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VPDF Vice-President advocates farmland preservation
Preserving farmland means ensuring food security, sustaining economic stability, protecting the environment, and keeping a most precious gift for future generations, wrote recently Mr. Nguyễn Văn Thanh, Vice-President of the VPDF.
Titled “Preserving land for future generations”, his article reads:
1. “It is unacceptable in the 21st century that almost one in six of the world’s population is now going hungry,” said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Program.
Also according to the WFP, nearly all the world’s undernourished live in developing countries: 642 million from chronic hunger in Asia and the Pacific, 265 million from sub-Saharan Africa, and 95 million from Latin America, the Caribbean, the Near East and North Africa.
However, as a matter of fact, hunger is not an exclusiveness of developing and least developed countries: 15 million is the figure for destitution in developed countries.
The number of the hungry spiked as the global economic crisis took hold and rich governments (poor ones, too) pumped billions and trillions into big banks and markets. That meant smaller investments – if any – in agriculture and food distribution. Why no such bail-outs to combat hunger and poverty?

What is needed to meet urgent hunger demands? It is not too problematic an issue provided you have the political will. The prevailing economic model is incapable of, or not disposed to getting rid of hunger and poverty. As long as capitalism persists in neoliberal or whatever form, poverty alleviation and hunger eradication remain a problem for generations.

2. Are the Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) and late industrialization a model for the future? Late industrialization applies to a subset of developing countries that began the twentieth century in an economically backward state based chiefly on exporting raw materials, and by the middle of the century followed the strategy of import substitution industrialization (ISI) and rapidly became export-oriented industrialization (EOI). Among those economies, South Korea was regarded as a most successful late industrialization country. Evidently, Korea experienced its take-off in the 1960s: with GDP per capita, only $100 in 1963, multiplied to $9,800 in 2002 (Wikipedia). Korea so “graduated” was admitted as a member of the OECD.

Why can Korea sustain such an economic growth in decades? The role of Japan was monumental. Without “Japan’s Marshall Plan” (Chalmer Johnson) of procurements to the Korean war, a “gift of the Gods” according to Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, there was no critical boost to the Japanese economy which eventually benefited greatly Korea. Clearly, security and economic considerations were inextrically mixed. The US needed a bulwark against the Soviets and an important element in a revived world economy after WW II. The generous American geostrategy funded 75 percent of the Korean military budget, 50 percent of the civil budget, and nearly 80 percent of available foreign exchange. Foreign aid financed 70 percent of total imports, and contributed approximately 95 percent of foreign savings (Collins and Park, 1989, p. 167).

For geopolitical or geostrategic reasons, during the not truly Cold War, many East Asian countries received open market policies and incentives from the US government, as a means of creating a “contential belt” of peripheric “free” countries encircling socialist nations in Asia. The assistance of  the United States allowed Korea to rise from a rural producer to an exporter of manufactured goods in just seven years (Hong & Krueger).

Without America which gave:
•    Special access to the US domestic market;
•    Special protectionist economic policies accepted by transnational corporations;
•    Special flows of aid from the US;
•    Special flows of food aid from the US when land reform was in progress;
•    Special military treaties boosting sectors of domestic economies;
•    Encouragement to a symbiotic relationship between government and business (chaebols);

the “East Asian Miracles”, programmed in Washington  and Tokyo, could not have been successfully realized.  

3. Catching-up! Reasons for concern
The history of capitalism from the industrial revolution onwards is one of increasing differences in productivity and living conditions across different nations. According to one source, 250 years ago the difference in income or productivity per head between the richest and poorest countries in the world was approximately 5:1. Today, this difference has increased to 400:1. However, there are many examples of backward countries that have managed to narrow the gap between themselves and advanced countries, by catching-up. But during the last decades, there have been concerted maneuvers led by the USA, with international organizations as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO as central players and transnational corporations, to reduce the catching-up efforts of late industrializing countries. Britain, the main advocate of free trade, initially practiced the policy of Infant industry protection, trade protection (tariffs, etc.), followed by the USA and Germany. Do the changes in international rules and regulations during the last few decades, especially with the WTO coming into being in 1995, make any types of policies (or practices) previously applied by catching-up countries more difficult or even impossible to pursue? The empirical evidence suggests that many developing countries have found it increasingly difficult to exploit the potential for catch-up.
4. Towards a future without debt and famine and all kinds of terrorism

Without industry one cannot live comfortably, but without enough food, one dies. Regrettably, agriculture did not deserve a right place in economy and in the mind of people who make decisions. Population projection in 2050 – India 1,747,300,000, China 1,437,000,000, USA 419,000,000, Vietnam 116,000,000, etc. – means more food is needed while in some parts of the world chronic food shortages persist. The number of rural people is declining: now only 1%-10% in developed countries, 50%-70% in developing countries, and also declining. The date May 23, 2007 represents a major shift: for the first time in human history, the earth’s population became more urban than rural. According to a United Nations estimate, the world will be 51.3% urban by 2010.

Urban and rural population rely heavily on each other. Cities refine and process rural goods for urban and rural consumers. But if cities or rural areas would have to sustain themselves without the other (let’s hope that is only hypothetical), few would bet on cities. Because clean air, water, food, fiber, forest products and minerals all have their sources in rural areas. Cities cannot stand alone; rural areas can. Cities must depend on rural human and natural resources.

However, poverty and lower education attainment are concentrated in rural areas, especially the global rural South. 1.2 billion people of the world live on less than a USD a day, and three-fourths of them live in rural areas. Sadly, rural areas also are a place for dumping urban garbage, waste products, polluted air, contaminated water, and solid and hazardous wastes discharged by city dwellers.

Land in rural areas is an utmost problematic question, Like other natural resources, agricultural lands are finite. When agricultural land is converted to residential or other uses as golf courses, we tend to speak of it as “lost,” or as no longer providing the benefits associated with agricultural production.
5. Preserving productive agricultural lands includes all three prongs of the term “sustainability”: economics, environment, and society. There may be direct economic benefits, such as local sales and national exports of farm products, that bolster economic stability, but there may also be more intangible benefits  – such as the maintenance of open space, landscape integrity, cultural heritage, and rural character  – that derive from the preservation of farmland.

Preserving farmland means securing food security; sustaining economic  stability; protecting the environment; and preserving landscape and cultural characteristics. Preserving land for future generations is the most precious gift for our children and grandchildren. Climate change underlines the need to have a vision for the future, to change our way of life, to change our mode of production, to reconcile with Nature. In such a context, the strategic plan of the Communist Party of Vietnam to reserve 3.8 million ha of farmland for the coming years is very encouraging./.




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