Global food disaster looming?
The Food Forward road trip is focused on the positive changes happening within America’s food system, but it’s important for anyone interested in solutions to the broken system to understand the depth of the problem in this country and around the world. I came across a series of chilling reports written by the excellent Oakland Institute that detail what they see as a growing crisis in Africa.
According to the reports, many of the same financial firms responsible for the current economic crisis are driving us toward a global food crisis. It’s one thing to bring the global financial system to its knees. It’s quite another to contemplate undermining the world’s food system, but according to the Oakland Institute that doomsday scenario is playing out right now in Africa.
According to the investigation, “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa,” hedge funds and other foreign speculators are increasing price volatility and supply insecurity in the global food system with largely unregulated land purchases. The investments offer few of the promised benefits for the local populations, but instead are forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and small, local food farms in order to make room for export commodities, including biofuels and cut flowers.
“The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute in a press release about the reports. “In Africa this is resulting in the displacement of small farmers, environmental devastation, water loss and further political instability such as the food riots that preceded the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”
Mittal said that for people living in developed countries, the conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.
In 2009 alone nearly 60 million hectares – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in these land grabs. Most of these deals are characterized by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms.
“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as “squatters” are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute. “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”
To read more about the reports and learn more about the land deals go to http://media.oaklandinstitute.org.