"Feed The Future" Plan Repeats Mistakes of the Past

Food Crisis Response Continues to Exclude Question of Land Distribution: Southern Africa and the U.S. Plan for Global Food Security

Deadly riots in Mozambique this
month momentarily renewed attention to the vulnerability of poor countries to
shocks in global food prices. Subsequent reassurance that there are adequate
fuel and grain stocks worldwide to prevent a disruption like that of 2008, in
which rapidly rising food prices saw riots across the globe, has calmed much of
this concern. That Mozambique is slated to begin receiving funding for
agricultural development this year under Obama's new global food security
initiative further reinforces the impression that a crisis has been averted. Unfortunately,
the price increase in Mozambique bears little relation to the global food
supply, and the emphasis on increasing food production will thus have little impact
on hunger and malnutrition in Mozambique or elsewhere.

Efforts of major donor
governments and international institutions to address global hunger and food insecurity
have gone through many iterations, but a constant feature since the "Green Revolution"
of the 20th century has been a paradigm that emphasizes increased agricultural
productivity through the introduction of new seed varieties and agricultural
technologies. In 2009, Obama announced his new $3.5 billion, 3-year program
called "Feed the Future" (FTF), and implementation plans have been developed
for twenty target countries.

The 2010 FTF implementation
plan for Mozambique follows from the Green Revolution's premise that farming by
small-holders cannot achieve food security. Instead, the plan for "agricultural
transformation" in Mozambique focuses on the commercialization of agriculture
through technology transfer and public and private investment to support
large-scale farming.

Is this emphasis on commercial
farming warranted? Roughly 75% of Mozambique's population is currently involved
in agricultural production, and many do indeed struggle to maintain livelihoods
and produce sufficient crops absent government support and access to
irrigation. Under-investment in agriculture, however, is a direct legacy of the
International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment programs of the 1970s and
80s. International financial institutions urged African governments to
eliminate subsidies for the peasant farmers who were previously the main source
of domestic food production.

Now, as food rights group FIAN
International points out, these same international bodies and donors have begun
to blame the failure of the Green Revolution in Africa on low levels of
agricultural investment. Recent policy shifts on the continent, however, are
heavily skewed towards investment in the production of food for export. They
also are friendlier to acquisition of land by foreign investors, a growing
trend in Africa that is complicating land tenure systems and further
dismantling smallholder farming systems. The distribution of land is a crucial
factor in determining who has access to food, but it is one that is often minimized
within the framework of "food security" through an emphasis on who is able to
produce the most food.

Smallholders in Mozambique
currently control 95% of the land. According to FIAN, Mozambique's 2006 Action
Plan to Reduce Absolute Poverty (PARPA II) emphasizes "rationalizing" land use
and the loosening of legal barriers to these "land grabs." PAPRA II, the FTF
implementation plan, and other internationally-backed strategies would thus likely
begin to consolidate land ownership in Mozambique the hands of larger producers
under the premise that declining involvement in the agricultural sector is one
of the hallmarks of a growing economy. In this way, food security becomes de-linked
from access to land and premised instead on the ability of agricultural-led growth
to create non-agricultural sector jobs so that newly landless consumers are
able to purchase cheap food.

This model of land and
agricultural relationships is one that exists currently in South Africa, which the
2009 UN Conference on Trade and Development report identifies as the top
importer and exporter of food in the region. South Africa also features in Feed
the Future documents as a "strategic partner" for implementing food security in
the rest of southern Africa, both through trade and through sharing expertise. The
intersections between the food systems of Mozambique and South Africa are
symptomatic of the problems of Feed the Future's approach and the analysis
resulting from the broader framework of food security.

Mozambique only produces
about 30% of its wheat, and its status as a food importer is precisely what makes
it so difficult to keep prices stable. A basic implication of a globalized food
system is that a number of factors impact prices, and prices in turn determine
who can access food, regardless of how much is available. Mozambique imports
many of its staples from South Africa, and a recent strengthening of the South
African rand against the Mozambiquan metical was most likely the key factor in
the government's decision to increase bread prices by 30%.

South Africa, in turn, is
generally considered a "food secure" country at the national level, but as many
as half of South African households experience hunger regularly. This contradiction is
inherently related to the state of land relations in South Africa, which remains
one of the most unequal countries in the world. The country has a strong agricultural sector developed
historically through expropriation of fertile land during colonization,
subsidies from the apartheid government, and the exploitation of black labor. The
post-apartheid government's plan to redistribute 30% of fertile land to black
farmers has been excruciatingly slow, and farm labor remains plentiful and exceedingly

historical inequities
have been exacerbated by the moral assumptions and other general features of the globalized food chain. As South Africa has begun to import more processed foods,
agricultural sector has lost hundreds of thousands of low-paying
and processing jobs. Meanwhile, South Africa still sends primary
commodities to
Europe and elsewhere in Africa. This results in a pattern in which
activity in South Africa has become consolidated onto larger,
farms while soaring unemployment and the decreasing availability of
local food
sources makes the majority of the population less food secure. To export
this model, which is literally built upon a colonial system of land
relations, to
other parts of southern Africa will likely result in an increased food
which a decreased proportion of the population can afford.

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