Will the scramble over food and water security trump energy security in the coming decade?
The Haitian earthquake has brought a slew of issues that’s common to poor states to the forefront: food security. In the last few decades, Haiti has lost the means to feed its own people.
Part of the problem can be blamed on the mismanagement of its land. Another part is the preferential treatment given to export products, i.e. sugar cane, tropical fruits, on the best arable land, instead of growing foods traded in the local markets for the masses.
The largest portions of Haiti’s best lands produce crops for export. Sugar cane is the dominant export crop, but tropical fruit and other crops are grown as well. With most of the very best land out of production for local food crops (beans, rice and corn), the masses of people do not have access to land to grow food for eating or selling on the local market. Ironically, Haiti, a primarily agricultural land, is a net importer of food.
And due to rampant corruption, and the tight control of profits by elites, there’s little trickle-down effect.
The loss of food security is not an altogether uncommon story. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, Jamaica went through a brutal structural readjustment program under IMF guidance, and completely lost control of its agricultural industry. I’m trying hard to think of something nice to say about neo-liberal policies this week, and it’s not happening.
Reported but largely overshadowed by the recession and threats of terrorism, implications of this growing trend of oversea land purchases are large.
Just like oil, friction amongst various purchasing parties will no doubt surface at some point. And because the commodities changing hands are more often than not crucial resources for both the more privileged buyers, and the less privileged suppliers, pressures will also build.
Security food for your own people, at the expense of someone else’s?