In the USA, the world’s leading agricultural power, there are almost three million farmers, making up around 1% of the population. Each of them can farm several hundred hectares and produce thousands of tons of grain. But this is not a representative image of world farming. Nearly 80% of farmers farm by hand. And globally, agriculture is still the majority occupation: it employs 47% of the active population.
Today, conditions vary widely from one region to another, but all over the planet, the world of farming is in a state of crisis. A farmer in the Midwest of the USA can produce 2,000 times more than a poor farmer in Rwanda. But in order to do this, hundreds of thousands of dollars must be spent on equipment, getting the farmer into debt. To pay back this debt, the farmer must then follow an endless path toward maximum productivity. In the farmlands of India, farmers also get into debt to pay for pesticides, and sometimes one bad harvest can lead to disasterósuicides among farmers are on the rise in the country.
In many countries, particularly those in South America, the majority of farmers work as employees on large corporate farms called latifundios. In Brazil, for example, 1% of landowners own 54% of farmland. Social conditions are hard, wages are minimal, and violence is endemic. The Landless Workersí Movement (MST) is demanding agrarian reforms which are long overdue.
In the poorest places, the fall in food prices is making it increasingly difficult for farmers to survive. Farmers may sometimes own their own land, but women, who make up a large proportion of the workforce, often have no ownership rights over the lands that they farm. Millions of people are leaving the countryside and moving to big cities, where too often they
Farming is nonetheless an honorable job, built around a close relationship with nature. There is a need to find a way to give it a status that befits the importance of its role: feeding the human race.