Food, climate and the scramble for Africa

Martin who has been to many Marxism Festivals before reports from one of the many meetings on climate change.

Suzanne outlined a “new scramble for Africa”. Previous “Scrambles” were driven by the desire to exploit Africa’s natural resources and people. Today, a similar process is taken place, but this time, the landgrabs are driven not just by the desire to take Africa’s natural resources, but this time the very land itself is a source of profit.

Today, the ruling classes of Africa have formal independence and many governments are helping to facilitate the landgrabs. But the taking of land is driven by a number of interests. Some of these are a response to the food crisis that took place at the end of the previous decade. Governments are buying up land in order to grow export groups to feed populations back home. Other landgrabs are taking place so companies can invest in bio-fuels, or even to speculate on the future prices of lands. Gambling on food shortages driving up prices in the future to make crops worth more.
Suzanne outlined how, in the neo-liberal eyes, the food crisis is caused by growing populations, food price rises and climate change. The neo-liberal solution though, is more of the same. More industrial capitalist farming, more, and freer markets. This ignores the way that much of the world’s population is still fed by peasant farmers, growing crops in more traditional ways.
We are told that opening up the world to technological intensive farming methods will food the world, and help deal with climate change. The opposite is, in fact true. Suzanne pointed out that something like a quarter of world emissions come from agriculture, and highly technological, western industrial farming is one of the largest culprits. Nor does it help feed people. Only those with money, able to afford high prices can eat under the capitalist system.
Landgrabs are always presented as being an advance. The land, we are told, is unoccupied, or unused, or under developed. We are told that capitalism will develop and improve the land, yet the opposite is the case. Opening up the world in this way will simply make a small number of individuals, and a number of enormous multinationals rich.
Suzanne argued that the solution to climate change, and the food crisis is not more free market mechanism, but a world which democratically organises production, including the production of food, in the interest of all of us. Hunger is not a question of technology, but of ownership and control, and ordinary people around the globe are part of the solution.

The final meeting in the Marxism 2012 environmental course, is Gareth Dale speaking on The end of oil: capitalism and the future of energy at 10am on Monday.