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Africa‘s food security and the G8 summit

Published May 26, 2012 8:32 AM

The Hunger Project reports that out of a global population of 6.8 billion, 925 million people do not have sufficient food for members of their households. Moreover, 98 percent of undernourished people live in the so-called developing countries — those states that are colonies or former colonies.

The Hunger Project also claims that more than 66 percent of all people who are hungry live in seven countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. (thp.org)

In Africa it is difficult to acquire accurate statistics on hunger. It is estimated that around 270 million people there are facing food deficits. The problem of periodic drought in the Horn of Africa, the subcontinent and the Sahel usually translates into acute food deficits and sometimes famine.

Members of the Group of 8 capitalist industrialized states — the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada and Russia — held a summit meeting at Camp David, Md., on May 18-19. President Barack Obama announced the “New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security,” touted as a joint program of African nations, international donors and private firms. The project is obviously a public relations exercise on the part of the capitalist states.

In addition to the G8 heads of state, four African leaders were also present for talks on the project. President John Atta Mills of Ghana, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania and President Yai Boni of Benin, who is also the current chairperson of the African Union, met with Obama to discuss this partnership.

Capitalism, profit & food in Africa

In a joint statement issued by President Kikwete of Tanzania, Ellen Kullman of the DuPont Corporation and Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, they claim Africa has experienced significant growth in the last five years, with private investments in the areas of oil, natural gas and minerals.

The statement notes, however, that agricultural development for internal food consumption has not been a focus of interest for the multinational firms. “As a result of decades of underinvestment, today Africa is the only continent that does not produce enough to feed its own citizens. Last year’s food crisis and famine in the Horn of Africa serve as a stark reminder that chronic hunger and malnutrition remain a persistent problem on the continent.” (The Citizen, Tanzania, May 21)

Yet just three years ago, at another meeting of the G8 in L’Aquila, Italy, some $22 billion was pledged to address the problem of food deficits in Africa. The Aquila Food Security Initiative was endorsed by 27 countries and 15 international organizations. The program was supposed to be implemented by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Investment Center.

At least two aid organizations, InterAction and Oxfam, responded to the new initiative with much skepticism. InterAction pointed out that the program may be another method for the industrialized states to avoid honoring their previous commitments by relying on the 40 private firms that will supposedly provide the investments. These include some of the world’s biggest agribusiness corporations. Oxfam said that the announced funds were a “nice complement at best, a deflection at worst.” (huffingtonpost.com, May 18)

Although USAID representative Shah said that 58 percent of the money from the Aquila initiative has been disbursed, he admitted that much of the money is not being allocated as promised.

“The grand promise of L’Aquila was, if you build a plan for agriculture, the donors will help them find the resources for it,” said Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America. (New York Times, May 18) However, Adams noted that “donors have put their money in other things.”

The ongoing problem of food deficits in both the developed capitalist states and the underdeveloped regions flows directly from the profit-driven production of food. As a result of the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in Africa, most agricultural commodities and mineral resources are produced for export rather than for internal use and consumption.

Prices for exports are largely determined by the capitalist markets. When prices fall, the overall economic conditions in the postcolonial and neocolonial states are adversely impacted.

What is needed is an agricultural and distribution system that is not based on profit but on human need. Access to nutritious food must be viewed as a fundamental human right.