Over the past four decades, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have designed a cluster of “neoliberal” policies to be applied to the countries of the Arab region/North Africa/ Middle East, led by the liberation of market forces from state interventions that played a central role in the economy, especially in agriculture. The most prominent of these effects were the violent integration of the countryside into capitalist relations of production, the sharp reduction of support to agriculture, and the shift from agricultural production, with the aim of providing local needs, to production for export, in short: undermining subsistence/household agriculture.
The results of these policies have been reflected in the integration of the economies of the region – which began since colonialism – into the global economy from the position of the dependent entrusted with meeting the needs of the global capitalist market, by focusing on monoculture cultivation and adhering to the requirements of Western public taste 1.
At the same time, multinational corporations defended those policies and contributed to their approval by the power of states and their legislative and executive systems, by virtue of the bias of “neoliberalism” to capitalist farms that drained environmental resources, including land and water, to the loss of household farming. These companies won the round against the farmers, owing to their possession of capital, influence and tools that help them control production and marketing.Its most important scientific tool was genetic engineering technology. Major companies, specifically through intellectual property rights, were able to control the seeds and put the farmers at their mercy, as the farmers could not reproduce them, 2 so the farmers turned into consumers of expensive seeds that eventually destroy biodiversity, despite partial resistance to that capitalist weapon.3
The results of these policies have been reflected in the integration of the economies of the region into the global economy from the position of the dependent.
Thus, the siege on farmers is laid, between reducing state investments, lifting subsidies and the abolition of customs protection for agricultural goods in our region on the one hand, and the control of capitalist companies over agricultural production tools on the other hand. The outcome was twofold: first, a large part of the region’s farmers became agricultural workers for major agricultural companies. Second, the integration of the peoples of the region into the global capital market from the location of the dispossessed producer and the passive consumer interchangeably.
In the midst of this, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are financing extractive agricultural capital projects with an export dimension that deepens indebtedness in our countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon,etc). This means draining public finances, confiscating “national sovereignty”, pressuring social expenditures and deepening austerity policies paid for by small farmers, livestock breeders and agricultural workers, while women are the first victims of these harsh “neoliberal” policies.
The funding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank allows the possibility of the acquisition of water and seeds, as well as agricultural land, to establish major projects at the expense of food producers, with far-reaching implications on the sustainability of soil, water and energy, in addition to the neo-colonial terms of free trade agreements, such as opening local markets to the invasion of European and American agricultural products.
In parallel with the devastating impact of large farms on the agricultural production method and the control of farmers’ lands, global supermarket chains, belonging to the companies owning the same large farms, have spread in every corner of the region, gathering around them an audience of middle-class consumers, removing the small trader from their way, consequently affecting the small farmers.
The sabotage is not limited to only the political and social aspects, as these policies have catastrophically damaged the environment, caused severe strain on agricultural soil, and contributed to a serious extent to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, due to the reliance on fossil fuels at all stages of production and transportation.
In order to expose and shame these policies and reveal their social, economic and environmental impacts, the fourth issue of Siyada magazine comes at a time when the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are holding their 2023 meeting in Morocco in the city of Marrakech in October. These meetings represent an opportunity for grassroots movements and social activism to defame the effects of these institutions’ policies on the future of agriculture in the Arab region, North Africa and the Middle East, and the seeds of dependence on the global market and the destruction of local agriculture that they are seeding.
As the popularity of capitalist agriculture declines everywhere, and resistance against it slowly but surely grows, by the farmers, the greed of capitalist corporations has become known on a planetary scale and condemnable everywhere. Between the decline of the disastrous production and the near-silent resistance, there is a growing need to generalize the concepts of food sovereignty and spread its culture, not only among marginalized food producers in the production processes, but also among consumers. We are all affected by this pattern, and we must gather to stop the capitalist exploitation of science, and against the dispossession of our peoples’ sovereignty over their food and resources.
These meetings represent an opportunity for grassroots movements and social activism to defame the effects of these institutions’ policies.
Food sovereignty is a human right for people, individuals and groups to determine their own food system. This means working with nature and protecting its resources to produce sufficient healthy food that is compatible with cultural heritage, giving priority to local production and basic foodstuffs, carrying out agricultural reforms for the people, ensuring free access to seeds, protecting national products, and involving people in the development of their agricultural policy.
Siyada’s editorial board: Ali Aznague – Mohammed Jibril
– This article is the editorial of the fourth issue of Siyada magazine. It was originally written in Arabic, and translated by: Noran Samy.
Find the original article on the link
- A New Study: Towards a just agricultural transition in North Africa, Sakr Al-Nour, Siyada Network website.
- Food wars.. Crisis Industry, Walden Bello, translated by Khalid Al-Fishawi, National Center for Translation 2012.
- عيش مرحرح.. الاقتصاد السياسي للسيادة على الغذاء في مصر, Muhammad Ramadan and the Sakr Al-Nour, 2021, Safsafa Publications.