Greens: Africans Can’t Manage Modern Life and Should Stick to Scratching a Living From the Soil.

A Chinese company has recently bought a majority shareholding in a major New Zealand dairy company, giving it control over 22 dairy farms in NZ. The deal has been approved by the government and Federated Farmers has welcomed the news, saying:

What we have is a free trade agreement with China and what this absolutely demonstrates is that the gate swings both ways,” says Lachlan McKenzie Federated Farmers.

TV NZ. Chinese Firm Spends $1.5b on NZ Farms.

Of course, the Greens in NZ have been muttering about “foreign control” of “productive land” but generally people are unconcerned about what is a perfectly normal business transaction. No hysterical headlines in The Guardian, no denouncements from The Washington Post. Nothing to see here, move along folks. The general feeling seems to be that the New Zealand government is best placed to know it’s own interests.

Not so, however, when the same situation occurs in African countries. “Land grabs in Africa could herald a new dystopian age of hunger” warns Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian (I’m sure “Madeleine” knows all about poverty, deprivation and hunger, right?). She worries about the resources being bought up by non-Western nations in Africa and Asia:

It’s not hard to see why the subject generates so much attention. It’s partly the secrecy element, partly the fear: who is buying up the future? Large-scale land acquisition prompts all too vividly visions of a dystopian future in which millions of the hungry are excluded from the land of their forefathers by barbed wire fences and security guards as food is exported to feed the rich world.

This is no longer just a fear for the future. The US environmentalist Lester Brown points out in his new book, World on the Edge, that in 2009 Saudi Arabia received its first shipment of rice produced on land it had acquired in Ethiopia while at the same time the World Food Programme was feeding 5 million Ethiopians. Similarly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China has acquired 7 million hectares for palm oil production and yet millions of people in the DRC are dependent on international aid for food.

Guardian. How Land Grabs in Africa Could Herald a New Dystopian Age of Hunger.

Note the unspoken assumption underlying this comment. “A dystopian future” with “millions of hungry” being excluded from the land. No, Madeleine, this isn’t a dystopian future, it’s the actual past under European colonialism, something you neglect to mention. The article makes it sound as though Africa was a green and pleasant land of plenty before those evil Chinese and Arabs came along and started investing in agriculture.

Just read through the following extract from Bunting’s article and note how the views of Africa’s leaders are treated as though they are childish fantasies, next to the wise views of white European and American environmentalists who see subsistence farming as the future for Africa:

Many African governments are defensive about the deals. Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi is expected to talk on the subject in Davos this week; in the past he has argued that investment in African agriculture is crucial to improve the continent’s low agricultural productivity. He has argued that foreign investors bring in mechanisation and expertise which is vital for development. Many campaigners would agree that investment is badly needed, but insist that the future for African agriculture is not mechanised monocultures for export but supporting sustainable smallholder agriculture. They argue that the latter is far more likely to ensure food security for the poorest Africans.

Guardian. How Land Grabs in Africa Could Herald a New Dystopian Age of Hunger.

Don’t you just love that? “Many campaigners would agree that investment is badly needed”. It makes it sound as though it’s only now that the Africans are finally realizing that they will have to call in the aid agencies and those smart Westerners to tell them what to do. In fact, these agencies have p****d away billions of dollars and decades of time and ruined much of Africa, as Dr Kate Showers, who has spent her life helping Africa’s farmers, reveals in her book, Imperial Gullies:

Once the grain basket for South Africa, much of Lesotho has become a scarred and treeless wasteland. The nation’s spectacular gullying has concerned environmentalists and conservationists for more than half a century, In Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho, Kate B. Showers documents the truth behind this devastation. Showers reconstructs the history of the landscape, beginning with a history of the soil. She concludes that Lesotho’s distinctive erosion chasms, called dongas, often cited as an example of destructive land-use practices by African farmers, actually were caused by colonial and postcolonial practices. The residents of Lesotho emerge as victims of a failed technology. Their efforts to mitigate or resist implementation of destructive soil conservation engineering works were thwarted, and they were blamed for the consequences of policies promoted by international soil conservationists since the 1930s.

Amazon.com review of Dr Kate B. Showers, Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho.

This is how it actually works in the real world, far from the pontificating articles in The Guardian, and other comfortable bien-pensant papers. Tell those stupid Africans that they don’t know what they’re doing. Then ruin their land. Then spend decades in “conservation” and “environmental” efforts that patently don’t work and leave the inhabitants destitute, under-developed and reliant on food aid and hand outs, the beggars of the world.

This isn’t an isolated case, either. I could cite case studies from all over Africa where the policies of environmentalists and aid agencies have ignored locals and actually left them worse off than when they started (if anyone’s interested in this, then let me know and i will post a brief follow-up).

Rather than helping Africa to develop, environmentalists – and this is so unbelievable, i have trouble comprehending it – still insist that they know best. Bunting bewails the fact that Western ideals cannot be “enforced” against sovereign African nations and so “the future of their children is being sold over their heads”.

This idea, of African cupidity and general helplessness, is so ingrained in Western environmentalists, that it seems they cannot even see it for it is. Take uber-greenie, Jonathon Porritt, formerly head of Friends of the Earth, member of the Green Party, and now – naturally – a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a neo-Malthusian organization. Porritt believes that when it comes to population “the real problem is in Africa”.

For him, as for many Western ‘environmentalists’ development on the Western model for Africa and Asia would be “the end of the world”:

So for me it isn’t really an either/or. The high tech bit is appropriate in different circumstances and may actually be a source of liberation which is bigger than anything else we could do. The alternative is the whole of Africa, the whole of South East Asia, the whole of South America,China, India will be covered by central grid based systems. Massive large power stations,connecting up every single individual wherever they are in that country, to a centralised distribution system of large scale energy generation. That’s it, that’s the end of the world. If we think the solution to people’s energy needs is connection through mass grid based systems, say bye bye to sustainability in all honesty.

UK Gov. Sustainable Development Commission. An Audience With Jonathon Porritt.

They’re wrong now, and they were wrong decades ago, when the new “green revolution” of crop technology was heralded as feeding a growing population, the environmentalists predicted disaster. Here’s John Holdren in 1970, telling a reporter that the new crops being developed by Dr Norman Borlaug were a disaster, and not suitable for Africa and Asia:

“We cannot use the same technological bludgeon on the underdeveloped countries that we have used on our own, seriously deteriorating our environment” said John P. Holdren of Stanford University.

The Owosso Argus-Press, May 5th, 1970. Technology Can Keep World Fed, Despite Baby Boom.

Of course not. Africans don’t know what’s best for them, do they? When majority white nations like New Zealand sell off their farms, they obviously know what they’re doing, and it’s local news at best, if it’s even news at all. But when it comes to Africa, as far as the environmentalists and the Guardian is concerned, it’s still “The Good Life” of scratching a living from the soil with hand-held ploughs and spreading s**t over the fields.

But of course, not for themselves, just for others.

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25 responses to “Greens: Africans Can’t Manage Modern Life and Should Stick to Scratching a Living From the Soil.

  1. No surprises here. The undeveloped nations are looked upon as the innocent children of the world by environmentalists. It appeals to their all-consuming guilt for the freedoms and luxuries they have found themselves with here in the western world (by no means worked, or fought for themselves, I might add). This view lends itself to lambasting ALL influence the West has in the undeveloped world to the further detriment of those they pretend to champion. Turning dust and desert into arable land is to be avoided at all costs. Especially if it’s done by the white devils!
    Africa should tend to it’s dust and desert with indigenous technologies and fail on their own. Of course the end result of such a course of action (or lack thereof) will lead to starvation, disease and death, and therefore less ‘carbon emissions’. Right?

  2. You’d seriously think that enviros actually want Africans to continue living lives full of suffering, disease and misery, because without the image of African hardship they wouldn’t one of their favourite guilt-inducing weapons to make the average Westerner feel bad about enjoying the fruits of the West’s technological advances.

    Were Africans to realise their autonomy they might give the greens one giant collective boot to the posterior with a note reading “Mind your own damn business!” attached to said boot. And they’d have to find something else to make us feel sorry over. So they need to keep Africa poor, helpless, and, most of all, infantilised in order to make us feel bad about Africa’s lot.

    African autonomy scares these people, if not at a conscious level, then certainly at a subconscious level.

    I can’t think of any other reason to keep Africa in an impoverished Dark Age.

    • I think you’re absolutely right, JMW. Much as they say they have Africa’s interests at heart, I think on a deeper level many of them are concerned at what a powerful, modern Africa might mean for them.

      I always find it useful to imagine their ideas ‘turned around’ as it were, as though it were them talking about us. Can you imagine hearing that, say, The Nigerian Guardian was complaining about plans for a new car factory in the UK, saying it was sure to mean more environmental degradation, and calling instead for a few eco-lodges to be built, where English locals could show tourists around the “sustainable” local parks?

      • Can you imagine hearing that, say, The Nigerian Guardian was complaining about plans for a new car factory in the UK, saying it was sure to mean more environmental degradation, and calling instead for a few eco-lodges to be built, where English locals could show tourists around the “sustainable” local parks?

        Good one

      • I’d bet the complaints raised by the British in this reverse scenario would involve liberal usage of the words “Colonialism!” and “Racist!”

        As if the current attitude of Western Whitey Knows Best For Africa was any less colonialist or racist…

  3. “Massive large power stations,connecting up every single individual wherever they are in that country, to a centralised distribution system of large scale energy generation. That’s it, that’s the end of the world.”

    The Africans would love it. He makes it sound like it’s a bad thing.

  4. I, for one, would appreciate that follow-up article you mention. Perhaps also, some suggestions of how we might really be able to help the Africans. Thanks.

    • Hi Emily,

      I will put the post up sometime this week. As regards suggestions as to how we could help the Africans, I would say lower tariffs and trade barriers that are raised against goods and produce from Africa.

      I realise that help is necessary in emergency situations, but other than that I think it is important to understand that it is their destiny to make, not ours. Can you imagine if your country (wherever that is) suffered natural disasters, or famine, and you heard that the newspapers in Africa were saying that this proves that you couldn’t cope with modern life and should stick to each living off what you could grow on your own patch of land?

      Don’t get me wrong, you might want to do that, and that’s fine, but it would be something else to have people from another continent discussing what’s best for you, as though you weren’t capable of making that decision on your own.

      Cheers,

      HtL.

  5. Hi,

    I’ve been reading your blog daily ever sense I saw “The mighty bish” linking here for the first time. Let me say that your contribution is truly appreciated.

    Like “Ellen”, I too would be interested in reading some of those studies you mention regarding the consequences of enviromentalism in Africa. Lately I’ve been having some conversations with the local greens about the subject and have kept my radar active for more information.

    These hailings come from beyond the arctic circle in Finland, where some “global warming” would be truly appreciated. One reason being that the “green taxes” implemented by our goverment are making it realy expensive to keep my house warm.

    Ps. Excuse me for any grammatical errors.

    Cheers,
    Jarkko

  6. This isn’t an isolated case, either. I could cite case studies from all over Africa where the policies of environmentalists and aid agencies have ignored locals and actually left them worse off than when they started (if anyone’s interested in this, then let me know and i will post a brief follow-up).

    I would also be very interested in this. I have a few family warmists who need all the reality possible shaken into them…

  7. From one of the many excerpts: “Many campaigners would agree that investment is badly needed, but insist that the future for African agriculture is not mechanised monocultures for export but supporting sustainable smallholder agriculture. They argue that the latter is far more likely to ensure food security for the poorest Africans.”

    The route to food security is wealth, rather than merely growing what you need. What is most sustainable is food being grown where it is economically useful to do it and food not being grown where it needs to be subsidised. If the campaigners want to campaign about something agitate for doing away with the Common Agricultural Policy. That would do far more, far sooner for African agriculture than anything else.

    The idea that a family should *have* to toil all year round to sustain themselves on a small patch of earth is somehow better than a family that has a working adult or two earning money to buy food from a market or shop is preposterous.

    Ethiopia is a particularly amusing example. It’s a communist country where land is in state ownership IIRC and it is only because of that they have been able to get so involved in attracting foreign agricultural know how through offering loads of land. Yet even that has irked ‘campaigners’.

    • It’s a kind of “reform communism”, where small farmers are not allowed to sell their surplus at free market prices, only for low government-fixed prices; that’s why they are not interested in producing more than they need for their own family; and GDP/capita has been dropping like a stone since 1984, IOW, while the population doubled, the agricultural output stayed constant, and the West dumped surplus grain in Ethiopia, making it the biggest food help receiver ever. For the West, this was a convenient way to fulfill development aid obligations and at the same time help their own farmers by keeping prices for their product higher.

      For some reason, leftists never see the connection between leftist regimes and abysmal output.

  8. Munchausen by Proxy.

  9. Yes please a post on enviromentalists causing enironmental damage in Africa would be very welcome.
    You seem to want to have it both ways in this piece. Sure, industrial scale agriculture will produce greater yields at lower labour inputs, but there is also a danger in moving away from traditional methods, as you show by what happened in Lesotho.
    What is needed to counter the environmentalists/socialists is some kind of a proposition for the poor of the region. They aren’t going to get richer watching crops being grown for the Chinese and Saudis unless some of the profits can be used to improve educational and other opportunities for them, and given the track record of the tax collectors in Africa that doesn’t seem very likely.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but I know for sure that subsistence farming is not a great way to live.

    • Hi David,

      I can see why you say that, but the thrust of my article is that Africans know their own interests best, and should be allowed to make their own mistakes as well as triumphs without having it second-guessed by others all the time.

      If they decide on a low-tech approach (as Gandhi did for India, say) then that should be respected. If they want to go for mechanized agriculture and foreign investment (as they are in Kenya) then that is also their right.

  10. Every economic input-output analysis (of inter-industry inputs and outputs, over an entire economy) places agriculture as the first and most essential output. Without agriculture no other significant economic activity or development is possible.

    African countries therefore face two choices which are mutually exclusive: either to scratch a living by subsistence agriculture, when no other development is possible, or to use developed countries’ techniques to seek to mechanise their agriculture, feed their people and to allow further development.

    The Grauniad’s position is therefore that the developed countries should not allow any third-world countries to aspire to further development. Have they seriously thought this through? It is a dog-in-the-manger attitude unworthy of any so-called progressive newspaper. Shame on them.

  11. Just a slight correction to your post from downunder….

    ‘A Chinese company has recently bought a majority shareholding in a major New Zealand dairy company, giving it control over 22 dairy farms in NZ’

    The Ovseas Investment Comission actually declined the purchase of the farms (a collection of 22 farms owned by 1 company now in recievership)

    http://www.linz.govt.nz/overseas-investment/about-oio/news/2010/1222-ministers-decline-application-for-crafar-farms/index.aspx

    principally because the company was dodgy. It also lead to significant public debate in NZ with regard to foreign ownership with new rules introduced regarding the criteria required for offshore sales.

    However, your point is valid as the 22 farms are now currently under offer from another Chinese firm (with the application currently being considered by the OIC). Also it is not the only recent large-scale of farmland in NZ to overseas interestes…

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/4601743/Germans-buy-3314ha-of-dairy-land

  12. Was Porritt a Fiend of the Earth? I recall he was head of the Ecology party, which suddenly became the green party, either in an attempt to appeal to people whose politics were dictated by their choice in primary colours (and who were left bereft by the collapse of communism), or to get away from a name that was too easily parodied as the E-coli party.

    He is an insufferably arrogant so-and-so, either way, with very little to be arrogant about.

    • Porritt was director of FoE for some times in the eighties. He changed it from a small, but effective campaigning group that concerned itself with specific instances of pollution and did quite a good job of it, to a large, corporate-style NGO that was more concerned with ‘the big picture’ – i.e. it became purely socialist with an ecological veneer.

      Since then, it hasn’t really achieved much.

  13. “I could cite case studies from all over Africa where the policies of environmentalists and aid agencies have ignored locals and actually left them worse off than when they started (if anyone’s interested in this, then let me know and i will post a brief follow-up).”

    I’m interested. Please post some if you want. These are the same people that ruin the western world right now, after practising in Africa.

  14. F. Jacot-Guillarmod

    “Once the grain basket for South Africa, much of Lesotho has become a scarred and treeless wasteland.”

    I can’t begin to count the number of ways this single sentence is misleading. Firstly, Lesotho has never been anyones bread basket – the tribal/political structure completely rules out anything but subsistence farming. There is no commercial farming. and never has been. Just across the border, in the Free State (a province in a different country), it’s a different story and commercial farms abound.
    Secondly, much of Lesotho is at altitude, therefore cold and treeless and snowbound in winter. This part is mostly unpopulated other than by itinerant stock herders in spring and summer. The side effect of this is that most of the population is crammed into the lowlands, perhaps 15% of the land area.
    Lesotho has pretty much always been like this – it hasn’t “become” like this.

    “The nation’s spectacular gullying has concerned environmentalists and conservationists for more than half a century.”

    I grew up in Lesotho in the 1950s at the trading store at ha’Mamathe, and daily travelled 7 miles to school in Teysteyaneng for a number of years. The dongas along that road are notable, and I can attest that they were of considerable concern and had been for many years. I was more conscious of this than most other 6 year olds because my mother was a botanist (a taxonomist) lecturing at what is now the National University of Lesotho.
    The thing is that I’ve revisited Mamathes recently, last having been there in the 70′s. The dongas are still there but have not changed one bit from what I vividly remenber from my daily trips 55 years ago. What has changed is that there’s a lot more houses and people. And the road has been tarred, and almost everyone has electricity.

  15. “(I’m sure “Madeleine” knows all about poverty, deprivation and hunger, right?). ”
    I expect she does, at least from a theoretical and left-wing perspective

    Madeleine’s profile. Educated at Cambridge (history) and Harvard (politics). Worked one year for an independent TV company before joining the Garundia and has worked there ever since. Science training – none claimed.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2008/apr/22/madeleine.bunting

  16. Lesotho was never the “grain basket” of South Africa. There is very little arable land in Lesotho, and of size of those areas planted – maize (138 000ha), sorghum (22 000ha) and wheat (12 000ha), barely compares with the estimated 2 million ha of maize and 600 000ha of wheat in South Africa.

    Erosion is a problem in Lesotho, as in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa……usually due to over-grazing and especially by goats who dig out the roots as well as the foliage, so when the next rains come there is nothing to hold the soil. Futher Lesotho is and has always been a ‘treeless landscape’ – a simple look at its altitude and climate will tell you why.

  17. Pingback: Mitt Romney’s climate adviser John Holdren (Mr drug the water to sterilize the populace – B.O. science Guy) : Deadline Live With Jack Blood

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