How Security Woes Make a Food Crisis Even Worse
Food producers in a collapsed economy face blackmail and bribery at roadblocks, adverse weather conditions, cattle theft, and other challenges that limit the availability of food.
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Venezuela has faced a multitude of problems over the past few years, including an economic crisis, political unrest, crime, and infrastructure that has already partially collapsed. These issues produce a significant impact on the country’s agriculture sector and particularly on local food producers, without access to large credits or other privileges.
They face blackmail and bribery at roadblocks, adverse weather conditions, cattle theft, and other challenges.
Bribery at Roadblocks
One of the most significant security problems that local food producers in Venezuela face is bribery at roadblocks. In the worst of the severe economic crisis, which led not too long ago to shortages of basic goods like food and medicine, many people (this is still happening but to a lesser degree) resorted to smuggling food, fuel, and other essential commodities out of the country (to Colombia, mostly) to sell them at a higher price.
To control this illegal activity, the government had to set up numerous roadblocks across the country. However, these roadblocks became a breeding ground for bribery…and corruption. Local food producers who transport their goods from rural areas to cities often face harassment at these roadblocks. The officials manning the roadblocks have very low wages; then, they resource to demand bribes from the producers in exchange for allowing them to pass through.
This practice not only increases the cost of production for the farmers: they simply pass on this expense to the final customer but also discourages them from producing more food. It is not like this is something new; dishonest uniforms have been doing this since the Spanish crown times. But with the upcoming of these modern times, with all the societal control they grabbed, and with an International Court doing nothing (that is another history) until very recently, thanks to the good management of the new General Attorney, the situation became much more common. To make things worst (something this sort of regime seems to love), the words of the non-acknowledge “head” of State to the uniforms were: You will have to make money doing what you can because the country can’t pay your salaries. Go figure.
Oh, and by the way. Don’t think it can happen anywhere. History has proven that officers with guns will go rogue when they don’t receive payment, and they know the institutions are dismantled enough to proceed with law enforcement. Which is EXACTLY the situation down here.
Adverse Weather Conditions
Venezuela is a country that is vulnerable to adverse weather conditions such as droughts, floods, and landslides. These conditions have a significant impact on the country’s agriculture sector, particularly on local food producers. Droughts, for instance, can lead to crop failure, while floods can destroy entire crops and wash away livestock.
Fun fact: in my native state, we have almost the same rain pattern as in the most productive province in Argentina. But they produce almost 300% more than us, of course: mechanical cultivation using machinery, and technology, added to a more developed industry, with access to much more credits, make the difference.
And, thanks to their low latitude, the El Niño phenomenon, known to cause irregular weather patterns, has been affecting Venezuela’s agriculture sector for several years. In 2008-2009, and then again in 2015 and 2016, the country experienced a severe drought (a seven years cycle which seems to be repeating now, something that impeded me to start my crops up in the mountain hutch) which led to a shortage of food and water.
This drought usually has a significant impact on local food producers, many of whom lost their crops and livestock. This is something I criticize a lot. Just with some budgeting planning and a little investment, ponds could be dug out, and some organic layering could be used to mitigate evaporation. But for reasons I cannot explain, the producers are reluctant to make such improvements.
Cattle, poultry, and crop theft
Theft is another security problem that local food producers in Venezuela face from time to time. The country has a significant livestock and corn/tomatoes industry, with many farmers rearing cattle for meat as well as dairy production and corn for both human and animal consumption. However, the theft of such products (including coffee) has become a prevalent problem in Venezuela, with thieves targeting rural areas.
Theft not only affects the farmers’ livelihoods but also has a broader impact on the country’s economy. Venezuela has been facing a severe food shortage, and the loss of cattle and other products only exacerbates the problem. Additionally, the theft of livestock has involved violent events, which puts the farmers’ lives at risk. With the current gun laws where civilians cannot own weapons, the thugs enjoy immunity and power like no one else in the world. Furthermore, injuring a trespasser would mean a HUGE problem for any homesteader. Very likely, the penalties would include decades of imprisonment…unless a “fee” can be arranged, of course.
Petty felonies are another issue.
This is usually the most extended but the most annoying and potentially dangerous at the same time.
Water pumps, wiring (even already installed on top of a pole), tires, irrigation piping, hoses, fertilizer bags, pesticide containers, even rolls of chicken mesh, or shadow mesh (extremely sought after by thieves, as it is expensive and very needed to protect delicate crops) …whatever you can imagine that can be taken, it will surely be targeted by preying hands. It even happened in my place. We have an entire bedroom where we disassembled the bunkbed to get inside some equipment: a desk saw, rototillers, a big roll of hose for watering, and a couple of pumps with a bunch of other materials, including even some old salvaged doors for a closet, and a wooden window, frame and all.
Of course, things like car or generator batteries (or even the genset itself), and forgetting to close your car at night will leave you exposed. The more isolated you believe you are, the higher the threat once someone has discovered your place. A tall fence at least around the house, and a large aggressive dog become a good protection measure. In our case, fortifying our small but solid cement cabin with steel doors is easier than fencing. After adding the second floor, it will be much more secure as the ceiling will be much taller.
In addition to the security problems, local food producers in Venezuela face a range of other challenges. These include:
Lack of access to credit: Many local food producers in Venezuela lack access to credit, which makes it difficult for them to invest in their production. This lack of investment, in turn, affects their productivity and ability to meet demand. Some interviews I have been doing indicate that they resource several loans from several different banks and distribute the money. One loan for fencing, another one for renting or repairing machinery, another for renting a bull…maybe a couple more for spare parts for everything mechanical, and medical care for the cattle, poultry, or pigs.
Lack of access to inputs: Local food producers also face a shortage of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. The shortage of these inputs affects the quality and quantity of their production. One of my goals is to produce enough digestate to partially substitute the lack of industrial fertilizers. Once they realize the potential and the low pricing, it’s going to be a blast. (I hope). Fixing the machinery is not easy; qualified people like welders and machinists are not easy to find anymore. Many have fled the country, as these professions are sought after in other countries in Latin America where people usually do not have access to such expensive qualifications. The oil industry demanded a lot of these blue-collar workers, but with the decline of the last decade, these skilled laborers went away.
Lack of infrastructure: The country’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, road lights, signaling, and everything in between, is in a state of disrepair, which makes it difficult for farmers to transport their goods to markets safely. The poor conditions of the infrastructure also damage transport, usually pickups and trucks of all sizes, as they usually have to speed up on the roads to avoid suffering assaults. (Keep reading)
Inflation: Venezuela has been experiencing hyperinflation for several years, which has led to a sharp increase in the cost of production for local food producers. They try to adapt, but the circumstances take a toll even in the mood, and many of them have decided to stop producing to supply a market and try out some other business with less risk attached.
Road Piracy: This doesn´t need too much explanation. This trend was bigger in 2018-2021 but it seems to be coming back. Pirates use the bad conditions of the roads to take advantage of the trucks that go slowly trying to avoid large holes or even lost parts of the pavement. Sometimes they have even shot the driver. Those roads are usually not used by any LEOs. Only a few battered trucks of the rural National Guard, now and then, with personnel on top, but it makes sense not to call the attention of a bunch of armed guys in the middle of nowhere.
Food producers face many challenges, and it gets worse post-collapse.
What worries me the most is that this can happen everywhere. It is not like it is a local phenomenon.
Of course, much of this will depend on the culture of every country; but once things get bad enough and the citizens have no means to defend their properties…they will be at the mercy of roaming gangs of armed thugs in disguise.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe!
What are your thoughts?
Are you seeing some of these challenges in your area yet? What do you feel is most likely as the American system fails? Do you have any ideas for mitigating some of these issues?
Let’s discuss it in the comments section.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
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