Monday, November 3

Dire Food Shortages Predicted For Sub Saharan Africa

At a press conference to launch of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, scientists warned that many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa could face a future of increasing malnutrition and dependence on food aid unless steps are taken to address water scarcity across the region.

What a magnificent headline! An NGO Research group into water use, predicts that proper water use will be the key to saving the whole of southern africa from starvation.

That of course assumes that a water shortage is responsible for any current food shortage. Only, it isn't. Water supply, and droughts have little to do with starvation. It is logistics that the key to feeding society.

Modern agriculture produces more food now as a percentage to the world population then ever, even in Africa. It is a highly competitive market, where government subsidies are needed to keep unproductive producers in business.

Why then are so many people starving? We need to differentiate between people who are starving because they are poor, and those who are starving because they cannot find any food.

These two don't go hand in hand. There are people living in London, New York and Paris that are starving because they cannot afford to buy food. Been there, done that. Although subsistence farmers would possibly suffer personally because of a draught, they do not supply food to society (almost by definition). Should they be able to afford it, they would still be able to purchase food.

Lets look at the second group. Mass starvation. There is 'no' food. It is not a matter of not being able to afford food, but that there is simply is none.

Zimbabwe is a good country to look at. There is currently a drought, but not any worse then have not been experienced in recent history (the previous serious drought was in 1992). People are starving, and the government is using food aid a a political weapon on its opponent's. Across the border is SA and Botswana however, shop are stocked full. Zim government ministers regularly drive to Johannesburg to do their shopping.

Why are people starving? This is because the logistics of the economy of Zimbabwe has broken down. Zimbabwe cannot afford to purchase the food they need because the main source of foreign currency (and food), commercial farming, was destroyed. This has nothing to do with water, but everything to do with government mismanagement.

But blaming government mismanagement for starvation in Africa is certainly not PC. I'm sure better water management is the key to helping those poor starving Africans and CGAIR are just the people to do it!

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