False aid that ruins peasants
Each year, the so-called First World countries spend more than one billion dollars per day to sustain their farmers. That is, six times the quantity they give annually as aid to the development of the so-called Third World countries.
Only the European Union and the United States are responsible for two thirds of those subventions’ total, so flaunted as altruistic generosity.
The results of those high policies: more elevated production levels each day, import reduction of products that come from developing countries and the invasion of our production surplus that sink market prices because there is no possible competition. That is when the “surplus of our production” is not offered as ADF (Aid for Development Funds). Whose development?
Let us talk about numbers of a product that is so distinctive of African countries and others of the Third World meridian: cotton. The United States grants three billion dollars in subsidies each year to its cotton cultivators; China grants one billion, two hundred thousand dollars and the European Union another billion dollars for a product so inadequate to our climate as cotton is.
Western and Central African producers (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Togo), with a population of ten million people, report that those subsidies distort commerce, forces them to export their cotton at prices that are inferior to their cost and represent a benefit loss of between 200 and 300 million dollars each year.
That’s why African cotton producers have decided this year to lead a rebellion against the present international system that oppresses and impoverishes the agricultural producers of the planet’s south. They have asked Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Campoaré, to be the spokesman of their disgrace in Geneva, as well as of their proposals.
Before addressing the World Trade Organization, they want to denounce before public opinion the scandal of the subsidies that rich countries grant to their farmers and demand for a financial reparation for the lack of equilibrium that they are being caused since many years ago.
We are talking about the cotton that France introduced in many African countries to take advantage of the cheap labour force, when it wasn’t forced labour, in regions of the old French Western Africa, harming their populations’ traditional products. With that, they provoked horrible erosions, the flattening of land that was prepared for other products for the communities centuries before, drought, population shifts and hunger, ruin and war when the colonizers left.
The same happened with the disappeared waters of the Aral Sea. The Soviets decided to utilize its rich waters to impose a savage cultivation of cotton in hundreds of thousands hectares that they abandoned later, converting the old sea into dead salt marshes with tremendous repercussion on the ecosystem and on the disappeared biodiversity.
Great Britain’s policies were no different in immense extensions of India, reduced to that product that, during hundreds of years, had guaranteed the subsistence of peasant communities that did not have another income source. With the aggravating factor, as Ghandi denounced to exhaustion and jail, of prohibiting Indian cotton manufacture to indigenous girls whose thumbs they amputated so that they could not sew. Cotton and thread were cultivated in India by the indigenous, exported to the metropolis to manufacture the fabric that they later on sold to the native people. It’s good to re-read the testimony of Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins in “Freedom at Midnight.”
Shall other protests as the ones in Seattle and many other places of the planet be necessary to denounce the disgrace and the scandal of instututions supposedly created to structure commerce at a global scale and that, in turn, in doing so they daily impoverish more the poor peasants who have no other means of subsistence?
Nor the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization nor the aid agencies for development of different countries, Spain amongst them, ignore these realities. That is how economists and university professors witness it, along with civil servants and civil society experts who don’t want to continue one more day being accomplices of a radically unjust system. That system insists on deceiving public opinion with its “aid” propaganda that rich countries grant the poor, which don’t have any other currency than their agricultural products.
The same happens in many Latin American and Asian countries. Thanks to the nets of solidarity through the Internet, it’s necessary to spread the word and to support the rise of peasant populations against an unjust system that the colonizers had imposed on them many times before and that now the agents of the IMF sell as requirements in their structural readjustments if they want to be accepted by the international community. It’s false and it’s precise to denounce it as many times needed: as long as rich countries of the North continue to subsidize their farmers with billions of dollars everyday, it will be a disgrace, a lie and a source of desperation and wrath the discourse that democracy pretends to sell them or impose on them. If this and other aberrations are the pretended benefits of democracies, some people won’t cease to launch themselves into the streets even at the risk of being considered terrorists, making their lives explode in a shout to accuse the extermination of their communities.
Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez