Africa - The Breadbasket of the Western World ?

 

In March 2009 Madagascar made a deal with the South Korean company Daewoo. It wanted to lease almost half of the country’s farming land to Daewoo for $6 billion so that the company could grow food, crops and biofuel for South Korea’s market.

When the population heard about this, mass demonstrations started. The protests got so large that eventually, the government called off the deal and had to step down.

For Daewoo, this came as a big surprise. The investment would have given Madagascar not only lots of money but would also have provided the country with many jobs in farming. In addition, Madagascar would have profited from modern farming methods and the agricultural knowhow of the 21 st century. Productivity would have grown because tractors and other machines, irrigation and chemical fertilizers would have been introduced to the country’s farmland.

Many international corporations are coming to Africa in search of farming land. Whole governments like Saudi Arabia and Japan are looking to Africa as a place where they can grow food they so desperately need in their home countries.

Africa could be the world’s breadbasket with its rich, fertile plains, valleys and enough farmland. The problem is that Africa itself is desperately in need of food. It imports corn, wheat and other products from industrialized countries. One of the reasons for low productivity lies in traditional farming methods. Another reason is historical. In the past farmers in Africa have often been neglected. Governments don’t care about them. They would rather bring in companies that invest in industries and other projects instead of food.

 

Rice paddies in Madagascar

Rice paddies in Madagascar

 

In many countries the same old farming methods have been used for centuries. Forests are burned down. The ash makes the soil fertile for a short time in which farmers grow crops. Then they move to other areas leaving destroyed soil behind.

Madagascar is a typical example of farming practice in Africa. The country has a chronic food shortage. It needs more and more food for a population which doubles every 25 years. The main food crop is rice, which they barely have enough of.

But local farmers are skeptical when foreigners come to their country. Farmers react quite emotional and do not want to sell land that they got from their ancestors. It’s hard to understand how important land is to most of the population. Many fear that if they sell out their land the country will be driven back to the colonial days of the past.

Most experts agree that African countries shouldn’t turn down such deals, as they give them modern farming skills and jobs for the population. In the long term, Africans would learn the techniques and methods of modern farming. They would learn know how to use water and conserve soil. Productivity would be drastically increased.

While Madagascar has rejected deals with foreign investors other African nations are fond of the prospect of making money with their land.

According to the World Bank figures about 115 million acres of land is leased to companies and governments around the world, most of it in Africa.

  • In Mozambique a Swedish firm is producing biofuel.
  • Saudi Arabia is buying up farmland in Tanzania for food production.
  • Sudan has leased over a million acres of farmland to the South Korean government, which intends to produce wheat there.

 

Forests are burned down and used for farming

 

Related Topics

 

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • acre = a unit for measuring land ; 1 acre = about 4,000 square meters
  • agricultural = farming
  • ancestor = a member of your family who lived a long time ago
  • ash = the grey soft powder that a fire leaves behind
  • barely = hardly, just
  • billion = a thousand million
  • biofuel = gas or petrol that is made from biomass (wood, plants, sugar cane, animal waste etc..)
  • breadbasket = part of a country or the world that you can produce a lot of crops on
  • call off = cancel; stop, to say no
  • century = a hundred years
  • chronic = lasting, never-ending
  • colonial = a time when large European countries had colonies overseas
  • conserve = preserve, save
  • corporation = big company
  • crop = plant , like wheat, rice or corn that farmers grow and use as food
  • deal = agreement
  • desperate = very much
  • destroy = to damage completely
  • double = to become twice as big or twice as much
  • drastically = very much, radically
  • eventually = finally, in the end
  • fertile = rich, soil that is good so that you can produce crops
  • fertilizer = material that you put into the soil to make plants grow
  • firm = company
  • food shortage = a situation in which you do not have enough food to feed the population
  • foreigner = a person from another country
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • in need of = need, something you must have
  • intend = plan
  • investment = here: deal
  • irrigation = to bring water to fields in places where it is very dry
  • lease = to let someone use something for a certain time
  • local = people who are at home in a certain area
  • long term = a longer period of time
  • neglect = ignore, not to care about
  • plain = large area of flat, mostly dry land
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • practice = method
  • productivity = the time in which goods can be produced
  • profit = to get as a reward, to benefit
  • prospect = hope
  • provide = give, supply with
  • reject = to say no to
  • sell out = here: to change your ideas in order to get more money
  • skeptical = if you are not sure if you should believe something
  • skill = here: method
  • soil = the top layer of the earth on which plants grow
  • step down = to leave
  • traditional = old-fashioned
  • turn down = to say no to an offer
  • wheat = plant that bread is made from