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.
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.
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.
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.
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.