Tuesday 10 May 2016

COPAC Press Statement #DroughtSpeakOut #NationalBreadMarch


Tel: 27 11 4471013, Fax: 27 11 2526134,E-mail: copac@icon.co.za




Media Breakfast
10 May 2016
Press Statement

South Africa’s drought, food crisis, democracy deficits, greenhouse gas pollution and deepening inequalities demand an urgent response from below about new ways of thinking about crisis, new solutions and alternative ways forward for the country. The coming together of campaigns championing food sovereignty, break-free from coal, against carbon pollution, in defense of communities from the destructiveness of mining and for greater transparency to empower citizenship heralds the beginning of a historical and important convergence of social forces in South Africa.

A Call To Rethink Everything

Underpinning this convergence is a realisation that human civilisation is facing a serious crossroads. The industrialisation of nature has revealed the limits of planetary resources, ecological limits, inequality and the crisis of modernising capitalist development. Linear modern progress and development has produced deep systemic crises which can only be solved through system change. Green capitalism, green neoliberalism and other techno-fixes are false solutions that reproduce the same pattern. South Africa’s policy discourse, policy makers and public conversations needs to face these realities. We need a more open, critical and engaged societal conversation about a new paradigm of co-existence between humans and with nature. We need  to supplant growth with a new index: sustaining life. South Africa needs to start having this conversation urgently if it is going to survive as a country and give its citizens hope.

The Failure of COP21

The UN-led climate change negotiations has failed the world and for the past twenty years the biggest existential challenge facing the human race has been treated as a market problem. As a result we have crossed the 1 degree increase in planetary temperature since pre-industrial levels, we have gone beyond  400ppm concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, are living through extreme weather changes and inducing dangerous feedback loops into global warming. Current commitments from COP21 take us into a zone of 3-4 degree increases in planetary temperatures. Most of us and future generations will not survive. The ratchet up mechanism in the COP21 agreement is fraught with uncertainties least of which the vicissitudes of domestic political economy conditions of countries, geopolitical calculations of fossil fuel  producers and a lack of resourcing to address climate debt by rich countries. COP21 is a palliative that has not even confronted the curtailing of fossil fuel extraction and use, the source of the problem. COP21 is not about systemic change. The discourse of COP negotiations further hides the disproportionate responsibilities and impacts of climate change within the idea of the Anthropocene, the age of humans. COP discourse is suffused with ‘Anthropogenic’ language that fails to appreciate that rich countries, powerful corporations and ruling classes are the problem but yet  poor countries, the hungry, landless and working class will suffer the most. COP 21 reproduces a power framework that is the problem and it fails to address corporate and ultimately capitalist induced climate change. We need democratic and people-led solutions for systemic change now if we are to survive as a species.

The Failure of South Africa’s Food System

South Africa’s globalised and corporate controlled food system is destructive to the environment, uses about 63% of our water resources, fails to feed 14 million South Africans and keeps almost 50% of the population food insecure. Children are also victims of food profiteering with  1 in 5 malnourished and increasingly our youth are victims of unhealthy fast food diets but yet some estimates suggest almost 50% of fresh fruit and vegetables are wasted in our  corporate controlled food system. The corporate controlled industrial food system is broken and not working for South Africa. It is an unjust, unfair, unethical, unsustainable and an unhealthy system. It needs systemic transformation for these reasons alone.

But yet South Africa’s El NiƱo induced drought is revealing further systemic failures. South Africa is experiencing a third (the first 2006-2008 and then 2010-2011) food price shock because of its globalised industrial food system. This food system is locked into fossil fuels, global markets, industrial farming  and productivist methods that are not able to adapt in the context of climate change and passes on the problem to workers, the poor and consumers. Increasing food prices are all about keeping profits high, particularly through increasing the price of staples, and in the context of maintaining multi-billion rand businesses. It is not about factor costs nor import costs. This is simply a food system that would sacrifice human life to make profits. South Africa’s food system is globalised into Africa, including Southern Africa, and in the context of the drought is failing to feed 16 million people in the region according to the World Food Program. At least another 49 million are at risk in the region. Corporate controlled food systems cannot feed a world increasingly journeying into climate crisis. We need systemic alternatives such as food sovereignty to feed the people and  hence the national Bread March by the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign.

Moreover, the state is failing dramatically to respond effectively and learn from this drought. This meteorological pattern is going to worsen as the planet heats up. Through research conducted by COPAC, tracking the impacts of the drought on small scale farmers, we have discovered the following: small scale farmers were struggling before the drought but the drought has worsened things, there is a lack of effort on governments part to mobilise communities, government is failing to assess small scale farmer needs adequately, food parcels even for livestock are not sufficient, there is no clear response on how to bring back cultivation of food crops, water management is revealing serious weaknesses, there is no government policy thinking on how to mitigate impacts beyond the immediate effects of the drought and increasing food prices are hurting even farming households. Building capacities from this drought to ensure South Africa diversifies its food system is lost on the state. Hence the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign’s Drought Speak Out.

The First Steps Towards a Peoples Climate Justice Movement: Advancing Systemic Alternatives Now!

The worsening crises and the efforts of SAFSC, Break Free, Earthlife, MACUA and R2K  are laying the basis for a red-green alliance or a peoples climate justice movement to emerge. The activities planned will aim to show the interconnections between coal, climate, drought and food crises. Such deep rooted problems cannot be solved through tinkering but require systemic change. In this context we call for a just transition now in South Africa. We reject the National Development Plan which merely produces more of the same and instead we believe a people led  and democratic just transition is required to advance systemic alternatives from below.

·       Keeping coal in the ground means we have to take socially owned renewables seriously.
·       Fighting the pollution effects of mining means we have to manage water, land and community impacts more sustainably.
·       Exposing information deficits  in governments decisionmaking including on nuclear means greater accountability and citizens power.
·       Calling for food sovereignty means giving greater control of the food system and its culture back to small scale producers and consumers. It means we can use agro-ecology to feed villages, towns and cities while controlling our genetic materials like seeds through community seed-banks.

Food Sovereignty is peoples power…
Break Free From Coal…
System Change Now!
Forward to Climate Justice!


Dr. Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, WITS.
Cell: 082 775 3420
Twitter: @VishwasSatgar

Board Chairperson COPAC (COPAC serves as secretariat to the SAFSC)

Member of the National Coordinating Committee of the SAFSC

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