Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Farming: Livelihood-Cum-Lifestyle

Our species’ collective existence took a decisive turn once humans discovered farming. The hunting and gathering phase of the species, which compelled it to a life of steady movement, was not conducive to what we anthropomorphically call ‘civilization’. The ‘ascent of man’ (modern) was very much predicated on a settled form of existence. In other words, it is the discovery of agriculture that facilitated human ‘progress’. The fact of our complete dependence on agriculture should underline all our other activities, after all, we humans can only eat food, not computers, cars, satellites, etc. If global agriculture is not well, so are we. Everything that we do is superfluous if agriculture is not ok, but this reality seems to have been lost on many a state as well as a sheeple (human mass)!

According to anthropologists, settled life probably began around the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what was called Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq. These experts think human settlement, based on agriculture, earnestly began roughly ten millenniums ago (10,000). The Nile valley also facilitated the emergence of another old civilization of humanity. The agriculture that flourished along the banks of the mighty Nile fashioned the advanced civilization of ancient Egyptians, which dates back roughly 7000 years! Modern livelihoods based on other occupations, outside of the agricultural sphere, are very recent indeed, going back only a couple of centuries. Even then, agriculture still remained the backbone of many of the global economies and gave a somewhat meaningful livelihood, i.e., not only employment, to the large majority of the human collective. We admit the likes of many land dwellers was not all that comfortable, to say the least. After the discovery of cheap energy, urbanization and industrialization took off phenomenally. The short-term benefits of ‘cheap energy’ have been extraordinary. Naturally, this condition is not going to last forever and humanity will have to face the consequences of its actions. The current practice of industrial agriculture cannot be sustained without cheap energy. That is why critics call the prevailing mode of agriculture petro-agriculture. The various chemical fertilizers that are massively added to farmlands all over the world need plenty of energy to fix, to say nothing about their contribution to the acidification of the oceans via runoff water from land and more. Massive inputs in the form of water, chemical fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, etc. have been pushing crop yields higher, but at costs the status quo is not willing to appreciate. This stupidity is what we called the ‘green revolution’. Be that as it may, the scheme has now reached the point of diminishing return and humanity urgently needs to come up with more sustainable schemes like permaculture, etc.

‘Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Permaculture was developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978.’Obviously the big corporations (like Monsanto and others, including the oil/chemical companies) are not willing to support ‘sustainable agriculture’, (in all its forms) as it will impact on their revenues and monopolistic positions. After all, the main interest of corporations is accumulation (profit, market share, etc.) and not necessarily the wellbeing or long-term survival of the species or any other life form. It is this distorted way of looking at life that is the core problem of the existing modern world system. The states’ (or the supposed anti-markets) mandate is/was to temper the ‘animal instinct’/greed of the profit system. The reality on the ground, however, is very different, sadly enough. The compromised nation states are essentially puppets/tools under the supervision of the corporations and their systemically set up institutions of economic governance. From the look of it, the tasks of the states, it seems, is more and more to facilitate whatever is deemed necessary by the profit machines. Equity, sustainability even peace is being undermined because of this distorted logic of the current set up.

For example, the so-called ‘green revolution’ that was/is practiced in places like India and Pakistan is facing the ‘day of reckoning’. Pumping plenty of water (irrigation) and adding massive inputs to farmlands (fertilizers, etc.) to grow rice and other crops, using genetically modified seeds, in arid and semi-arid areas, have taken their tolls. These countries are now facing protracted and cyclical droughts. Wells that used to supply water for irrigation are going dry by the day! The major aquifers of the world that gave plenty are depleting at a frightening pace. This is the reality, not only on the Indian subcontinent, but almost everywhere on earth, from the agricultural heartland of the USA to the Middle East, (Saudi Arabia, etc.). These countries that were once touted to be successful adapters of the ‘green revolution’ are increasingly importing their major staples, from other regions. At the same time exporting countries are dwindling by the day. There aren’t many countries in the world that can sustain their export of agricultural produces going forward, the stupid narrative of the status quo, notwithstanding. African countries must be aware of what is going on behind the narrative of ‘green revolution’, and their ilk (sporadic bumper crops, etc.)! Those who have a genuine concern for the survival of humanity (and other life forms) must interrogate the sustainability of many of our modern world’s schemes, not only in agriculture!

We should recognize that robotics and informatics will reduce gainful human employment in the near future all over the world. Unlike before, the capacity of the modern sector to absorb surplus labor (profitably) from the land (farmers) is going to be very limited. Unfortunately, lifestyle/ livelihood based on activities on the land is looked down upon, thanks to urbanization, which is increasingly breeding social psychosis across the planet (megacities and their massive problems of all kinds)! Modern education, particularly the discipline of voodoo economics is very much biased against agriculture. Agricultural commodities, we are told, are without much value, as they are mere primary products. The irrationality of modern establishment thoughts (in economics and other fields) is truly terrifying. Establishment economics gives literally no value to the air we breathe the water we drink and the food we eat, unless they are processed, packed, etc., in short unless they are sufficiently tampered with, mostly unhealthily! On the other hand, man-made gadgets are considered high-valued items. As humanity pushes the limits of the biosphere, it is wise to reflect on the merit of sustainable agriculture, not only as a source of food, but also as a way of life! By now we should become very skeptical of the ‘learning’ that zombie-fied us into unthinking beings. Don’t underestimate the stupidity of our modern world system. As the wise man put it: ‘Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.’ Albert Einstein.

Here is a guideline from one of the founders of the relatively new discipline of permaculture: “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” Bill Mollison. Good Day!