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“Think big to feed the Bottom Billion”

Posted by Richard D North in Food / Green on 17 April 2008

Why we posted this: Paul Collier is valuable and realistic on helping the “bottom billion”.

The original story:
Food shortages: think big
Subtitle: ‘If we’re to solve this global problem, we need more globalisation and less sentimentality’
Paul Collier
The Times
15 April, 2008

An extract from the story:

In Africa … the World Bank and the Department for International Development have orientated their entire efforts on agricultural development to peasant-style production. Africa has less large-scale commercial agriculture than it had 60 years ago. Unfortunately, peasant farming is not well suited to innovation and investment. The result has been that African agriculture has fallen farther and farther behind.

The argument in brief:
Paul Collier believes that the world needs to grow more food and that small-scale production won’t do it.

livingissues comment:
The world is a little short of food at the moment, and the situation may worsen. The shortages seem to be in part because the rich in the world can afford to feed food to animals, so the poor face higher prices.

There has been lot of discussion of whether we should be going more organic, or more chemical. But Paul Collier stress another – less common – theme. This that small-scale, peasant agriculture just won’t cut it.  Paul Collier’s views matter: his book The Bottom Billion was an important account of how the world might help the 1 billion people who have so far seen no benefit from the economic growth that has lifted so many out of poverty. (I reviewed the book for the Social Affairs Unit.)

But bear in mind that Africa may not need the highest-tech agriculture: it has people desperate for work, and that may make their farming future look different than the West’s. What’s more, when one celebrates modern agriculture, and scientific agriculture, that may well involve techniques learned from organic farmers.

Here’s another useful story:

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