Colonialism legacy 'haunts' food production

2011-12-06 12:24

Cape Town - Agriculture in Africa should be transformed to facilitate food security, but the legacy of colonialism looms large, an activist organisation has said.

"The transformation of agriculture in Africa is an extended version of what happened under colonialism," Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa told News24.

Under colonialism, African farmers were required to grow cash crops for export at the expense of subsistence farming and this has had an impact in the current food crisis on the continent, he said.

"They [African farmers] became dependant on selling their crop, rather than growing their own. I think that was the first disconnect in African food production."

As climate change has an impact on poor countries with harsher droughts and major flood events, researchers are working to identify ways that food security could be improved.

According to the UN millennium development goal monitor, countries in West Africa particularly struggle with extreme poverty with up to 70% of the population in Nigeria living on less than $1 per day.


Negotiators at the COP 17 climate conference in Durban are inching toward a settlement that may include a further period of commitments for a cap on global carbon emissions, but hopes are slim as top economies like the US and China disagree.

Earthlife Africa said that international trade rules and poor governance limited what developing countries could do to increase food crops for local consumption.

"Given the World Trade Organisation's set of rules for trade, countries have to have a balance of payments story going on, so they need foreign exchange. So they become more dependant on these cash crops to satisfy other needs - often indeed food - which seems quite silly," Lakhani said.

The World Watch Institute blamed part of the problem on governments encouraging monoculture crops and legislation prohibiting urban farming.

"When farmers diversify, they're more resilient to price shocks and they struggle to grow anything on soil that has degraded," said senior researcher Danielle Nierenberg.

He said that global food production chains linked to giant corporations had a devastating impact in poor countries.

"You must remember that the transnational corporations that own a lot of these production facilities wish to trade and they don’t really have an interest in food security.

"We certainly need to do more urban agriculture and we certainly need to move away from toxins in food."

Some analysts have said that the world is overpopulated and this impacts negatively on food production and distribution, but Lakhani rejected this, saying that the problem of food was one of over consumption.

Over consumption

"The fact of the matter is that 25% of the global population consume 80% of the resources. So what we have is a preponderance of over consumption by the wealthy.

"Some calculations, globally anyway, show that we will be able to support, sustainably, a population of up to 16 billion people.

"Do the calculation yourself: 75% of the planet live on 20% of the resources. That means 75 times five would be the total number of the population we could easily support - if there was equitable distribution," he said.

The debt crisis plaguing the developed economies may be an indicator of the need for a new system as it exposes the shortcomings inherent in the current capitalist system, Lakhani said.

"The system is indeed creaking at the seems - and that is exactly what is needed to transform the planet."

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  • robbie.crouch - 2011-12-06 12:32

    Ag please, cry me a river!

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-06 13:19

      AFRICA FOR AFRICANS.........Feenish and Klaar!

      John - 2011-12-06 13:46

      @Flowing River: Do you subscribe to the vision of the Freedom Charter?

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-06 15:21

      what u people dont understand is that you didnt do us a favour by coming to our Africa and changing our lifestyle. we were doing fine without you......As for your thinking that whites built this country....lose it, cos this country was built with black labour and sweat....!AMANDLA

      Spyker - 2011-12-06 15:54

      Flowingriversoftrashspeak.., "...we were doing fine without you..." Ha, ha, ha, ha.., that is surely the most pathetically funny I have heard all day... Why then is your kind so obsessed with white people's stuff..? Why is it all that you want are Breitling watches, cars, whiskey, farms, skin lightener.., even Malema said it (in his Carte Blanche interview) - all they you ever wanted was.., TO BE LIKE WHITE PEOPLE... Please, please, please, please, pretty please explain it to me. Should I hold my breath..?

      Martin - 2011-12-06 15:55

      Okay, Flowingriver. You can stop using your computer now.

      Mrs-Pal - 2011-12-06 15:59

      @Spyker_May: I really admire your work!!! I am surprised that the fighter for 'Freedom of Speech', Media24, have not yet removed your comment.

      Vastar - 2011-12-06 16:01

      Flowingriver you are absolutley right when you say: "...this country was built with black labour and sweat..." What you forgot to say is that colonialism brought an influx of wisdom, intellegence, insight, instruction and development to this country to enable blacks to build everything. Colonialism sailed in on a ship hundereds of years ago; thousands of kilometers over the sea; while people here were living in cow dung huts. Yeah right, you guys didn't need us. LMFAO!!!

      Michael - 2011-12-06 16:26

      Hey Flowingriver - nip down to the chemist and get yourself a dose of Immodium - it'll stop your flow man you clueless, mindless, gutless, talentless, visionless twat!

      Gary - 2011-12-06 17:29

      @ flowing river: You say some stupid stuff. DO you think that everything will suddenly be okay if all the white people leave? I think not. Whether you like it or not, i was born here, have a South African passport and am therefore a South African and i am proud to be one. @Spyker: You need to look at what the guy is talking about. The article is about food security and that is what Mr Lakhani is talking about. Not about air, minerals or where the people are going to live. His logic is actually accurate except for the fact that everyone would have only the amount to eat of that 75% world's population. Which is not really enough for most people to live on comfortably. So if you are going to quote at least do it context of what the person was on about.

      Spyker - 2011-12-06 19:08

      @Gary.., You cannot be more wrong. What I said is firmly within context. Kindly consider the nature of those who follows/ed the likes of Julius Malema. They are in fact, squarely the kind, Lakhani is babbling about. 'Food' (viz food security) does not happen in a serene vacuum - it happens very much in the surroundings of 'air', etc. Lakhani logic (or lack thereof) is wholly flawed. I will put it in very simple terms: the 25% appear to be consuming far more resources because they are so far ahead of the others. Eg if life from another time visits us, they will (also) appear to consume far more resources than “us”, because they are so far ahead.

      Mike - 2011-12-08 01:05

      . Dear Flowingriver, If all humans trace ancestry from Africa then Whites have Right Of Return to the bosom of their own ancient Motherland. On the other hand, since Africans never left they have NO claim to any other lands or localities on Earth. .

  • Phumezo - 2011-12-06 12:36

    A sober and refreshing observation! Confirming once more that land expropriation without compensation is the way to go for this country!

      Doublepost - 2011-12-06 12:45

      Nope, just more excuse mongering!

      Bob - 2011-12-06 12:47

      Phumezo, how the heck do you figure that out, the report is basically saying that African Farmers are not running their farming correctly, infact it says a lot more than that, I would suggest it reads leave farming upto farmers that can look after the soil and maximise the farms potential, land expropriation with or without compensation is NOT the way to go, too easy to balme the white man again eh.

      Bob - 2011-12-06 12:48

      oops blame not balme

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-06 12:52

      Woow, i got one solution, which is JULIUS MOLEMA must be appointed to the minister agriculture and land reform, really it will be end of this problem ... Viva ANC.

      Felix - 2011-12-06 12:53

      Bring your knobkerries and assegaais everyone, we're off to te stone age!

      Janette - 2011-12-06 12:54


      Maai - 2011-12-06 12:54

      Phumezo almost every South African black that I see is overweight. Especially the women. Your people have grown fat from the food produced by the white man. Why do you think your brothers from all over Africa are streaming into the country? Blacks cannot produce food on a large scale. The rest of Africa is testament to this. If you want some free farm land go to Ethiopia.

      Breedlike - 2011-12-06 13:06

      @maai, spot on, i think the women are bulking up to become police and traffic officers.

      Repline - 2011-12-06 13:11

      "[African farmers] became dependant on selling their crop, rather than growing their own." Yes... I can agree with that. However here in south africa we have another name for it. It is called 'GREED'. It's a normal phenomenon. During colonialism it was the white man, now after (during) the liberation of africa it's exchanged hands and is now found in the black peoples hands. Land expropriation is just another form of greed talking - SHAME ON YOU!

      Walter - 2011-12-06 13:11

      Yah, just have to find more reasons to blame the "colonialists" for their inadequacies and failures. Nothing said about financial skills, management and administrative skills, product knowledge and man management. The "so-called" colonialists had all of this and that's why they succeeded. Expropriation will take you one way, my friend! Down the road to total destruction and another starving country crying out for help to the United Nations. Get a life!

      Zion - 2011-12-06 13:26

      Phumezo, have you actually seen the results of presenting the disadvantaged with farms and land for agriculture? The results are shocking: once fertile soil now practically beyond compare. Entire infrastructures of the farms have been destroyed and produce less than a brown bread loaf. even the wild animals have been wiped out. Go look before you speak. Production fruit trees have been used for firewood.

      SNG62 - 2011-12-06 13:43

      Phumezo, your lack of intellect is astounding. Words fail me - as your sentiment fails this country, its people & the world.

      mark.dennill - 2011-12-06 14:12

      My friend you need to catch a wake up because before you wipe the sh1t out of your eyes this once beautiful country will be a desert. I wonder who is going to feed you once these wonderful people have taken the lot. There are many black farmers who know what they are doing but they don't get given the chance because the land gets snatched up quickly by the top brass for their families

      Shirley - 2011-12-06 14:44

      Go for it! Then there will be buggerall and you will be sitting on an arid pice of land that wont produce squat. In 30 years we will be on the same page as Ethiopia scrounging for a cup of rice. Everyone wants land but are just too stupid and lazy to do anything productive with it.

      Burton - 2011-12-06 14:48

      Phumezo, I have worked in around a lot of farms that were handed to black farmers to start farming, out of 38 I have been on, 1 is still productive. The previous owner is helping out to show the ropes. The game farms handed over like that in Limpopo near Massina are all run into the ground, no game, no cattle no nothing. Just a few shacks and a camp fire thats always burning. I once stopped and asked why these farms are not producing anything, answer: We don't know what to do. These farms are now in a shocking state and you want the rest of the country this way? Growing mielies and a few veggies in a garden, that's easy. A farm needs a lot more than a panga, a few shovles and a pick. They need tractors, processors and such. It is not possible without large sums of cash! Where will disadvantaged people get that? Government, no they need money for themselves, tax money, no that's for legal fees for government. So tell me where?

      Spyker - 2011-12-06 15:02

      Phumezo - "...A sober and refreshing observation..." - pity then that you are just another feckless freak who want little more than to steal from the only economically active minority left in Africa.

      Deon - 2011-12-06 15:21

      You sound like a thief and heading for jail.

      Vastar - 2011-12-06 16:09

      Typical Phumezo, you always want everything for free...confirming once more that you are too lazy to work for anything. Your comment says it all. WE DEMAND FOR FREE....WE DEMAND...WE DEMAND FOR FREE!!! Very refreshing observation yes, very refreshing.

      Michael - 2011-12-06 16:40

      Hey Phumezo, you're living proof that sphincters are sometimes capable of involuntary constriction - congratulations on squeezing that one out mate. I reckon the moment vigilante is recognized for the construction it can bring, your own racial kind will come looking for you chappie because you are clearly the weakest, most embarrassing link.

      Bob - 2011-12-06 22:27

      Phumezo - You are exactly the product of what James D. Watson has been trying to warn the world about...! You lost the plot fella!

  • Martin - 2011-12-06 12:39

    the only difference between exporting and growing your own is not exporting, how stupid can you be, suck it up and get on with it, stop passing the buck when it urns out you dont have a clue

  • SeeVeeDeeEl - 2011-12-06 12:40

    Yes Lakhani, blaim your own stupidity and failures on everybody else. The African way. If you only can realise how stupid you are, it will be a start. But you're too bloody stupid even to realise how totally dumb you are.

      SeeVeeDeeEl - 2011-12-06 12:53

      FFS, it's "BLAME"! Sorry....

  • Gareth - 2011-12-06 12:43

    What crap! Its supply and demand, don't write rubbish like this!

      Doublepost - 2011-12-06 12:49

      Ah...This is Africa! Rubbish sells!

  • Doublepost - 2011-12-06 12:43

    News just in! The world comes to an end! Africans and women to be hit hardest! Legacy of Colonialism and Apartheid to blame! Grrrr! Come on, does the excuse making ever get old? Grow a spine, you spineless twits!

  • Kevin - 2011-12-06 12:45


  • Piet - 2011-12-06 12:52

    What a load off Bull! Subsistence farmers feed absolutely nobody! Go and fly over Zimbabwe and have a look at all the flat grass lands! Those use to be field producing food! What these idiot also forget is that farming is a business not just ten mealies around your hut!

  • Bob - 2011-12-06 12:53

    You cannot simplify "over consumption" by saying 25% of the population consumes 80% of the resources, 25% of the population probably don't breed large families when their homeland can't provide, from what I've seen there is a high percentage of the 75% are a lot fatter than the 25% getting the blame for consuming 80%.

  • ErnaJacobs - 2011-12-06 12:53

    sooo, if each farmer only grows what he can eat, entire cities will very very soon be extinct. get a life, open your eyes and get real.

  • Roberto - 2011-12-06 12:55

    And the stupidity rolls on.....

  • Martin - 2011-12-06 12:55

    "They [African farmers] became dependant on selling their crop, rather than growing their own. I think that was the first disconnect in African food production." How the hell is this bad? If anything, the bloody African farmers should thank the evil colonisers for exposing them to the global market.

  • MrGuyT - 2011-12-06 12:57

    The further we go along the road cocking everything up the powers that be look harder and harder to lay blame instead of actually taking blame..Please man , what next ????????

  • Hugh - 2011-12-06 13:00

    What a lot of unsubstantiated rubbish. Most farms that have been redistributed to black owners have failed to provide even subsistence farming. They have stripped the properties of assets to rebuild their shacks, plundered their own resources and the farms now lie derelict. Many resold back to the previous land owner. A warm and self serving article, but void of any truth. Geez.

      Breedlike - 2011-12-06 13:12

      @ hugh, actually whats happens is the community who gets the farm then divides it up between members and each builds his own dwelling and tries to grow enough crops to sustain himself and his family, this cause a once successful commercial farm to become another township that doesnt generate any income.

  • Willie - 2011-12-06 13:01

    Naturally Africa was u huge agricultural exporter before the 1650's and agriculture contributed massively to the GDP of each country. Let us also not forget that Africa was home to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny before Europe colonised them as well. Maybe the Zimbabwe ruines was Africas biggest shopping mall in the Southern hemisphere - PLEASE

  • John - 2011-12-06 13:11

    I can agree with this to some extent, but it is more the result of a free market economy rather than a colonial influence. Commercial farmers will rather export if the price is better abroad, which certainly holds an advantage for our Government, I would say, more so than subsistence farming.

  • stephen.pollock1 - 2011-12-06 13:12

    stop murdering the farmers and then you will have food security.

      Shirley - 2011-12-06 13:16

      That unfortunately aint gonna happen any time soon! They want the farms but dont have a clue what to do except sit around and extend their families!

      Colleen - 2012-02-18 19:57

      Amen to that I couldnt agree more.What are the consumers going to do, when the last farmer has been killed or left the country to feed other people that appreciate and welcome them. Greed is a plague and RSA has got it in spades.

  • Zion - 2011-12-06 13:21

    All very interesting indeed. Statements are made without backing them up reasonably: 25% of global population consume 80%. Now that is a naked statement that does need some clarification. Subsistence farming has been in Africa and as old as Africa: It may have been influenced by colonialism but not to the extent that it had major repercussions on farming in that particular area. Much of the farming and food production was in the hands of the colonists for obvious reasons relating to competence.The original logic behind subsistence farming was that the head of the house done the farming to feed his wives and kids and perhaps close families but not to spread over the countryside but rather barter for that which he did not produce. The above questioned statement looks like this: 1000 apples are available to 1000 people. 250 (25%) will eat 8oo apples while 750 people eat 200 apples. In the former each person eats 3.2 apples while in the latter each person will get 0,2666 apples

      John - 2011-12-06 13:45

      It may be competence or it may just have been a difference in goals. The object of subsistence farming is to provide for ones family, extended or otherwise. The object of the Dutch colonialists was to provide food for ships sailing from the West to the East and vice versa. So, their mindset was food security and profit. That is still the mindset of most of the white commercial farmers in Africa, but I know for a fact that there are successful black commercial farmers as well. There really are black farmers who bought their own farms and who is turning quite a nice profit. But you are right: If the argument that the article makes is that we must go back to subsistence farming for food security, then they are suggesting we take a step backwards. What of us that is not farmers? Who is going to provide us with food? I am no scientist, but to me this is pre-historic thinking.

  • aardvarkie - 2011-12-06 13:45

    Doesn't really matter, by the time companies like Monsanto have finished there won't be any natural seed left on the planet anyway.

  • mark.dennill - 2011-12-06 14:04

    So let me get this right these "farmers" are relying on selling their crops to make money to live but they have not heard of keeping a little bit for themselves? The real problem is that these fools who claim they are farmers have driven away the professionals who actually know what they are doing in order to own huge farms and only utilize a few square metres of them. If africa was farmed correctly we could produce enough food to feed the ENTIRE earth's population look how well botswana is doing all because they are inviting the people who know what they are doing to go and help them and at the same time offer them a better life.

      John - 2011-12-06 14:09

      This is not what I get from this. As I understand it, the gist is that all the food is sold abroad and not enough is kept in Africa to feed the people of Africa. There might be truth in that argument, but the reasoning about the cause of this problem is flawed, in my opinion since the free market economy is to blame. Consider that South Africa never used to import food until about a year or two ago. We had all the different agricultural boards who fixed the price of the respective products and farmers were subsidized in order to ensure that they make a profit by selling their food in the country. Sure, we were not allowed to export in those days, but still, we had no food shortages. The point is that this is how things are now. You need to learn how to work with it rather than long for days long gone. This is of course applicable to everything, not just farming.

  • PaasHaas - 2011-12-06 14:16

    Ethiopia, which was never colonised, just goes to prove this theory, doesn't it?

  • Bobo - 2011-12-06 14:16

    Catch a banana...You`re tryin to be funny ?...Idiot !!

  • NrGx - 2011-12-06 15:05

    first: The fact of the matter is that 25% of the global population consume 80% of the resources. So what we have is a preponderance of over consumption by the wealthy. second: "Do the calculation yourself: 75% of the planet live on 20% of the resources. That means 75 times five would be the total number of the population we could easily support - if there was equitable distribution," he said. so which one is it?

      NrGx - 2011-12-06 15:08

      this guy is just making up figures and contradicting himself in the process.

      Michael Savage - 2011-12-06 21:51

      The 25% consuming 80% of the resources also doesn't refer to food alone, but instead RESOURCES!!! Consume does not necessarily mean to eat. Not so bright, huh?

  • Francis - 2011-12-06 15:28

    What a load of hazanga! As a former Ag Officer in Rhodesia there was a number of things we were teaching black farmers.#1 Consevation of your available land and water with clean water a priority.#2 Use your available land to its max potential, FOOD crops given priority, you can always sell excess#3 IF land is available lets see what cash crops are available for the area, and lets see if we can get into the cash economy. Farmers who fulfilled a criteria list were grade Master Farmers! There was no unemployment and cheap food was always available in lean times, so what happened professor? 1976 all my Extension assistants(young black men) were murdered by the "liberators". So where does "colonialism" come into it???

  • CapeChappy - 2011-12-06 15:55

    Windy today. Must be because of apartheid and colonialism.

  • Irene - 2011-12-06 16:09

    What excuse will these clowns come up with regarding countries that were NEVER colonised? What about Haiti that was decolonised 300 years ago? Crikey, 300 years of their own rule and they still live in abject poverty!

  • Robin - 2011-12-06 16:48

    Only one word comes to mind - BOLLOCKS!@

  • Adriaan - 2011-12-06 18:30

    I read that China and other countries are renting/buying large chuncks of African land to farm on so that they can feed their own poeple. They are even bringing in their own farmworkers to do the job. What does that tell us?

  • Deepchund - 2011-12-06 20:45

    Transform food production (whatever that means) and we will also plead with the west to fill our begging bowls.Typical Africa,we think only when we are seated and the brain is compressed.Let us slow down increasing the population, that will definitely help in a better standard of living.

  • Takunda - 2011-12-07 06:01

    ladies and gentleman,i think each and everyone of us has to take a moment before posting on here,to see how our comments reflect on ourselves really. i have read a bunch and it all seems to be driven by personalised hatred or some kind of superiority attitude. lets jus remember we r fellow south africans who should love and respect each other,lets be the better one everyday every time and tire out the haters with our compassion, respect and lovefor one another. regardless of the topic of discussion, lets maintain our decorumand be the better one. i pass this forward, please do the same.

      Zion - 2011-12-07 06:12

      That dear lady is balderdash and poppy-cock. What you are reading here is opinions and all are entitled to their just as you are too. The subject matter does evoke personalized emotions but under the circumstances is normal. We are discussing and implying people starving and children dying and the future of this country and planet. So please be so kind as to allow us some leeway. Definitely not a Sunday school picnic.

  • Takunda - 2011-12-07 06:32

    zion,theres nothing wrong with expressing ones opinion,but if one goes beyond that by evoking some kind of personalised attack,or unecessary insulting someone personally coz of his or her opinion when that person didnt insult anyone personally either, then yeah something is wrong there. come on man, im not stupid i can read between the lines. when ever there is a debate, decent people should maintain a sense of morallity and respect no matter how heated it gets, but attacking someone or saying deragotary statements hidden in nicely framed words is appalling and shouldbe refrained from.and zion,my name is takundau dont need to call me names thank you.

      Zion - 2011-12-07 11:56

      Calling names???You seem to have somehow run off the track here. In the same vein please spell my name with a capital Z or you are insulting me.

  • Breinlekkasie - 2011-12-07 07:36

    “They [African farmers] became dependant on selling their crop, rather than growing their own” And the problem is what? Commercial farming is the only way one can produce enough food to sustain an ever increasing population. I don’t see what colonialism has got to do with anything. Muna Lakhani has a juice, either we farm commercially or we chop of millions of peoples’ heads until the population is small enough to make subsistence farming viable again.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-07 11:50

    So in effect colonialism didn't really have that much of an effect, capitalism on the other hand did. Capitalism not colonialism requires that everyone must use cash money and everyone must pay to live. It is impossible for anyone to be a subsistence farmer as even if you have a piece of land and are able to grow enough to satisfy your families food needs you are still required to pay for the land on a monthly basis and pay taxes again in currency to keep your land. Colonialism has been given a bad stigma as a white crime, non whites conveniently forgetting that hundreds of years before whites set out to colonize the world, non white armies like Attila the Hun had actively colonized white held land throughout the world. History is indeed written by the liar.

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