Saturday, June 2, 2012

Reviving the Countryside

Dear Laila kindly provided a translation of my al akhbar article

Reviving the Countryside
Rami Zurayk
One of the worst calamities that could hit a farmer is having to see his harvest go to waste. This is what is happening today in Akkar because of loss of markets and the suspension of exporting through Syria. Mountains of vegetables and fruits are piling up in farms and markets, deteriorating and rotting, with no buyer or consumer to save them. 
This is a real disaster. It could worsen and lead to the bankruptcy of small farmers, who will be unable to absorb the financial loss. Some may be compelled to abandon agriculture, sell their land and join the queues of the unemployed.
The farming sector will be wiped away to be replaced by a specialized capitalist sector, more akin to industry than to agriculture. A sector built on ‘oceans’ of plastic tents which destroy the natural and social environment. 
It may seem to some, particularly economists belonging to the neoliberal school which has become the prevailing state religion in most countries, that there is no escaping this ‘natural’ development. The law of the market-jungle says that the strong eat the weak. In the case of humans, he who holds wealth and power exploits the weak to produce a financial surplus to feed his capital. 
This is happening in the agricultural sector all over the world. Investment beasts are swallowing up small holdings and turning them into “investments- settlements” exploiting land, water and manpower to produce a commodity ready for export. The local consumer only gets to see the second rate quality of this commodity, in line with his purchasing power.
This is what is happening in Lebanon today, just like all of the countries that have witnessed uprisings and revolutions which have failed to change the reality of rural poverty.
The idea of reviving the countryside is not a romantic one. It is a cultural, social, environmental, economic, dietary and humanitarian necessity. We cannot build a society of “life, freedom and social justice,” based on oppressing rural people. So is there anyone among those who enjoy power who wants to build a free and just society?

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