We have all seen the media images of emaciated Africans crowded together in emergency feeding camps. The sad truth is that world hunger is worsening. In some cases aid is exacerbating the situation by focusing on relief instead off meeting the underlying economic. social. and political causes head on. The cause is not over-population. It is not caused by too many people. Africa is not densely populated. Ever since the slave trade ripped millions of Africans from their home many areas have suffered from not having enough people to develop Africa's abundant natural resources. It is true that Africa's population growth rate is higher than any other continent. But having large families is a logical response to the conditions under which most Africans live. On the small family farms that produce most of Africa's food, the most important factor of production is family labour. The high birth rate is a response by parents to this need for farm labour. Even so there is great progress in falling fertility rates as women become increasingly educated and empowered. The surest way to lower birth rates is by raising living standards. The problem is not too many people, it is too much inequality.
When European colonized Africa, they disrupted traditional farming and herding methods that for centuries local people had adapted to environmental conditions. Balanced food production systems were undermined: the best agricultural lands were seized for growing coffee, sugar cane. cocoa. and other export crops that would benefit the corporations. Private and government investment went into developing these cash crops. while food production for the poor majority was neglected. Colonial cash cropping exhausted the soil and increased desertification. Millions of acres of brush and trees were cleared, robbing the soil of organic replenishment. Export crops such as cotton. peanuts, and tobacco absorbed large amounts of nutrients from the soil. After every harvest the soil was left depleted. Seizing the best arable land impoverished the peasants, forcing many to either work on the plantations or crowd into the cities seeking employment. This gave the plantations and other commercial interests a large labour force that could be paid low wages, thus ensuring high profits. The small farmer is victimized by private speculators. Traders buy up the food crop at harvest time when plentiful supplies push down. prices. Later in the year during what they call the "hungry" season, small farmers run out of savings and are forced to borrow at usurious interest rates from local merchants just to survive until the next harvest
The majority of remaining arable land in the world is in SubSaharan Africa. Much of Africa's potentially arable land is not under cultivation. Studies show that even with current low levels of farm technology, Africa could support a population vastly greater than its present population. To lay all the blame on African peasants is to imply that they alone control their destinies. The forces that have institutionalized hunger in Africa are made up of the ruling African elite, the multinational corporations assisted by global banks. Together their interests are very different from those of Africa's rural majority. The peasantry are too dispersed, poor, and unorganized to wield much political clout. The fact that policy is dominated by men, while most food is produced by women, also helps explain the low priority given to indigenous farming. Only when the majority gain control of their resources will we see an end to the systematic pillaging and looting of Africa’s wealth.
Most people fail to realize that the capitalist world market is Africa's worst enemy. Most African countries are dependent on exporting minerals and agricultural products. World market prices for these raw materials are set in foreign capitals. While the prices of imports tend to climb upwards.African nations are forced to spend more than they earn so they have to fill the gap by borrowing. The indebtedness of reaches crisis proportions. The global banking and financial system is a greater cause of hunger in Africa than any drought or flood. Markets allocate food according to monetary wealth, not nutritional need. Food aid, at best, merely alleviates the symptoms of poverty, not its causes. International aid can undermine local food production by flooding local markets and depressing food prices. It can also create dependencies on foreign aid or be used by recipient governments to manipulate the poor. Most people's attention has been focused on giving food aid yet is only a short-term palliative. It does nothing to solve the underlying problem of poverty and so charities and NGOs perpetuate the inequality, presenting widespread misunderstanding rather than confront the real causes of hunger. We need to educate ourselves about the real causes of poverty.