Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Dear fellow Agents, for the past week or so we have been discussing different ways we can grow enough food to feed the globe sustainably and affordably.

In many developing countries smallholder export horticulture is aleady proving to be a powerful new engine for growth in rural economies. My country Kenya has been one of the quickest to develop as a supplier of air-freighted fresh vegetables from smallholder fields to consumers in Europe. More than a 1 million livelihoods have been created in farm production and a further 3 million in associated employment. Now other African countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia want to follow suit.

However with rising concerns over climate change, consumers, environmentalists and politicians in the developed world are debating whether it makes environmental sense to continue to import foodstuffs with high food miles. The debate on if emissions caused by the airfreight of our fresh produce from Africa v/s this growth in rural economies is HOT.

Please share - are you FOR air-freighting of fresh produce from one country to or another or AGAINST?

Views: 123

Comment by Lynn Caldwell on March 16, 2010 at 9:08pm
I agree with Rahul, in this case. Africa needs the same infrastructure that we built in the industrial revolution - railways, unfortunately, their current power crisis is making this development impossible. However, there is a big push towards solving the problems of internal transport. see: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/Press-releases/2010/Minister-high...

So...for the time being, keep the one way these countries can secure a decent profit. When the energy problems are solved, then railways and factories and IT industries can flourish. Africa is ready, it's just under constant threat of power blackouts.

I vote, the next five years, we BAN european and US foodmiles, so it will counterbalance the needs of Africa and Asia - once everyone is up and running, then things can go from there.

europe and US use more airfreight than anyone, so why not ban it, or allow only not-for-profit food miles, then Africa and Asia can use what we don't really truly need...similar to that carbon thing the rich do - they run a Jaguar, but then do other good carbon things to balance it out?
Comment by Lynn Caldwell on March 16, 2010 at 11:09pm
It does when you are in the middle of submitting a post to this bloody site - when running a factory machine, when cooking in an oven, running a printing press, saving an important doc**ent, when trying to adminster a railway network, when communicating with suppliers on skype making a business transation, in the middle of a conference call...
Comment by Cole Tucker on March 16, 2010 at 11:15pm
I am definitely FOR air-freighting food. I believe that the transport technology requires improvement, but that's a bridge we already have started to cross. I hope that someday soon we will see solar-powered zeppelins delivering us our fresh fruits and coffees!

I encounter this issue in my own life, trying to eat locally produced as much as possible. Towards the end of winter, eating root vegetables and canned items gets very old. I consider menu diversity a wholly good thing that we should expand to as many people as feasible.

Sharing our foods brings us closer together!
Comment by Cian Gregory Accuardi Shelley on March 16, 2010 at 11:22pm
in theory the best thing would be to create a market for the things that you are freighting within the country of origin. easier said than done i know but that should be the end goal. am i right?
Comment by Alex Stovell on March 17, 2010 at 2:36am
Gut reaction on this is AGAINST. Any farmer has to decide what to grow and sell based on the resources available to them; their land, the climate and weather, their own skills and abilities etc etc, plus they need to have an eye on the market for their produce and they also need luck - especially where the weather is concerned. If the demand from the 'developed world' drops, farmers will need to re-a****s their market and maybe re-a****s their produce accordingly - just as in any other venture or business. All this aside, it just feels right to encourage local self-sufficiency with locally grown seasonal food, suited to the climate. I could be wrong though :)
Comment by Victor Udoewa on March 17, 2010 at 3:20am
The arguments are great but many ignore the underlying principles of social enterprises, exactly what we're learning about. Social enterprises use market mechanisms to achieve systemic social change. The question isn't whether it's seemingly contradictory that food is exiting a country where a significant portion of the population is hungry. We know that and understand why that feels wrong and should be changed. The question is how to align incentives of farmers to sell food in the home country and enable citizens to buy it.

In short, we probably need more information about the specific situation in each country. Is this happening with single farmers or with farming corporations or with government farms? What each does with its profits may be quite different and there's no guarantee that the money will be invested into alleviating hunger and poverty in the country.

But if someone is a single struggling farmer in Kenya, and this farmer can export her food and receive more money for what she is doing, she is acting both within her freedom and in her self interests. It's hard to tell someone to think about carbon footprints which have results and repercussions much farther in the future instead of thinking about having food on the table this week.

What we have to do is align incentives so that there is a mechanism for a farmer to sell food in the local country to local citizens and simultaneously alleviate poverty and hunger.

Macroeconomically, it behooves a developing country to increase agricultural exports. My suggestion would be to create jobs in agricultural exports and move the poor into farming
jobs so they can reap some of the money from selling food overseas.
Comment by Ayala Sherbow on March 17, 2010 at 3:23am
@ Victor U. "The question isn't whether it's seemingly contradictory that food is exiting a country where a significant portion of the population is hungry. We know that and understand why that feels wrong and should be changed. The question is how to align incentives of farmers to sell food in the home country and enable citizens to buy it."

and "What we have to do is align incentives so that there is a mechanism for a farmer to sell food in the local country to local citizens and simultaneously alleviate poverty and hunger."


Brilliantly said, Victor. I think this is where this discussion should go -- how can we brainstorm on this?
Comment by Oliver Smith on March 17, 2010 at 7:30am
It depends on the fruit and the season.

In Europe, we should grow the food we can WITHOUT resorting to hydroponics and other carbon producing methods (which if my UK garden is anything to go, is more than you'd think!)

In Africa, we should grow the rest, again, without resorting to expensive, carbon producing methods. Sub-saharan Africa is the perfect farm for the world. Lots of land, lots of people to work the land, lots of sun.

...but lets not stop there! For too long Africa has only produced the raw commodities. Africa produces the cocoa beans, the coffee beans, the fruit. Europe produces the chocolate, the instant coffee and the fruit juice.

If the goods are processed and packaged in Africa, by Africans, for African companies, there is less transport carbon (as the finished product is smaller and lighter and the goods last longer) and a better livelihood for the producers.

I don't want "Fairtrade" coffee, I want to buy Dormans coffee in the UK!
Comment by Rahul Dewanjee on March 17, 2010 at 8:09am
Victor Odoewa has succeeded in saying something where I perhaps failed.

I urge all Agents to read his comments here once again (maybe twice) and may be for reference, you may also visit my specific article to gather a sense of direction we need to gather in our own minds in order to proceed what Ayala Sherbow intends us to do: to BRAINSTORM ways we can align incentives so that there is a mechanism for a farmer to sell food in the local country to local citizens and simultaneously alleviate poverty and hunger based on what Victor proposed. That is the direction we should take if we want to create an impact.

We need to ask ourselves: why has global trade suddenly become bad for us: who is us: is it dependent on where we live and how our over-valued currencies suddenly can't give us any more joy ride?

Please pause for a moment and reflect on the concept of reciprocity of trade. ask yourself why African government can't let their farm produce be evenly distributed in their own country even if they wanted to do so....may I request the agents against the motion to analyze the economic principles underlying the issue of Balance of Payments....and unless one does that, we are just saying something that we don't fully understand at the core. We are simply responding to the truths of our subjective reality.
Comment by Simon Brookes on March 17, 2010 at 1:18pm
Agent Mbindyo I applaud you for starting this fabulous discussion. I am awarding you +20 collaboration for your efforts. I am also watching all of the other agents involved in this discussion with interest. I am excited to see the comments from Agents Dewanjee and Udoewa who now seem to be turning the discourse around into thinking about action. How might we take this forward from here now? What questions remain unanswered at this point? Where can you get the answers (hint- use the EVOKE network)? What solutions have the potential to be developed into real-world projects?

Remember that Alchemy are looking for real projects to pursue after EVOKE comes to an end: http://blog.urgentevoke.net/2010/01/24/the-evokation-how-to-earn-ev...

Can you work on a proposal for the EVOKATION?

Simon (EVOKE Mentor)

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