Sunday, September 11, 2011

Agricultural Law Around the World

In past classes, we have been discussing family farming, industrialized production, and agrarianism in the context of the historical development of our agricultural sector and our food system.  Concerns regarding  sustainability, global food production, and natural resource consumption informed our understanding of the issues.  The LL.M. candidates have raised many important points, debated the issues, and we have had some wonderful class discussions.

On Friday, we had a special treat -  our two candidates with their law degrees outside of the United States gave us presentations on agriculture in their home countries.

Mirriam Kutha (Kalowa) presented on agriculture in Malawi.  Mirriam obtained her LL.B., with Honors, Upper Second Class, from the University of Malawi.  Her professional experience includes: Assistant Lecturer in Law, University of Malawi; Senior Resident Magistrate, Malawi; Internships include work with the Malawi Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice (Legal Aid Dept.) Her dissertation was titled The Effects of the Proposed Amendments to Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code in Relation to Sexual Offenses. She is a past president of the Women’s Lawyers Association of Malawi.

As Mirriam told the class, The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique.  One geographic feature is its large and beautiful Lake Malawi. Mirriam's excellent presentation included information about farming in Malawi, the absence of modern technology, and recent struggles to maintain food security.  Of particular interest was her discussion of Malawi's divergence from internationally imposed goals focusing on export markets, to instead focus on domestic food security.

Volha Samasiuk presented on agriculture in her home country of Belarus.  Volha received her Diploma in Law with a specialization in Economic Law, and her Doctor of Philosophy in Law from Belarusian State University.  Her professional experience includes: Senior Lecturer, Belarusian State University Law Department, Minsk, Belarus (Civil Law, Intellectual Property Law); Legal Consultant, Belarus Food Safety Improvement Project, International Finance Corporation, The World Bank Group; Legal Editor and Member of the Editorial Board, JurSpectr LLC, Minsk, Belarus; Visiting Scholar, University of Washington School of Law; and Curriculum Research Fellow, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

 Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe bordering Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. A former member state of the U.S.S.R., the government of Belarus continues to hold significant economic control.  Volha discussed the three different farming systems - the collectively held land farmed according to government production goals, the small family farm sector, and the private plots farmed by many citizens.  She also discussed the many acres of agricultural land that is still contaminated as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in Ukraine in 1986.

Appreciation is extended to Mirriam and Volha for doing such a good job teaching us a little about Malawi and Belarus.  We hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for us to learn from them.

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