The Politics of Food

 

“STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE PRICE OF BREAD! START A BAKERY!”: COLONIAL PATRIARCHY AS THE CAUSE OF CURRENT HIGH FOOD PRICES

 

 

By Yvette Abrahams

 

Commissioner For Gender Equality

 

 

Paper prepared for GETNET

 

 Feminist Consultative Conference On Women and Socially Excluded Groups Bearing The Social Costs of The Economic And Social Crisis

 

Athlone, 30/31 October, 2008

 

 

“There is, then, a politics of food that, like any other politics, involves our freedom. We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free.”[1]

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

 

While Marxists have been arguing since 1848 that capitalism is doomed to fail, it seems that they were somewhat premature. However, if the current global financial crisis demonstrates nothing else, it shows that we are certainly justified in speaking of the present era as the dying stages of white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalism. Of course we must be cautious. If the Marxist experience teaches us nothing else, we may learn that there is no saying exactly how long capitalism will take to die, nor is anyone of us trying to say that its death will be pretty. Nonetheless the current crisis does appear to indicate that capitalism is beginning to end. It can survive only by transforming itself into something which is, strictly speaking, no longer capitalistic.

 

 

 

The reason why I say this is that, if one begins to scrutinize the causes of the current global economic meltdown, they appear to be rooted in real limits to capitalist expansion. I would characterize this limit as the fact that the earth and its resources are finite, and we are coming very close its limits to be able to support human habitation. The fact is that capitalism has always been able to rely for its existence on unpaid systems. The concept ecosystem services clarifies this: In order for capitalist industry to operate, it has to rely on natures to provide provisioning services, (food, fuel, etc), regulating services (eg. water purification, climate control), Cultural services (cultural and religious values, recreation), and supporting services such as nutrient cycling (decomposition of organic materials) and provision of habitat. The only costs reflected in the capitalist system has been the cost of extracting these items from the natural world. Capitalists have not paid the real cost, which would be the cost of reproducing these services for the next generation. But “between 1960 and 2000, the demand for ecosystems grew significantly as the world’s population doubled to 6 billion people and the global economy increased more than sixfold.”[2] Global warming is a sign that the world economy has hit the limit of the eco-system’s ability to provide free services.

 

 

 

Of course, some feminists have argued for years that capitalism could not exist without the free labour of women:

 

“As we shift our focus towards validating the gift paradigm and seeing the defects of the exchange paradigm, many things acquire a different appearance. Patriarchal capitalism… is revealed as a parasitic system, where those above are nurtured by the free gifts of their ‘hosts’ below.”[3]

 

It has been estimated that the value of women’s unpaid labour in domestic work equals about one third of the world’s GDP. Even in a relatively industrialized country like Britain, fully employed British mothers spend an average 18 hours per week more than men, or almost half an extra working week, on unpaid domestic work.[4] The situation in countries which rely largely on subsistence agriculture is worse, a fact I shall return to below. At this point, I am merely presenting one more argument for the imminent collapse of the capitalist system, namely the women’s movement. Despite the current patriarchal backlash at home, the fact remains that five decades of feminist/womanist challenge to patriarchy has begun to produce sizeable gains. Women’s participation in the education system and in the paid labour force has never been so high.[5] Slowly, but surely, the capitalist system is having to pay for what was previously a gift.

 

 

 

Thus, while capitalism has always been prone to crises of overproduction (recessions in other words), I would argue that what we are seeing now is the world’s first global warming-induced depression, helped along gently by the women’s movement.. For instance, the two mortgage lenders who are having to be bailed out by the US government, Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Mortgage Association (Freddie Mac), both suffered enormous levels of bad debt caused by falling house prices.   They had lent money to people to buy houses, based on a certain level of property values. But when property values fall, these loans were no longer secured against the value of the house, and became bad debt. Too many hundreds of thousands of these bad debts were enough to cause the collapse of the world’s biggest financial system. And where were the key areas of falling house prices located? In Louisiana, Florida and Texas, otherwise known as the three areas worst hit by the extreme weather of recent years. Hurricanes, tornadoes and floods set off a crisis in the banking system which was to spark of the worst economic recession in eighty years.

 

 

 

It did not escape our notice that AIG, one of the US biggest insurance companies, also went under with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. AIG also had major exposure to the South, and what caused the crisis there was not so much insurance pay-outs after the hurricanes in New Orleans in 2005 and in Texas in 2008. That cost the company dearly but risk, after all, is what an insurance company plans for. No, what hit the company hardest was being unable to reinsure these areas because the risk of extreme weather re-occurring was simply too high. An insurance company that cannot insure is busy putting itself out of business, and this is exactly what happened to AIG.

 

 

 

Capitalism could only save itself by a massive bailout of the financial system. This took the form of government guarantees for bad debt in exchange for shares in major banks. However, the stock market does not lie. All the bail-out efforts have done little to stem the ongoing fall in international stock prices. Clearly, and they should know, stockbrokers and the capitalists who employ them believe that the efforts at government bail-outs are not going to be enough to save the capitalist system in its current state. I feel we should believe them. The end result is that in the US and most of the European Union, increasingly larger parts of the financial system are being owned by the state. In other words, capitalism is increasingly beginning to look like Stalinist communism. Marx’s predictions are beginning to come true, if not in the way he foresaw.

 

 

 

 

 

The Effect of Global Warming on Food Prices

 

 

 

Global warming is not going to end here. There is very little we can do to reverse climate change. The best we can do is to stop it from getting worse. Some twenty years ago, when what was then regarded as the green loony fringe first began warning about the effects of carbon emissions and climate change, the mainstream scientific community objected that there were no measurable changes to prove that the greenhouse effect actually existed. Environmentalists retorted that, by the time the changes were large enough to measure, it would be too late. Our modern capitalist economy, they argued, was so sensitive that long before we began to confront major ecological issues around species survival, even relatively minor changes would be sufficient to plunge the global economy into crisis. Today, this is exactly what seems to have happened.

 

 

 

Even within the mainstream scientific community, the facts of global warming are now considered irrefutable.  There is also considerable agreement on the effects. What we are already seeing is one effect called extreme weather: severe floods, droughts and hurricanes are becoming more frequent. As a consequence, like AIG, the insurance industry has begun to refuse to insure certain areas. The effects of this on economic activity are far-reaching. For instance, profitability in the insurance industry is beginning to fall, while highly insurance-dependent industries (construction, shipping, etc) are finding it more expensive to operate.

 

 

 

Worldwide, increasing temperatures will increase the rates of evaporation and plant transpiration. Effectively, we will need more water to grow the same amount of plant foods at the very same time that world water supplies can be expected to diminish.

 

 

 

The effect most people are likely to notice is a long-term rise in food prices. When the weather becomes more unpredictable, agriculture becomes a more risky operation and farming more expensive. In addition, some of the things we have to do to combat global warming will also tend to raise food prices. For instance, because Brazil uses half of its sugar to produce biofuel, the country has ended decades of low sugar prices on the world market. Sugar prices are now at their highest in twenty five years.[6]  They are unlikely to ever fall substantially again.

 

 

 

Last year, because of unseasonal rain in the winter rainfall area and some drought in the summer rainfall areas, the wheat price rose by 89 % in South Africa.[7] This more than doubled the price of bread. Maize rose by over 150%.[8] This was due to a combination of factors, in part the growing use of maize for biofuel in the US which has led to a long term rise in world prices, and in part the drought in South Africa’s maize producing regions. As a result all downstream industries depending on maize, such as red meat, milk, and chicken, are predicted to rise in price.

 

 

 

We need to look at extreme weather in a social context. A second important factor affecting food prices are high and rising prices for fuel and electricity, and whether this is due to a sudden recognition of the scarcity of non-renewable fossil fuels or not, the effect is the same. Commercial agriculture is highly dependent on petrol, diesel and electricity for production, and therefore food prices generally relate to the price of oil. With the current global recession and the dramatic fall in the price of oil, the best that can be said is that the price of food will not become much higher than it currently is. It must be borne in mind that farmers ploughed, planted, and sprayed pesticides at the old oil prices, and shall have to recoup those costs from the consumer or go out of business.

 

 

 

A third reason has to do with the nature of capitalist farming in the context of climate change. In technical terms, extreme weather increases the risks involved in farming, and therefore increases costs. A University of Pretoria research on farmers’ general response to climate change, concluded by warning that:

 

“The most common adaptation options across all types of farming activities in the country in response to higher temperatures and lower rainfall were found to be changes in the variety of crops and livestock breeds and increased irrigation…The report suggested that new crop varieties more suitable for the changed climactic conditions should be identified. The difficulty with this is that with the climate variability being unpredictable, how the farmers know what crops to shift to?”[9]

 

In other words, farmers cannot plan a rational response to climate change because they do not know what to prepare for. We are having the wettest winter in fifty years in the western Cape at the same time as we are experiencing drought in the eastern Cape. Extreme weather is the pattern of the future.

 

 

 

High and rising food prices have led to political instability. When high levels of unemployment already exist, it does not take much to cause political upheavals. In South Africa, high food prices has increased social pressure for higher wages. The trade unions would not be able to resist this pressure even if they wished to. A doubling of the price of bread and even higher increases in the price of mielie meal are underlying structural factors which mock any political grandstanding. Rising food prices have fuelled the collapse of the fragile policy consensus under which we have lived for almost a decade.

 

 

 

This is bad news for women. First, in their social role as providers of food and family cooks, they are ones feeling the pressure most.  Second, as we saw in Kenya in January, when levels of political violence rise, so does violence against women. Third, it becomes exceedingly difficult to achieve gender equality under conditions of increasing political instability and a struggling economy..

 

 

 

Lastly, there is one final policy issue which must be considered within the context of global warming. With the world oil market having discovered scarcity, the fall in oil prices should not last much longer than the next northern winter.. Therefore the SA economy dependent on the import of non-renewable fossil fuels is going to experience persistent current account deficits, and either high levels of inflation or high interest rates. There are no other policy options. Both are bad news for economic development.

 

 

 

 

Structural Causes of High Food Prices:1

 

 

 

I have identified heteropatriarchal capitalism and the environmental destruction it causes as one key element of high food prices. In this section I want to look more closely at reasons located within South African history.

 

 

 

let us start with the most simple question: How much land do women in South Africa own? I do not know, nor have any answers been forthcoming from the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) or the Department of Agriculture (DA). Now of course this has direct policy consequences, for if we do not have a baseline figure, we are unable to judge whether our policies have succeeded. In other words, the CGE is unable to tell you whether or not we are achieving gender equality in terms of access to land or not, because we have no information on the starting point. We would argue that that very fact demonstrates a massive degree of sexism against women. The technical term is ‘gender-blindness’, meaning discrimination through exclusion. Critical aspects of women’s lives and experiences are made invisible because they are not considered important. Therefore they do not form part of policy-making.

 

 

 

Thus we are unable to measure the progress of land reform policy because we do not have a baseline against which to measure. Still, by any measure it is clear that post-apartheid land reform policy in this country has been an abysmal failure. The failure to redistribute land to emerging farmers, and therefore to emerging women farmers, may prove to be the single biggest stumbling block in stabilizing food supplies and therefore food prices.

 

 

 

In trying to understand women’s access to land in South Africa, there are two factors to be considered, namely the overall state of land distribution and the position of women within that. One can safely assume as a starting point that in 1994, 83 % of the land was in white and overwhelmingly male hands, while 13 % was in Black male hands. Since then, the overall state of land redistribution has been pitiful. The post-apartheid government has not been serious about land, and we see this in the way the initial goal of redistributing 30% of the land by 2001 was subsequently postponed to 30% by 1015, and now, it appears, the sheer impossibility of reaching that target has resulted in a second postponement. In fact, the government has at the moment no commitment as to when it will have reached the 30% target, much less when it will have redistributed land to either reflect justice in terms of population ratios, or efficiency with respect to an optimum distribution which maximizes land use. Therefore it can safely be said that part of the current food crisis is of our own making. Countries with high inequalities in access to land tend to have a characteristic pattern of simultaneous over- and underuse of land. Those with small holdings tend to overexploit it, while those who have huge holdings tend to leave much of it unused simply because they have so much of it. We have found no comparative studies for South Africa, but for instance in China, the simple act of tenure reform, giving small farmers more secure tenure, led to a dramatic increase in capital investments.[10] In Brazil, small farmers on newly redistributed land had achieved higher productivity than large commercial farmers in 42 % of cases, and equal productivity in 10 % of the cases.[11]  This despite the fact that only 54 % of the new small farmers had access to adequate water, only 27 % had access to adequate electricity, 55 % to technical assistance, and 81 % to development credit.[12]  While I have not been able to find any gendered figures, it is safe to conclude that all other things being equal, greater equality in access to land clearly leads to higher levels of productivity.

 

 

 

From the perspective of women as food producers and consumers, therefore, South Africa’s miserable track record in land redistribution has been costly. From 1994-2008, less than 5 % of the land has been redistributed through the DLA. The current budget (2008/2009) has risen by 70 %. [13] In other words we may go from a redistribution rate of 0.35 % per year to a whole 0.6 % this year, if the budget is fully spent. This is a big ‘if’, since the increase in budget for land acquisition been accompanied by a decrease in the budgets for the staff who are supposed to run the programs of between 38%-22 %. Similarly, budgets for post-settlement support in DA has also diminished.[14] One can only wonder what Treasury was thinking. Clearly, the chances for lower food prices from increased productivity through land distribution are slim in this country. Since women are the principal buyers and preparers of food, we would argue that this constitutes discrimination through gender-blindness.

 

 

 

With regard to women who labour on other people’s land, as far as the commercial sector is concerned it remains true as Fatima Shabodien has argued, that:

 

“The structure of commercial farming in South Africa today can be traced back to the slave plantations under colonialism at the Cape in the 1600’s.”[15]

 

What would today be characterized as the organizational culture of commercial farming was shaped on those slave plantations and reflected in the Roman Dutch legal system which still remains the operative system in the country today. This culture came to infuse official policies and systems during the period of segregation and apartheid, and while the skin colour of decisionmakers may have changed, the same cannot be said of the organizational culture which continues to support a specific approach to agriculture.

 

 

 

Structural Causes of High Food Prices:2

 

 

 

The key point about the historical system which came to shape the organizational culture of commercial farming is not just that it was racist, but also that it was extremely sexist as well. Like white women, Black women’s position is usually determined by the relationship to a man. As Shabodien points out, a recent study in the western Cape found not a single housing contract issued in the name of a woman farm worker.[16]  Because their access to tenure is dependent on a male partner, women on farms are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment both by the farmer and their male partners. Their very right to work is defined by  this relationship with women typically being defined as part-time or seasonal workers while, when permanent or skilled work is available, it is considered the prerogative of men. In the context of a long term fall in agricultural employment as well as increasing casualization of agricultural work, this has meant that today, over 60 % of agricultural workers are casual contract workers, with over two-thirds of these being women.[17]

 

 

 

When interviewing former women farmworkers myself in 1999, they described the reality of seasonal work in this way: “for six months of the year we live in poverty and the rest of the year we starve.” Regarding working conditions, their chief complaint was the high rates of pesticide use.[18] They all insisted that they had had no training in safe pesticide use, nor were they ever offered protective clothing and felt that this had long-term negative consequences for their health.   It should be mentioned, perhaps, that these women had all become dwellers of informal settlements since they were put off the farm once they became to sick or too old to work. It does not appear as if this has changed substantially in the ten years since. In short, on South Africa’s commercial farms, African women produce food under the same conditions as women elsewhere in Africa, and indeed the world over. As Holmes and Slater have observed:

 

“… wage labour in agriculture is characterised by low wages, seasonal work, and difficult labour conditions for mostly unskilled workers. In many countries, it is women who make up the larger share of the workforce in agriculture – employment that is seasonal and casual, leading to lower wages and precarious livelihoods.”[19]

 

Landlessness and insecure forms a poverty trap out of which women seldom, if ever, escape. Shabodien’s point about the continuities from the times of slavery is important. It underlines how effective are the mechanisms which create the intergenerational transfer of poverty.

 

 

 

Outside commercial farmlands, the estimated 30% of women who live in areas governed by traditional leaders: they work land they do not own, their labour is free, and they are prevented from making decisions about crop selection and marketing. Like women elsewhere in Africa, Asia and South America, these women also make a major contribution to family food security and health through the gathering of ‘wild’ plants from field edges, forest islands or  commonages. This food is normally known as morogo, imifino, famine food, or revealingly  ‘women’s food’, thus reflecting cultural values that ranks cultivated foods above food gathered from the wild, and meat above vegetables.[20]

 

 

 

But the concept also draws our attention to the importance of access to land in ensuring food security for rural families. Nutritional studies done on these plants generally reveal a higher rate of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and trace minerals when compared to exotic cultivated crops, yet the contribution of indigenous plants to the national diet and health is often overlooked. This  has severe implications for food security since something you can’t see is also something for which you cannot make policy. It is also something which you will not notice if it disappears. Yet there is a good deal of evidence to show that as male small-scale farmers are ‘developed’ and become increasingly part of the commercial food market, this has negative consequences for gender equality, and in particular for the borders and uncultivated lands where women gather their food and herbs. As Wiedeman has observed:

 

“… cash crop production tends to give men more control over income and resources. The result is that, despite increases in family income, families tend to eat less and poorer food.Women tend to spend their money on their families, household goods and on local goods (thus contributing to community development). Men, on the other hand, tend to spend money on themselves…”[21]

 

A gender blind approach to redistributing the means of production that is land land can mean that, as men’s access to land increases, women’s tenure rights can become more insecure. The privatisation of commonages, the destruction of indigenous forests, the invasion of alien plants and the extension of cultivated lands as new investments and new technology redefine what is considered ‘arable’, are all factors which impact negatively on the harvesting of indigenous plants. Yet, though we may see the results in increased rates of childhood malnutrition, higher incidences of stunted growth, TB, and other indicators of persistent food insecurity, we can not speak with authority of the effect the gradual disappearance of this source of food security because we have no policy measure of its existence in the first place. As a result we cannot tell you what role these factors play in the current food crisis.  We can only say that they are likely to become severe. The spread of ‘green concrete’, i.e. water-guzzling single crop fields planted with cultivars specially developed to have a high resistance to herbicides and pesticides, have had a devastating effect on field and roadside ‘weeds’. Yet this effect is not measured because, though these plants have a value to women in providing food security, they are considered a nuisance by male commercial farmers.

 

 

 

Effects of food supply crisis

 

 

 

That effects of the shortage of food supply are gendered is already becoming clear. Although there is no local research, and international research has barely begun, preliminary evidence thus far shows that people already under nutritional stress are reacting to the global food shortage in the first instance by increasing the proportion of their income spent on food, and when this is no longer an option, by cutting back on food[22]

 

 

 

Only in Ghana can it be said that the crises is leading to a somewhat positive outcome by steering consumption away from expensive exotic fertilizer and pesticide dependent crops such as wheat and rice, to crops more suited to the local climate and infrastructure. Everywhere else, the women who buy and cook food seem to be reacting by consuming less.

 

 

 

The short term effects are tragic, implying an increase in starvation and malnutrition. People who are already malnourished will have no reserves left to survive the flood and drought induced famines which are likely to become more common. The long term effects point to a deterioration in Africa’s most valuable asset – its human capital. When people cut back on other expenditures in order to buy food this is likely to affect secondary markets and worsen the current word-wide recession. Some of those expenditures will be health and education. Malnourished mothers who have cut back on health care are likely to give birth to weaker children, and the lifelong negative effects of pre- and postnatal malnourishment on the human brain are well-documented. In other words, the current crisis is likely to have consequences which will be felt for a generation to come.  Preliminary evidence is emerging that in Egypt, Yemen, and Senegal, families are increasingly removing their children from school and pushing them to work.[23] Children who are deprived of an education are generally doomed to the poverty of their parents. Thus the transgenerational transfer of poverty will become more likely, leaving a major problem for the next generation of African governments to resolve.

 

 

 

The effects of the food supply shortage on agriculture are complex. On the face of it, it would seem as if the rise in prices would stimulate the farming sector. However, the situation is less clear-cut. Consumer prices have been rising faster than producer prices, so the price received by the farmer at the farm gate has risen much slower than the price paid by the consumer in the shop. So farmers as food consumers have suffered while farmers as food producers have benefited much less than expected. The support given to the agricultural sector by the rising food prices is not altogether positive.

 

 

 

Farm input costs have risen faster than producer prices. The place where this is the most keenly felt is in downstream industries. The incredible rise in the world maize price, for instance, has had a severe impact on the livestock and poultry sector. In chicken and egg production, which is because of the relatively low costs of entry a highly competitive sector and unfortunately one of the sectors emerging farmers are most likely to be in, profit margins are extremely small, ranging from 0.5-5%. A doubling in the cost of feed will tend to wipe out any profits very quickly. Only so much can be passed on to consumers who, as we have seen, are reacting by reducing their consumption of meat altogether.  Livestock, both meat and dairy, is caught in a similar cost/price squeeze.

 

 

 

Most of the increase in consumer food prices has been absorbed by the increase in oil costs, with the remainder most probably going to oligopolistic retailers and food processers. Now, if we were all organic farmers supplying consumers who believed in eating what was locally available in season, these developments would have a less severe effect on our human ecology. However, having developed a commercial agricultural sector which owns most of the arable land, is highly focused on exports, and extremely dependent on external and often imported inputs, these developments have hit agriculture in the stomach.  Large corporate farmers with plenty of capital at their disposal are likely to be able to weather the storm and capitalize on the rise in prices. Small family farms and of course the emerging farming sector who have been trained (to the extent that they have received capacity-building and support at all) to emulate large commercial farmers, are likely to be hard-hit.

 

 

 

We also have to remember that rural landlessness has led to a vast increase in urbanization. This has meant that up to 30% of the price you pay for food may actually be the cost of transport. Moreover, one of the outcomes of South Africa’s economic history has been the development of extreme oligopolies. This means that our markets are very uncompetitive, with very few, very large players. Retail sector oligopolies mean that half of the price you pay for food may not go to the farmer but to the retailer. When it comes to processed goods like bread, the proportion going to the farmer is probably only about 25 % of the cost to the consumer. So high food prices are not necessarily going to ensure food security in the country.

 

 

 

Lastly, the increase in producer prices has not been sufficient to assist in solving the most basic long-term problem, namely the increased risk of farming which is resulting on lower levels of production.  One of the chief consequences of global warming for agriculture has been not just a long-term reduction in average rainfall, but the increased occurrence of extreme weather, that is more severe droughts and as well as more frequent floods.[24]

 

South Africa is no exception to this general trend. These effects will be difficult for any form of agriculture but it just so happens that the ‘green concrete’ approach to agriculture is the single most sensitive form of agriculture. In a good year it makes much profit, but the point is that we are likely to have fewer and fewer good years. Unless we completely reform the capitalist agricultural system, therefore, it is likely that food supplies will continue to fall and food prices will continue to rise.

 

 

 

Conclusion: The Way Forward

 

 

 

The argument of this paper has been that, if we want food prices to fall, we are going to have to revolutionize the economic system within which food is produced. This recommendation, by the way, comes from the heart of capitalism, namely the World Bank:

 

“The comparative advantage in agricultural growth in reducing poverty is also supported by econometric studies. Cross-country econometric evidence indicates that GDP growth generated in agriculture has large benefits for the poor and is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated by other sectors…”[25]

 

This, of course, bears out my theory that Communism of a centralist variety and state capitalism are going to become increasingly indistinguishable from each other. But I would suggest that we take Marx’s advice and give the collapse of capitalism few helpful pushes. Therefore I am suggesting that if even a western male dominated institution like the World Bank has finally come round to what African women have been saying all along, then it is time that our own capitalists and government started listening to us.

 

 

 

What can the women’s movement do, in this situation? Well, I have two suggestions. This first is truly, as my title suggests, to use our collective muscle to begin to break oligopolies of production. There is no law which stops us from starting a feminist bakery. Or a feminist farm. I know it is easier to talk than to actually do the dirty work of planting and weeding, but I want to challenge you to decide how serious are we about revolution? If capitalism collapsed tomorrow, what would we know about providing bread for the masses?

 

 

 

And we need to question whether our energies are better spent at yet another demonstration or at actually doing all the hard work which hurts capitalism in the wallet. Do you really need another speech?

 

 

 

My next suggestion would be that we should appreciate the work of the woman’s movement in raising the cost of patriarchal capitalism to the point where it goes into recession. I would like us to go back to our feminist roots and re-double our struggle around promoting women’s reproductive choices and gender-based violence. Patriarchal capitalism, as I have said, must expand. If it cannot expand it will collapse. Ask yourself what would happen if women started having no more children than they could feed well? If the earth’s population started to decrease, some very interesting things would happen to the capitalist economy. Global warming would slow down, for one, if we made sure that our fewer children also lived in a more equal world. Property prices would begin to fall, for two, exactly the same thing which caused the current collapse of global financial systems. And interest rates would begin to go down, not up. In other words, the present value of money would be higher than the value of money in the future. I do not think capitalist banks could survive that for long.

 

 

 

So I think it is time that women took their liberation into their own hands (or other parts of their bodies as the case may be). We truly do have the power to decide which way the future lies. Because, best of all, if none of us had children we did not know how to feed, we would love and cherish the children we do have. Just think, happy, healthy, loved children! That is a future worth fighting for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] .  Berry, Wendell “The Pleasures of Eating” in Mary Swander (ed.) Bloom and Blossom: The Reader’s Guide To Gardening, Ecco Press, Hopewell, New Jersy, 1997, pp. 270.

[2] . “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment”, cited in Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity Biodiversity and Agriculture: Safeguarding Biodiversity and Securing Food for the World, Montreal, 2008, pp. 15.

[3] . Vaughan, Genevieve For-Giving: A Feminist Critique of Exchange Anomaly Press and Plain View Press, Austin, Texas, 2002, pp. 34

[4] . Greater London Authority. 2006. Gender Equality Scheme 2007-10:Draft For Consultation, pp. 10. Available at http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor/equalities/docs/draft_genderequalityscheme_consultation.pdf

[5] . Cf. Table 29: “Gender Empowerment Measure”  United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, Geneva, 2008, pp. 330.

[6] . Farmer’s Weekly,  11 January, 2008, pp.24.

[7] . Farmer’s Weekly,  28 December, 2007, pp. 28.

[8] . Ibid.

[9] .  Cited in Department of Minerals and Energy Draft Biofuels Industrial Strategy of the Republic of South Africa, November, 2006, pp. 72. Available at http://www.dme.gov.za Last accessed 13/12/2007.

 

[10] .  Kelian, Zhu and Roy Prosterman “ From Land Rights to Economic Boom” China Business Review , July August, 2006, pp. 48.

[11] . Heredla, B, L Medeiros, M Palmeira, R Cintrao and S P Leite “Regional Impacts of Land Reform in Brazil” in Land Reform, Land Settlement and Co-operatives, 2005/1, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, pp. 29.

[12] . Ibid., pp. 25-26.

[13] .  Hall, Ruth “Land Budget Update” in Umhlaba Wethu 5, June, 2008, pp. 4.

[14] .  Ibid..

[15] . Shabodien, Fatima “Livelihoods Struggles of Women Farm Workers in South Africa”, South African Labour Bulletin, June, 2006, pp.1

[16] . Shadodien “Livelihoods Struggles” , pp. 2.

[17] . Ibid., pp. 4.

[18] . Gender Advocacy Programme Smartietown: Women, Water and Sanitation in Paarl Municipality, Cape Town, 1999.

[19] .Holmes, Rebecca and Rachel Slater “Realising Gender in Agricultural Policies: The Fight for Equality is Not Over” Opinion December, 2007, Overseas Development Institute, London, UK.

[20] .   Gericke, Nigel and Ben Erik van Wyk People’s Plants: A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa , Briza Publications, Johannesburg, 2000 pp. 63.

[21] . Weideman Women and Land Reform pp. 8 of 15.

[22] .   International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Soaring Food Prices and the Rural Poor, 26 April, 2008, pp. 4 of 7. Available at http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/KKAA-7E47E5?OpenDocument . Last Accessed 07/07/2008

[23] . IFAD Soaring Food Prices pp. 5 of 7.

[24] . IFAD Soaring Food Prices, pp. 2 of 7.

[25] . Ibid., pp. 29.

 

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