Saturday, February 28, 2009


The "Advent" will change SA's destiny once and for all. After the "Advent", all problems will be solved, all differences settled, everybody will be rich and we'll all live happily ever after. From that moment on, every event in SA will be defined as having taken place either before or after the "Advent". 

The "Advent"  is not going to be a sort of miracle like Fatima etc. it will be the 2010 Soccer World Cup. 

During the "Advent", a boundless crowd of enthusiasts, from all over the world, will flood the country throwing money at whatever moves. They'll try to eat five meals a day, sleep in 2 or 3 different places at the same time and buy whatever they can lay their hands on.

Since South African main cities won't have enough resources to accommodate their spending frenzy, in between games, millions of soccer fans will invade every other city, small city, village, dorp - or any aggregation of more than three dwellings - tasting all local delicacies, buying every ostrich egg, all wall-to-wall posters of the big five, every clock in the shape of the African continent and thousands of cubic meters of biltong. 

As there are doubts that the soccer fans will succeed in reaching any remote corner of the country in such a short time, the best brains of Barrydale - as well as of every other city, small city, village, dorp or aggregation of  more than three dwellings - are at work in order to convey to them the most unmistakable message of welcome and readiness - this in the unfortunate eventuality that our soccer friends decided, for whatever reason, to dissipate their riches somewhere else.

Apart from sticking flags of any size, colour and nationality wherever possible, so far no great plans came out of our local - not to be underestimated - creative elite. Except that just the other evening at a meeting on the necessity to put once and for all Barrydale on the international maps, the remarkable idea of placing a makeshift goalpost at the side of the road with kids kicking balls into it whenever a car seems to approach the village, left the audience gaping.

This commendable display of lateral thinking, vented by a notorious and respected representative of Barrydale's think tank force, will certainly have the merit of reminding our visitors about soccer - in case they momentarily forgot - and somehow conveying to them, in no middle terms, our eagerness to be thrown money at.

I cannot but applaud.

At the same time, having heard during the meeting all sorts of brilliant and semi-brilliant ideas on how to promote Barrydale from a touristic point of view, I wonder how come that nobody had the simple idea of making Barrydale worthy of being visited. 

How come that nobody mentioned that perhaps it would be a good idea to get rid of the incredible amount of rubbish lying all over, in and around the village? And how come that nobody spent a word about cleaning the river and - perhaps - letting it flow instead of sucking it dry? And again, I wonder why nobody has proposed to eradicate some alien vegetation, or clean the verges and the empty plots, or, even better, try to do something about the cloud of pesticides that in certain days makes the air unbreathable.

How many thousands of flags one needs to hide all that? 

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Future Is Green - Apparently

Seeing we are talking pesticides and all sorts of monstrosities in modern agriculture, I want to propose to the readers of Barry Duck - therefore me - this extremely interesting article about food, agriculture and future trends.

Hope you'll enjoy.


Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 by Inter Press Service

UN Seeks a Green Revolution in Food

by Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - The food crisis that spilled over from last year could take a turn for the worse in the next decade if there are no explicit answers to a rash of growing new problems, including declining agricultural production, a faltering distribution network and a deteriorating environment worldwide.

"Changing the ways in which food is produced, handled and disposed of across the globe - from farm to store and from fridge to landfill - can both feed the world's rising population and help the environmental services that are the foundation of agricultural productivity in the first place," says a new study titled 'The Environmental Food Crisis' released by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

A woman checks vegetables in a market in Beijing in 2008. The UN Environment Programme has unveiled an ambitious seven-point plan to feed the world without polluting it further by making better use of resources and cutting down on massive waste. (AFP/File/Peter Parks)

With the steep increase in food prices in 2008, the number of chronically malnourished has reached a staggering 963 million, mostly in the world's poorest countries.

Anuradha Mittal, director of the U.S.-based policy think tank Oakland Institute, says the findings of the latest UNEP study have to be seen in the light of its report released last year which offered evidence that organic agriculture can increase yields, improve soil, and boost incomes of farmers.

A crisis of this proportion raises major questions about industrial agriculture and how best to address the needs of the hungry, she said.

"Unfortunately, the widespread hunger and poverty is being used to make the case for increasing agricultural production through technical solutions such as genetically engineered (GE) crops and chemical-based agriculture," Mittal told IPS.

However, UNEP's research demonstrates that organic small-scale agriculture can deliver the increased yields without the environmental and social damage that has resulted from industrial model of agriculture.

"We need to pay heed to these findings and start crafting a different vision for agriculture which works with nature and not against it," said Mittal, an international expert on issues relating to trade, development and agriculture.

A briefing paper by the Oakland Institute released Tuesday also confirms the success of the organic model, noting that on average, in developed countries, organic systems produce 92 percent of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, organic systems fare even better, producing 80 percent more than conventional farms.

In a study released last week, the Geneva-based U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that despite the economic crisis, organic agriculture would continue to grow, representing an opportunity for developing country farmers including those in Africa.

The report said that sales of certified organic produce could reach close to 70 billion dollars in 2012, up from 23 billion dollars in 2002.

"We need a Green revolution in a Green Economy but one with a capital G," says Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"We need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed, sold and consumed, and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with rather than against nature," he added.

The UNEP study released Tuesday says that unless more intelligent and creative management is brought to the world's agricultural systems, the 2008 food crisis - which plunged millions back into hunger - may foreshadow an even bigger crisis in the years to come.

The major findings of the study include:

- The 100-year trend of falling food prices may be at an end, and food prices may increase by 30-50 percent within decades, with critical impacts for those living in extreme poverty who spend up to 90 percent of their income on food.

- Up to 25 percent of the world's food production may be lost due to 'environmental breakdowns' by 2050 unless action is taken. Already, cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish catches are declining.

- Today, over one third of the world's cereals are being used as animal feed, rising to 50 percent by 2050. Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation.

- The amount of fish bycatch currently discarded at sea - estimated at 30 million tonnes annually - could alone sustain more than a 50 percent increase in fish farming and aquaculture production, which is needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 without increasing pressure on an already stressed marine environment.

- Losses and food waste in the United States could be as high as 40-50 percent, according to some recent estimates. Up to one quarter of all fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. is lost between the field and the table.

- In Australia, it is estimated that food waste makes up half of that country's landfill. Almost one-third of all food purchased in Britain every year is not eaten.

- Food losses in the developing world are also considerable, mainly due to spoilage and pests. For instance, in Africa, the total amount of fish lost through discards, post-harvest loss and spoilage may be around 30 percent of landings.

The study, compiled by a wide group of experts from both within and outside UNEP, also warns that climate change has emerged as one of the key factors that may undermine the chances of feeding over nine billion people by 2050.

Increasing water scarcities and a rise and spread of invasive pests such as insects, diseases and weeds may also substantially depress yields in the future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I was fairly happy. For some strange reason, since I live on farmland, down at the river, I don't get much affected by pesticides, or at least not as much as before. I even thought things were somehow improving. 

But unfortunately they were not - as usual, all fits of optimism in Barrydale don't last long - hope you noticed.

At the beginning of this month, heavy spraying took place a bit further down from the Pad Camp. Whatever they might have used affected me like never before. During those days I suffered of:

1) Strong heart palpitations.

2) Tingling tongue and thirst.

3) Nausea and stomach acidity.

4) Pain to liver and articulations (fingers, elbows, knees and hips).

These symptoms stopped a few hours after the end of the spraying operations, except for the pains to the liver and joints that are still bothering me, though at a lesser degree - the way it has been explained to me, the problems to the liver and the articulations are due to the fact that the body doesn't recognize these chemicals and doesn't know how to get rid of them. As the liver cannot process them, the excess get stored around the sinews and in cartilaginous tissues - don't know more, I come from Barcelona.

Since there were no doubts whatsoever that the spraying was the cause of these  problems, I contacted the Ministry of Agriculture for help and support - other big fit of optimism. They sent me a list - scarily long - of all banned chemicals and wanted to know from me (?) what they were spraying.

So I went to the police and ask them to check. Guess what? The police didn't want to know about it - no big guessing here, I suppose - but kindly suggested me to contact - guess who - the Ministry of Agriculture - usual ping pong. 

Back to the Ministry of Agriculture I was told that they would happily come and check, but as they were momentarily short of staff, they will eventually send somebody in a near future. Since this expression in the public sector means anything between 4 weeks and 5 months, I wonder why they should bother, by the time they are here, there' ll be no trace left of these chemicals. 

So practically, farmers will always get away with anything, no matter what they spray.

And this in spite of the law. Funny enough, there are a few laws and regulations on the matter - still nothing compare to the 300 and more pages on the use of tobacco in public places - but fortunately there are. Act 36 of 1947, for instance, OBLIGES FARMERS TO MAKE SURE THAT THEIR SPRAY DOES NOT AFFECT PEOPLE OR PROPERTIES .

Our "friends" instead - I don't know who exactly they are, but does that matter? - not only spray a few meters from the Pad Camp and the houses of Smitsville, but they don't even bother if a strong wind is blowing towards the village. Basically, they don't give a hoot.

For a few crates more of plums, in spite of many safer and Eco-friendly alternatives, these people affect other people's health, pollute the environment, contaminate rivers and table water. 

This is insane.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It's the 6th of February - a month where temperatures are supposed to be well over forty throughout,- I'm sitting having breakfast and I'm cold. Yesterday I felt cold in Swellendam, of all places. Where is summer? Evenings are pretty cool, mornings are chilly and the wind is going full steam since months.

Should the trend persists, we are going to freeze our but off well before winter. 

Anyway I didn't mean to talk about the weather. 

Today instead I want to talk about this flipping crisis. I can feel it in the bones, or I rather perceive it  on the shelves of shops and supermarkets, in shopping centers and in front of estate agents' advertising boards. Doom and gloom all over! The pessimists are having the time of their life and the only ones who still smile are the die-hard optimists, those still stuck to the mind over matter story.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm more worried about the solutions than the crisis itself.

All over, governments are printing money and reducing interest rates - this is what worries me the most. They are intentionally  igniting an inflation spiral that - they think - should theoretically counteract an inevitable price plunge and push people to get rid of their money in order to support the economy - if everything is going up, rather spend.

It worked in the past, but I seriously doubt is going to work now, given the present recession. It might work for a little while, mind you, but soon afterwards things will get worse.

The fact is that especially in the last 20/30 years the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. I.e. a policy of containment of salaries has been worldwide tacitly enforced with the result of reducing the masses to the breadline. At the same time costs kept escalating - basically everybody, except the masses, wanted to make money out of the masses. It couldn't last. If you don't pay people, you can't go back to people and ask for the money you didn't give them.

The dentist wanted more money, the government wanted more money, Eskom wanted more money etc. and up to here it works because you can't say no to the dentist, the government, Eskom and eventually the green-grocer. But then you have to say no to pizzas, new socks and a few days holidays, unless you're prepared to sleep in the back of the car and eat chips.

So restaurants are half empty, shops don't sell, doctors and lawyers run after ambulances.


To ignite a hyper-inflaction in the present situation is a risky business. People do not consume because they don't want to, but simply because they can't afford it. With an increase of prices due to inflation, people will consume even less and will get seriously irritated. The South African government, just to be on the safe side, should send an official delegation to Lourdes. 

Looking at the bright side of life, we have already the first excellent victim: globalization - not dead yet, but comatose: cargo flights are down a serious 23.9% - serious but not dramatic - while shipping is down 93% - just dramatic.

As a consequence, industrial farming will end soon - hopefully; all those stupid and useless things from China will disappear by magic; mass tourism, the plague of the century, will come to a stop - many will cry, I won't; chain stores  and colossal supermarkets will collapse like Goliath hit by the stones of David; local products will take over. That, especially, is going to save us a lot of money -  having South Africans decided long ago that importing is easier then producing, there are basically no local products - wine and biltong apart.

The beauty of all this crisis is that there is absolutely nothing we can do. Or just about...

Personally, I'm already preparing some nice Christmas cards to send to all heads of state, finance ministers, tycoons, financial groups executives and newspaper editors. Something like this: