Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Land Rush, Day 1: Food availability doesn’t always equal food access

While proponents of corporate farms argue that large scale land investment will enhance food security, activists and academics alike are highlighting how detrimental such land deals could be for the food security of those who are moved off the land to make way for corporate farming.

Speaking at a meeting of the Pan African Parliament yesterday, parliamentarians, civil society, academics and agribusiness came together to discuss how to make large scale land investment work for Africa.

Civil society activists, such as Constance Mogale from the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA), highlighted how moving women off land to make way for investors meant that women could no longer produce food to secure their livelihoods. As this leaves affected women all but destitute, they also cannot access the food being produced by the commercial farm which had replaced their activity. Food security for the poor and vulnerable is often not about availability, but about access. Increasing production through commercial farming, therefore, does not help those who do not have cash to purchase their food.

Echoing Constance Mogale’s point, Prof Ruth Hall (PLAAS/Future Agricultures) explained that large scale land deals are not just creating land loss, but are actually restructuring the entire food system towards a model in which the food system is controlled and owned by multinational corporations. Corporate farming is leading to the supermarketisation of the food system, limiting access for those who cannot pay. She gave the example of South Africa, where most food is produced by the corporate sector. South Africa is food secure, produces abundant food and even exports food, yet many South Africans are going hungry, simply because they cannot afford to buy it.

While African governments enter into investment deals under the belief that large scale commercial farming will improve the lot of the hungry populations, the evidence from these examples suggests the opposite: these types of land deals often make the vulnerable even more vulnerable. Therefore it is essential that African governments look more closely at the fine print of such deals. They must ensure that the benefits of investment will accrue to their populations, not just to profit-hungry corporate investors.

by Rebecca Pointer, Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)