“Migrants” are poor Farmers First


The “migrant crisis”, or rather refugees, is causing Europe to falter. Immigration has been the central theme of Brexit. It is now torn apart by the unity of the European Union, with racist, nationalist and protectionist hints. Upstream, the first cause of these forced migrations is misery, eternal.

The famine which, from 1845 to 1852, killed one million Irish and sent them as far as North America, is the same as that which today throws hundreds of thousands of Africans into the North at their own risk, both on land and at sea. This is a reminder that the first source of well-being and sedentarization is subsistence agriculture and nothing else.

50% of the land area affected

However, from 1999 to 2013, 20% of plant land areas experienced a decline in productivity. This is what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has just seen.

This decline varies from one continent to another: 37% in Oceania, 27% in South America, “only” 14% in Europe. At the current rate, primary forests will have disappeared by 2030 in Paraguay, Laos and Equatorial Guinea.

700 million “migrants”?

Half of the world’s lands are now deteriorated. The phenomenon, due to climate change, will amplify migration. Over the last twenty years, land and soil pressures have increased dramatically. Tibor Navracsics, head of the Joint Research Center (JRC) at the European Commission, sounded the alarm at the end of June, making public the third edition of the World Atlas of Desertification: “Every year, an equivalent area at half the size of the European Union – more than 2 million square km, four times the size of France – is degraded. Africa and Asia are the two continents most affected.

A recent study shows the direct connection between warming and asylum claims. | Reuters

More than 50 % of the Earth’s surface is now affected, the phenomenon is growing, ” adds the geographer and lead author of the book, Michael Cherlet. Before insisting: “It is time to assume that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa will leave their rural areas because they are degraded … ” Even if economic or political instability can also explain their departure. Some 700 million people could be forced into exile, by 2050, given the scarcity of arable land, anticipates this Atlas.

The expected increase in the world’s population – 9 billion people by the middle of the century – could then make the pressure on natural resources almost unbearable …

An American study has just measured the impact of climate on asylum applications in the European Union: it provides for the doubling of migration flows to Europe. Two researchers from Columbia University in New York, publish in the journal Science a very broad study, taking into account 103 countries and the variation of the number of asylum seekers in the European Union, from 2000 to 2014 (before the period unrest in Syria and North Africa that triggered the current migration crisis).

Climate variations clearly have an impact on migratory flows, although this is never the only cause. Half of Africa’s population depends on subsistence agriculture. As soon as there is a drop in harvests, there is a direct loss of income and an impact on immigration.

A link between global warming and asylum claims

In the best climate scenarios, the increase in asylum seekers in the European Union would be around 28% at the end of the century. But if we follow the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions (+ 4 ° C in 2100), “the flow of migration to Europe would double, with 350,000 more asylum seekers each year“, provide Anouch Missirian, a young French researcher at Columbia University and François Gemenne, director of the Hugo observatory on migration and the environmentalist at the University of Liège (Belgium) and researcher at Sciences Po Paris.

Threat on Ivory Coast, queen of cocoa

Côte d’Ivoire is emerging as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world,” said Pierre Laporte, director of operations at the World Bank, as part of a warning issued this summer. The Ivorian economy is one of the most dynamic in the world since 2011 (average annual growth of 8%). But cocoa, of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer, accounts for 10% of its GDP, a third of exports, and supports 5 million people (one-fifth of the population).

The warming temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and drainage of farmland directly threaten his crops.

Orange in Africa
The production of oranges in Brazil, one of the examples of imbalance in the commercial relations within the global agribusiness. | Reuters

The country has lost nearly a third of its stock of natural resources for twenty-five years, its forests are almost completely destroyed today, largely because of the cultivation of cocoa. As already visible, many coastal villages are gradually disappearing under the waters of the oceans, “more than two-thirds of the Ivorian coastline is affected by erosion phenomena” and fishing is likely to fall by 50% due to bio-climatic changes.

Great prosperous distribution, peasant misery

Over the last 30 years, the global explosion of inequality has increased the power and financial rewards of large corporations and capital owners. But this “at the expense of those who grow and process the food we consume“. This is what Oxfam (International Confederation of Twenty Organizations Against Poverty) demonstrates in its latest report.

In most developed countries, and increasingly also in developing countries is a handful of giants of the high distribution that dominates food sales mostly at the expense of local shops and markets. The phenomenon is booming in middle-income countries, starting with those in Latin America, before spreading to Southeast Asia and parts of North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

The rise of supermarket power “coincides in many countries with public policies of trade liberalization and deregulation of agricultural and labor markets“. Abolition of agricultural marketing posts, reduction or abolition of production aid, scientific aid and extension of agricultural techniques, customs barriers protecting national agriculture … ” Such an approach is reflected in radical weakening of the peasants.

A member of the Tuzamurane Cooperative picks a pineapple on her farm in Rwanda. She uses the income from pineapples to support her family
A member of the Tuzamurane Cooperative picks a pineapple on her farm in Rwanda. She uses the income from pineapples
to support her family. Photo: Aurelie Marrier d’Unienville

Produce food without eating

It is “one of the most cruel paradoxes of our time,” Oxfam insists: all too often, those who produce our food do not have enough to feed their own families. In 2017, Oxfam and its partners conducted surveys of hundreds of farmers and workers in supermarket supply chains in five countries. “ A clear majority of respondents were food insecure. The average incomes of peasants or workers are no longer sufficient to provide them with a decent standard of living.

For millions of farmers, it is the viability of their activity, their means of subsistence, that is directly threatened. “The analyzes of twelve basic food products thus show a long-term decline in export prices for some products: for Kenya green beans, – 74% between the mid-1990s and the mid-2010s; about – 70% in the case of Brazilian orange juice. This trend has contributed to the decline in prices paid to farmers and producers, who now barely cover their cost of production.

Result? Peasants are forced to leave international food chains and abandon their land …


About Dawn Richard

In addition to writing for NextColumn, Dawn Richard contributes to other publications including Sensiblereason and Natural News. He studied Computer Science and Journalism at Boston University, and also worked in BBC as well as in the public sectors.

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