Thursday, May 14, 2009

Food for thought

What if...

...the leaders of a country that is already food-insufficient were to choose to orchestrate the renting of land so that more food could be grown...

...for export. To generate hard-currency revenues. Which go into accounts...

...under the control of the leaders?

Might not work out too well, once the local population found out about it.

It is a tough call to simply condemn the entire idea. The same country might well need the revenue to pay for fuel or manufactured goods that are necessary to upgrading the domestic market food production. But that implies that the leaders of the country can be trusted to have the best interests of the population and the future of the country in mind.

Well, it is happening.

*Here* is a report on the role of East Asian, North African and Gulf States (like the UAE and Saudi Arabia) in the ongoing "land grab" happening across South and East Africa.

Once you've gotten that report digested, there is more.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has *this report*, with analysis, of the massive Chinese investments happening in the lower Zambezi area of Mozambique. It in particular points out the difference between the efforts of South African farming interests (mostly focused on improved production for all markets) and the Chinese effort (which brings in Chinese to man and run the farms, with production focused on export).

Tuck into that for a moment, and consider some of the unintended consequences.

If this hasn't been inflammatory enough for your tastes, then let *this* report from the Inter Press Service put some anti-colonial seasoning on your portion.

Because it really isn't clear at all whether this is going to work out for good or bad. This might be a very fine way for countries with underutilized land bring in revenue that will one day lift up the standard of living and add to the national wealth. But this also may leave entire populations in rural Africa still short of food looking over the fence at the foreign workers growing food that will never be allowed to be sold on the domestic market.

Dealing with the starving masses is already a problem through much of Africa; dealing with ANGRY starving masses is going to be much harder.

Worse: Is it in any way wise to depending on the dutiful patriotism of the leaders of the countries renting out the land to see the profits of these rentals go to the national good?

Market-based solutions to problems like this have worked in places like Latin America. (cf. Colombia --> U.S.A. trade under the tariff exemption for some agricultural products)

Or is this happening because the powers-that-be in these "land rent" arrangements don't trust the people *on the land* to take up the task?


Susan said...

VERY AND VERY INTERESTING-- thanks for posting this-- I am going to show this to Danielle on Sunday and see what she thinks--

Susan said...

I don't know about this-- sounds like too many people might be displaced~