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I'm gonna harp on a theme I used to play over at MoA.  one road to fuller employment and a number of other bennies is land reform and the revival of family/smallholder farming using sustainable practises (i.e. less petro intensive, IPM/organic, diversified cropping, shorter haul to market).  it is a win/win/win paradigm shift with lots of positive spinoff:  reduced water usage per acre, increased productivity per acre, regional food self-sufficiency (cf this interesting finding by a Japanese bank on the economic benefits of a one percent increase in food self-sufficiency for Miyagi Prefecture), reduced pollution of rivers and lakes, higher food quality for local markets, preservation of diversity in cultivars, hence reduced vulnerability to crop diseases and pest outbreaks, preservation of soil quality, repair of damaged topsoil, reduced dependency of regional populations on fossil-intensive truck transport, and yada yada.

right now we are running out of cheap oil, but we have an oversupply of unemployed people.  yet our industrialised ag policy (unwritten but pervasive) on the American model is to maximise "effiency" by minimising the amount of human labour needed per kilocalorie produced, and maximising the fossil fuel inputs ("energy slaves" which substitute for human labour and expertise).  this form of farming often produces less biomass per hectare than diversified organic practice, thus failing to maximise return on another precious and shrinking resource (arable land) and is grossly wasteful of water  (about to be a limiting resource in many countries).

I do not suggest that we pack the unemployed off to forced agrarian labour camps in some kind of Maoist re-education programme;  but if I were chronically unemployed and my children had only the same to look forward to, and if I were offered "40 acres and a mule" of my very own plus training in sustainable ag practise and assistance in finding regional markets, I would jump at the chance.  the yeoman farmer makes a pretty solid middle class on which to anchor a stable polity;  and with today's electronic communications networks there is no need for the rural community to be cut off from cultural and educational stimulation, news, political life etc.

there is also the fascinating potential for urban farming -- that very activity which the Mugabe government (at a time of food shortages!) recently threatened to outlaw, apparently as part of its campaign to evict shantytown dwellers and to undermine any attempts at local food security in urban areas.  if the government is paying for unemployed persons to sit idle, why not pay them to produce food for local consumption?

just a thought...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jun 30th, 2005 at 05:56:44 PM EST

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