Monday, January 31, 2011

Struggle between paradigms

In Burundi land is so scarce (or some people don't have land?) that they grow all the way to the edge of the roads (this is the main road from Bujumbura to Kigali)

In my recent trip to Burundi and Rwanda, I saw some examples of the rather schizophrenic policies that are ruling agriculture. In Rwanda the government is vigorously promoting chemical fertilizers trough different schemes in different crops. For some crops farmers get vouchers that give them fertilizers for free. In the case of coffee, "for free" means that the government
tax the coffee exports. This means that the government let the farmer get a lower price and deprive them from taking their own decisions how to farm. It also means that those that chose not to use any fertilizer, e.g. organic farmers are subsidizing the non-organic farmers. This is very far from good politics.

The same country also have some policies very favorable for organic farming, e.g. the program One-cow-per household, and they have recently initiated a large, World Bank funded (!), project for hillside irrigation, where all the farms will be organically managed. Our consultancy company Grolink, at this very moment, conducts training of 20 horticulture cooperatives in organic farming for the Rwanda Horticulture Development Authority, and we also consult two coffee cooperatives as well as a tea company. The minister of agriculture, Agnes Kalibata, has spoken up in favour of organic farming many times.

Burundi and Rwanda are intensively farmed and densely populated. Their proportion agriculture land is around three quarter of all land, an exceptional high figure.
The land is also mostly steep and therefore prone to erosion.
Erosion in Burundi

It is assessed that in Rwanda 1.4 million tons of soils is lost each year and with that soil 41,210 tons of nitrogen, 280n tons of phosphorus and 3,055 tons of potassium. In some areas losses can reach a staggering more than 500 tons per hectare and year! The losses of nutrient due to erosion is bigger than the total amount supplied with chemical fertilizers. It is calculated that the erosion corresponds to a decline in capacity to feed 40,000 persons per year (data from the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda - Phase II, February 2009).

If anybody doubts the influence of government and social stability on farming, crossing the border between Burundi and Rwanda is a telling story. In Rwanda terracing is much more developed (and in many cases the kinds of terracing is clearly a result from larger initiatives rather than individual farmers) There is also much more forest, especially on the top and ridges of the hills, where erosion starts. Notably Rwanda has been politically stable since the genocide, while Burundi only has had peace a few years.
Terraced landscape in Rwanda

Rwanda and Burundi are certainly not alone in having contradictory agriculture policies. The EUs CAP is just a jumble of contradictions. And the US promotes GMOs while it gives some money to organic farming, Farmers' market. Contradictory policies are rather the rule in agriculture.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In search of a publisher

My book, Garden Earth, has now progressed to a stage where I am ready to present it for a publisher, so I am seeking a publisher in UK, USA, Australia, India or...An idea of the content is presented here. The book has been well received in Sweden. Some reviews are presented here. It has also got support for "excellent and high-quality literature" from the Swedish Council of Culture. If you have a good idea about publisher, send me a message: gunnar at

Why not call it by its proper name: theft.

I believe most people have understood that most property is based on privilege of different sorts, but not that most of it derives from theft or violence. How did that piece of land that is sold today originally come into hands of a private person?
well there are some possible sources. But by and large they almost all come to that the government gave it away or sold it to a private person. Because it is government that defines property, it all derives from government, or the state.

To convert land from public or communal stewardship to private ownership is just the first, but an essential step to make land into a tradeable commodity, and part of the transformation of society into a market society. Speaking of the "primitive nature" of indigenous peoples, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs, T. Hartley Crawford stated that, unless some system is marked out by which there shall be a separate allotment of land to each individual […] you will look in vain for any general casting off of savagism. Common property and civilization cannot co-exist.(Kinney 1975).

It is interesting to note that a professor in the stronghold for "free market" economics acknowledge this. "Land, natural resources, and government contracts and licenses are the predominant sources of the wealth of our billionaries, and all of these factors come from the governement" says Ragharam Rajan, economist in Chicago (IHT 26 Jan 2011, the superrich pull ever farther away), referring to billionaires of India. This is the case of the billionaires of China and Russia as well, and was certainly true also for the robber barons and the railroad magnates of the 19th last century.

And no doubt, enormous wealth and therefore property is generated by the American wars in Iraq and Afganistan. And what about all the banks and financial institutions that have been bailed out by government. Using "our" money to cover "their" losses. That amounts to nothing but theft.

"Property is theft" ( La propriété, c'est le vol) already the French anarchist Proudhon in 1840.

Having said that, obviously I don't mean that all people that have property are thieves, I have property myself as a starters and I don't consider myself a thief. And there are reasonable arguments in favour of why a person should "own" his or her own dwelling, clothes and perhaps the means of production (which is rarely the case today, where the means of production mostly are owned by a few). Farmers need to own - or at least have long term control over - the land they farm (well it can be communally own as well as most land was before stolen by the government or private interests). The defense for private property mostly takes it start in nice description of how private entrepreneurs create wealth both for themselves and other people by setting up a small enterprise. Also this can be discussed, but it should be noted that this image of how private property is mainly used is showing a very small part of what private property is about in most parts of the world.

There is some essential truth in what Rousseau wrote:
“The first person who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society [Rousseau certainly was not referring to what we today call civil society, but rather to what we call civilization]. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared by someone who, uprooting the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow-men: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost if you forget that the fruits belong to all and the earth to no one” (Rousseau 1964).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sowing the seeds

Raised bed of typical Gako design, and a tyre garden

I have been on a mission for IFOAM to Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, and seen many interesting things and met a lot of good people. I uploaded some pictures that you can look at.

One of the places that impress me is the Gako organic farming training centre in Rwanda. I have visited it before, in 2007 and the manager, Richard Francis Munyerango (to the right in the picture above), participated in a Grolink training afterwards. The place is so impressive from many sides. It has trained some 60,000 people in organic farming in ten years, including a lot of demobilized soldiers. It has also trained a lot of women groups (read more). It is also very well maintained, the gardens are a pure delight. Slowly by slowly the place is expanding with new buildings, a shop, more land etc. Richard seems to be a very skilled manager as well and his business model has proven to work. The centre is financed through the "selling" of courses to organization and is thus not dependent on core funding for its existance. If there were more places like this.

Patricia Wangong'u checking the pineapples