In Corrupt Global Food System, Farmland Is the New Gold and Africans the New Share-croppers

$ Billions Made Speculating on Food

“Africans have become share-croppers, exporting coffee, cotton, flowers and now food while going hungry”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 13, 2011 (IPS)

Famine-hollowed farmers watch trucks loaded with grain grown on their ancestral lands heading for the nearest port, destined to fill richer bellies in foreign lands. This scene has become all too common since the 2008 food crisis.

[This is the first of a multi-part series investigating what is driving food prices higher]

Food prices are even higher now in many countries, sparking another cycle of hunger riots in the Middle East and South Asia last weekend. While bad weather gets the blame for rising prices, the instant price hikes of recent times are largely due to market speculation in a corrupt global food system.

The 2008 food crisis awoke much of the world’s investment community to the profitable reality that hungry people will do almost anything, even sell their own children, in order to eat. And with the global financial crisis, food and farmland became the “new gold” for some of the biggest investors, experts agree.

In 2010, wheat futures rose 47 percent, U.S. corn was up more than 50 percent, and soybeans rose 34 percent.

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On Wednesday, U.S.-based Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, announced a tripling of profits. The firm generated 1.49 billion dollars in three months between September and November 2010.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Bills pay a return of less than one percent. Continue reading

Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Local Farmers Instead of Agribusiness

Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished.

“Africa has enormous quantities of land and resources…and now there is a stampede to lock those up.”

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 16, 2010 (IPS)

Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished. Now, for the first-time, small African farmers have been properly consulted on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Instead of new hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, family farmers in West Africa said they want to use local seeds, avoid spending precious cash on chemicals and most importantly to direct public agricultural research to meet their needs, according to a multi-media publication released on World Food Day (Oct. 16).

“There is a clear vision from these small farmers. They are rejecting the approach of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” said report co-author Michel Pimbert of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit research institute based in London.

“These were true farmer-led assessment where small farmers and other food producers listened and questioned agricultural and other experts and then came up with their own recommendations,” Pimbert told IPS.

“Food and agriculture policy and research tend to ignore the values, needs, knowledge and concerns of the very people who provide the food we all eat — and often serve instead powerful commercial interests such as multinational seed and food retailing companies,” he said.

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