Can industrialised farming make Africa feed the world?

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Naturally A sobering thought for me on the day after the UN declared that the seventh billion person was born was: how are we going to continue to feed ourselves and sustain a world in which ever increasing demands are made on its resources? Indeed, how will the atmosphere cope with ever increasing carbon waste and debris caused by this population explosion? Umm. If we [the developed North and the rest of the developing world] continue with economic growth and technological development as the main drivers for progression towards a better quality material life- then it is fair to say that we’re heading for a car crash. Not least because the poorer parts of the world- still diverging provide the stark contrast that in spite of boundless human progression and development – it all boils down to- WHERE OUR NEXT MEAL WILL COME FROM.

I came across a rather optimistic, up-beat – unusually positive title on an article from the BBC’s Newsnight Programme last week. It wrote: ‘Can industrialized farming make Africa feed the world’? The article talked about the prospect of Africa embracing ‘industrialized farming’ in a bid to harvest large-scale crops for export. Work already underway in Zambia has been hailed as a good working example of how with the right political environment, quality soil and general good conditions for agriculture- huge advancements in crop cultivation and potential revenue is possible.

A British company called Chayton has already acquired a 14 year lease from the Zambian government. It utilizes labour from displaced white farmers from Zimbabwe and employs a small amount of local Zambian workers. Chayton pledges to ‘create jobs, introduce sustainable farming methods and provide support and training for small scale farmers’. Wow! Unfortunately neither the article nor Chayton explicitly outlined what so-called sustainable farming methods will be used; similarly they were not forthcoming with exactly how the local population will benefit from their operation. However the article conceded that Zambia’s vice president feared increased unemployment through mechanized farming methods and the displacement of local people (farmers). Suddenly- what seemed at first glance of the title, to be a possible way out of Africa’s (largely) stagnant economic growth and development, quickly started to appear more like the age old- situation of Africa and African’s being exploited by advanced industrialized nations.

Can Africa feed itself and the world- if people find themselves in a situation like Zambia? How can a large African population( like Zambians) feed themselves if food (crops) is mechanically produced by large western companies, but locals cannot afford to buy it because of mass unemployment; further exacerbated by the fact that traditional farmers and communities no-longer have access to their subsistence farms and traditional community structures? In the book the Bottom Billion, Paul Collier argues that the development agenda should be to bring the poorest countries- that are falling apart- out an ever deteriorating abyss- not plunge them in yet further. One may think that I am mistaking the global capitalist for the global philanthropist- Indeed I am not. Rather, I would argue that the global capitalist producing crops to feed the North should integrate the established ‘global development agenda’ of supporting the poorer regions into its strategic programs. If as is often projected in the media- the developed North actually, truly cares about the basic human needs of African’s- then why aren’t its facets unified?

According the Paul Collier ‘the countries at the bottom coexist with the twenty-first century, but their reality is the fourteenth century: civil war, plague, ignorance. They are concentrated in Africa and Central Asia, with a scattering elsewhere. It matters to us. The twenty first-century of material comfort, global travel and economic interdependence will become increasingly vulnerable to these large islands of chaos.’

Perhaps, the developed world’s needs are so vast that global markets will seek to extract from anyone and anywhere- even if that source is fragile and weak at the seams. When I read the title of the article, I felt an instantaneous leap of joy- In this time of economic doom and gloom, could Africa hold the answers? Could she prove in another round of major trade negotiations that she has as much to offer as China and India? Then I quickly realized that this was merely the top-down capitalist’s agenda, with nothing to do with real ingenuity, credible development or progress for the poor.

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3 Responses to “Can industrialised farming make Africa feed the world?”

  1. charlieeze2011 Says:

    I was really terrified at your outright buy-in in this evolving neo capitalist decoy of dangling carrots in the guise of ‘industrialised farming’ and ‘feeding the world’. It was when I read the blog second time that I spotted your last sentence entirely pleading and dissociating you from my suspicion. This is the time to make bold some of the misgivings of the past.
    By the way what is the difference between industrialised farming and mechanised farming? Nothing much; there are composite and correlated however my concern is the manner the west uses their propaganda apparatus to perpetuate evil; BBC is the most potent propaganda tool of United Kingdom, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they told you what Chayton, a British firm want to do for Zambia and not what it will cost the poor indigenous farmers and their common resources. Adolf Hitler’s greatest wish if you could remember your history books was to turn Africa into a big farmland and annex their natural resources. The same notion the West had a century earlier on the popular scrabble for Africa. Now you could feel my purse and the reason why my blood rushed to my brain at this blog; this shouldn’t happen to Africa third time round.
    As you rightly stated, ‘this is a holistic Capitalist agenda’ using jobs creation and food production as bait, carrots, potatoes and lemonades. If truly the West is genuinely concerned about development in Africa especially, the Bretton woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) should champion the industrialisation of Solar Energy for sustainable development in Africa.
    Without adequate power supply, industrialised farming remains a hoax and an instrument for neo-colonialization. However the question that is still begging for answer is how do they intend to industrialise without polluting the environment? I should also alert you that the concept of industrialisation depends heavily on machines and fuel power which mitigates the sanity of the environment. This is why BBC and Chayton are playing down on the fine details and blowing up the benefits.
    Zimbabwe had one of the best ran mechanised farming sector in Africa which was the preserve of the White farmers, President Mugabe’s land reform programme was to address inequalities of the colonial rule by redistributing farmlands which originally were the properties of indigenous Zimbabweans. Today the lands are back to the indigenous owners; if Chayton does not have another agenda they will not pitch tent at Zambia some kilometres away from Zimbabwe who shared the same colonial history.
    I strongly align with the argument posited by many scholars that the North who had colonies in the South still retain their loyalists in governments whom they sponsor and protect in order to shield their selfish interests.

  2. amin144 Says:

    I agree with some aspects of your blog about population and the environment in the first paragraph. Truly how will the world be fed with the daily increase in population? Although it is not as if to say the world is overpopulated but it would appear that population is growing at an alarming rate. This in my view as terrible as the blatant abuse of the environment and you stated ”Indeed, how will the atmosphere cope with ever increasing carbon waste and debris caused by this population explosion” which is indeed correct.
    I am alarmed that the predicted population by the mid century is 9 billion, how much pollution, land degradation are going to be produced, how much of the human activity will affect the environment? I believe a lot of harm would be done to environment by even basic human activities let alone other human activities like logging, pollution, icnrease energy use, etc.People would by all means like to improve their lives by using cars thus incerasing carbon dioxide, air travel for tourism and i beleiev spacae travel/tourism would increase i the future including owning latest electrical gadgets, computers, mobile phones, etc. Whichever way you loot at it, one way or the other it will affect the environments. materials used in the production of these products come from the ground.

    I have a very interetsting and controversial comment though and i beleivet so as long as the west invest and make huge returns this trend will never change. Have you comnsidered how china is taking adavantaghe of Africa’s riches, hafve you seen how they are investing, how many African make from the chinese investments? Besides the West have no good reason to develop Africa and other developing countries. The only means is for Africa and other developing countries to do it themselves even it means starting witjout anything thing.

  3. ngoziokei Says:

    Of course if developed countries gives developing countries, the opportunities to feed the world or even contribute to the feeding of the world without these various negative reasons from the developed countries:
    Over Protectionalism by the developed countries.
    Leaving behind a legacy of environment degradation.
    No extension of the agreement for dept forgiveness made in july 2005.
    Reforms of the global financial architecture that will not reduce its instability.
    Emerging of new global monopolies that handles the complexities of cross-boarder bankruptcies.
    Sending of too many arms to the developing countries in reverse to sending to little money, which is not good. The developed countries are doing all this for their selfish interest.
    No fair payment for their natural resources.
    No renewal commitments that is accompanied by actions to fullfill that commitment.
    Enormous emmission of of cabons eroding standards of living,
    No agreement to compensate developing countries for their environment services, both in preservation of biodiversity and contribution to global warming through carbon sequestration.
    No continous provision of incentives and resources for innovation, would recognize the importance of developing countries.
    Finanly, no commitment by developed countries to a fairer trade regime, that would promote development.
    Can the developed countries help the entire world to live in a fair/safe and peaceful environment, for the sake of our future generations.

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