domingo, 16 de mayo de 2010

Political economy food and demographic control

Traditionally, the power of the countries has been associated to the size of their population.
Power and population has been synonymous; but with the development of the science and technology that perception has changed.
Now, the synonymous of power is the scientist knowledge domain; the atomic weapons were the main cause of that transformation.
In the past, the military force was determined by the number of soldiers’ and the conventional weapons; now, the military supremacy is decided by the possession of nuclear weapons.
The atomic experience caused a great impact in the world. The nuclear powers learned the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In the following decades the great nuclear countries participated in new war scenarios ---Korea, Vietnam and Middle East--- but in none case they used the atomic energy.
The military power and the economic power are strongly tied. Without economic development the military power is not possible.
In turn, the economic development is related to the size and purchase capacity of the market ---population--- and other key issues like the availability or not of factors of production and their appropriate use.
Since the theorist point of view, each one of the factors of production ---capital, land and work--- has the same hierarchy. None of them is more important than other. But, in the 21st century reality, the natural resources (land) have acquired a special paper; the reason? Because of signs of scarcity and contamination are already visible in many regions of the world especially in the agriculture sector in matter of water and land.
A similar perspective occur regarding the other forms of energy, like the petroleum, because the reserves are draining in specific areas, among them, the North Sea, the United States, Mexico and China. Hence, a constant increase of the petroleum price is very possible.
The agriculture is the basic form of energy because it provides the food that feed our lives. The food is energy. Now, in the modern world, the petroleum is a basic input for the agriculture because it determines the crops yield by mean of the fertilizers and supply the combustible that move all the machinery, among other basic inputs of the productive chain. So that any increase in the petroleum price touch directly the agriculture costs. The mentioned facts exert a significant impact on the possibilities of the agriculture expansion and the food production at mid and long term.
Demographic control
The other important issue is the population growth. According with the FAO projections, the most augment will occur in the developing countries. In change, the minor growth will be in the industrial nations, because of the demographic transition phenomenon, which mean a high rate of longevity and a small birthrate. If this phenomenon augments in the coming years, the industrial countries will suffer a process of deep cultural change since that new migratory flows sure will transform the custom of those societies. The influence of the migratory groups already is evident in the industrial countries like the United States and in Europe. This will provoke a change in the politics and the economy not only of the recipient countries but in the rest of the world. This is a subject that deserve be considered in a complete work.
The effect of the population growth on the food production will be one of the most important issues for humanity in the coming years.
There are three options to satisfy the growing food population needs: a) to increase the production, b) to reduce the population growth or c) both.
The restrictions that affect the agriculture expansion are well known like the land scarcity, the water stress, the contamination and the inflation in the energy prices; so that the demographic control might be an alternative to tackle the reality.
The demographic control is the action adopted by the states through their policies of population for regulating ---increase or diminish--- the birthrates in a country or region. The objective of the demographic control is to determine the population size at mid and long term.
There are successful cases of demographic control; China, for example, diminished their birthrates in the 20th century notwithstanding to be the most populated country of the world. Other overpopulated nation, like India, has employed too the demographic control to lessen their birthrate. Where the situation is out of control is in Africa.
In other moments of the history, like in the thirty and forty decades of the 20th century, leaders as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler used the demographic control to stimulate the birthrate in its countries. They promoted the marriages and for each son the government gave a reward to the parents. The objective of those governments was to increase the number of soldiers for the war.
The mentioned examples demonstrate that the demographic control has been used in two contradictory directions: by a side to enhance and by the other to restrict the birthrate, according to the population policies of the countries.
A fact that must be mentioned is that the demographic control was employed principally by autocratic governments in the 20th century; but it does not mean that it is a mechanism proper of that kind of regimes, no, the demographic control is an instrument of the policy of population that may be used the same by the democratic regimes and other type of governments.
The true problem is the global high rate of population augment of the last century ---the most in the history--- and their projection, a trend that will be unsustainable for the limited resources of the Earth at mid and long term. Only the technology might help to curb the consequences of the overpopulation improving the methods of production and distribution of goods and services.
In the thirty years between 1970 and 2000, the world population increase was of 64.43 per cent; the developing countries augment of 81.75 per cent and the industrial countries growth rate 24.48 percent.

The international agencies, like FAO, assure that the population growth of the thirty years between the year 2000 and 2030 will be the half of the average observed in the last three decades between the year 1970 and 2000. They do not explain which the reasons are for suppose that the historical behavior will change. The projection for the year 2030 is 2,059 million of inhabitants more regarding the year 2000, as may be appreciated in the following table.

The foreseen total population increase for the year 2030 is a big amount, approximately the third part of the current global total; it mean that will be necessary producing the food that the new population will need. This requires more land and more water, including a most exploitation of the oceans resources and more petroleum and coal. In turn, this implies more contamination. How conciliate all these situations is the key question.
The political economy and the technology might supply the theorist and practice support to tackle basic issues like the production increase and the struggle against the poverty to face the future high population growth. But the demography must play a privileged paper. The demographic control to diminish the birthrate in the developing countries will be something necessary. On the contrary, the birthrate increase will be fundamental for the industrial nations to reduce the impact of the demographic transition phenomenon, which threat to become those countries in societies of old people, societies of senior citizens condemned to disappear at long term. A balance between the population growth of the developing nations and the industrial nations is the fair.
Realistic policies of population should be developed by all the nations; this encompasses key issues like the policies of immigration and the policies of population distribution in the space, to favor the nature and the environment, among others.
What do you think?

sábado, 1 de mayo de 2010

Political economy, food and population projections

Is able the Earth of to double the food production in the coming years?
That is the key question that some politicians, researchers and people linked to the agriculture have made themselves in the last months; the reason? An announcement made by the FAO food chief, Jacques Diouf on January 26 2009 during an international conference on food security in Madrid.
Jacques Diouf said that “…We face the challenge now of not only ensuring food for the 973 million who are currently hungry, but also ensuring there is food for nine billion people in 2050. We will need to double global food production by 2050…”
According with The Guardian of London in information of the journalist Juliette Jowit on April 19 2010, the Soil Association of the United Kingdom published a study with the title “The big fat lie about doubling food production,” where criticize the projection and assure that their origin is a FAO report of June 2006 entitled World Agriculture towards 2030/2050.
The Guardian informs that the Soil Association assures that “…The forecast increase needed in production would be closer to 70% by 2050…” and that “…The UK government has said that the difference between 100% and 70% is not trivial because it is more than the food production of the whole American continent…”
Nobody can predict the future with precision
I would like to comment an anecdote that I lived many years ago. In that time I was director of an area in the planning office of my country and helped a student to get a grant to study in one of the most advanced North Americans universities. I advised him to pay special attention to the planning subjects. One year after he came back and said to me: the studies have been excellent but I want to tell you something that perhaps will be disappointing. And he told me that one of his professors, a Nobel Laureate, said to him and to the rest of the pupils that the planning is possible only at short term, because the world change everyday to an unbelievable speed and for that reason is not possible to make plans at long term.
I did not forget the concept. In the following years I felt a great attraction by the philosophy and I could understand better what the professor wanted to express to his pupils. Indeed, the changes, sometimes radical and unexpected changes, are the essence of the live and they affect the possibilities of forecast at long term. It is true that there is a statistic reality, trends that we can to verify in the facts, but they are only tendencies that can change in any moment. I will give only one example in the following question:
Who could predict twenty years ago that twenty years after a young leader like Barack Obama would be the president of the United States?
The projections
The studies of the international agencies sometimes present contradictory information. The reason is, perhaps, that that information is gathered and interpreted by different people with different visions of a same phenomenon.
Observe you the three following paragraphs of the FAO document World Agriculture towards 2015/2030; the quotes belong to the Executive Summary:
“…There are three main sources of growth in crop production: expanding the land area, increasing the frequencies with which it is cropped (often through irrigation), and boosting yields. It has suggested that we may be approaching the ceiling of what is possible for all three sources…”
But in the same section says the following:
“…At global level there is adequate unused potential farmland. A comparison of soils, terrains and climates which the needs of major crops suggest that an extra 2.8 billion ha are suitable in varying degrees for the rain fed production on arable and permanent crops. This is almost twice as much as currently farmed. However, only a fraction of this extra land is realistically available for agricultural expansion in the foreseeable future, as much as needed to preserve forest cover and to support infrastructural development…”
And after it assure:
“…More than half the land that could be opened up is in just seven countries of tropical Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, whereas other regions and countries face a shortage of suitable land. In the Near East and North Africa, 87 percent of suitable land was already being farmed in 1977-99 while in South Asia the figure is no less than 94 per cent. In these regions, intensification through improved management and technologies will be the main, indeed virtually the only source of production growth. In many places land degradation threatens the productivity of existing farmland and pasture…” End of the quotes.
It is evident the contradiction between the first and third paragraphs and the second one.
Then the question is:
Is there or not enough water and expanding area for agricultural production?
The agricultural lands of Europe, Asia and part of Africa have been exploited by thousands of years and most of them are already exhausted; Egypt, for example, where the historians consider that the agriculture began. The lands of America have been also exploited but in less intensity and proportion; hence some of them are still a potential reserve.
The problem is that the agricultural exploitation means deforestation and a great damage to the environment. For example, since the sixty years of the 20th century ---before the region was closed for strangers--- the Amazon region has been destroyed, mainly, by the farmers, the lumberjacks and the miners. The great problem is that the Amazon area is vital for the environment sustainability of the planet. That is the last ecological reserve that survives in the world.
As a result of the expressed the other key question is:
Which are the tropical Latin American and Sub-Saharan seven countries that the FAO consider could be open to new developments in the agriculture?
How that development will affect the environment and the global sustainability?
Restricted possibilities
If you consider the reality of the planet presented by the own FAO, you will confirm that there are restricted possibilities of the agricultural expansion. The limitation in matter of land and water are a true. The FAO’s experts know and cope that true better than the rest of the world citizens but, perhaps, they can not recognize it publicly; notwithstanding, sometimes, in official papers as the quoted in the previous paragraphs, they do clear mention of that reality.
Why to hide the perspectives?
Everybody wait miracles in all the issues of the live. You expect your miracles I, the governments and the rest of the people too. Everybody wait a change, a good change. The hope of miracles feed the live of the people. Hence nobody want to see negative perspectives and anticipate measures for tackle them. Perhaps that would be an answer.
But to hide or to not recognize the true does not change the true. The governments and the international official agencies have the duty of to warn about the perspectives and to make the recommendations for a best future.
What is the most important?
The question that head this work is the most important:
Is able the Earth of to double the food production in the coming years?
The answer is in the hands of the scientists, the politicians, economists and the people linked to the agriculture: farmers and entrepreneurs, among others.
The true is that the world will need to increase the food production in an important amount to attend the growth population of the coming years. In this moment it does not matter if is 100 percent or 70 percent; the true is that any of them is an enormous quantity.
The perspectives of the world population are the base for the food estimations.

The FAO consider that the world population will reach the peak of 9 billion of inhabitants for the year 2050 and estimates that since that moment will not have growth at global level. In the Overview ---page 3--- of the World Agriculture towards 2030/2050, they explain the forecast of zero population growth for the year 2050 as “…the net result of continuing increases in some countries compensated by declines in others…”
But they assure after that “…zero population growth at global level will not automatically translate into zero growth in demand and cessation of building-up pressures on resources and the wider environment…”
The great problem is how to arrive to the year 2050; how to produce the food that the population will require, in a scenario of water shortage worldwide, overexploitation of the land and growing contamination.
First of all it is necessary to recognize and to say the true at the world.
It is necessary an integral effort of many sectors, among them, the science, the technology, the political economy, the demography, the politicians, the farmers and the entrepreneurs, for giving answers to those issues. The demographers have an especial responsibility. They must be listened by the political leaders and other researchers.
Which is your opinion?