Africa Should Rethink its Agricultural Commitments

Published on 18th February 2014

African countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania have made more than 200 agriculturally related policy commitments in the last two years courtesy of the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

However, if the observation by the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, that governments have been making promises to investors "completely behind the screen," with no long-term view about the future of farmers in their respective countries is anything to go by, these commitments need scrutiny. Commercial engagements if not well thought through often sink populations into deeper poverty.

A detailed look at the commitments reveals loopholes that need to be sealed. For example, the initiative will make it easier for companies to do business in Africa through the easing of export controls and tax laws, huge chunks of African land will be leased to grow non-food crops, including cotton, biofuels and rubber, or for projects explicitly targeting export markets. The number of people facing food shortages in the African region has almost doubled in the last year to 20 million people. While partnerships and investments are healthy, it will  be suicidal to sacrifice the food security of African countries on the altar of short term gains that will benefit a minority elite.

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