While the connectivity achieved in the XXI Century through the Internet and mobile technology keeps knocking down intermediaries in production and marketing chains, in some parts of the world regulations prevent this from happening.
According to El Universo newspaper, Guayaquil is the second city in Ecuador with the highest intermediaries growth-rate in its food chain. This means that links continue to be added between producers and people, causing food prices to go up: a quintal of potatoes (220 pounds) can cost twice or three times its original value when reaching the end consumer.The Guayaquil Grocery Terminal is one of such instances. Opened in June 2000 to act as a trade and distribution center for food in the city, it was going to be a place for farmers to have their boots and sell directly to markets, but the cost of a boot and the requirements asked made it impossible for peasant organizations to establish there.
Local voices claim this resulted in the terminal being occupied by large traders, who arrive to farms with trucks to buy produce from farmers at low prices, taking advantage of the farmers' inability to take their food to points of sale, since they don't own means of transportation. Which highlights another reality: an increasing number of intermediaries also means lower profits for farmers.
To make matters worse, a local regulation prohibits farmers to sell outside the Terminal: offering produce without passing through the center might translate into goods confiscation and fines.
The Federation of Agriculture Centers and Peasant Organizations of Ecuador (FECAOL) is a group of small farmers who gathered in 2003 to defend their interests and promote a more just, chemicals-free and inclusive agriculture. Faced with the reality of this unfair regulation, they sought a way to bypass the law and began setting up organic food markets where farmers sell directly to consumers in schools and institutions which can protect them.
A great video made by Permacyclists demonstrates the impact these events have on both the producer and the consumer, who, when cutting intermediaries, benefit each other:
This symbolic act of civil disobedience reveals the kind of nonsense I was talking about when I said that while I do think the power for change is outside a sleepy political process, policy is still essential.
It's good to celebrate these acts when rules make no sense, but we must, too, work to change the rules with our votes and political action.