Friday, October 24, 2014

Interlude, with Cocoa Farmers and short invective on genetically modified seeds

 Here’s one of JMD’s star cocoa farmers at a grafting training.

The next grafting training is coming up—this time: bud grafting. Very specialized. Good grafters are highly sought-after, anywhere in the world.

I never knew how important grafting is to the success of a healthy farm and a plentiful harvest. One of the things you have to watch out for, though, is that some cloned/genetically altered varieties (of anything) need absolute optimum conditions to grow, and Aceh’s conditions, while geographically swell, are anything but optimum when you consider drought, floods, pests, monkeys (argh!  monkeys!) fungus, overgrown shade trees . . . the list does on.  Did I mention monkeys?

Anyway, the trick for the farmers will be to bring their farms up to healthy “mutt” status, meaning they are not just dependent on the cloned varieties for rootstock or grafts, because that’s just another type of dependence—on the Duponts and Monsantos of the world.

An interesting article in November’s Mother Jones magazine—“Demonstration Plot”— traces the rise of 4-H youth groups in Africa and how, because they are funded by major chemical and seed producers, they act as “free advertising for products that will put their families’ farms out of business.” Genetically superior seeds make a huge difference in production, which works well in the short term, but eventually, in order to compete with everyone else who is now producing the same amount, the farmer must continue to purchase these seeds (and the attendant non-organic chemicals and pesticides and materials needed to optimize the crop). As regions transition from subsistence farming to industrial crop production (which is what agribusinesses want) foreign interests begin to control more and more of the farmland.  Agribusiness is helped by large donors such as USAID, states the article, whose Feed the Future Program hopes to “increase agricultural business investments in priority countries.”  And so, between 2010 and 2014, corporations like Walmart and Pepsi have received $7billion to “partner with farmers in the developing world.”

Kind of makes palm oil in the back yard sound tame, don’t it?

I mention this because reporting on EDFF was getting a little heavy, and just did not warrant any photos, and I thought we needed a photo.

But tomorrow I will tell you about what we finally did with all this database and AAA/Keumang information that I've been going on about for weeks, and my trip (which I’d mentioned in June) to the Clinton Foundation (sort of) to see if Bill Clinton, who’d just visited Aceh in April, been given the grand, whitewashed tour and pronounced everything “fine,” might be interested in a lot of hard evidence to the contrary. 

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