Why this website?

In recent decades there have been impressive advances in rural development, the fight against hunger and malnutrition. We were not doing badly. However, in recent years there have been setbacks, partly due to COVID19 and increased conflict, but also because part of hunger eradication has proved unyielding, especially in Africa. There is “donor fatigue”, a kind of losing patience in the aid sector when things are not moving forward. When this happens, people look for magic solutions, especially technological ones, or switch sectors in case they get better results doing other things.

At the same time, the global food system is changing rapidly. Urbanisation is advancing, new ways of producing food are appearing: cultured meat or plants that mimic it, yeasts that produce protein or vertical farms that can completely change the sector in a decade.

This acceleration means that part of the system is rapidly becoming more technologically advanced, while hundreds of millions of small farmers remain with rudimentary production systems and low yields, with insufficient investment to remedy the situation. Three quarters of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas.

There is an excess of discussion and a deficit of action: forums, webinars and conferences multiply, while a fundamental problem is ignored: the lack of capacity to do things, both on the part of governments and NGOs, and in the case of governments it is even getting worse.

But there are necessary debates: how to change diets to reduce carbon emissions, while maintaining the livelihoods of those who make their living from livestock. How to reduce excess fertiliser and ensure food for ten billion in 2050. How do we reconcile maintaining biodiversity with the need to use more arable land if productivity does not increase? Whether eating zero-kilometre food, avoiding food waste or agro-ecology will make things better.

In these debates, extreme positions prevent us from seeing the nuances. My intention at www.estatera.org is to share knowledge about rural development and food systems, but also to nuance ideas.  This sector has not been immune to the current culture wars, which means that many views only take into account one side of the coin. Rural development is complex and, as in agriculture, there are no absolute truths or magic solutions.


  • Marion

    Interesting point of view, thanks for sharing. I wonder, though, why don’t you consider (historical) power asymmetry and injustice as factors explaining persistent hunger and malnutrition around the world? Many argue that if smallholder farmers were allowed to continue practicing small-scale, resource-efficient and ancestral knowledge-based forms of agriculture, food systems would be socially and environmentally sustainable, and able to feed everyone with healthy, nutritious and affordable food. The problem is that very often and in many places, land and water are taken away from local communities, natural resources are polluted, indigenous seed are patented, small farmers are criminalised, people’s health is jeopardised due to the use of highly hazardous pesticides and the list goes on. It is high time to name those who cause and benefit from these problems: agribusiness corporations and public authorities who allow this to happen. The key to achieving SDG2 has little to do with donor fatigue or productivity. It has to do with human rights, accountability and the political will, honesty and integrity needed to make private interests secondary to public ones. Here’s an interesting report with some examples: http://www.ipes-food.org/pages/LongFoodMovement

    • Gabriel Pons Cortès

      Thank you Marion for your comment. I do not deny the importance of the historical injustice that small producers suffer and have suffered. It is one of the factors that perpetuate hunger, but it is not the only one. There is a consensus among those of us who work in the sector about injustice. Where there is no consensus is on whether traditional forms of production are sufficient to overcome poverty. I don’t think so, and that is why I dedicate space in this blog to this issue. I believe that in the rural development sector there are too many recipes that do not work and are marketed as good. Many of them have to do with the naturalist fallacy, which says that something is good just because it is natural. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t agree very much with your views on human rights, especially the ones you mention in your last sentence:human rights, accountability and the political will, honesty and integrity.
      But I think that agriculture has many technical aspects that need to be taken into account, if you don’t want to sell false solutions.

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