Posted tagged ‘food security’

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

January 14, 2014

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Food wars are coming, prepare for the contingencies! This is now a visible possibility, so all those enthused development stakeholders and peace-builders better insert an extra agendum on their ‘key result areas’.

Given the so many sources of conflict that are natural resources related, the latest ones being the ‘water wars’, it is no longer a remote possibility that food wars will erupt in some ‘hot soup spots’ in the world. Such hot spots are not those ones the world knows today (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, Taiwan-China strait) that can be potential starting points for great wars. But somehow, the areas and the food wars coming can ‘cross-cut’ the issues involving conflicts in the hot spots we know.

The scenario would be as follows:

· A convergence of volatilities in the global market would, at one conjuncture, lead to simultaneous price increases in food, oil/energy, metals, utilities. Hoarding then takes place at alarmingly uncontrollable levels. Shockingly, the old ‘policy tools’ to control prices and hoarding won’t work.

· Massive urban riots and upheavals in the affected rural areas take place. New militia groups will rise almost overnight, challenging both national armies and established warlord and rebel groups where these are found.

· Noticing that their own food, energy, base metal stocks are near or pass the critical points, affected states will then turn blind eye to the militias. Tying up with underworld for arms and information, the militias would then conduct quick eco-scan of neighboring countries that are relatively porous for food ransack operations. Key areas would be mapped out as professionally as possible.

· Noticing their own relative porosity, the panic response of affected food supplier states would be to plug their borders as quickly as they can before hothead militias come. They may do panic last-level talks with the state leaders of neighboring countries, who in turn will simply claim that they do not control warlord/militia groups at all. They may send token protection groups at the border.

· Anticipating such moves, the militias, forming cross-country alliances, will mount a coordinated surprise attack. Invasive entries will be done from around 5-6 country origins, using both dawn and dusk attacks. Simultaneous attacks via air, sea, land, rivers & lakes will be mounted on all fronts.

· Effectively unable to prevent the coordinated invasion, the national army/police of the affected state will watch in horror as the rapid moving invaders coalesce with internal players (‘dog of wars’ supplied by local mafia or related groups) to open and ransack warehouses.

· The invaders will then retreat back to their base origins as quick as they’ve entered the porous state. Hot pursuit is simply nil, save for a few sporadic gunfights with retreating forces.

· The affected state will then demand for indemnification or equivalent payment from the militias’ respective states, none of which may come at all. Given the already burgeoning subsidies by states to shore up domestic supplies and prevent further civil unrest due to the crisis, the states will simply have no resource for indemnification. To print more money for indemnification would be to risk hyper-inflation on top of an already inflationary environment.

· With hardly any sincere face-saving moves by the militias’ states, the affected state may then be provoked into a ‘call to arms’ and do some punitive attacks on some quick neighbors. It can also unleash the firepower of rebel groups from the ransacking countries that are based in its territory, arm these groups and make them lead punitive attacks.

· Unless cooler heads prevail in the region, a regional conflagration could ensue, hence widening the latitudes of the conflict. The original ‘hot soup’ for the stomach then turns to a ‘hot caldron’ of total war. Multilateral efforts may fail for a time, as the conflicts happen in at least three (3) world regions.

Partners in development and peace, this scenario can no longer be ignored today. Let us all prepare for the eventuality. If it can be stopped by cutting off the bud before it blooms, whatever that may take, then let’s better do it as soon as we can. Time is now against us, I believe, as events are moving so fast they happen as soon as we forecast them, like the formation of the food cartels.

If there would still be time to constitute strategic studies teams that can eco-scan the planet and identify possible ‘hot soup spots’, this would be a welcome move. Failing to recognize the evolving contingency, let’s not get shocked at all when the paramilitary ‘dogs of war’ will be at the gates of the bereaved states. They deserve some ‘hot soup’ after all, we may surmise.

 

[Writ 04 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

CAN THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BE FED IN THE LONG RUN?

October 15, 2013

CAN THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BE FED IN THE LONG RUN?

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

“In the long run, we shall all be dead!” – John Maynard Keynes

 

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

 

By the year 2050, the world’s present human population will breach the 10 billion mark. That’s what the forecasts are saying so far, although it is always possible that assumptions done in the forecast may not work in the future.

 

At any rate, yielding a population figure that is based on zero population growth or ZPG is all wishful thinking. World population is now growing at 80 millions annually, and there is no indicating a reversal or decline of the number of babies born and survived annually (less the numbers of death).

 

There just aren’t enough land to treat as frontier lands anymore, sufficient to yield greater harvests. Human food production is still based largely on land cultivation, though hydroponics was already perfected in the late 1980s yet, which can considerably shift production stress away from land. So we will still be stuck up with land-based cultivation + land- based fish farming + land-based livestock production.

 

As studies show, the sub-Saharan (desert largely) has the potential for feeding an additional 4 billions of warm bodies. This is quite some good news so far, though it only is a palliative. Unless that population growth will taper down slowly across the coming decades, till it possibly gets nearer ZPG, the feeding problem will be a headache for humanity in the long run.

 

Below is a very interesting report about the feeding forecasts and problems anticipated in food production in the long run.

 

[Manila, 10 October 2013]

 

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/farming/analysis-blog/focus-on-poverty-how-can-we-feed-ten-billion-people.html

Focus on Poverty: How can we feed ten billion people?

Speed read

  • Demand for food is set to outstrip supply and there is little spare land for crops
  • But Sub-Saharan Africa has great potential to increase production
  • As well as science, inequality and consumption patterns must be considered

It will be even harder to feed the world in 2050, but African farmers could be key, says Roger Williamson.
 
An alarming study has found that major crop yields are increasing too slowly to meet future food demands. With the latest UN projections suggesting a world population of 9.6 billion by 2050 [1] and the population rising by more than 80 million a year — with the fastest rates in some of the most populous African countries — how will the human race feed itself?
 
In future, will we be talking about three to four billion people in extreme poverty rather than the current ‘bottom billion’?
 
A recent, timely book, 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott [2], paints a bleak picture. Emmott examines technological fixes or changes in behaviour or political will as potential solutions, but says  these are likely to fail.
 
This conclusion must be taken seriously. A key part of his narrative is that there is simply not enough land to feed the growing population — more importantly, one with growing food needs. What’s left are cities, where you buy food (not grow it); oceans, which are largely being overfished; forests; and desert. Thus there are only two real possibilities: somehow finding more land to cultivate or improving yields from existing cropland.

A video posted online earlier this month by the ReCom programme — which aims to research and communicate what works in foreign aid — of the UN University-World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), based in Finland, provides a more hopeful scenario for Africa.

In it, Ephraim Nkonya, a Tanzanian land management specialist at the International Food Policy Research Institute, makes the surprising statement that Africa could become the world’s breadbasket.

His argument hinges around two interlinked opportunities — that the yield gap for current and maximum potential production for crops is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that there is potential for radically expanding food production through increasing the area of land under production. According to Nkonya, 90 per cent of all land that could be brought under cultivation is in Africa or Latin America.

Akio Hosono, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute, recently presented positive examples of the latter at a UNU-WIDER conference. He highlighted the use of Brazil’s vast Cerrado region for soya production. [3] JICA and the Brazilians are exploring this model’s applicability to Mozambique. [4]
 
However, increasing crop yields by expanding the area under cultivation often means deforestation. Intensification of yield is the key.

Forecasts of having three to four billion people living in absolute poverty, and strategies for eradicating this problem, are questions for science, but they are also more than that. Social and economic issues of extreme inequality (for example around access to land) and consumption patterns (for example ensuring that resources for food production are distributed equally) are also vital elements to the mix.

Roger Williamson is an independent consultant and visiting fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. Previous positions include organising nearly 80 international policy conferences for the UK Foreign Office and being head of policy and campaigns at Christian Aid. 

References

[1] Worldwatch Institute Fertility Surprises Portend a More Populous Future (Worldwatch Institute, 10 July 2013)
[2] Emmott, S. 10 Billion (Penguin, 2013)
[3] Hosono, A. Industrial Strategy and Economic Transformation (ReCom, accessed 26 July 2013)
[4] Hosono, A. South-South/Triangular Cooperation and Capacity Development. In K. Hiroshi (ed) Scaling Up South-South and Triangular Cooperation (JICA Research Institute, November 2012)

HAS MONSANTO INVADED CHILE’S SMALL PLANTERS?

October 4, 2013

HAS MONSANTO INVADED CHILE’S SMALL PLANTERS?

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

“God must be angry on Chilean peasants, He’s sending Monsanto here!” could be an apt idiom by angry Chileans over the passing of the Monsanto Bill in their legislature. I am very much in sync with the protesting farmers and concerned Chileans, as I know the dire implications of getting Monsanto to invade their country.

 

I was among the social activists in the Philippines who opposed the signing of the GATT-Uruguay Rounds in the mid-90s, and spoke in many venues to expose the social costs that the treaty would spawn. The rise of gigantic trusts or monopolies has been on the agenda plate of the global oligarchs in the the 90s when the treaty was signed, and, as an adroit observer of international political economy, I was among those who forecast the rise of such global monopolies that will control certain sectors of agriculture such as seed production.

 

That monopolization is taking place in steel and mining. Ditto for agriculture, with Monsanto as the flagship trust. I am no professional basher of genetic modification of organisms, as I myself witnessed the great benefits brought forth by genetic engineering on many varieties of veggies, fruits, and grains in my backyard country. However, the likes of Monsanto gobbling up grains, which effectively prohibits small farmers to own seeds for re-cultivation later, is pure EVIL.

 

The Monsanto Bill had raised blood pressures in Chile that is rising fast as a developing country in South America. Details of the issues raised are reflected in the reportage below.

 

[Manila, 30 September 2013]

 

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/bioprospecting/news/farmers-rights-at-stake-in-chile-s-monsanto-law-bill.html

Farmers’ rights ‘at stake in Chile’s Monsanto law bill’

Speed read

  • Campaigners say the bill suits big firms rather than ordinary farmers
  • But biotech companies deny claims that it would unfairly restrict seed use
  • Strong intellectual property rights could also aid agricultural exports, say the bill’s supporters

[SANTIAGO] Campaigners who last month marched through more than a dozen Chilean cities against a bill dubbed the ‘Monsanto law’ after the giant US biotech firm, plan to protest again if the bill progresses through the country’s Senate.
 
Meanwhile, the bill’s supporters — mainly associations of large-scale farmers — are lobbying senators to back it.
 
At issue is the legal implementation in Chile of the latest version of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91).
 
As a signatory to the 1978 version, Chile already protects plant breeders’ rights, but campaigners claim that the new version of the convention suits commercial rather than conventional breeders.
 
“UPOV 91 extends the intellectual property rights of companies that produce seeds, thus increasing their monopoly over seed production and exchange,” Iván Santandreu, co-founder of the NGO Chile without GMOs (genetically modified organisms), tells SciDev.Net.
 
“If UPOV 91 becomes law, it will become illegal for farmers to save and exchange seeds,” he adds.

But Miguel Sánchez, executive director of ChileBIO, an association that represents agricultural biotechnology companies, says: “UPOV 91 allows a seed developer to charge a farmer for using any intellectually protected seed, even retroactively.
 
“But nobody forces this farmer to buy and use intellectually protected plant varieties. If he does, it is because he believes the protected seed will increase his yields.”
 
Sánchez adds that campaigners’ fears that UPOV 91 will not stop large firms from appropriating native vegetable species and varieties or their agricultural or medicinal uses are misplaced.
 
“A seed developer cannot claim intellectual property rights for a vegetable species such as maize. He can only do so if he has bred a maize variety that is new and distinct,” Sánchez tells SciDev.Net.
 

“If UPOV 91 becomes law, it will become illegal for farmers to save and exchange seeds.”

Iván Santandreu,
Chile without GMOs

Another of the campaigners’ concerns is that the proposed law would introduce GMOs into the country through the backdoor by allowing companies to register GM seeds (GMOs are banned in Chile).
 
“This allegation is wrong: UPOV 91 does not mention GMOs,” Patricio Parodi, scientific advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, tells SciDev.Net.
 
“Campaigners are conflating it with the bill on genetically modified plants, which has been stagnating in the National Congress since 2006. Only this law would make way for the general use of GMOs in Chile,” he adds.
 
Santandreu replies that, while UPOV 91 may not mention GMOs by name, it refers to genetic improvement and defines this process as ranging from hybridisation to genetic engineering.
 
But the politicians, large farm owners and agricultural companies backing the bill argue that an agricultural exporter such as Chile needs solid intellectual property rights.
 
“We cannot be seen as a country that practises intellectual property piracy. Chile has signed many free trade agreements, including with the US and Japan, on the basis of reciprocal intellectual property rights,” says Parodi.
 
José Antonio Poblete, commercial manager of the Fruit Nurseries Association of Chile, told the Constitutional Court last year: “If Chile does not adhere to UPOV 91, there will be no reward for all the efforts made by 12 new, state-backed genetic programmes that are developing new fruit varieties”.
 
But anti-GMO campaigners remain unconvinced.
 
“We are waiting for the next significant development in Congress before we march again,” Santandreu says.
 
Link to International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

POPULATION IMPACTS CROPS LARGER THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

October 19, 2011

POPULATION IMPACTS CROPS LARGER THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

I have no fondness for Malthusian bogey perspectives about population outstripping food production. And I do scorn such fear-mongering neo-Malthusians as Paul Erlich’s nauseating ‘population bomb’ thesis.

 

Albeit, there is indeed validity to the pressure exerted by burgeoning population on limited arable lands. A study done in Africa shows the demographic factor as having greater impact on crops than the much ballyhooed climate change. However, the study didn’t go to the extent of prescribing genocide and population decimation strategies in order to return the food security situation of the past, as such mad prescriptions belong more to the Malthusians and the eco-fascists hiding under the rubric of ‘environmentalists’ or ‘greens’.

 

Below is a special report on the subject coming from the SciDev.net.

 

[Philippines, 19 October 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/farming-practices/news/population-has-bigger-effect-than-climate-change-on-crop-yields-study-suggests.html

Population has bigger effect than climate change on crop yields, study suggests

Bernard Appiah

4 October 2011 | EN

Climate change and population hike might mean smaller maize yields in the future

Population pressure will be as significant a factor as climate change in reducing crop yields — and thus increasing food insecurity — in West Africa, according to a modelling study.

The authors inserted different climate change, land use, and demographic change scenarios, into an internationally validated model to estimate maize yields in Benin from 2021–2050.

They found that, as the population increases, farmers frequently cultivate cropland without allowing adequate resting periods for the soil to regain its fertility — thus reducing crop yields.

Overall, they found that various land use scenarios reduced maize yields by up to 24 per cent over the period, whereas climate change scenarios reduced them by up to 18 per cent.

But beyond 2050, “climate change is most likely to be the predominant driver for crop productivity”, they concluded.

“Our main assumption [before conducting the study] was that the low-input fallow systems (which allow resting periods for ploughed, but un-seeded land) in Benin and other West African countries would not change in the near future,” said Thomas Gaiser, lead author and a researcher at the University of Bonn, Germany.

“If governments in the region introduce policies such as the promotion of the use of mineral fertilisers, then the decrease [in the amount of land left fallow] will not be as serious as that without fertilisers,” he added.

Gaiser said farmers should use mineral fertilizers or intercrop with leguminous crops to promote soil fertility and increase yields.

He added that the findings are relevant to many Sub-Saharan African countries relying on leaving land fallow for soil fertility, like Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

“I am not surprised by the findings,” said Brian Keating, the director of Sustainable Agriculture Flagship of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), based in Australia. “It is important to look at all the factors that contribute to agricultural productivity output, and not just on climate change.”

But Keating told SciDev.Net that many farming systems in West Africa yield only 20–30 per cent of what would be possible if better practices and technologies were adopted.

Temi Ologunorisa, director of the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research at Osun State University, in Nigeria, said African governments should adopt climate change adaptation strategies.

“Agriculture in Africa is about 80 per cent rain-fed, and this must change given the declining amount of rainfall,” Ologunorisa said.

The study was published in the August edition of Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

Link to abstract in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology

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FOOD SECURITY FROM FARM TO INDUSTRY

August 16, 2011

FOOD SECURITY FROM FARM TO INDUSTRY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

‘Food security’ as a theme has been reverberating the planet for over two (2) decades now. I still recall, upon my return to graduate school in 1997 to take up development studies (w/ global political economy foundation), that food security was already a wave in terms of advocacy clamors.

Since 1998, I was involved in couples of projects about food production, which includes a 550-hectare farm systems development for a sugarworkers’ cooperative (they wished to shift to diverse crops) and a public policy project on fair trade and food security. That, on top of earlier efforts on food enterprise development and financing (1980s).

The most shocking truth about food production is when you, as specialist and expert, would find out first hand that the food producers you deal with are themselves malnourished, low-income earning, and could nil afford to send their kids to school. That is, the food producers themselves are the most food insecure, which is a paradox of capitalist development.

After long engagement on the food sector (among other sectors I got involved in), I am very highly convinced that interventions in the value chain are key to boosting productivity, increasing income, and improving the quality of life of food producers. Value chain should mean up to downstream industrial processing of food to make them more elastic.

Let us take a glimpse at the efforts of the international organization UNIDO in regard to enabling country stakeholders take the road from food production to agro-industries. The efforts do dovetail into interventions on the value-chain.

[Philippines, 14 July 2011]
Source: http://www.unido,org, http://www.3adi.org/
Africa’s Agro-industry and Agribusiness Development Initiative (3ADI)

Our goal
The goal of the 3ADI is to have an agriculture sector in Africa which, by the year 2020, is made up of highly productive and profitable agricultural value chains. The initiative aims at accelerating the development of agribusiness and agro-industries sectors that ensure value-addition to Africa’s agricultural products.

The leading agencies: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), join forces to support a well-coordinated effort to enhance development impacts. The cooperation builds on sharing knowledge and harmonizing programmes in ways that capture synergies, avoid fragmented efforts, and enhance developmental impacts.

For the 3ADI concept note: click here
Our vision
Food security in developing countries begins with better, more humane and more honest governance; with fair access to land for the most vulnerable populations; with small farmers association, provided with real bargaining power; with technological development for a more productive agricultural sector, that are also in environmentally friendly.
The solution can be found in collective action and resources undertaken by a variety of actors otherwise independent. For the past three years, UNIDO, FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been working on the ground in least developed countries to promote the expansion of local and international value chains that benefit the small producers and entrepreneurs, who create jobs and income, and who gradually transform the rural world to turn it into an attractive career proposition to the eyes of the youth in search of a better future.
The resources exist, the will is evident; the question is how to catalyze the convergence of the value chain components in a situation that provides attractive returns to all stakeholders, while addressing at the same time the most necessary of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing poverty and hunger worldwide.
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RURAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE TOP PRIORITY WORLDWIDE

August 26, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines’ highland suburbs!

For this note I will focus on the thesis that rural development should be pursued by developing countries. The world’s nations have pursued growth that has been badly skewed towards urbanization and commercialization since after World War II, a total effort that has seen many people become poor as a result. Most of the poor folks are in rural hinterlands and fisherfolks.

The Philippines is a classic case in point that has been direly affected by the badly skewed development in favor of urbanization, an endeavor that has been fostered at the expense of rural communities of farmers, fisherfolks, and Indigenous Peoples or IPs. Today, Philippine population is 66% urban and 34% rural, with 2% added to urban population every year.

As urbanization grows, rural poverty likewise grows in my beloved country. Rural to urban poverty ratio here is 2.5:1 and is still moving up. It was 2.1:1 in 1989, and the situation has been deteriorating ever since. 70% of the country’s poor families are rural, with only 30% as urban. Very clearly, between the two, it is rural development that must be pursued with vigor to reverse the poverty situation in the country as a whole.

To demonstrate what I mean by skewed development, consider the following information:

ü  MetroManila or simply Manila, the national capital region (NCR), produces 30% or nearly 1/3 of the nation’s wealth. Yet it supports merely 12% o3 1/8 of the nation’s population.

ü  As of end of 2009, Manila contributed a whopping US $65 Billion to the country’s $186 Billion GDP or gross domestic product. Using UNDP converter index, Manila’s GDP, multiplied by 4, registered an enviable $260 Billion-Purchasing Power Parity or PPP for 2009, rendering it as wealthy as the whole of Vietnam.

ü  Included among the world’s 35 most wealthy and powerful mega-cities—comprising the ‘global nexus’—Manila’s economy remains at 65% services and 35% industries, with nary a food base worth documenting. These economic sectors are the highest in value-added, ensuring high levels of income for all component cities and towns of the mega-city.

ü  Poverty in Manila has been reduced to a manageable 8%, rendering it on an even much better situation than the USA’s whose poverty incidence had climbed from 12% in 2002 to 15% today. Manila has all the resources it needs to solve its own poverty and development problems, which made it drastically reduce poverty since the 1990s.

ü  Therefore, Manila should no longer be subsidized by national government in terms of development projects, from roads to international airports (Los Angeles & US cities are building their own airports without federal or state government support). Yet, as records show, billions of dollars are still being poured by national government to bankroll gigantic projects here, such as lightrail systems, international airport expansion, and flood control.

ü  On top of those national government-initiated projects is Pagcor City, a world-class theme park-cum-gaming complex that is costing U.S. $25 Billion (with private participation). It will employ 250,000 and will house the world’s tallest tower. It is targeted for completion in 2014.

So, as you can see from the Philippine case, whereas the mega-city receives billions of dollars for new projects and urban renewal, the rural areas continue to wallow in appalling states of abject poverty. Lucky enough if a region outside Manila would be appropriated P1 Billion or U.S. $24 Million at any given year from the pork barrels of Congress.

Fisherfolks in my country are particularly the most vulnerable to poverty and deleterious living conditions spawned by it. With poverty incidence at 66%, you could easily see why past 40% of fisherfolks’ children suffer from advanced malnutrition. The situation of over-fishing in the entire country compounds the poverty situation of marginal fisherfolks who can ill afford to equip themselves with state-of-the art fishing gears to compete with commercial fishers.

To say that the Philippines is in a transition phase, and that poverty and malnutrition will disappear it time as the country reaches development ‘maturity’, is pure delusion. Without active intervention to improve the capacities and capabilities of fisherfolks, farmers, and IPs, the problem of poverty will never fade away but will, as a matter of fact, worsen with time.

With so many rural folks wallowing in cesspools of pauperization, we can at best watch more rural insurgencies feast upon the resentment-filled minds of the rural poor. As the Philippine case has shown, past rural insurgencies have ceased only to be replaced by new, bigger, and more ferocious insurgencies.

[Philippines, 11 August 2010]

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US GENERAL: AFGHANISTAN’S A FAILURE, STRESSES DEVELOPMENT

August 22, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good day!

A retired US general recently spoke about the overall conduct of war in Afghanistan. To the surprise and chagrin of defense experts and officials, the general most candidly declared that Afghanistan was a disaster.

The retired general spoke more like a development expert than a uniformed defense official. Accordingly, there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s problems. The ideas proposed by the same (ret) uniformed official combine relief and rehab, infrastructures, and capacity-building efforts, or those solutions that have to do more with a total development package. This is a clear departure from the demented thinking in Pentagon and DC that tend to exacerbate the destructive facets of US engagements in Afghanistan.

Below is the news item about the (ret) official’s pronouncements.

[18 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to Executive Intelligence Review database news.]

McCaffrey: Afghanistan Disaster, Unless We Send in the Engineers

Aug. 7, 2008 (EIRNS)—Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who often functions as an informal advisor to senior Army leadership on the current wars, reported on the disaster in Afghanistan following his July 21-26 trip to that country and to NATO headquarters in Belgium. In a memo dated July 30, addressed to the Social Sciences department at West Point, McCaffrey writes: “Afghanistan is in misery.” Sixty-eight percent of the population has never known peace, life expectancy is only 44, and Afghanistan has the highest maternal death rate in the world, he reports. The security situation, the economy (including agriculture, which is “broken”), governance, and the opium problems, are “all likely to get worse in the coming 24 months.”

There is no military solution, McCaffrey writes: “The atmosphere of terror cannot be countered mainly by military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition…. Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more US combat brigades from our rapidly unraveling Army.”

Instead, McCaffrey argues that, in addition to building up the Afghan security forces, economic measures are also required. He calls for the deployment of a “five battalion Army engineer brigade… to lead a five year road building effort employing Afghan contractors and training and mentoring Afghan engineers…. The war will be won when we fix the Afghan agricultural system which employs 82% of the population…. The war will be won when the international community demands the eradication of the opium and cannibis crops and robustly supports the development of alternative economic activity.” McCaffrey pointed to the tremendous growth in the poppy crop since the US invasion in 2001 and warned that “Unless we deal head-on with this enormous cancer, we should have little expectation that our efforts in Afghanistan will not eventually come to ruin.” On Pakistan, McCaffrey warns against a US military intervention in that country from across the border in Afghanistan, which he says “would be a political disaster. We will imperil the Pakistani government’s ability to support our campaign. They may well stop our air and ground logistics access across Pakistan and place our entire NATO presence in severe jeopardy.” In dealing with Pakistan, “We must do no harm…”