To ensure their future food security, rich countries are buying up land in poor countries. Ah, that’s China, you may think! But as Stefano Liberti, author of Land Grabbing: Journeys in the New Colonialism, explains to Craig Barfoot, China is a minor player in this land grab – the truth is much more complex. Our pension funds, European corporations, and countries like Saudi Arabia are all getting in on the act.
The food crisis of 2007/8, resulting from poor harvests and propelled by the movement of capital into corn, soya beans, rice and wheat, was the tipping point. Since then, the race to acquire land in the southern hemisphere has become ever more intense. Stefano calls it the new colonialism.
But it is not without contradictions. Many African countries are very keen to get this investment and send trade missions to rich countries to ‘sell’ their land. A country like Ethiopia, a major aid recipient, now exports large quantities of grain. And under UN laws, if there is famine in a country, they can legally shut down the export of foodstuffs (which means that in another global food crisis, rich countries could not benefit from their investments).
But it is in exploring the plight of poor farmers, thrown off their land as the big corporations move in, that Stefano is at his most eloquent.
[And who will they displace in the new land grab? Third World Countries? Indian Country? Will they take children to accomplish this again? History repeats itself over and over until we get it right…and so we are entering a dangerous new age of food insecurity… Lara/Trace]