Friday, July 31, 2009

Converting Food for Africans into Fuel for Westerners

Photo: Arusha Market (from IRIN)

The Tanzanian government has allocated TSH1 billion to an irrigation project in Singida to 'boost agriculture'. This would be very welcome if it really were intended to improve food security and avoid famine. But I can't help suspecting that biofuels production will be one of the main beneficiaries of these irrigation projects.

Of course Tanzania needs to be able to ensure that enough food is produced to feed people and to have a surplus for export. But the last thing the country needs now is to lock itself into deals where it is obliged to produce crops that will be converted into fuel for the greedy and wasteful minority world in the West.

There is also mention of the need to mechanise farming practices, which is all very well, but what will the millions of people engaged in subsistence farming do when the land is bound over to foreign operators? About 85% of Tanzanians depend on subsistence agriculture in some way. In what way will these irrigation projects benefit the majority?

There is a danger of such projects merely moving the drought problem around so that the little water available is wasted on running cars in foreign countries rather than in producing food for Tanzanians. Sphere: Related Content

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