In this season of COVID19 I’m constrained to talk about this very dull topic of money, economics and sustainability as this pandemic ruthlessly ravages our society, harvests souls indiscriminately and slowly gnawing away on our well-being – painful and unapologetic. Many a pandemic have been recorded but none close to my heart as this one. I have seen people languish in pain, descend into comas, die without a loved ones to hold their hands, get buried like dogs in dug-out valley-of-graves with no last respects no final wishes.
These have been tough times as many around the world as millions have lost employment. Airlines have had shut down, restaurants have had to suspend “eating out”, transport system shut down, employees asked to stay home in the name of social-distancing, supermarkets have lost their super-lustre status as one-stop shopping stalls as a significant number of service providers can no longer deliver their good thanks to the lockdowns and worse still, as the general public surge deeper into cashlessness and are unable to afford even the stale bread rotting on the almost empty shelves. There’s just no MONEY.
World economics is flawed. The fathers of economics envisioned the creation of a mega-world system where markets were central and everybody participated to determine what the market would offer. People would have the “free will” to chose and through the amazing invisible hand, welfare would be maximised. Everybody goes home happy. This is not the case. If anything, markets have created more problems than they have solved.
I grew up in a rural setting where we had a more-than-big kitchen garden that supplied us with every basic, necessary food you can imagine. The garden was the source of kales, cabbages, carrots, dhanias, maize, beans, potatoes and many other perennial crops. It had a life of it’s own. I remember being unwittingly introduced into this trade – initially through a simple “Sonny, you want to know how the hoe work?” to “Dig up that half acre boy. Your school fees and life depends on it!” a few years later. Being expected to be a self-proclaimed farmer at the age of 10 years was nothing sexy, not even in my times. I swear I would sue for retroactive wages compensation if i lived in the UK. Child labor was REAL but I still love my parents too much. And so do the rest of you who know what i’m talking about.
This farm setting was a source of Jaded edges and Joys depending on the season. Planting, weeding and harvesting season were the worst, which covers pretty much the whole year huh! One thing I enjoyed though, was the joys of harvesting fruit in it’s season, whether in our backyard or another’s. Trust me it was all in good faith. Pruning is an important part of optimized plany growth, and i took the liberty of applying it on my neighbours’ garden, fiercely at times!! I must find time to thank my neighbors for contributing to my life, albeit unknowingly.
Briefly put, we were food secure. Within this small garden, we produced plenty to eat and spare for our neighbors. What we didn’t produce, we caught onto through barter exchanges or at the local markets. For micro-nutrients like vitamin C though haha! The neighbors vineyard at weird-o’clock would always do the trick. I said my hail Mary’s so quit judging! I will desist to name names of the delinquent syndicate at this point. I remember every one of you.
All said, the economic system has laid waste to a lot of farm level thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in economics for as far as it has allowed markets to be created and economies to thrive but that is not the case today. The economic systems are designed to make the rich wealthier and to make the poor poorer. The thought of maximizing welfare and that of economic optimization in a perfect market has never seen the light of day. Why do the rich boys in the industry say that raising wages will kill job employment yet you have a CEO who is paid 100 times the wages of a sweeper in the same context? Free choice is non-existent, you will spend because you have money in your pocket and you will die of hunger on the same principle, no money.
Small is beautiful is a reasonable book around economic sustainability that I really loved to read. It advances the thinking of how economics can really be used to build food sufficiency. In this type of economy, specialization happens at a scale where it’s fathomable and beneficial at local scale. For example if my neighbor produces potatoes and I produce fish, all that is left is for us to is raid a vinegar truck and voila!! Fish and chips and Vinegar!! However as the scale of specialization expands towards industrial level production, for instance in a country where most farmers are forced to abandon local sustainability in favor of specialized crops, the risk of market failure is magnanimous and many at times too costly to mitigate. Case in point and not to misuse Coronavirus pandemic, trade is utterly impossible at this point as many borders have been shut for business. It is also in this process of specialization that causes local goods and services to be undervalued through inconsistent valuation methodology and also where local knowledge and culture is undermined.
One of the ways we must respond is by ensuring that we don’t entirely lose the aspect of small and beautiful especially in Africa. I love Uganda and Tanzania so much because no matter what town you go to, they are never in depravity of food whether it is bananas, arrowroot, cassava, millet alongside a whole host of pulses and seeds, most of which I don’t even know by name. You get to eat to your fill. Some countries in west Africa are largely productive at local scales with only nascent influences of westernization overtaking the economies. Keeping tended gardens have multiple impacts on food security and environmental sustainability. There is also a delicate process of knowledge and skills transfer between generations through hands-on operations. You also offer the monkeys and monkey-neighbors like me an opportunity for being food secure and mischievous at the same time.
You know growing up chasing my dream of being a bus driver may have turned out to be the best dream I ever had. In those days the only important thing to me was to do what made me happy. My dad wouldn’t have it that way though haha! Now I am reduced to writing environmental blogs with no garden to tend. I wonder which is worse.
Greed ain’t good! It doesn’t make you a capitalist, it make you a sociopath. Ask the deputy president in a certain country. Inclusivity must allow people to participate in markets, and this means not only as laborers but more as capitalists, owners, even at a minuscule scale. Successful economies are gardens, not jungles. Every man for himself and God for us all? – NO. Markets must be tended as gardens. They must be structured to meet very basic needs which includes food and well-being. Well-being is about genuine relationship, belonging and happiness. Yes I said it HAPPINESS!