Sunday, April 06, 2008

When WILL Africa Be Able To Feed Itself?

"African nations do little to modernize. Although a majority of all African citizens still depend on agriculture for income, governments in Africa typically devote less than 5 percent of their national budget to the agricultural sector, and many spend less than this. Since 1991 in Uganda, where two-thirds of all citizens are farmers, agriculture has not received more than 3 percent of the budget in any year, and in some years the share has been below 2 percent.

It is Western donors who romanticize traditional farms and demonize genetically-modified crops that encourage this behavior.

African governments are heavily dependent on foreign aid, and since the early 1980s the donor community has cut its assistance for agriculture modernization dramatically. The US Agency for International Development has cut the agricultural share of its aid programs from 25 percent of the total in 1980 down to just 1 percent today. US bilateral assistance to agricultural science in Africa has actually fallen by 75 percent since the 1980s. World Bank lending for agriculture has dropped from 30 percent of all Bank lending in 1978 down to just 8 percent of lending today. It was largely because the international donors abandoned the goal of agricultural modernization that African governments did the same.

Prosperous countries in Europe and North America have cut back on bringing modern agricultural science to Africa for curiously myopic reasons. Having noticed that their own farmers at home are highly productive and don't need more agricultural science, they conclude that farmers in Africa should not need any more, either.

Beyond this, some influential elites in prosperous countries are actively hostile to agricultural science. Having used modern science to become productive, prosperous and well fed themselves, they have begun to fantasize about returning to an earlier model of farming - one based on farms that are all small, local, highly diversified and dependent exclusively on the use of pre-modern organic fertilizers (such as composted animal manure) without any inorganic nitrogen. They also want "heirloom" crop varieties rather than scientifically improved crops, and, of course, no genetically-engineered seeds.

Cutting through all the dreary chitchat, dispensing first and foremost with quaint liberal ideas on how poor people simple MUST behave, much of Africa is nowhere near fertile enough to expect 10th Century farming techniques to be capable of feeding 21st Century populations.

As usual, reality totally annuls the liberal commitment to keep farming communities humble and pastoral and so very cute to visit, and that is not going to change because liberals so very much adore their human playthings. Concert after concert, heroic platitudes, and outright begging have assembled untold billions of dollars for the care and upbringing of African nations but try telling these feeble minded loons that SEEDS HAVE A ROUGH TIME GROWING IN SAND, and they label you a racist for daring to think that black people cannot live and prosper the way white people once did.

Attached to the back of a mule and braving the unforgiving African sun is something to imagine a wonderful liberal poster to resemble. And that whats keep Africa from moving along with us in discovering ways to feed millions where only thousands SHOULD be able to survive.

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