In this episode of Who Belongs?, hosts Marc Abizeid and Sara Grossman interview two guests: Elsadig Elsheikh, who is the Director of the Global Justice Program at the Haas Institute, and Nadia Barhoum, who is a former researcher with the Global Justice Program. They discussed their new project that was released earlier in October by the Haas Institute called, "Shahidi: Corporations Decoded." The project serves as a monitor to examine the power, influence and reach of agri-business corporations and their role in the global food crisis.
Read more about the Shahidi project here.
And check out the Shahidi project website here.
Intro song: "Traction" by Chad Crouch
Outro song: "Wide Eyes" by Chad Crouch
Marc Abizeid: Hello, and welcome to this episode of, Who Belongs?
Who Belongs? is a new podcast we launched last month at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, where we look at some of the structures that perpetuate inequity and examine issues related to social inclusion and exclusion through a framework we call othering and belonging. My name is Marc Abizeid, one of the hosts of Who Belongs?
Sara Grossman: And my name is Sara Grossman, the other host of Who Belongs? In this episode we are talking with two guests. The first is Elsadig Elsheikh, who is the Director of the Global Justice Program here at the Haas Institute. And, the second, joining us by phone from Greece, is Nadia Barhoum, who is a former researcher with the Global Justice Program. They are here to talk to us about their new project that we just released at the Haas Institute called, Shahidi: Corporations Decoded, which is a website that monitors the power, influence and reach of agri-business corporations and their role in contributing to the global food crisis.
Welcome to Who Belongs? Elsadig and Nadia.
Elsadig Elsheikh: Thank you for having us.
Nadia Barhoum: Thank you.
Marc Abizeid: Welcome indeed and congratulations on the release of the Shahidi Project and the website, which is accessible at haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/shahidi. As Sara mentioned, the website serves as a monitor to keep corporate agri-business firms in check. And specifically, the project profiles ten mega-corporations and up to three thousand of their brands that dominate the Global Agricultural Market. But to help frame the problem that you are trying to address in the Shahidi Project, I want to cite some figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, which estimates that as of last year, 2017, there are 821 million people suffering from hunger worldwide. And that figure, from last year, is an increase of several million over the 2016 figure of 804 million people. So the problem is getting worse. Yet, as the project notes that food production has actually been increasing since the 1970s and there is enough food to feed everyone on the planet. So, Elsadig, can you get us started by explaining what's going on here and what is the role of corporate agri-business in the crisis?
Elsadig Elsheikh: Indeed. So, this assessment is absolutely correct. And, if we look at the last two decades of our hunger, and hunger-related diseases, maybe even the stats will be even higher than what we think from the Food and Agricultural Organization. The reason why we have increasing hunger, while we have food enough to feed above more than 10 billion people, so, we have 7.3 billion people in our planet right now and the amount that existed right now is time and a half for every single one of us. However, as you stated, there's close to one billion people who go hungry since 2007. So, the number fluctuates between 1.1 billion to 800 million people. We indeed made good strides in a global sense but yet, eight hundred people is a lot people that suffer from hunger. And, the reason behind that is, two things: 1. Food is not accessible to everybody. The second: food prices is too high.
So, in many parts of the world we have people who cannot eat three meals a day; or two meals a day because yes, their income does not afford them the opportunity to do so. Even, for example, in this country, in the most powerful economic country, was have more than 46 million people who really lack nutritious food and so far from the USDA suggested in their data that is collected every year, that they suffer from malnutrition; suffer from diet that is really harmful to their own well-being. Most of them; more than half of them are children, for example, in the United States. So, it's very inconceivable to believe that in the United States there is 14% of the population, actually, that doesn't have/lack access to food. So, we have a different name for it here in the United States. We say Food Desert and alike. So, all that, if you look at it and you wonder, like your questions suggested, what is happening?
While at the same time we see agri-food corporation make a tremendous amount of profit. So, that suggests there is certain player in the food system chain. Control the price and determine who could eat and who is not.
Sara Grossman: Can you explain a bit, the background of the name Shahidi? The full name of the project is, Shahidi: Corporations Decoded. What does Shahidi mean, and why did you name the project that? So, Shahidi is actually Elsadig's choice. It is a Kiswahili word, which means, to witness. And, part of the reason why we wanted to choose this word was, first, to uplift a name in a language that is often under-represented from a Global South Country. And then, Shahidi: to witness, means to expose and dismantle these overlying structures and systems that dictate, and inform how we lead our day-to-day lives.
Elsadig Elsheikh: The whole idea is, we thought that information about corporation is indeed maybe available in the public demand, but is really disparate; you can't find it easily. So, we always talk about systematic solutions to the destruction of problems. So, how do you do that as a Public. First of all, you need to absorb what is around you. You need to witness what the harm being done, in order to be able to analyze a problem; in order to solve them. So, it's very hard to solve any problem if you are not witnessing what is being done.
Sara Grossman: What are the role of corporates, more specifically on the policy level, causing these inequities, Globally and within our own Country?
Elsadig Elsheikh: Let me start by saying this, there is no conspiratorial club people somewhere decide to do what. However, the systems have been designed, as we understand at the Haas Institute, is built on structures. Those structures, often times, do marginalize the most vulnerable and give more power to the most powerful. So, this food and agriculture corporations, been able through a vast network of lobbying, with politicians, to give the whole entire US agricultural policy and indeed the global one, based on their own interest. For example, you can imagine in the highest period of capitalist system which required fierce competition between producer and general in order for consumers to get the right thing, or the right price.
If you look at seed, for example the seeds industry. Almost over 67% of the seeds industry is controlled by less than ten companies. So, that's very judgmental to the way in which these people do it. Do corporations, by themselves, do that? Or, is there a relationship between government officials, especially legislators that passing laws to protect those corporations allow them to maximize the profit to the extent that is really judgmental. Not only just to people's well-being but to our economic health; the health of our economy; our ecosystem.
So, the relationship between corporation and policy makers is very hard to disentangle. It's there in bit, all the way. If you look at the campaign finance you find corporations are funding candidates that are not necessarily even going to run for office in the USDA, for example. But, they know that when it comes time to pass free trade agreements; to pass a legislation like the farm bill; or the SNAP; or, to allow, to revoke, or not to revoke anti-trust laws, those people who have been supported by this particular interest group, they will indeed side with the corporation. And, indeed in California now we have one of the cases, for example we cheered when a jurist decided that Monsanto should be penalized and should be paying penalties for the school guard person that suffered from Cancer due to Round-up that used for weed killer that he used it for so many years. But now, today, I was reading the news that most likely, the judge suggesting that they might even throw the case out.
So, even in the legal system you see that there is more people willing to go beyond their duty to actually support the corporate profit and maximize their power.
Marc Abizeid: You just spoke a little bit about Monsanto and we should mention the ten corporations that the Shahidi project looks at specifically. And so I am going to name them real quick. They are: Bunge, Cargill, Carrefour, McDonalds, Monsanto, Nestle, Pepsico, Syngenta, Walmart and Yum!. Nadia, Can you tell us how were those corporations selected; under what criteria?
Nadia Barhoum: Sure. We wanted to get a good variety of the different types of Food and Agricultural corporations that exist in the Global landscape today. So, we broke down the kind of categories in this field into four, and those are primary, intermediary, retail and service. And, what that means to us is Primary being a corporation that produces and distributes raw materials such as seeds, grain, or meat for the Global food systems; such as Cargill and Monsanto. And an Intermediary corporation is one that produces various food products such as snacks, or other packaged, or processed foods and drinks found in the supermarket; such as Nestle and Pepsico. And a Retail corporation sells food products in commercial retail spaces; such as Carrefour and Walmart. And then a Service corporation produces food on a mass scale in fast food chain restaurants; such as McDonalds and Yum! Brands, which is KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. They are all under one corporate brand.
Marc Abizeid: Can you tell us a little bit, specifically, what you learn about these ten corporations when you go to the Shahidi website?
Nadia Barhoum: Sure. So, the website tried to break down the corporate power and influence in a way that is accessible to users who visit the website and the first thing you will see is biographical information about the company. When it was founded. A little bit of information about what it does and it's profit. Where it's headquartered. And then we have on the next site an activity map, which shows where corporations operate around the world. And then there is an industry section in which it shows which industries each corporations are involved. So for example, it could be from shipping and freight, to poultry, to fertilizers, to pharmaceuticals, to energy, to insurance, etc. And the list goes on.
And then the next page is one that details the full list of brands that each corporation owns. So, for example, Cargill has almost five hundred brands. So we list out all of those different brands so that the user can kind of get an idea of the scale that these corporations own of the consumption market. And, then we have a section that looks at lobbying. So, it's a list of Lobbyists who have been hired by the corporation. The issued they lobbied for. And a list of federal bills they lobbied to pass.
And then we also look at government contracts, which display which US Federal agencies have contracts with this corporation. Department of Agriculture. Department of Energy. So on, and so forth. And then the next section looks at education and money. So you get to explore how each corporation wields influence in education and academic research. Through targeted financial contributions to schools and universities across the United States. And then the last section looks at income disparities. So you get to see how the CEOs of each corporation are compensated in comparison of the salary of the lowest paid worker within the same company. So, you get to see how great the inequity is, just within that corporation itselves.
Sara Grossman: Nadia, you talked a bit about Lobbying and these corporate's role in government. Could you give us a specific anecdote about a specific corporations influence in Washington? What kind of policies they were supporting; or going against? And what they did around that?
Nadia Barhoum: Sure. So, there's many different examples of this but, for example, when California wanted to pass the law to label GMOs; genetically modified goods - fruits and vegetables in markets. Monsanto contributed millions of dollars to campaign against this and they were actually successful; and that did not pass. So, that is just one example of many, that I am sure Elsadig can talk more about because he also did an entire report on the Farm Bill, which is another huge piece of policy that is passed about every five years in the US. That ensures subsidies on commodity crops, and also, it breaks down the amount of public assistance and food programs; such as SNAP and WIC, the Woman and Infant Children program. So, those are all huge policy pieces in the US that directly impact millions of people and also pretty much dictate how we can consume the food and other food commodities that we have in our markets.
Marc Abizeid: We might talk a little bit about the Farm Bill but there are so many resources on the Shahidi project, let's go through some of the other ones. Included on the website was actually a new report, kind of a short research brief on mergers in the Agri-business industry called, The Era of Corporate Consolidation and the End of Competition, which looks specifically at three recent mergers. And those mergers are Dow Chemical and Dupont; that's one. The second one is Beyer and Monsanto. And the third is Chemchina and Syngenta. And, the report concludes that, and I am quoting from the report, that the mergers would drastically reduce competition in the areas of crop protection, seeds, petrochemicals. Further consolidate the Agri-chemical market, reduce competition, research and development, and pose a critical danger to the ecosystem, and exacerbate the climate crisis.
Elsadig, can you talk about the report and corporate mergers, and why they are such a cause for alarm?
Elsadig Elsheikh: Well, in the last stages of the Shahidi: Corporation Decoded, we find that is it very important to talk about one of the biggest things happening around us, which is Corporate mergers, because those corporate mergers are not a small thing happening within the food system. And, it's very hard to monitor corporation but you cannot talk about corporate mergers. The public are not very fully aware about how that's a very invasive way around hindering competition, hindering choices of consumerism and the like.
For example, those mergers you just mentioned, the food system since the mid 1990s was really controlled by six of those corporations. Five of them; part of these mergers. So, it's very scary to see that while they are claiming that their mergers are actually for streamlining synergy between research and delivering good services, which is far away from the truth. When, in fact we know, for sure that now the consolidation of the food chain supply; the whole entire food chain supply rests in the hands of the very few.
Us as a consumer, or as Earth, we have really very few options. So, imagine the following: If the next few years, the only solution for the hunger and food scarcity will be genetically modified foods, what power do we have to stop that? We don't. Because those giant corporations with their immense power of research and development, and money they invested in, they actually could convince many governments of the World that indeed this is the best way to go about it. And, us as consumers, as Nadia mentioned, because they are using Lobby, we are not even aware if our food is genetically modified, or not.
So, the matter became, is it accessible; cheap? And would that have consequences, one, on the science of genetics? Two, in the health of the ecosystem? Three, in the idea of competition itself?
So, the danger of corporate mergers, which happen all the time, we see it in the financial sector and we see it in the housing crisis. Now, we are seeing it in the food system. So, it's a continuous and they circumvent the whole entire idea of, we are the people that have the power to actually screen and approve, or disapprove foul play. And this is really foul play. Foul plays as our government, which have anti-trust laws, do not invoke them at all. That's including the European Union and including median economies like China, India and Brazil. So, the impact of these mergers is not only just in terms of the financial power they exert, but the political power and also their practices in industrial agriculture against our ecosystem.
I don't want to be bleak but it seems our options are getting smaller and tighter in the way in which we need to make sure that we understand what those mergers ... I guess, one couple of things I would suggest here, I would say, the mergers of corporations also undermine the small farmer and small producers because now the small producer cannot compete with those companies; at all. While they could provide healthy food, or organic food, what have you, or local food that is suitable to our cultural need, now they cannot compete with Walmart. And we can talk about that later. They can talk about these processed food companies. It's beyond their capacity to do so.
The last thing I will say, also, the idea that this conglomerate companies, or mergers, they also exert a massive amount of Lobbying; not only just for food and agriculture, but there are a lot of other host of things that we can talk about.
Marc Abizeid: One of the other pieces of the website is you actually release a new explainer video that talks about the Shahidi Project and, actually it talks about a lot of stuff; about hunger, and it kind of puts the whole framework of the website together and the purpose of the project. And, we just want to play about one minute ... it's a six minute video but we are just going to play a one minute clip that illustrates some of those ideas and talks about the move from localized, sustainable farming to industrial farming and, forcing small farmers off their lands. And so, here is the clip.
Audio clip: Even though Industrial Agriculture is wasteful and ruinous beyond reason, it's profitable for corporations and because the bottom line is their primary motivation, these corporations continue to pour investment and infrastructure into Industrial Agriculture; stripping resources and opportunities away from small and medium sized farmers, who might otherwise practice sustainable farming. It's a dangerous cycle. While the World's poorest go hungry and our environment is devastated, these companies congratulate themselves for turning record profits. Our current food system is rife with toxic inequity, but most people remain unaware of the gross amount of power corporations wield within it. This is no accident. The power structures are designed to be hidden and difficult to uncover. These corporations hide their dirty laundry very, very well.
Marc Abizeid: The video also announced that Industrial Agriculture used at least 75% of the World's Agricultural resources but provides food for less than 30% of the Global population in comparison to Agro-ecological farming; which is kind of the opposite, it only uses 25% of the World's Agricultural resources but provides food for 75% of the World's population. Can you explain why that is, and contrast the two types of farming?
Elsadig Elsheikh: Great. These are really good questions. Let me start from just giving a brief of what Agro-ecology is? Agro-ecology is one of the oldest practices that farmers used for millennia. So, it's never something new but we researchers and academia, we figured out a term; a jargon, in order to describe that. I will go farther to say that, Agro-ecology is a science and Agro-ecology is a movement. So, it is both combined. The other thing there is a misconception about Agro-ecology, Agro-ecology is not anti-technology; at all, which is what this corporation tried to depict. Agro-ecology could be integrated, or conventional, or organic intensive, or extensive agriculture. So, it's the same thing as what they tell us that only Industrial Agriculture and Grey Revolution could do; which is absolutely a myth. However, most government, since the inception of the new Liberal politics around the Globe in the early 1980s, it seems there is a push-back against all Countries as they try re engineer their own policy around how to produce foods for themselves. How to do Agriculture.
Prior to 1970s, most Countries actually practiced Agro-ecology. Agro-ecology used less land. And, this is the most important piece of Agriculture production, used less land, used less mechanization with less CO2 in our atmospheric and contamination of our soil. Do not seek to transfer the food to farther areas but actually insist of consuming the food locally.
So, these methods could benefit from technology, from R&D, research and development. It could be supported by government. It could be produced massive scale as small scale and would really help us to preserve the border the land we use; we could use smaller land to produce multiple types of fruits and vegetables in one place. That's in opposition to Industrial Agriculture with it's mono-agriculture, which is always striving to produce in a large scale of land; one particular crop, which we call mono-culture. And, that is our problem with Industrial Agriculture, it has to use massive amounts of land, massive amounts of water, and also, massive machinery. And, all that based on carbon economy. So, you need to use fossil fuel in order to produce that amount of food, that often time, you don't even eat. And that's the reason why you have more food than we need and yet, we have many hungry people.
So Agro-ecology is suitable for small farmers. It's suitable for mid-sized farmers. It's suitable for even big Countries like United States, or Brazil, or even China. They could do that and they've been doing that for millennia. And, we could upgrade that by using technology, by understanding as a science, and give it more money for R&D. However, those companies feel that competition and that's exactly they want to enter competition between Industrial and Agro-ecological farming.
So, now we see the smaller farmer, who tried to do that, they often face a lot of challenges. One of them, their products became a little bit expensive, which is very true because they have to go through different processes than the corporation; who got subsidies, who get cuts, who get tax cuts, etc. So, if we allow farmers; small and mid-size farmers, to use Agro-ecology methods, we will see the benefits not only in our house as individuals, but in terms of accessibility to food that is culturally appropriate to us in any context, plus we would literally combat climate change in terms of reducing almost 56% of CO2 emissions that Industrial Agriculture is producing in our atmosphere.
Sara Grossman: So, one thing that stuck out to me when looking at the website was the section on education and, you noted on the website where corporates had donated through to educational institutions? But, not just universities, which makes sense because it's research and development, but also to K through 12 education. And, I was wondering, first Nadia, why do corporates donate to K through 12? And secondly, why did you include it on the website? What is the significance there?
Nadia Barhoum: To answer the first part about K through 12, I actually don't have a clear answer for you. Part of the difficulty in doing this research was actually not being able to have a good database of information on how corporations actually find schools and universities throughout the United States. And, that this is something that I think is an area of research that really needs to be developed and looked at more closely. Definitely, corporations will give money to the school and universities where they are located. I think, as a quid pro quo kind of attend to ameliorate relations within that community and as far as universities go, that happens on a much wider scale. Corporations give to many of the Agricultural research universities, including, land grant universities, which are public universities that get money from the State, specifically to work on Agricultural research; for the benefit of the public good. So, when you mix the corporate funding within universities, you really compromise the integrity of knowledge production within the US. And, it not only does that, but it limits academic freedom and pushes a corporate agenda.
So, you find that the knowledge production from universities, which are meant to be a free exchange of ideas and dialogue that benefit the greater good, then turns to benefit the interested corporations; not the interests of the public, or even the planet that we inhabit. And, a great example of how this has played out, that I wanted to mention, is the case of Syngenta and Tyrone Hayes; who is actually an Integrative Biology professor at UC Berkeley.
Now, he was hired by Syngenta to conduct a study on the herbicide, Atrazine, which is used on half of the corn grown in the US and is one of the most common contaminants in drinking water. And, his finding showed that this herbicide actually had terrible side-effects on the reproductive systems of frogs. And, after reporting this, Syngenta did not re-hire him and thereafter began systematically undermining and targeting him as he continued to do research on this herbicide. And, if you want to learn more, the New Yorker, actually did a great investigative piece that you can look up to learn more. But, that's simply one example of how detrimental corporate funding is in the university and to the public in critical knowledge production at large. In the US, and on a Global scale.
Elsadig Elsheikh: I would just add one thing to Sara's questions. Like, why this corporation? Why we included the front K to 12? This is for me, one of the most striking irony, that in a Country that K to 12 is public; it's supposed to be supported by the government, it's supposed to be funded by the government but, yet now, defunding that from the State side and allow philanthropy; regardless of their good intent, or bad intent, to actually fund those schools. So, what that does, is elevate, in the mind of the young, that they are the people who do good in society. So look up to them. So, then they became familiar. Monsanto funded a lot of K to 12; a lot of the schools, especially the high schools. And, particularly vocational schools.
So. I think the danger is, I am not saying that philanthropy, or Foundation, or corporations should not fund, but it has to be streamlined with our principle; democratic principles and transparency. Why will you fund a particular school; not other schools? Why you don't give this fund as those corporations will make billions of dollars to the Department of Education and let them distribute the money as they see fit?
Elsadig Elsheikh: So, it's a very simple question but it seems very hard in the US to get your head around it. And, the second thing, if you look at most of the schools are actually vocational schools, so they want to make sure to capture the mind and heart of these young people to go to a very particular direction. So, don't think about Agro-ecology, think about Industrial Agriculture then think about this and think about that.
And, all of that has a tremendous impact in the way in which we will understand and that we hope that the Shahidi code, we have no illusions, Shahidi by itself cannot do it, unless this great mission and vision and other people picked up the tab as well, to look specifically to this corporation and other corporation funding K to 12
Sara Grossman: What are some policies you'd like to see at the State, National and International level to empower small, or medium-size farmers, and to reduce monopoly that major corporations have over the food system?
Elsadig Elsheikh: I will allow Nadia also to do this because he does phenomenal work in terms of local food systems here in Richmond. But, you know, one of the things that we aspire through the Shahidi project, to do, is first of all, to really unmask the real players in our food system and in our Agricultural Industry.
What I would love to see, which is really complicated, but, let me be a wishful thinker here, is to separate money from politics. Because, this is for us, I think, the people who work in the food system, it's really hard ... and I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, when you talk about Agriculture, but it doesn't seem that we can move forward with fair, and democratic, and inclusive Agricultural practices unless we eliminate the influence of money in our politics. Through those companies, and their network, being able to actually circumvent our rights to decide policies.
So, you ask about a specific? For example, the Farm Bill, which is one of the giant Agriculture policy acts in the United States, that gives more subsidies to those corporations than actually to small farmers; or farmers of color. Or, even to rural farmers, like, I would love to see the Farm Bill actually do what it does best, which became an anti-poverty program. Which, when initiated in 1933, that was the goal; to uplift the poor, especially the rural poor. So, if it does that, and if it does provide money and support for research and development, for example, in Agro-ecological methods, we really will see the benefits within our local context, National context but also the Farm Bill impacts the International context because it provides trade and food aide to all the countries.
So, it's very complicated. So, if we can strike one thing right, in terms of the Farm Bill, for example, I think we will achieve a lot of good trickle down other aspects. And, the Farm Bill will also have a bucket of money that could actually support push-back against climate change. So, if you see this is one policy that I would like to see in the United States but there are many I could suggest, but I don't want to take up the time right now.
Nadia Barhoum: I think that I would echo everything that Elsadig said, and I would also call for greater transparency with Food and Agriculture corporations, and corporations at large. I think that there's very little information that is accessible to public about what the wheelings and dealings of these huge trans-National businesses are, and how they actually impact people on a day-to-day basis.
I want to also talk about how US food policy with corporations impacts people outside the US because there's been a lot of really detrimental impact of even the local, the domestic policy in the US, on International Agriculture. A company like Monsanto, that is based in the US, has been all over the World and in India, now, they are tied to about half a million suicides of local farmers there. They have been known to create lawsuits against small farmers if their seed is found in their lands; even if it's not something that they actually planted. So, if there is greater regulation and oversight of the business dealings of these corporations ... not just in the US, but Internationally as well, because it has a really destructive impact on local Agriculture around the World.
And then as far as work in Richmond, I think one of the biggest takeaways too, is the impact of fast food chains in local, small, poor black and brown communities and neighborhoods. Often times, these are neighborhoods that are classified as Food Deserts, which means that they have little, to no access to fresh and healthy foods; whether that be in super markets, or farmer's markets, and instead you see almost every corner filled with a fast food chain like McDonalds, or Taco Bell, or Burger King. So, people really only have access to these fast food, which create really bad health impacts like Diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. And, this is also racial stratified and disproportionate along racial lines.
So, you find that within the black community in Richmond, obesity rates among black youth are 34%; Latino youth 33%; 25% among Asian youth; and 13% among White youth. And then the overall obesity within Richmond, within the adult population is 58%. They are considered overweight, or obese. So, this is something that is happening across the United States, within black and brown neighborhoods. There is also high targeting of advertisements to these communities. And moreover, these corporations like McDonalds and fast food chains, are hiring people at minimum wage jobs and so you'll see that people working in these industries are getting underpaid; with little to no benefits so, they have to seek other employment opportunities, working two to three jobs, which also has a great impact on somebody's health and well-being ... somebody's family. These are also issues that are locally based, but also you find across the entirety of the United States.
Elsadig Elsheikh: I guess, to add very briefly to what Nadia said, which is really the heart of the problem, but American's spend about 90% of their food budget on processed food. Which is exactly what Nadia is suggesting when you have a Food Desert. And, there is no single company in the United States that has more impact on what, and how food is manufactured than Walmart, itself, which is one of the corporations that we screen because today, half of the Walmart business comes from grocery sales. So, just imagine that. And one out of every three dollars American's spend on groceries in the US goes to Walmart.
So. This is not an easy information that we access. It takes us a lot. And when we think about it in terms of structurally and systematically, brown and black and even white low-income communities feel subjugated to this type of food. At the same time, our healthcare system is failing so it really leads them to a death sentence; over time. That's happened here in the most developed Nations, but also, as Nadia mentioned, in underdeveloped Nations, or American economies.
Marc Abizeid: And that ties in to something else that was highlighted in the UN report; the Food and Agricultural Organization report about hunger Globally and one thing we didn't talk about is where the impacts are felt most; Globally. And, from that same report they talk about situations worsening in South America and most regions of Africa. And, just to cite a couple of figures here, it notes that Africa remains the Continent with the highest number of people who are suffering from under-nourishment; which affects 21% of the population there compared to about 10, or 11% Globally. And, it's getting worse also, in Asia. And, what this does is actually it has implications on migration. And, last year a report with Hossein Ayazi about forced migration called, Moving Targets. So, in a few words, can you also talk about the relationship between these corporations? The Global food crisis? And forced migration from the South to the North?
Elsadig Elsheikh: Yes, that is what we also so when we thought about the Moving Target, Global forced migrations. One of the major populations that move out is actually the rural communities. And rural communities are again, for thousands of years, one of their source of income and work, and occupation, is Agricultural Industry. So, now what we see since 2004 is massive movement of land-grab; not necessarily by those particular corporations, but is a mix of different actor; including those corporations, but, those corporations, what they do is to increase to the need, or to speculate the need for alternative fossil fuel; biofuels for green energy in our part of the World, in the most privileged part. And, subjugate those Global South countries to allocate their lands into producing biofuels, or oil seeds in this matter.
West Africa is very well known for that. Southern Africa. A part of Latin America and Asia. And, they always see that this same population moves outside of their places because producing those type of oil seeds really require a massive labor force. So, they lose employment opportunity. Second, they produce something they can't eat. Third, they are pushed out of their lands, whether through the direct monument of their estate, so not just young people but particularly if you look at Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 51% of the population under 25, so that means, able and capable of doing a manual job an Agriculture provides at the space. So, those people are being forced to move out of their social context and move into the cities and they cannot sustain themselves in the cities. So, literally, they have been forced to migrate; whether internally, or externally.
So, the practice of corporation in speculation in Industrial Agriculture markets have direct impact in forced migration because now people have no land; have no jobs, and we wonder where they will go.
Nadia Barhoum: One thing about that too, that is often overlooked, when talking about dispossession of land, and displaced persons, is also the huge loss and local knowledge that you get with that. So, people who have been tending to the land in a sustainable way for generations; decades, are then pushed off their land, and with that you lose that knowledge of the local ecosystem and whatever has been accumulated over those generations that is actually they are acting as environmental stewards to the land and then being replaced with this incredibly ecologically harmful practice of Industrial farming.
Elsadig Elsheikh: And I agree with Nadia, what she said. At the time when we thought about Shahidi, four years ago, the horn of Africa hit harder by hunger and we decided that that place needed to be uplifted because they are resilient. They have different Agro-ecological methods, but they are not being able to do it; not because they lack, but what Nadia mentioned, this escaping of local knowledge dealing with this type of desertification and the harmful practices of climate change.
Marc Abizeid: And on that note, we are going to have to end it there and that was our conversation with Elsadig Elsheikh; the head of the Global Justice Program at the Haas Institute, and Nadia Barhoum; a former researcher at the program, who are the lead researchers on the Shahidi Project that was just released earlier this month.
Sara Grossman: If you enjoyed this interview and want to hear more episodes of Who Belongs, visit us online at https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/whobelongs. You can also find us on social media using our handle @haasinstitute. Thank you for listening.