I recently became interested in food security when I learned about how some Western companies are entering into contracts to lease large tracts of land in Sub-Saharan Africa for commercial farming. Some companies are selling the food to countries outside the continent to meet food shortages in those nations, and other companies are maintaining a more “socially responsible” agenda and only selling the product of their operations in the local markets at local rates. Now, I’m just starting to learn about what food security is and how the business world is involved, but I have to wonder what other Africans think about this. Is this another “land grab” scenario, everyone for themselves, or an opportunity for some kind of cooperation? From what I understand, many African governments don’t have the resources to develop the arable land in their countries – foreign companies with the funds and experience can step into the picture and move an agriculture/food production project forward when it otherwise wouldn’t. I am struggling with the idea of Africans going without, while food grown on their land is shipped overseas. We all know “money talks” and selling a product to a client that will pay more for it makes business sense, but the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the stronger I feel that business decisions should be tempered by a sense of social responsibility and obligation.
You know, this is another one of those things that’s complicated, and I’m definitely still learning and figuring out how it all works and what food security means for different people and countries, but, already, I think this is something we really need to pay attention to. When you think about it, food availability touches everything in a country – health, jobs, national security, crime, local investment, foreign investment, education, business development, allocation of natural resources, political opinions, demographic trends etc… I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially if someone knows about this issue and can help educate me. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but given the fact that Africa still has huge tracts of undeveloped arable land, we have a big target painted on us, yet again, for one more natural resource. What are we going to do about it? What SHOULD we do about it?