food distribution

BBC 2 is currently running a series of documentaries that are looking at the FUTURE OF FOOD fronted by former Fair Trade patron George Alagiah both here in the UK and the rest of the world generally.

The first episode looked at the issue food security and water in particular and showed the lengths to which  a Punjab based wheat farmer goes too to access water to irrigate the wheat that is headed to the west and the level of debt this has left him with whilst elsewhere in Punjab some have committed suicide as they could not cope with the level of debt they were in nor could they see a way out.

This week’s episode has left me (us) with some dilemmas. With European waters over fished and  dwindling supplies, we are heading further a field  to look for fish and one of the countries at the receiving end of our quest for fish is Senegal a relatively poor African country. Fish is a vital part of the diet of the coast villages in Senegal but with the  arrival of European fishing boats, these locals don’t stand a chance and one fisherman said "he simply wishes they would go away". The consequences of the Europeans fishing Senegalese waters has meant that fish in Senegal has become so expensive that most local people can’t afford it!

The story moves on to a farm in Kenya that grown green beans for UK supermarkets. I was having dinner whilst watching this part and on my plate was grilled Salmon, mangetout, grilled courgettes and tomatoes and I must admit to struggling to finish it.

The Kenyan story is very sad indeed. A country that grows and exports a lot of food to the UK but has to rely on UN FOOD AID to feed its people! Perfectly good beans being rejected because they have a bit of soil on them or are  the wrong shape!

The programme touched on the issue of Bio fuel. Yes we need to protect the environment and one way is to check our fuel consumption and the sources of fuel. But is it fair to take away farming land form rural people that use it for growing food and turn it into a field for bio fuel crops that neither people nor animals can eat?

What about feeding cattle on cereals/grains in order to fatten them whilst  some people can’t access this cereal for food? I sincerely don’t know what the answers to these questions are, but all I know is that we need to address these issues one way or another.

As George said we have some tough choices to make especially here in Europe. Our food choice is currently threatening  the food and water security of some of the poorest people in the world. It would appear too that we face unknown future in as far as our own food security is concerned unless we rethink how we farm and eat.

Is the way forward to "GROW" our own? Is the ethical thing to do to farm our own fish instead ot taking fish from those that need it the most? What about our shopping habits? Are supermarkets simply giving in to our demands of super perfect Kenyan green beans?

Have you got a view on any of the issues raised here? Please share it! I would urge to to watch George’s programmes on BBC 2 or iplayer

The debate about Hillary’s Clinton’s real reason for being in Africa continues. Some have argued that she has not done enough to address human rights abuse as well as worker’s rights. You will recall my recent post about this  and if you missed here is the link

The choice of countries that Mrs Clinton chose to visit have mostly one thing common EXTRACTIVE COMMODOTIES. However according to this article the agricultural money promised has meant that banana barons have strengthened their hold on Mozambique and Angola.

I appreciate their observation about the role of bananas in the day today life of most African countries, in fact certain tribes in Uganda the only thing that passess as food is Matoke  a type of banana that is boiled/steamed, mashed then served with any type of stew. In some families this is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner



This type of banana is facing a different kind of challenge compared that, that is of interest to the like of Chiquita, the BANANA WILT. This as I understand is a type of bacteria that affects banana plants and kills off whole plantations and thus threatening food security. In countries where bananas play an important role in day to day life this a real threat and  work has been under way  to develop a super banana plant that can resist the WILT. That fight has not gone unnoticed by those that object to GM food.

Having read the article, I wonder if the author is concerned that if bananas, if Africa are exported to the West then this affects the local economy that depends on the banana? I also wonder whether how much the author knows about bananas . Bananas come in different kinds and each kind almost always has a specific use, the bananas for juice and beer can be eaten as fruit ripe but the taste is awful, unless cooked, even then there are an acquired taste.  Whislt the  bananas that some is like to come across in the West are for instance not suitable for cooking, the same way you would cook Matoke.

The degree to which the activities of the likes of Chiquita will impact of the banana market will depend on the types of bananas any given country has, as well as how the workers are treated.

Although the article has a valid point regarding homelessness in many african countries I am not entirely sure I follow the Banana point!

Have you got a banana opnion? Please share it

Listening to Obama’s speech yesterday reminded of my trip to Uganda last year. He urged Africa to stand up for herself specifically to come up with solutions to its problems. He told the audience that he would like to see an Africa that sells food to the developing world.

This was certainly the case for Zimbabwe in the early 90’s, there were bananas, apples etc on the shelves of my local supermarket market PRODUCE OF ZIMBABWE, one has to ask how did all go so wrong that Zimbabwe has come to need FOOD AID?

I wrote about this year’s G8 SUMMIT  in L’Aquila Itlay  and their commitment to increase food security for Africa in particular. But how do you ensure that food gets to where it is meant to be or that as President’ Obama’s wish for African countries to become suppliers of food elsewhere in the world?

Whilst in Uganda in September 2008 I discovered that Peas that were donated by the Canadian government to the people of Rwanda made their way onto a fruit and veg market in Uganda. I however never considered that the same peas would   make it to Isle Worth in West London England!

These Peas journey in summary is Canada- Rwanda- Uganda- London…Phew!

What are they doing in s hop in Isleworth you may ask?  Well most of us in immigrant communities have foods we love that  are not available in main stream supermarkets and mine is  Ugandan sweet potatoes and tea

I therefore make the journey from Surrey to Isleworth on and off  to get those sweet potatoes and on that visit I discovered that the same  peas I had seen in a market in Uganda were on sale in the shop in Isleworth! The shopkeeper was amazed when I told him about the incredible  journey these peas had made to Isleworth!

Should we in the UK be buying food that was given as part of the Food Aid  programme donated to the developing world, I asked him? He agreed that  this is wrong and that he would take his suppliers to task about it.  That was 2008! I have since been back to the same shop in Isleworth and I am pleased to report that they have stopped stocking these peas.

That aside, this example illustrates that FOOD AID is open to abuse as the food does not necessarily get to those that need it/for whom it is meant.

How do we guard against/end this kind of abuse? I suspect that some of the reason this sort of thing happens may have to do with poor wages for staff on the ground who quite possibly see this a perk that comes with their jobs. The selling of food that is meant to be given out free of charge  is additional income for them? What do you think?

If that were indeed the case what do we do? Pay them more? or stop sending the FOOD AID  altogether?

There is no doubt that these are tough times folk and I find myself in a reflectived mood today. The wet weather here in Maidstone Kent, from where I am writing this from has not helped.

The G20 nations are due to meet in London next week and I understand that on their agenda are questions how to tackle the current economic down turn that has left many folk workless as well as homeless.

It was reported on the news this morning that this upcoming meeting has aroused some raw emotions from environmentalists, campaigners for more jobs, as well as those who blame the financial institutions for the current economic situations. And to that end several demonstrations are underway as folk strive to get their voices heard by the powers that be.

An hour ago, I was engaged in a conversation by a fellow guest here at the Ramada Hotel in Kent. After the initial general questions the converasation soon turned to the upcoming G20 meeting. She is especially interested in all issues to do with the envrionment, I must confess, apart from religion, this is a topic that I would rather not get drawn into. I find it emotive and frankly I don’t know much about it.

For instance this lady wnated to know from me if it is ok to buy peas and Mange tout brought into the UK from Kenya? She informed me that the folk in her network and family believe that the process by which the peas and Mange tout get here is bad for the environment. But she doesn’t agree with them since the production method is mostly by hand or hand held tools, which in her mind offsets any carbon emmissions.

I on the other hand believe that farmers in the developing world should have access to as many markets as possible as their best hope out of poverty is the ability to trade. This is not only sustainable but it ensures that other than waiting for handouts they are helping themselves out of poverty. The question then becomes one of which is more important, the climate, employment or justice?

This lady wanted and answer from me! We spoke at length about  AID to African countries. 

In particular Food AID.   Africa as a  continent made up of some of the poorest countries on earth most of which are dependent on all types of AID from donor countries. Some of  this AID doesn’t make sense at all when put in the context of ending poverty, climate change and human rights

This is a strange thing for me to say, you might think. But hear me out if you will. Some parts of Africa have got an awful lot of food much more than folk can consume whilst others have none at all.

 Imagine  this , what if some of this food was shipped to parts of the continent that need it as oppossed to flying peas, Maize, sugar etc form the USA to Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia etc? What impact would that have on climate change and poverty amongst African farmers?

The twist in the tale here is that AID in the form FOOD AID doesn’t always get to the people that need it. Here is an example of what I am talking about

Don’t get me wrong I am not against helping disadvantaged folk in the world. I am however concerned that this is sometimes done without due regard, and consequently a culture of dependency results. This happens in West too especially in the Housing provision area. This giving of FOOD AID can kill off local farmers markets completely.

Second clothing was the other topic for discusion. What about the second hand clothing charities send to out, the lady asked me? Sadly this too kills off local produce like cotton as demand for such textiles dies off, and as far as the environment is concerned, most developing countries may lack the technology to process artificial fabrics like Nylon, when they come to the end of their useful life!

I have seen goats/cows that have died as a result of eating these artificial fabrics as well as plastic bags. The sad thing about this is that where these goats and cows are all the assets folk have to sell to pay for children’s health care an education!!

As we parted company she asked if I have ever considered being  a Politician,. The answer came very quickly NO. I don’t mind working alongside politicians but I would not want to join them.

Thniking about the G20 generally and the issues at stake, the failure of the economy has no doubt hit the poorest the hardest regardless of where in the world they are, the sad thing as articulated by the Brazilian President this week, the current situation was not credited by developing countries.

My question then is , Where do we go from here on issues, climate change, worklesseness and justice? Have you got a viw either way if so please share it.

Will the G20 meeting have answers to these issues?