Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mozambique's agricultural fortunes rest on a choice between Obama and Annan

Joseph Hanlon in the povertymatters blog at the Guardian (UK): Mozambique is a development paradox. Rural poverty is increasing despite high growth rates and billions of dollars in aid. Now the country has been targeted by two contrasting models of agricultural development. The Barack Obama model was backed by the G8 in Washington in May, while the Kofi Annan model was proposed by the Africa Progress Panel (APP). Which works better for the poor?

The APP, which is chaired by Annan and counts a former IMF head and a former US Treasury secretary among its members, is heavyweight and conservative. It says one of the biggest dangers in Africa is the growing inequality between rich and poor, which is creating a threat of social instability. In sub-Saharan Africa, the APP argues, "the pattern of trickle-down growth is leaving too many people in poverty". The panel warns that Mozambique is one of Africa's more unequal countries, pointing out that – despite having huge agricultural potential – the republic is a net importer of staple foods.

The APP report calls for "fundamental change" in both donor and African government policies. "Raising the productivity of smallholder farmers is critical," it says. "Smallholder agriculture must be placed at the centre of a green revolution in Africa." This will require more government action and more support for small farmers. Let's call this the Annan model.

The second agricultural model for Mozambique was agreed in Washington in May, when G8 leaders adopted a new alliance for food security and nutrition proposed by President Obama and USAid. The idea is to use giant agribusiness to end hunger in Mozambique and five other countries. The first project in Mozambique will be to support Cargill, the giant grain trader and largest private company in the world, to take 40,000 hectares of farmland. US officials say this will include some smallholder contract farming, which means Cargill will not make enough profit from the investment, so the giant transnational grain trader must be subsidised from G8 aid. Let's call this the Obama model.

The two models are incompatible. The APP report points specifically to the very large land concessions in Mozambique, and warns that "for Africans, the benefits of large-scale land acquisitions are questionable"....

Farmers in Mozambique, shot by Alan Meier, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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