Course:GEOG352/2020/Food Security in Caracas

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The urban world is growing as population rises at an aggressive rate. Specifically, the global south has been seeing a large quantity of population leaving rural areas and moving to urban city environments. One of the main problems witnessed globally is food insecurity. Many cities are facing food insecurities due to the lack of money and other necessary resources. Most cities in the global South present unique and different challenges, some relating to food security. Relating to the theme of GEOG 352 - Urbanization of the South, food security is affecting countries that are currently developing whether in a rural or urban environment. Some of these causes may include sustainability, poverty, crime and formal versus informal agricultural work. There are many more potential causes specifically relating to food security which will be discussed in this wiki.

The photo shows the urban environment of the captial city of Venezuela, Caracas.

Many regions in the global south experience high rates of poverty which may support the global issue of food insecurity in many local communities. Millions of individuals currently living in the global south are being impacted by poverty on a daily basis [1]. In the following case study, a political and agricultural point of view will be used to analyze the complex state of a city struggling with food security in the global south. Relating to many themes discussed in GEOG 352, Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, will be analyzed concerning food security. This city was selected as 80% of households are food insecure and 62% of households in Caracas receive government food distributions [1]. One of the major themes of this course is the development of the global south with other country's previous growth of urbanization such as those located in the global north. Many developed cities have used urbanization strategies in the past that may no longer be relevant to cities like Caracas. The city's challenges of sustaining an urban environment that is healthy for all individuals will be closely analyzed. This case study will provide an overview of food security by analyzing political relations, informal and formal food production, and the impacts of food security in areas of urban growth.

Overview of Food Security in Caracas

Food Security Defined:

The definition of food security by the World Food Summit explains how “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” [2] . Better food security means improving one's livelihood. Climate change has been increasing dramatically which directly affects the weather and landscapes around the world. Many parts of the world have experienced a lack of rainfall, causing drought and creating infertile land, decreasing farmers' crop yields. In developing countries, the majority of the population gets their food from doing their own farming, gathering, fishing or having their own animals. Sustainable development goals should be stressed to reach goals to end poverty, end hunger, achieve food security and impact nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The Scale and Scope of Food Security:

In 1948 the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights established the concept of food security.The scope of food security is important from the household to communities to world systems. To focus on small-scale and rural-based food production can expand opportunities for communities to access and support local businesses. Many families have taken to social programs as a way of attaining food. Local food suppliers provide a way for families to eat but also prevent any real decision making power. Preferences, health, taste, and convenience are not considered or applied when using these social programs as it is basic survival. The Local Committee for supply and production known as “CLAP”, is a social program that a large part of the population heavily depends on [3]. This dependence can leave the population vulnerable as it is being increasingly relied upon.

Importance of Food Security in General and within Caracas:

The rapid increasing urbanization taking place in the Global South creates challenges of increasing levels of chronic hunger and malnutrition. Almost 820 million people at the beginning of the new millennium who come from poor developing nations suffer from these consequences [4]. From a global perspective, two main drivers of food security in a country are household incomes and food prices [5].

Food security is crucial in order for communities in developing countries to end hunger by receiving full access to enough food for all people to live healthy lifestyles. Caracas in Venezuela’s capital and largest city. Urbanization continues to increase as many people migrate there for prosperity and wealth. 92% of Venezuelans live and work in urban centers and 8% live in rural areas [6]. Food security is a nationwide concern but even prosperous regions are still being affected such as Caracas. One in five people are estimated to be food insecure and food security has caused more than 4 million people to leave the country [7]. This instability doesn't necessarily apply to the supply of food, but to its availability to the average consumer. This issue appears to show the difficulty in attaining food through hyperinflation of the food market. 74% of families have adopted food-related coping strategies such as reducing the variety and quality of food that they eat [7]. In Caracas, the level of acute malnutrition increased from 3.3% in 2014 to 15.5% in 2017 [1].

Case Study of Theme/Issue

Political

Both the economic and political crises of Venezuela have caused a humanitarian decline and a regional emergency in the country. A result of the economic issues in Venezuela has led to over 3 million citizens to flee the country, with a large portion of the population seeking refuge in other countries such as Latin America and the Caribbean[1]. The primary reason for migration out of the country is in large effect due to the food shortage [1].

Economy

The economic crisis brought with it the decline of domestic food production, hyper-inflation, import restrictions and reductions in government-supported food distributions [1]. These effects have all contributed to the decrease in food availability and access to food in Venezuela [1]. Although food security has been in decline since 2008, in 2014, the oil industry has played a large role in the decline of the economy leading to government food subsidies and price controls becoming unsustainable[1]. As food imports plummeted by over half, the limited resources had to go towards dealing with the debt payments, instead of it going into the mouths of their own people [1]. As well as not having access to food, 90% of households do not have the money to purchase the food, 80% are not able to eat what they need nutritionally and culturally, and lastly, 60% are left hungry [1]. Maxwell has quoted that the true meaning of food security shall be achieved when it is not about the amount of food you have, but having the ability to access the kind of food their traditional cooking needs [8]. In Caracas, the dietary quality has declined because of the protein consumption that people cannot afford, therefore leaving people to buy less expensive and nutritious foods [1]. The economic crisis is caused by the political issues that plague the country of Venezuela.

Military & Crime

Citizens protesting military forces of Caracas

Political issues in Venezuela came into play with the 1999 Presidential election of the left-wing ruler Hugo Chávez. Under his presidency, the Chavez administration established left-wing populist hegemony, which made up of reduced poverty and inequality, uneven popular-class empowerment and socialist movements [9]. Although there were efforts towards socialism, the Chávez administration created an uneven class, because they did not eliminate the structural violence in Venezuela, but only tried to replace it with assistance based policies which excluded and ignored young men involved in violence and unskilled workers from the poorest neighborhoods [10]. This form of government worked for Venezuela on a short-term basis because there was an increase in oil. When the oil crisis hit in 2014, it was evident that the left-wing populist form of government was extremely flawed, as it left an unsustainable material foundation that led Venezuela into the economic and political crises[9]. Homicide increased significantly during both Hugo Chávez’s rule and his successor Nicolás Maduro because of their failed attempts to create social equality [11]. In Venezuela, Caracas is ranked as one of the highest homicide rates globally, with numbers increasing within the industrialized and populous areas [11]. The crimes committed in Caracas are 83.7% of the two lowest socio-economic groups[11]. Violence and corruption in Venezuela have contributed to the country's crisis, by creating a “climate unconducive to government reform, massive property damage, and creating hyper-polarization” [9]. The violence has continued in Caracas and Venezuela because the security forces, the police, and the military have been changing constantly through corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence, which has created instability, and ineffectiveness to fight crime [11].

Agriculture

With high food insecurity rates, it is important to shift the view to the source: agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 4.7% of the GDP in Venezuela [12] and the history of agriculture in Caracas goes back to colonial ties and divisions of labour. Divestment in agriculture from the government dates back to the 1980s when the government decreased investment in agriculture from $30.5 billion down to $11.5 billion in 1990 [13]. There has since been a change in investment due to the food crises and the Venezuelan government is now intervening and once again investing in agricultural labour and production [13].

Food Production and Importation

Chacao Market in Caracas
Originally, Venezuela had rich soil for natural agriculture. Following colonialism, Venezuela and Caracas began producing cash crops such as cocoa and coffee as part of the colonial division of labour. Once oil was struck in Venezuela the economy shifted and oil became a key export replacing agricultural goods [13]. Working in a comparative advantage Venezuela exported oil and became a net food importing country [14]. As foreign currency flooded the market, it became much cheaper to import food goods than to grow domestically, economists refer to this as the “Dutch Disease” [13]. In 2014, the oil market decreased yet food imports increased creating a demand for food subsidies and rendering price controls unreliable [1] . Even with unreliable price controls and extreme inflation, Venezuela still imports 75% of food products [1] and agricultural goods continue to be a top import for Venezuela [12]. Due to high prices, food goods are sold at locally run markets, Mercales, where they can be subsidized for consumers as done at the Chacao Market in Caracas. In 2010 the Mercales sold over 1.25 million metric tons of food often at subsidized prices[13]. Informal markets such as these allow for bartering and subsidized prices for increased accessibility.

Agricultural Labour, Urbanization and Urban Agriculture

Urban Agriculture in central Caracas
Urbanization is very prevalent in Venezuela, especially in growing cities such as Caracas as the majority of Venezuelans are abandoning rural land for urban life in the city [13]. This urbanization and depeasantization are resulting in the removal of labour from the non-urban space and a decrease in agricultural labour. The trend towards a decrease in rural population is continuing as 88.3% of the total Venezuela population is now living in rural areas like Caracas with an urbanization annual rate of change of 1.28% from 2015-2020 [12]. The movement of the rural to Caracas leaves limited labour in food production for Caracas as citizens are searching for jobs in the urban formal sector and away from the rural informal sector. Therefore, the increasing demand for food will not be met for those in Caracas as domestic production is shrinking and imported food is unaffordable [13]. However, a recent shift towards urban agriculture may have a solution for Caracas. Organizations run by local activists and international organizations such as Rogue Architecture, utilize empty urban land plots in Caracas to strengthen agriculture locally and make food options that are more affordable [15]. The government has adopted this plan into a new initiative: AgroVenezuela. The produce grown on these plots is sold at more affordable prices and aids in fighting food insecurity in Caracas by producing domestically grown food that can be sold at affordable prices. Programs such as AgroVenezuela showcase the opportunities urban agriculture has for a community even during a period of rapid urbanization.

Lessons Learned

Caracas, being the capital city of Venezuela, has been experiencing a rapid growth in urbanisation [16]. Many of the economic problems are related to food shortages and food insecurity due to the influx of immigrants from different parts of the world such as Eurasia, China, and the growing community of Afro-Venezuelans residing in Caracas [16]. The economic crisis brought the decline of food productions, import restrictions, hyper-inflation, and reductions in government-supported food distributions. Although, there are other industries such as the oil industry that have played an even larger role in economic instability of the city. Since the oil industry was hit harder economically, more focus on paying off debt was in their favour which correlates to food shortages. After close analysis, food shortages must be addressed to maintain population and avoid decline due to danger within the city. To address this situation, crime rates caused by political movements must be halted. Violence in Caracas is caused by the military and other security forces that have been working efficiently, creating instability in the economy and difficulties in fighting crime all relating to food instability.

During the process of analyzing urban agriculture in Caracas, the government's increase in investment in agricultural labour and production is important to note. As there are still extreme inflation rates when referring to food products, high prices are due to food being imported into the country causing prices to still be too expensive for most of the population. Even though many individuals move from agricultural labour in the rural informal sector and look to find jobs in the urban formal sector, the government has yet to address the situation of limited labour in food production which is causing shortages. Even though domestic production is somewhat affordable, Venezuela is not producing enough food, therefore, relying on imported food that is financially unaffordable. With limited labour in rural agriculture, urban agriculture portrays a promising future for food security in Caracas.

A large takeaway from the research relates to the global issue specifically in the global south relating to food security. Food security is such a broad theme that works differently in every environment. There is no single approach that works for every country and every urban city. While researching Caracas, there are multiple strategies and approaches that can lead to a sustainable food system that will create a healthy atmosphere leading to positive urban growth.

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Doocy, Shannon (February 2019). "The food security and nutrition crisis in Venezuela". ScienceDirect. 228: 293.
  2. Food Security Information for Action, Practical Guides (2008). "An Introduction to the Basic Concepts of Food Security" (PDF). FAO.
  3. Dobson, Paul (December 2019). "US Hints at Sanctions Against Venezuela CLAP Food Programme as Maduro Incorporates Militia". Venezuelan Analysis.
  4. The State of The World (2019). "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  5. Timmer, C.P. (2015). "Food Security and Scarcity: Why Ending Hunger is so Hard". Project Muse.
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2002). "Feature: FAO in Venezuela". FAO Newsroom.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Associated Press in Caracas (February 2020). "One in three Venezuelans not getting enough to eat, UN finds". The Guardian.
  8. Potter, Robert (2017). Geographies of Development. London: Routledge.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hetland, Gabriel (2018). "The Promise and Perils of Radical Left Populism: The Case of Venezuela". ProQuest. 24: 277–292.
  10. Tremaria (2016). "Violent Caracas: Understanding violence and homicide in contemporary Venezuela". International Journal of Conflict and Violence. 10: 62–76.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Tremaria, Stiven (2016). "Violent Caracas: Understanding violence and homicide in contemporary Venezuela". ProQuest. 10: 62–76.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 The World Factbook (2020). "South America: Venezuela". Central Intelligence Agency.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Clark, Patrick (2010). "Sowing the Oil? The Chavez Government's Policy Framework for an Alternative Food System in Venezuela". JSTOR. 33: 135–165.
  14. Yu, Bingxin (January 2010). "Toward a Typology of Food Security in Developing Countries" (PDF). IFPRI.
  15. Alcaraz, Teresa (2013). "Urban Agriculture in Caracas". SMARTCITIESDIVE.
  16. 16.0 16.1 World Cities (2020). "Caracas Population 2020". World Population Review.


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This urbanization resource was created by Course:GEOG352.