When we look at the problem of poverty and hunger in
the LDCs, it seems improbable that the growing number
of poor and landless will ever find jobs that pay enough
to enable them to live a decent life. This means that
hunger will only be eliminated if the poor are helped
to become productive and self-reliant producers of food.
1 'Food self-reliance requires the allocation of control
over agricultural resources to local, democratically organized units.'
There is little doubt that land reform is essential if
any meaningful progress is to be made in solving the
hunger problem. In rural economies, where looking
after the food needs of one's own family is the primary
objective of food production, having land or access to
it is essential. Therefore, what is required is a rapid
transfer of land from the large landowners to those who
own too little land to be self-sufficient or who are land-
less. Such programs should be carried out quickly so as
to limit the amount of time landowners may have to
try to subvert reform. As a part of this process, care
must also be taken to see that the resources needed to
produce food, including access to water and credit at
reasonable rates, are available to the new landholders.
In addition, access to markets and a guarantee of fair
prices should also be part of any reform scheme.
2 'Food self-reliance depends on the initiative of the
people. not on government directives.'
For land reform to be successful, the peasants must
be involved in the decision-making process, particularly
in the resolution of conflicts between themselves and
the previous landowners. They must be prepared to look
after their own interests. They must also realize that
success depends on their resourcefulness. The process
of redistribution must break the old pattern of dependency: nothing would be accomplished by replacing the
old landlord-worker dependency with a government worker one.
3 'With food self-reliance. trade becomes an organic
outgrowth of development, not the fragile hinge on
which survival hangs.'
The principal aim of self-reliance is local self-sufficiency in basic needs. Today many LDCs are becoming increasingly dependent on the foreign exchange earned by a few agricultural exports. They borrow from outside agencies in order to buy food that is no longer being grown locally and cannot be obtained
through aid programs. Of course, the poorest groups in
these countries cannot afford to buy this food. It seems
illogical that agricultural products should be exported
when the food needs of the country's population are
not being met. The exporting of agricultural goods
should only occur after every effort has been made to
achieve agricultural self-reliance.
4 'Food self-reliance makes agriculture an end. not a means.' In countries where so many people are underfed, agriculture is still viewed as a source of wealth-an activity designed to serve business interests rather than as a means of survival. As we have seen, large estates produce cash crops for export. The money generated is then used as a source of foreign exchange to pay for imports. In addition, in many countries the price of locally grnwn food is kept artificially low in order to keep food costs in the cities down. This in turn keeps wages down; food then becbmes a way of subsidizing other forms of development, such as manufacturing. But other costs keep rising, which means that the real income of farmers declines. Debts rise and eventuaiiv these farmers lose their land. In the end, maintaining low food costs inhibits domestic food production, (When a country is also dependent on low cost or free food aid, the impact on local food production is even more devastating.)
Food self-reliance means the first goal of agricultural
development must be to feed the population, not sub-
sidize industrialization or meet foreign debt payments.
When these objectives have been achieved, resources
can be directed toward producing agricultural products
5 'With food self-reliant policies, industry will serve
agriculture; town and country will meet.'
An added benefit of self-reliance will be the development of small-scale rural industries. As self-reliant
farmers become successful they will have income to
spend on their other needs, including agricultural
equipment and other consumer products. The development of rural industries would also help to absorb
some of the surplus rural population and stem the flow
of migrants from the country to the city. In other
words, one of the keys to the economic development of
the LDCs is the creation of wealth among the rural
population, which will stimulate the demand for goods
and so create new production and new jobs.
It is possible for ordinary people to play an effective role in reducing hunger. This means first of all being informed. If you have read this section, you have alreadv taken the first step. The second step is to put pressure on our own governments. Let politicians know that we expect them to adopt policies that will benefit the poor and the hungry, not just the well-to-do in our society.
There are also more direct ways of providing assistance. Not only are there many non-government aid
organizations that deserve our support but there is also
the possibility of more direct links with people and
communities suffering from hunger. Several voluntary
organizations have been set up for this purpose. Becoming informed, expressing our views, and getting involved in some way-we can all do these things, and collectively our efforts will make a difference.
Answer the question below and send it via E-mail.
1) If food self-reliance makes sense, what is preventing countries from doing more to obtain this goal? To
understand some of the difficulties, consider how
each of the following might react to the suggestion
that an LDC should adopt a food self-reliance policy.
(a) landowning or business elites in the LOCs;
(b) Western agribusiness;
(c) the government of an LDC;
(d) the government of a DC;
(e) international agencies involved in food aid; and
(f) members of an LDC farming community that is to become more self-reliant.
Send your answer by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please make sure you give a title to your answer (ie. Answer to Food Self-Reliance) and sign your name.
Text material taken from "The Global Challenge" Stanford Quentin, Oxford University Press 1990 (pages 186-189)
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