‘There is a gold rush happening in Ethiopia, but it’s not a hunt for the yellow metal. It’s a quest for the green gold of fertile farmland.’ So says Richard Schiffman at Farmland Grab. ‘A nation more associated with periodic famine and acute childhood malnutrition than with agricultural bounty is leasing millions of hectares — an area the size of Belgium — to foreign companies, who want to grow and export food to places like Saudi Arabia, China, India, and Europe…
‘Wealthy countries have always looked to faraway, resource-rich lands for food exports. European established plantations throughout the world in the 19th century, and multinational food companies have done the same in the post-colonial era. But recent land grabs are different, and not just in scope: Whereas in the past, most export agriculture focused on products that couldn’t be grown at home (bananas, citrus, coffee, cocoa [cacao]), today’s projects often grow staple food crops like soy, wheat, and rice, as well as oils for biofuels.’
You can scroll down Mr Schiffman’s article for a mealy-mouthed (pun intentional) quote from our British Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Stephen O’Brien. He uses some of the favourite buzz-words of our current Government. ‘Fair’, ‘striking a balance,’ and so on. I don’t suppose that kind of talk is very impressive to people being evicted from the land their families have been farming, or inhabiting as pastoralists, for many generations. But it seems to be impressing some African politicians.
I’ll end with more from Mr Shiffman. ‘One way that local farmers can be served is by sharing with them the latest knowledge about small-scale, “agroecological” or low-input sustainable farming, which does not require costly agrochemicals, genetically modified seeds, and mechanized farm equipment in order to succeed. Agronomists have developed inexpensive ways to boost the productivity of small family plots, which can produce equal and, in some cases, higher yields than large plantations do.’
[Edit] My fellow blogger cambodine at Allana Potash Blog shows us Mr Shiffman’s article and links to related articles.