This is a much-reduced essay I wrote for school. I would not have considered posting it had it not been for the various food-aid commercials I kept seeing on Hulu. I have donated in the past, as I am sure many (if not all) of you have. After reading Enrique's Journey, we were encouraged to research the issues presented. Though it was not abjectly seen as an issue, hunger seemed the strongest undercurrent. I want to help. Many want to help. We must be informed, however, about how to help, and how not to help.
The industrialization and subsidization of the United States Farming Industry has contributed to unrest in the markets of developing countries, thus increasing illegal immigration to the United States and preventing developing countries from attaining food sovereignty. American subsidies ensure that international farmers do not make money unless their governments are able to compete with more subsidization's. American Agribusiness holds an additional advantage by exploiting desperate workers with rock-bottom wages that cannot be matched by their developing country counter-parts, thus perpetuating the cycle of third-world hunger and the detrimental food-aid that comes along with it.
Farmers in developing countries cannot compete economically with the deadly combination of the government funded subsidization of crops and rock-bottom immigrant labor wages of more firmly established countries. According to Per Pinstrup-Andersen in “Hunger Report 2005: Strengthening Rural Communities”,“when farmers do not make money, neither does anybody else in rural communities” (86). This issue is sustaining American Agribusiness at the expense of developing countries. Farmers who cannot prosper in a developing country immigrate to find work if given the opportunity. When workers who flee to America find that things do not go as planned, due to poverty and lack of safety-unions, illegal immigrants end up on some form of welfare. In an article published by University of California Davis entitled “Farm Workers and Immigration”, it is said that “[f]arm workers are one of only three US occupations with one million or more workers in which the majority of workers are immigrants...a typical California farm worker earns about $5 hourly for about 1,000 hours of work, for $5,000 in annual farm earnings” (Workers). They simply do not have the funds to support themselves as hoped, at home or abroad. This flawed system ensures that “[w]hether the consumer or the taxpayer pays, the consequences for poor countries and poor people within are severe. They depend directly or indirectly on agriculture” (88). This dependency on agriculture provides motivation for many illegal immigrants. They cannot find jobs (or food) at home, and believe that the answer lies in coming to the United States, no matter what it takes.
By attaining a level of food sovereignty, developing countries could significantly decrease the need of valuable workers to leave their homes for sub-par living conditions in the United States that only strengthens the economic power of the very companies that left them destitute in their homeland. Food sovereignty, also known as La Via Campesina, is a movement that began as an “international peasant’s voice” who, according to their website, “defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity [and] strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature” (Campesina). This sustainable agriculture would radically change the living conditions of developing countries. Food sovereignty is possible, despite claims that world hunger cannot be fixed, due to population increases.
Food-aid is not the answer. Peter Rosset, for the NACLA article “Food Sovereignty in Latin America: Confronting the 'New' Crisis”, states that food aid is known to “harm local farm economies. Cheap, subsidized, or free U.S. grains undercut the prices of locally produced food, driving small farmers out of business and into cities”(Rosset). This food aid that is thought by those donating at the individual level to be lifesaving sustenance is actually causing the very evil that they are wishing to prevent. The marketing has been misleading. While it is natural to desire helping fellow-man, we cannot be mislead into believing that these corporations have humanitarian goals. Rosset explains that “[f]ood aid sales generate the same profits for the big U.S. grain companies as does any other commercial export. The only difference is that the U.S. government immediately pays the bill... The recipient countries, meanwhile, come to depend on these foreign food supplies. When the aid stops, governments are pressured to keep importing the commodities on commercial terms” (Rosset). One can see how this vicious cycle of importing food would harm the local economy and directly impact the ability of a low-income family in a low-income nation to purchase food at higher premiums.
Food sovereignty is not in the best interest of certain corporations, but it is in the best interest of the poorest of the poor. Through small-scale, local farming, families such as Enrique’s could have had nourishment to fall back on, instead of being threatened by the thought of farming the landfills for barely recognizable scraps of food. Movements such as La Via Campesina are paving the way by gaining audiences at the FAO and the UN Human Rights Council (Campesina). They are making these issues known. Truly humanitarian aims are difficult to come by, but being able to sleep well at night is hardly the greatest benefit of assisting countries such as Honduras in attaining food sovereignty. By reclaiming the basic ability to provide adequate nutrition for their peoples, developing countries would be able to finally make some headway and develop into viable world-powers capable of competing in a free market system, rather than being crushed in the wake of development. Great strides could be made scientifically, with more minds being trained into their fullest potential. Technology would advance in many sectors. Illegal immigration could become a thing of the past. Borders would be safe and attention could be focused on other matters, with waves of grain, from sea to shining sea.