allows a lot of flexibility for the farmer.

    If they have half of that, 50 hectares, under maize, then they can have a conservatively estimated yield of 100 tonnes (2 tonnes per hectare). With a per tonne price of USD $200, that is a turnover of $20,000. If half of that is cost, that leaves them with an income of $10,000.

    That is the sort of thing that can put a real dent in rural poverty, unemployment, urbanisation, and food shortages.

    At the same time, the farmer then has another 50 hectares to do things with - agroforrestry, cattle farming, growing cattle feed, fish ponds, etc. that would add more to their income. The farmer's children would have enough space to set up their own companies, like greenhouses, growing labour intensive herbs, cut flowers, worm farms, etc. Which would also increase employment opportunities for non-relatives.

    The constraint is absence of water, not drought - those are not the same thing.

    No, the constraint is the irregularity of the rainfalls. With is an almost universal contraint once you get away from the equator.
    So yeah, you're right, diverting rivers, daming seasonal rivers is a solution. However I don't see how that translates into "There are many crops that can be grown commercially, that do not require perfect rainfall."


    You would be surprised how much rain actually falls over the year. Therefore, with proper rainwater storage, irregularity of rainfalls doesn't matter as much if at all.

    More drought resistant crops would be sorghum versus maize, hemp versus wheat, etc.

    You should really stop swallowing so much alter-globalist luddist sort-of-green propaganda. The mention of family farming, the implication that subsistence agriculture is a beautiful thing, the focus on biodiversity before productivity are really annoying.

    And you shouldn't ascribe things to me I haven't said.

    Where on earth have I said that 'subsistance farming is a beautiful thing'? How is having 100 hectares subsistence farming? Most subsistence farmers have 2 to 3 hectares, which is what I am trying to get away from.

    I'm sorry that you think 'the focus on biodiversity before productivity' is annoying. But I think that you are seeing 'productivity' in a very narrow way - namely yield per hectare.

    If you are really concerned about productivity, remember that most of arable land is not under cultivation. Productivity does not have to come from having a greater yield per hectare, but can come from having more hectares in production.

    Also, I really wish you informed yourself about organic agriculture. There are many ways in which it is superior to chemical agriculture, not in the least because of in what state it leaves the soil.

    But we've discussed this before. And you made the same argument before.

    Where I live, many farmers are switching to organic agriculture. Instead of spraying, they combine different crops to break the pest's life cycle. They use predatory insects to keep pests down. They use biologically degradable products like neem oil to deter pests.

    You should really get informed about organic agriculture, and not just be convinced of predetermined outcomes. Or that it is somehow 'not modern' (my interpretation of what you are saying).

    It's really an issue of priorities. And those people value esthetics and their preference for a world where people are stuck in family farms for generations more than actual agricultural producitivity. Now that's nice and everything, but when so many of us are suffering from hunger or at risk of potential hunger, I would think that Africans should value producing cheap food first.

    There is a direct contradiction in what you are saying. You say 'many of us are suffering from hunger and/or at risk from potential hunger', but you put down 'a world where people are stuck in family farms'.

    If those farms are 100 hectares, they are in no way stuck. It is a massive step up. Also, family farm in no way means unmechanized. In fact, mechanization makes commercial production less labour intensive, meaning that one family can manage 100 hectares of land.

    It is alright to produce cheap food, but how are people going to afford even cheap food, when they have no jobs, and don't even grow their own food like in the cities? And if that food is produced by foreign owned agribusinesses, the economic impact is going to be minimal. (See prof.Clive Chirwa's tape 3 on the importance of integrated supply chains.)

    I strongly urge you to revisit what you think you know about organic agriculture.


    On comparing organic versus chemically based agriculture:

    Organic Agriculture Fights Back

    Critics of organic agriculture claim that it is based more on ideology than on environmental or economic merit. Lim Li Ching reviews the evidence and turns the table on the critics.

    The most remarkable results of organic farming, however, have come from small farmers in developing countries. Case studies of organic practices show dramatic increases in yields as well as benefits to soil quality, reduction in pests and diseases and general improvement in taste and nutritional content. For example, in Brazil the use of green manures and cover crops increased maize yields by between 20% and 250%; in Tigray, Ethiopia, yields of crops from composted plots were 3-5 times higher than those treated only with chemicals; yield increases of 175% have been reported from farms in Nepal adopting agro-ecological practices; and in Peru the restoration of traditional Incan terracing has led to increases of 150% for a range of upland crops.

    Projects in Senegal involving 2000 farmers promoted stall-fed livestock, composting systems, use of green manures, water harvesting systems and rock phosphate. Yields of millet and peanuts increased dramatically, by 75-195% and 75-165% respectively. Because the soils have greater water retaining capacity, fluctuations in yields are less pronounced between high and low rainfall years. A project in Honduras, which emphasized soil conservation practices and organic fertilisers, saw a tripling or quadrupling of yields.


    Organic Sector Development in Zambia
    Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ)
    By Patrick Mungaila, OPPAZ Coordinator
    http://www.unep-unctad.org/CBTF/events/nairobi2/Zambia%20ppt.pdf

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  11. Random,

    More articles on organic agriculture. I am not going to get into a debate whether anyone is partisan, or whether yield is higher or lower. However, I an say that I have grown some plants organically versus chemically, and the taste of organic produce is always better and cleaner. Even food from the store that is grown hydroponically does not taste as good as organically grown food.

    Br. Paul's Organic Cotton and Vegetable Farm

    Jesuit brother breaks all the rules he learned in agricultural college, and shows how to bring food security to the world
    Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

    Organic cotton is possible and highly profitable

    Brother Paul Desmarais of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre of Lusaka in Zambia is a happy man. He has just demonstrated that cotton can be grown organically, and furthermore, at yields up to more than twice the national average. That is quite an achievement as cotton is notorious for consuming the most agrochemicals of any crop, some 21 percent of that consumed worldwide; and most people have been led to believe that cotton cannot be grown without chemical sprays.

    “I am confident that anyone can grow cotton organically in Zambia”, says Br. Paul, beaming from ear to ear. You need to do only two things: increase the fertility of the soil with organic matter, and put extra local plant species into the cotton fields to control insect pests.”

    Read more...


    This is what I mean with the benefit of biodiversity:

    The species inter-planted with the cotton crop are those that attract pests away from the cotton crop or beneficial predators, or provide home for beneficial predators; many species serving both purposes. For example, munsale (sweet sorghum) attracts bollworm and aphids as well as a host of beneficial insects; nyemba (cowpeas) provides a habitat and food source for ants and predatory wasps, and also attracts the pests leafhoppers, aphids and bollworms; sanyembe (sunhemp) is highly attractive to beneficial insects as a border crop and controls nematodes as well. Delele (okra) attracts bollworms, caterpillars and leaf eaters; milisi (maize) traps aphids on tassels and bollworms; mupilu (mustard) attracts beneficial hover flies and parasitic wasps as well as aphids on which they feed.

    Pests are like small children sitting at a dinner table. On one plate there are potatoes and broccoli, on the other plate hamburgers and fries. They will go for the hamburgers and fries every time. Therefore, all an organic farmer has to do is present his crop's pests with a food that they prefer. At the same time, the actual crop can be watered with neem oil, making that crop lethal for gnawing and sucking insects. (Neem oil has been in human use for many thousands of years, without known side effects - making it very safe for human consumption. Many people put it on their skin or use them as washes.)

    If you then also set predator insects on the pest's preferred food, you can really limit their numbers. Predatory mites, praying mantis, ladybirds can all be bought and then grown on the farm itself.

    Organic agriculture is all about applying intelligence and observing natural processes, rather than applying chemicals. And the more farmers there are, the more attention can be paid to the land and it's characteristics.

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  12. Percentage wise, they have more of their land under cultivation.

    I don't know if this is exactly a good thing if you have concerns abotu conservation and stuff.

    Many farmers in the west are turning away from chemically based agriculture, and using their land smarter.

    Well, after a hundred years of intensive agriculture I would too.

    It is just as easy to use crop rotation on a 10 hectare farm as it is on a 1000 hectare farm. Also, they are moving away from leaving the land fallow and without crop cover to prevent erosion.

    It depends on the risk factor and the minimum threehold for mechanization/productivity.

    You would be surprised how much rain actually falls over the year.

    No I wouldn't because i said IRREGULARITY. lol.

    More drought resistant crops would be sorghum versus maize, hemp versus wheat, etc.

    and they would make less money.

    Where on earth have I said that 'subsistance farming is a beautiful thing'?

    You haven't. However that link you posted up there IMPLIED it.

    But I think that you are seeing 'productivity' in a very narrow way - namely yield per hectare. 

If you are really concerned about productivity, remember that most of arable land is not under cultivation. Productivity does not have to come from having a greater yield per hectare, but can come from having more hectares in production.

    I'm seeing it simple terms: how to provide cheap food for millions of people. Yes there is plenty of un-cultivated arable land all over Africa but most of the time, it's uncultivated for a reason.
    With most of the agriculture having low productivity and being labour intensive, people cling to the most fertile of the land. Improving possible yield per hectare and using mechanisation would put more land to use.

    Also, I really wish you informed yourself about organic agriculture. There are many ways in which it is superior to chemical agriculture, not in the least because of in what state it leaves the soil.

    Something like 50% of what I eat is organic.
    No joke.
    However, I know the price that I pay for it and I know that something most westerners can barely afford is certainly not a solution my even poorer countrymen.
    When it get cheap, we can talk about it.

    There is a direct contradiction in what you are saying. You say 'many of us are suffering from hunger and/or at risk from potential hunger', but you put down 'a world where people are stuck in family farms'.

    No contradiction. But rather 2 different concerns. On one hand, mass production of anything makes it cheaper and more affordable FOR EVERYONE. On the other hand, most people don't want to farm. There are other ways to be productive and it's fine.
    Industrialization of agriculture does both.

    It is alright to produce cheap food, but how are people going to afford even cheap food, when they have no jobs, and don't even grow their own food like in the cities? And if that food is produced by foreign owned agribusinesses, the economic impact is going to be minimal.

    People have jobs. The problem is that the jobs they have barely mantains them at subsistence levels because the price of food is not going down. And beyond that cheaper food would liberate a big part of their income which then could generate a demand shock.
    (as long as people spend 80% of what they make on food, they're not likely to buy your locally made manufactured products)

    And I don't really care about whether it's foreign, local, mixed ownership. The whole "nationality of owners determines impact" thing is just silly. The jobs, the wages, the price, the taxes, the upstream consumption, the downstream consumption generated by a company have much more impact than profits.

    But once again, I don't really care either way. If the proposal is to create locally-owned industries, manifactures or agribusiness, it's fine. As long as there's as much industrial, manufacturing and agricultural activity as possible. That's all that matters.

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  13. However, I an say that I have grown some plants organically versus chemically, and the taste of organic produce is always better and cleaner. Even food from the store that is grown hydroponically does not taste as good as organically grown food.

    ahahah yeah, it's true.
    HOWEVER, I think nurishment comes before taste. People who only get one meal a day will happily exchange it for 3 nurishing bland ones.

    Even the Bolsheviks knew that.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Random,

    It is alright to produce cheap food, but how are people going to afford even cheap food, when they have no jobs, and don't even grow their own food like in the cities? And if that food is produced by foreign owned agribusinesses, the economic impact is going to be minimal.

    People have jobs. The problem is that the jobs they have barely mantains them at subsistence levels because the price of food is not going down. And beyond that cheaper food would liberate a big part of their income which then could generate a demand shock.

    My point is that if you raise their wages, by employing them in agriculture, you both make food more available, and raise people's incomes at the same time.

    I agree that lower food prices will specifically help the poor, but so will raising their wages.

    And by the way, the official unemployment rate is 70%, so I'm not sure if people really have jobs.

    Something like 50% of what I eat is organic. No joke. However, I know the price that I pay for it and I know that something most westerners can barely afford is certainly not a solution my even poorer countrymen. When it get cheap, we can talk about it.

    For the last time, the total availability of food does not come from greater yield per hectare alone, but about how much arable land is under cultivation. And when 80% of arable land is not under cultivation, that is where the lowering of the price of food is going to come from. In the west, yield per hectare matters and is reflected in the price, because there is not going to be more arable land than is presently under cultivation.

    The cost of chemical agriculture is that in 50 years the land will be depleted. In organic agriculture, the present activity actually contributes to the quality of the land, and the land will not go out of production for thousands of years to come.

    ahahah yeah, it's true.
    HOWEVER, I think nurishment comes before taste. People who only get one meal a day will happily exchange it for 3 nurishing bland ones.

    Even the Bolsheviks knew that.


    I think you are underestimating how much food will become available when the state creates tens of thousands of 100 hectare farms.

    A few agribusinesses are not going to take care of that. They will also employ far fewer people. There will be virtually no spinoff businesses. They will not slow urbanisation.

    In the end, the economy is not about corporations, but about people.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My point is that if you raise their wages, by employing them in agriculture, you both make food more available, and raise people's incomes at the same time.
    And by the way, the official unemployment rate is 70%, so I'm not sure if people really have jobs.


    Argh. Most people already work in agriculture. And the ones who don't left for a reason !

    I agree that lower food prices will specifically help the poor, but so will raising their wages.

    Not in the supply stays unchanged. In those cases, all you have is more imports.

    And when 80% of arable land is not under cultivation, that is where the lowering of the price of food is going to come from. In the west, yield per hectare matters and is reflected in the price, because there is not going to be more arable land than is presently under cultivation.

    Have you ever took a road trip in France or the United States, two agricultural powerhouses ? Or in Australia ?
    Well had you taken a trip in those places, you would have realized how much empty, unusued land they have. So the idea that they've somehow hit a limit of arable land is silly.

    But beyond that, the unused land in Africa is unused because it wouldn't productive with the current agricultural techniques !

    A few agribusinesses are not going to take care of that. They will also employ far fewer people. There will be virtually no spinoff businesses. They will not slow urbanisation. 

In the end, the economy is not about corporations, but about people.

    There will be no spin-off businesses ? Why ? Commercial farms don't use transport or financial services or a bunch of other stuff ?
    I don't see why slowing urbanization is such a priority of yours. Most humans live in cities and love it. For a bunch of different reasons. So why try to slow it at all ?

    In the end, the economy is not about corporations, but about people.
    LOL.
    Yeah it's about people, not corny ideals promoted by western hippies.
    People work for corporations, own stock in corporations, buy from corporations.

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  16. Random,

    My point is that if you raise their wages, by employing them in agriculture, you both make food more available, and raise people's incomes at the same time. And by the way, the official unemployment rate is 70%, so I'm not sure if people really have jobs.

    Argh. Most people already work in agriculture. And the ones who don't left for a reason !

    Ok, Random. It is ok not to understand something. There are lots of things that I don't understand. But I don't presume that the person I am talking to must be an idiot, or resort to exclamations like 'argh'. If I would, I would do nothing else.

    I am not saying that people employed in agriculture at any wage would make a difference. I am not saying that their employment in agriculture is somehow virtuous in and of itself.

    What I am saying is that their wages would be a lot higher, if they were working larger plots of land and were able to freely sell their produce. Now, I have already shown how it would be possible for a farmer who is growing 50 hectares of maize to earn $10,000 per year. The average income is $280 per year. And that is especially reflective of subsistence farmers, who live in rural areas where poverty is greatest.

    It is all in the numbers.

    I agree that lower food prices will specifically help the poor, but so will raising their wages.

    Not in the supply stays unchanged. In those cases, all you have is more imports.

    Which is why no one is arguing that 'supply stays unchanged'.

    I am talking about increasing the amount of food that is produced.

    Maybe you're bad with numbers, which is why the fact that I keep saying that *80% of arable land is not under cultivation* is not sinking in, and why you keep harping on productivity per hectare when it comes to putting down organic agriculture.

    And I am not even conceding that organic agriculture has lower productivity per hectare, because there seem to be many exceptions to that claim. Some of which I've listed.

    There will be no spin-off businesses ? Why ? Commercial farms don't use transport or financial services or a bunch of other stuff ?

    Very few, and virtually none when compared to having a huge middle class.

    In the end, the economy is not about corporations, but about people.
    LOL. Yeah it's about people, not corny ideals promoted by western hippies. People work for corporations, own stock in corporations, buy from corporations.

    And you, my friend, cannot dismiss ideas by labeling them.

    If you understood how few people are actually directly employed by corporations in the west, you would understand that having a few corporations is no substitute for having a thriving and broad based economy.

    Much of Zambia's poverty comes from the fact that there are a few western corporations, and there is the informal economy, and virtually nothing in between.

    That is the problem. And the solution is not having more corporations.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ok, Random. It is ok not to understand something. There are lots of things that I don't understand. But I don't presume that the person I am talking to must be an idiot, or resort to exclamations like 'argh'. If I would, I would do nothing else.

    That was me expressing frustration. I didnt mean to offend you and I apologize if i I did.

    What I am saying is that their wages would be a lot higher, if they were working larger plots of land and were able to freely sell their produce.

    May be I am misunderstanding you. So tell me if it's the case.

    Are you saying that wages in agriculture would be higher if farmers were working more land AND if there was a bigger market for their products ?

    May be (although I don't understand how that market will appear.)

    Now, I have already shown how it would be possible for a farmer who is growing 50 hectares of maize to earn $10,000 per year. The average income is $280 per year. And that is especially reflective of subsistence farmers, who live in rural areas where poverty is greatest.

    You haven't shown that.
    What you have quoted is the gross product of such a farm and with current maize prices too (supply increase, prices fall).
    The issue is that machines and paid workers will probably be involved. And those have a cost.

    Which is why no one is arguing that 'supply stays unchanged'. 

I am talking about increasing the amount of food that is produced.

    Yeah, which will make agricultural prices fall, which will force farmers to consolidate.
    I mean, you cannot have it all.

    Maybe you're bad with numbers, which is why the fact that I keep saying that *80% of arable land is not under cultivation* is not sinking in, and why you keep harping on productivity per hectare when it comes to putting down organic agriculture. 


    80% of the land is not under cultivation because with labour intensive agriculture, it can't be cultivated.
    Between the fact that major investments will have to made and the fact that most people don't even want to farm anyway, the best way to increase the amount of land cultivated is actually to increase the yield per hectare through irrigation, mechanisation and better plants.

    And I am not even conceding that organic agriculture has lower productivity per hectare, because there seem to be many exceptions to that claim. Some of which I've listed.

    Prices again.
    I only eat Amish chicken. Their agriculture is organic. 19th century organic. And those chicken do taste good. However, they cost 4 to 5 times what industrial chicken cost. For one simple reason: they are not as many amish chicken as industrial ones.

    Most of the argument defending organic products don't take scale into consideration and ignore decreasing gains.

    If tomorrow the quantity of maize in Zambia was doubled, well, the price would fall. And then it's very likely that labour intensive organic agriculture wouldn't be able to adapt.

    There will be no spin-off businesses ? Why ? Commercial farms don't use transport or financial services or a bunch of other stuff ?

Very few, and virtually none when compared to having a huge middle class.

    hmmm.. You didn't really answer my question.
    But then Compared to having a huge middle-class of farmers ?
    Hmmm.. First of all, Who are those farmers selling to ? Second of all, if there's a middle class of farmers, who is gonna work in manufacturing ?
    You seem to like reading about how European or most recently Asian countries industrialized. But you should go beyond the corny debates on state intervention and free markets and may be take a look at their urbanisation and switch in use of labour.

    If you understood how few people are actually directly employed by corporations in the west, you would understand that having a few corporations is no substitute for having a thriving and broad based economy.

    Oh, the SMEs again ? How many of them depend on corporations ? How many of them are personal services that wouldn't exist without an industrial base ? How many of them exist because the Unions are stronger in the corporations ? How many of them are corporations that didn't get big yet ?
    I don't even care about corporations. I care about industrialisation and yes, I do look down on hippie fantasies. When they spend 80% of their income of food voluntarily, they may be in the moral position to make their claims.

    Much of Zambia's poverty comes from the fact that there are a few western corporations, and there is the informal economy, and virtually nothing in between. 

That is the problem. And the solution is not having more corporations.

    Not even ZAMBIAN corporations ?
    Anyway, that's not the problem. First of all, the difference between Lusaka and London is that in London hair sallons are not part of the informal economy. Neither are grocery stores, car repair shops or whatever.
    It may be a good idea to explore why it's tha case. But here's a clue: hair sallons in Lusaka cannot be victims of corporate greed.

    Now as far as the corporations, the problem is how few linkages there are between them and the rest of the economy. And perharps I would suggest that the fact that the government of Zambia only makes so few activities profitable (as if geography didn't already make it tough) explains why they tend to concentrate on high profit activities like mining.

    Whatever you think of the real motive of "neo-liberalism" and privatisations, why don't you think of a nationalist variant of it ? Unbashed capitalism, free entreprise, less regulations for ZAMBIAN businesses ? In the current climate, chinese minign companies don't need a good business environement, all they need is a good business environement for them. And they, along with their "partners" in the government actually use your nationalistic and restrictionist argument to justify not extending it beyond a few favorable DAs.
    Just think about that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh yeah, Cho and MrK: check this site:

    http://www.nd.edu/~networks/productspace/index.htm

    it's quie fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Random,

    What I am saying is that their wages would be a lot higher, if they were working larger plots of land and were able to freely sell their produce.

    May be I am misunderstanding you. So tell me if it's the case.

    Are you saying that wages in agriculture would be higher if farmers were working more land AND if there was a bigger market for their products ?

    May be (although I don't understand how that market will appear.)


    Ok. First off, if people had larger farms, with the aid of mechanization, they would have bigger harvests and therefore have higher incomes. They would go from 2-3 hectares producing 6 tonnes of maize or less, to using 50 hectares and producing 100 tonnes, for the farmers in the program.

    Secondly on the issue of existing markets - people have to eat. Right now, the price of a tonne of maize is USD $200,-. In South Africa, the price is $140,-. That is the range of prices they are looking at.

    The first thing an increase in production would do, is lower the cost down from $200,-. This means that people pay less for their food, so they can buy more of it. That would directly affect malnutrition. That market already exists. Beyond that, neigboring countries could purchase surpluses, the state could store surpluses for food security and emergencies, and products can be made from corn (bread, syrup, bourbon, etc.) for domestic consumption and export. Those are markets that already exist or can be developed through sales and marketing campaigns.

    At the same time, the consumers who now pay less for their food, may have some money left to buy other products, again stimulating either production or imports (preferrably local production, because of it's economic impact). (There already is a 'Buy Zambian' campaign.)

    Lastly, there are the people who work in agriculture. For at least the 10,000 families that are the goal of this plan, their income would go up from $280 per year, to $10,000 per year. (And I'm being conservative, because I presume that they only put 50 of their 100 hectares under maize, and that the yield per hectare is 2 tonnes, which is on the low end of the spectrum.)

    That would inject or recirculate a disposable income of $100,000,000 per year ($10,000 income x 10,000 farmers) in the rural areas. Add to that the portion of the $100,000,000 in cost that isn't spent on imported goods like oil, imported fertilizer, etc.

    From that money, these 10,000 farms would need all kinds of services - like veterinarians, accountants, teachers, colleges, doctors, retail stores. This would increase the demand for both skilled and unskilled labour.

    But that's not all. Because these 10,000 farms each have 100 hectares to work with, they can easily spare a hectare for the children of these farmers to set up a greenhouse, so they can produce cut flowers, tropical plants, herbs and spices. These activities are labour intensive, which will have an impact on job opportunities for people outside of these farms, revitalising nearby villages.

    Another of the farmers sons or daughters could use 10 hectares to grow sorghum or cassava, for a business feeding cattle, reducing the space that is needed for cattle rearing or dairy production. Having the space to grow their own cattlefeed (without needing to pay rent on the land) would also reduce the cost side of the cattle business.

    Now, I have already shown how it would be possible for a farmer who is growing 50 hectares of maize to earn $10,000 per year. The average income is $280 per year. And that is especially reflective of subsistence farmers, who live in rural areas where poverty is greatest.

    You haven't shown that. What you have quoted is the gross product of such a farm and with current maize prices too (supply increase, prices fall). The issue is that machines and paid workers will probably be involved. And those have a cost.

    The total turnover (at 2 tonnes of maize per hectare and $200 per tonne, and 50 hectares under cultivation) would be (2 x $200 x 50 or) $20,000. I presume that 50% of that would be cost, leaving the farmer with a pre-tax income of $10,000. (And to just get this process going, I would waive any need for these farms to pay income tax.)

    Now that would be a conservative estimate, because I presume that they only use 50 of their 100 hectares, and that the yield is only 2 tonnes of maize per hectare. (From the FAO website: Commercial maize yields range from 5 tonnes per hectare rainfed to between 8 and 10 tonnes per hectare with supplementary irrigation.)

    There are several factors which would have an impact on yield, but from the above example 5 tonnes to 8-10 tonnes) irrigation would be the main one. Also, planning the farm out correctly, crop rotation, the use of complimentary crops, and the diversified nature of agricultural production would break up the lifecycles and habitats of pests, reducing the need for costly pesticides, as well as fertilizer.

    With improved water storage, the negative impact of irregular rainfall will be reduced. Remember also that right now, only 3% of Zambia's arable land is under irrigation. The other 97% depend on rainfall, which contributes to the low yield per hectare.

    Just from an economist's point of view, you would be putting labour and land together, to produce capital.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I thought I replied here before but I must have closed the window or something..

    Anyway, thanks for that long reply, Mr K. It's interesting how our "visions" are somehow similar but I think the difference are crucial.

    There are 2 things that are problematic here in those sentences:

    Right now, the price of a tonne of maize is USD $200,-. In South Africa, the price is $140,-. That is the range of prices they are looking at.

    For at least the 10,000 families that are the goal of this plan, their income would go up from $280 per year, to $10,000 per year.

    The problem with the first one is that you simply can't use current prices to make a projection. If and when the supply increases, the prices will drop. There's really no way around it. Yes, some of maize can be exported, yes some of it can be transformed but that at best will make the drop smoother or help to avoid unused excedent. That is Economics 101.

    The second sentence is even more problematic. I mean how do you compare the turn-out of a (commercial) farm to the revenue of a farmer ? I mean those farms do have costs, don't they ? Tractors, fertilizer (even organic), irrigation systems, seed, labour (yes labour) aren't free, are they ?

    That brings us to the biggest issue: bigger output leads to lower prices PER TON. However to get a bigger output, one needs to invest and have quite important costs. That means that there is a point at which, farming gets unprofitable. If your farm spends say $5,000 a year to have a 100 tonnes output, they will loose money if the price of maize goes under $50 a ton (which is far from being impossible, the current prices will probably drop before Zambia, Malawi or Zimbabwe do anything about it). If everyone doubles their output the next year but only spends $6000, the price better stay above $30. and that's quite unlikely since, well, the output was doubled !

    That's why consolidation is necessary. Because the bigger the farm, the lower is their "profit threehold" price. You know just like Big Distribution can afford to sell at near cost prices, only big commercial farms can afford to sell barely higher than it cost them to grow stuff.

    Of course it is possible than 100 herctares farms are big enough to handle all that, but neither me or you really know. We don't know how much it would cost to get to the commercial farming yields. That's why I think that saying "i don't see any reason why anybody should own more than 100 hectares" is bad economics.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Random,

    The problem with the first one is that you simply can't use current prices to make a projection.

    I'll use what I have available.

    However, if you look at factors such as:

    - continued high fuel price
    - continued population growth
    - continued popularity of maize as the staple crop

    Then I don't see either the demand, the costs or the price of maize relenting any time soon.

    I have dabbled in the stock market for over a decade now. I think I can make reasonable projections on what the balance of probabilities are.

    If and when the supply increases, the prices will drop.

    And that's the idea. However, as I have also shown, the projections I have made are on the low end and very conservative. There is a lot of redundancy built in.

    For instance, my calculations are based on the price per tonne of $200 and a yield of 2 tonnes per hectare. Now if the price dropped to the South African level of $140 or -30%, the farmer would have to procuce 30% more maize per hectare or 2.6 tonnes per hectare, for my calculations of his income or turnover to stay the same. The FAO's yield per hectare on a commercial farm is 5 tonnes when dependent on rainfall. I'm talking about farms that have rainwater catchment systems which make the availability of water more spread out over the year.

    Like I said, there is a lot of redundancy built into my calculations, which means that surprises are not just negative, but positive as well.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Like I said, there is a lot of redundancy built into my calculations, which means that surprises are not just negative, but positive as well.

    No there's not.
    Nobody is saying your projections are high-end on the output. However they are on prices and costs.

    Like I said before, neither me nor you know how much one has to spend to get to the FAO commercial farm output levels.

    And if the supply is doubled, the prices will fall unless the demand too is doubled. So no, high fuel costs, population growth and "popularity" of maize aren't enough to mantain prices.

    for my calculations of his income or turnover to stay the same

    which one ? No seriously, which one ? Is it income of the farmer or turnover of the farm ?

    I have dabbled in the stock market for over a decade now.

    May be you should have dabbled in economics 101.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Random,

    Look at these examples and forget about 'economics 101', or all these fancy economics ideas that prevent you from seeing the real world as it is. (I wish the World Bank would do the same.) There are no perfect, risk free opportunities. Everything has risks attached to them. All you can do, is calculate your risks and take the plunge.

    Here are examples of small projects (but bigger than the 2-3 hectare subsistence farm) that would fit really well into the 100 hectare model I have proposed. Think of them of side projects to the main 50 hectares of maize. Also, there is enough flexilibility to switch to other staple crops, in case the maize price would collapse to $50,- per tonne (fat chance, but that was what you feared).

    And why 100 hectares is not too small. This is a list of 7 hectare projects with lots of commercial potential.

    Lost out

    For the last five years,
    Emily Miyanda and her husband, Steve, have run Pamusha Farm, about 15km from Lusaka.

    Zambian farmer Emily Miyanda

    We'd like some government support in buying seeds and fertiliser
    Farmer Emily Miyanda

    In a near perfect setting, the well-irrigated seven-hectare farm produces maize, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables.

    "We're employing local workers here and helping the government to secure jobs. But in return, we'd like some government support in buying seeds and fertiliser. That would make life easier," says Emily Miyanda.

    Zambian farmers lost out on subsidised agricultural inputs when tough World Bank and International Monetary Fund conditions were imposed.

    However, Zambia's Minister of Agriculture Mundia Sikatana admits that more must now be done to help small farmers like the Miyanda family.

    "We are giving fertiliser and seeds to 150,000 farmers but that's not enough. It's a drop in the ocean. One million small farmers need assistance," he said.

    "We hope to improve on our numbers in this year's budget because it's much cheaper for the country to support the farmer than to import food".



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    ReplyDelete
  24. Random,

    You're just making up bs why things that are shown to be working shouldn't work.

    Come on Random, give the 'economics 101' reason why this successful 7 hectare farm can't be successful. Please don't forget to mention 'economies of scale', maybe even throw in a 'philips curve' about 'price elastiticy of supply and demand' while you're at it too. :)

    Or just admit it, you're out of your depth when it comes to farming.

    Lost out

    For the last five years,
    Emily Miyanda and her husband, Steve, have run Pamusha Farm, about 15km from Lusaka.

    Zambian farmer Emily Miyanda
    We'd like some government support in buying seeds and fertiliser
    Farmer Emily Miyanda

    In a near perfect setting, the well-irrigated seven-hectare farm produces maize, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables.

    "We're employing local workers here and helping the government to secure jobs. But in return, we'd like some government support in buying seeds and fertiliser. That would make life easier," says Emily Miyanda.

    Zambian farmers lost out on subsidised agricultural inputs when tough World Bank and International Monetary Fund conditions were imposed.

    However, Zambia's Minister of Agriculture Mundia Sikatana admits that more must now be done to help small farmers like the Miyanda family.

    "We are giving fertiliser and seeds to 150,000 farmers but that's not enough. It's a drop in the ocean. One million small farmers need assistance," he said.

    "We hope to improve on our numbers in this year's budget because it's much cheaper for the country to support the farmer than to import food".

    ReplyDelete
  25. Out of depth ? Coming from someone who constantly mixes apples and oranges (you know that "turnout=revenue" thing)and thinks costs can be wished away, I'd take that as a compliment.

    Had you paid attention you would have noticed that my contention from the start was that putting a random limit on farm size is quite stupid. You can link to as many PR articles about random humanitarian projects or whatever, it won't change the fact that as a model, there's a problem. And once again, since me and you don't know how much it costs to have a certain output, well, we don't know when and how it will be profitable. But at least, I know I don't know and I don't sit around making things up from incoherent bits of data here and there and calling it "conservative" estimates.


    But hey, it's more interesting to talk about "neo-liberalism", the IMF or whatever, isn't it ?

    ReplyDelete

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