Saturday, June 4, 2011


In a world sharply divided by economic power, most countries coming under the "poor nation' status find them selves in dire straights to meet the minimum food needs of their population. Most of them are located in Africa, Asia and South American continents but those in Africa are considered most impoverished, measured by any yardstick. Colonial countries like France and England, which controlled most of these countries for many years, did not do much to improve the lot of people under their yolk but exploited their wealth to enrich themselves. Though pious declarations are made from time to time by rich countries regarding their intention to economically help these countries through financial aid and soft loans, very little has happened at the ground level. The G8 countries, the rich man's club of the world, meeting in Italy in 2009 pledged assistance to the tune of $ 22 billion for improving the economic conditions of population in Africa but this has not been fulfilled undermining their credibility. The recent meeting in May 2011 in France was anticipated to address this issue and further reaffirm their commitment to the welfare of poor and downtrodden people of the African continent. It is unfortunate that this issue was by-passed and in stead focus was only on two countries, Egypt and Tunisia where political upheavals have taken place.

Fan said, "When the G8 met in Italy, they committed $22 billion to support smallholder agriculture in developing countries, particularly Africa. Today, that commitment is still there [but] they have not met much of the commitment yet." He warned the world is poised to have another food crisis, unless the pledge is paid in full. "I think it's already coming. In the last 10 months, the wheat price has increased by a hundred percent. Maize price has also increased by 100%. In addition, prices for meat, dairy products have also increased," he said. When food prices increase many poor, not only just the consumers, but also even producers, suffer," he said, and added, "If it happens again, we will probably lose the progress we have made in the last decade or so." He warned women and children are the most vulnerable to volatile prices and markets. Hunger and malnutrition, he said, can permanently damage a child's brain development. "We need to fix this problem." He rejected the idea of spending cutbacks on agriculture because of the global recession. "Agriculture is so critical in terms of hunger reduction, poverty reduction and also in terms of future growth. If we do not invest in agriculture…more people will suffer from hunger and poverty," he said.

The thinking to cut down on agricultural aid is fraught with danger because food riots, as they have happened in 2008, will become a regular feature due to recurring food shortages and high prices of staples. Besides, attempts by transnational agricultural giants with unshakable monopoly on new technologies see Africa as a "fertile field" to establish their seed "hegemony". Added to this, neo-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, China and others are "usurping" millions of hectares of land in Africa and South America for cultivating food crops for use in their own countries for insulating their population from food shortages. Unless the small and marginal farmers in poor countries are "enabled" to derive maximum benefits from their small holdings through new, innovative and efficient farming technologies, there will not be any peace on earth, with food riots spreading all around. It is high time that G8 countries realize this truth and honestly try to diffuse the situation through massive commitment to agriculture in these countries.


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