Blog - December 2011

Canada World Youth Advocates on Behalf of Tanzania

December 5, 2011

“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country” Karl Kraus

The trade of agricultural goods in the global market economy has expanded consumer preferences and altered food choices. Agricultural production is greatly influenced by consistently developing technologies which have lead to substantial increase in agricultural production, with higher quantities of food in the international market as the main objective.   As a result of this system, western countries go into developing countries and exploit workers for resources to be sold back to western countries. 

Since developing countries lack economic stability, most developing countries rely on exports of valuable resources to repay international debts or as a major source of the country’s income.   This process is fairly evident in  third world countries, such as Tanzania.  Farmers are employed at dishonourably low wages, which do not equate to the amount of labour and tools needed for production. Eventually, the external companies buy the land due to the farmers’ inability to afford to continue to maintain it.

 Essentially, after attaining colonial independence from Britain in 1961, Tanganyika and Zanzibar united in 1964 to form the nation formerly known today as Tanzania.  Tanzania is a country located in East Africa, borders the Indian Ocean, and resides between Kenya and Mozambique. In size, Tanzania is slightly smaller than the province of British Columbia, Canada, with a population just under 43 million.  Its climate varies from tropical to mildly chilled temperatures, more frequently subject to drought, due to effects of climate change on the Tanzanian agricultural economy.

Richard Ndendya, a volunteer at Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC), is a Tanzanian student here on exchange with the Canada World Youth Program for three months.  Richard was granted this opportunity through Uvikiuta, a non profit organization that deals with environmental issues, in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania. Richard delivered an outstanding presentation about climate change and the Tanzanian agricultural economy to Oxfam members, a KWIC working group that meets every Wednesday to discuss the intersection of, climate change, food, and gender at 11:00 am in the Trent environmental science building B101. Agriculture makes up half of the national economy as well as three quarters of market exports (approximately 85 %) in Tanzania.   Moreover, peasant farmers amount up to 80% of the Tanzanian workforce.

Coffee is one of the most important cash crops for the Tanzanian economy mostly exported from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Richard claims, “Companies are buying the farmlands from the farmers and employing Tanzanians as labourers for very low wages.  1kg of Coffee is sold for 1000 shillings”, which equates to about $1.00 in U.S currency. In North America, just a cup of coffee is up to $3.00 dollars. As Richard explains, the coffee beans are sold to foreign companies residing in the country who then trade it as a commodity to external countries.  Due to price exploitation, farmers began to resist to cooperation with the cash crop industry.

Furthermore, sugarcane cultivation is another commodity that’s a major generator for the Tanzanian economy. Tanzania is also known for exportation of a small portion of sugar to other international countries as well as countries with in Africa.  Kilombero a sugar company that’s been in operation since, in Tanzania’s Morogoro region.  This company became privatized as of April of 1998.  The government of Tanzania is a shareholder of 25% of the company, while Illovo sugar owns 55% of the shares, and EDF and Man with 20%.

Due to climate change, Tanzania has experienced constant drought for instance due to floods not during rainy season.  During rainy season the country experiences extreme rainfall in comparison to Tanzania’s normal rainy season.  As Richard recalls “the flood 2 years ago destroyed homes, there was hunger, homelessness, and major economic losses in tourism. Currents in the Indian Ocean are so high, causing severe stormy weather”.   Moreover, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and as a consequence of warmer weather, the melting snow caused erosions putting the people of the town at dangerous risk of their lives, their crops, and their livestock.   Richard states, Coordinators on behalf of a Swiss company took initiative through their own independent project to spread environmental awareness and climate change through informative workshops in Tanzania. Richard got to participate in a 2000km bike ride that last over 2 months which served to spread awareness about current environmental issues in the globe and the effects on the region of Tanzania.

Global warming currently experienced worldwide is an increase in the earth’s temperatures, and rise in sea levels.  This global phenomenon is caused by Co2 emissions polluting the air as a result of trapped heat from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere heating up the planet.  As experienced in Tanzania, sea levels have risen, extreme floods have occurred, with poverty, hunger and homelessness as the end result.  In addition to the exploitation of farmers whose daily lives depend on the country’s agriculture, where does a country turn?

Yolanda Ajak

Global Financial Troubles Become Global Food Troubles

November 28th, 2011

There is no doubt that the current global financial system is detrimental to the poor, the environment and to ourselves, but the remaining fact is that it is our responsibility.

The affects of climate change on the food system is noticeable in the rising food prices, however are newly developed technologies a solution to these problems or a perpetuation of power, greed, and consumption?

The Canada - U.S free trade agreement officially in affect since January 1st, 1989 has been operating as a legal binding agreement representing dual trade between the worlds’s largest trading partners. Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports, “Canada and the United States enjoy the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, with two-way trade in goods and services reaching $649 billion last year.” Agriculture and agri-food bilateral trade accounted for $35 billion of this total” .As of 2010, with a population of just over 34 million, 61% of Canadians are employed and out of that percentage,  just below 10% of Canadian jobs (2 million) depend on trade with the U.S. In addition approximately eight million Americans depend on trade with Canada.           

Furthermore, increase in prices of necessities such as grain is a consequence of reduction in output due to apparent issues such as the inclement weather of our time. Canada places 7th among the largest wheat producers of the world, earning the highest of all of Canada’s exported agricultural products amounting to approximately $5.4 billion in revenues. Canada also places as the second largest wheat exporter in the world after the United States. Increasingly over the past several years Canada has been experiencing a tremendous reduction in wheat growth due to wet land, which was also a central issue to wheat production this past May. 

Land is also an essential component to a country’s security of its resources when it comes to food scarcity, a progressively growing concern in first world countries, affecting food prices. “Investor” countries have decided to promote deals such as “land grabs”, government owned investments central to the dominance of private sector investments in the production of bio-fuel industry.  Bio-fuel investments have been the key driving force behind initiatives portrayed as “food security concerns”.   

The process of bio-fuel production is not only destructive to the environment through the increase of carbon emissions due to deforestation for land space, but is also an issue for possible water contamination through chemical infusion. Bio-fuel production consists of 2 major groupings of fuels achieved through the process of hydrolysis and fermentation in warm environment.  Bioethanol, an alcohol achieved through the fermentation of carbohydrates in starch crops such as sugar cane and corn, and Biodiesel, a compound achieved through chemically reacting vegetable oil and animal fat based lipids with alcohol. The final production process yields results of ethanol and carbon dioxide. 

Although governments promote finding ‘alternative’ energy sources, the success of preserving energy without compromising our environment is still in question.  Policies are in place through taxation, banks, and sectoral legislation on land, just to name a few of some of the policies that make these government investments possible. The panic over the depletion of renewable energy sources along with aims of securing energy to maintain the current rate of energy consumption, has lead governments to  resort to such extraction methods as an increasing option for future investments.  International investors purchase over hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Latin America for instance, Central Asia, South East Asia, and Africa, for agricultural business production which not only deprive these citizens of their land, but also depletes their land.

Newly arising government policies are deeply rooted in the perpetuation of the current toxic economic system. A reformation of the global food system is needed and is possible starting with supporting local farmers and food growers. As a people we need to take back the system that governs us and take responsibility for what’s happening to our world.  

If you’re interested in the intersections of Food, Climate and Gender and how they interplay in our global system, you might consider participating in a new KWIC/OXFAM working group that currently meets every Wednesday at 11am in the KWIC Global Education and Resource Centre, located in the Environmental Science Building, Room B101.   

Yolanda Ajak

World Issues & Media Liaison