The media spotlight is on the role of smallholder farmers in poverty reduction and food security, but what they need is action on land rights and support to stand up to powerful partners
With the launch of the Enough food for everyone If campaign, global food security is once again high on the public agenda. The UK campaign hopes to harness public support leading up to the meeting of the G8 in June, in an attempt to replicate the achievements of Make Poverty History in 2005. One of the key pillars of the If campaign is land, and drawing attention to the plight of poor farmers who are being forced to relinquish their property in what has been described as a neo-colonial "land grab".
We have, of course, seen processes of alienation and dispossession accelerate over the past century. In the Age of Extremes, the final volume in his much-praised quartet of books, historian Eric Hobsbawm declared that the "death of the peasantry" constituted "the most dramatic and far-reaching social change of the second half of this [20th] century", sealing "us off forever from the world of the past". "The peasantry," Hobsbawm continued, "which had formed the majority of the human race throughout recorded history, had been made redundant by the agricultural revolution."
While many on the left felt that this was a premature obituary, several commentators on the right saw the demise of the peasantry as an essential precursor to prosperity. In the American magazine Foreign Affairs in 2008, Paul Collier mocked "the middle and upper class love affair with peasant agriculture", and the view that "peasants, like pandas, are to be preserved". In today's ...[view whole blog post ]