Food; just like air, water and warmth; is a critical need for the sustenance of life. Our country is ranked the third hungriest in the world. By implication, the majority of our people have no access to adequate food. We are a country of hungry people.
Getting access to adequate, nutritious food is therefore not a matter of choice for the majority Zambians. They yearn for it. However, the capitalist system they have been subjected to is not designed to produce food to sustain lives. It is for profit maximisation. You eat only when you have money to buy the food; without the required purchasing power you will have to starve.
This is the crude logic of our capitalist inspired food production and distribution system.
Paradoxically, Zambia is rated amongst the very high potential countries in meeting the food requirements of a world population that will within a century catapult from 7.2 to 11 billion!
The availability of land, water and conducive climate are factors in favour of the country. The gap between the country’s food production potential and the current widespread hunger seem contradictory. This contradiction is inbuilt in the neo-liberal capitalist system. It is not mere policy failure.
A hungry person loses dignity. The person feeding you has a “life and death” control over you.
The past 27 years of neo-liberal capitalist experiment in Zambia has seen a drastic decline in the productivity of the peasant holdings. The systematic neglect of public funded research, farmer training facilities, extension services, disease control systems, the cooperative movement, supply and marketing services, financing arrangements and rural infrastructure have all had a disastrous effect.
The productivity of a small farmer is today estimated at only 45 percept compared to that of the mid 1970s!
The widespread poverty in Zambia is hence to a larger extent due to the failure of the neo-liberal capitalist prescriptions for agriculture – specifically for peasant agriculture. This sector employs almost 85% of the Zambian workforce but contributes only 9 percept to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is a pathetic situation that continues to retard the possibility of value addition through agro processing and hereby compromising the country’s growth and development prospects.
Yet the petty bourgeois capitalist parties continue parroting the same failed neoliberal policy framework for agriculture! This has nothing to do with ignorance. It is by design.
The truth is that global agricultural policy is caught up in a vicious class struggle. There are globally two projects for agriculture. On the one hand is the capitalist, monoculture project dominated by multinational corporations. On the other hand is the poly-culture project based on food sovereignty and agricology that focuses on family or household food production systems.
The capitalist project involves concentration of resources amongst a few multinational corporations.
About 50 of these control global agriculture systems. Whereas most of the agricultural sub-sectors have 3 or 4 corporations with oligopolistic market control. For example; Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont control the greatest proportion of the global seed, pesticide and agricultural biotechnology markets. When a handful of corporations own the world’s seed, pesticide and biotech industries, they control the fate of food and farming.
This kind of historically unprecedented power over world agriculture enables them to control the agricultural research agenda, dictate trade agreements and agricultural policies, position their technologies as the “science-based” solution to increase crop yields in order to “feed the hungry” and “save the planet”.
They easily escape democratic and regulatory controls as well as subvert competitive markets. In essence they intimidate, impoverish and disempower farmers, undermine food security and make historic profits – even in the midst of a global food crisis.
The poly-culture project based on food sovereignty and agricology is the way to go. It brings back control over technology and resources into the hands of the family farm, conserves water and energy, reduces the carbon footprint by focusing on the local value chain and is primarily for food production for feeding the masses.