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.