Wednesday, December 01, 2010

There are no hungry countries

Out of the 40 countries in the world facing severe food shortages to the extent of requiring emergence food intervention, 26 of them are in Africa, while the rest are in Asia and Central America.

In my view, and if I can say it aloud, there are in fact no “hungry countries” in the world; there are simply countries with greater or less number of people living in them who cannot grow enough, or buy enough food to feed themselves and their families. In this respect, there is no essential difference between a Third World nation and the United States, where the Bureau of Census reported some few years ago that, “eight to ten million Americans are sick or starving because they do not have enough to spend on food”.

Westerners tend to ascribe this situation, to galloping population, climatic acts of God such as drought, or to laziness and lack of initiative on the part of the poor themselves. Such explanations are not only insulting, they are mythical; population pressures can aggravate hunger, but they do not “cause” it.

Many development “experts” tend to see the elimination of hunger as a question of technology. “Give them enough fertilizers, pesticides and tractors”, they say, “and the problem will be solved”. They seldom recognize that any technological innovation has an impact on the social structure, and that, if specific steps are not taken to prevent it, technology will benefit only cash crop production and the wealthiest farmers. Such questions as, “who can pay for fertilizer, machinery" are not asked. Innovations useful to village communities may even be suppressed. There is no hope for eradicating hunger via technology because it is not a technical problem. It is a question of economic and social justice at every level. Somewhere in the world, 10,000 people die every day because these truths have not been recognized.

Tanzania in particular and Africa in general, is also one of the outstanding victims of another system guaranteed to create and perpetuate hunger: the cash crop. That so many young nations like ours, have not yet rid themselves of colonial agricultural patterns inherited from a world they never made, is one of the great tragedies of our time. The argument for cash crop is, of course, is one of “We need the foreign exchange”. Cash crop producers do not control the prices of their primary products. The point therefore is for dependent countries to attain self-reliance in food before worrying about cash crops. There is no country in the world that could not adequately feed its own people – and then some – if this were a priority policy objective. All the rich nations (the G.8) have made a concerted, long-term effort to induce local planners to “choose” models of development which are geared first and foremost, to the advantage of the rich countries themselves. All the aid to their former Sub-Sahara colonies has consistently favoured finance for cash-crop schemes over food production for local consumption.

The United States, mainly through its Agency for International Aid (USAID), has made the longest, best financed and consequently most successful effort towards bringing Third World citizens around to “thinking American”. As a USAID official himself once testified to the US Congress some four years ago, “Our basic, broadest goal is a long range political one. It is not development for the sake of sheer development……An important objective is to ensure that foreign private investment, particularly from the United States, is welcomed and well treated. The problem is to evaluate the manner in which the [USAID] programme can make the greatest contribution to the totality of US interests”.

It was the World Bank’s economists who laid stress on the production of the so-called “cash crops” at the expense of food crops; who made it easier to secure credits for the production of tea or cocoa rather than rice or maize.

Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, warned in 1963, “In a country such as this (Tanganyika), where generally speaking, the Africans are poor and the foreigners are rich, it is quite possible that within eighty or a hundred years, if poor Africans were allowed to sell their land, all land in Tanganyika would belong to wealthy immigrants, and the local people would be tenants”. The government, having bowed down to foreign pressure on the issue is now all out to legitimize a policy of Individualization, Titling and registration (ITR) of land which will create open land market, to allow alienation of land to the investors without community intervention.

Extracted from an article by Joseph Mihangwa

No comments: