The Era of Food Self Sufficiency
So, there is no way around food self sufficiency, along with energy and water self sufficiency it has to be put at the core of any government agenda.
As for Morocco our farming sector is competitive enough to allow for low prices on the inside and also for export, but not in wheat. Therefore wheat should be our top priority, and it should be the stepping stone
for future autonomies.
As to our Southern provinces, they too can help in attaining food self sufficiency, the technology exists, whether hydroponics of micro-irrigation to allow for production of all kinds of vegetable and
It makes sense that this should be a top priority of the agency in charge of development for the South.
It would also create jobs and further densify the exchanges and complementarity of the diverse parts of the Kingdom.
There is much to be built on Morocco's initiative for the exploitation of solar energy. We can become a prime exporter of renewable energy, as well as drinkable water and this all paves the way to a new resurgence of the South, through either participating in the solar program or through the implementation of high tech agricultural exploitation on dry soil, using advanced technology such as hydroponics.
Why grow stuff in arid land ? Because it is technology feasible, would fight off desertification, create jobs.
The ability to adapt to all environments is not only a feature of the Human race, but a defining aspect of our history on the face of this planet.
It seems to me that deserts in their aridity, their toughness, are the new frontier. Morocco has never been stronger then when connected to the south, to the heart of Africa. Along the routes of theses ancient
caravans, we can see someday a mesh of sustainable communities using evolved technologies in the solar, water and energy, as well as habitat (domed cities)
Will this happen in this century ? Or the next ? Time will tell, or perhaps the deserts will remain as they are beautiful and quiet.
Read on this interesting article by The Economist about the regained interest in Agriculture, and how nations are addressing the question of food self sufficiency
"THE world's attention is back on your cause." That was Bill Gates
talking to agricultural scientists gathered recently to honour the
late Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution. The
tycoon-turned-philanthropist was right. This week, the world-in the
guise of 60-odd heads of state including the pope-held the first
United Nations food summit since 2002. As the world's attention turns
from the receding financial crisis, it is switching to one emerging in
The UN conference on food security took place at a point of relative
calm between two storms. The first occurred in 2007-08, when world
food prices experienced their sharpest rise for 30 years. Food riots
swept through three dozen countries and two governments (Haiti's and
Madagascar's) were overthrown by the events that the price rises set
The next storm is likely within a few years and everyone fears its
arrival. The price spike of 2007-08 was the result of structural
imbalances in the world food chain, not just temporary fluctuations
like bad weather or government mistakes. These imbalances have not
gone away: food demand is still rising because of changing appetites
and rising incomes in emerging markets; biofuels are still competing
with food crops for available land; yield growth in cereals is
In 2008-09 food problems were masked for a while by the financial
crisis. But as Jacques Diouf, head of the UN's Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO), said this week, "when the recovery picks up, we
will be back to square one." Jeffrey Currie of Goldman Sachs argues
that while most recession-hit industries in the rich world are
operating at 60-70% of capacity, agriculture is at full capacity, in
the sense that last year's cereals crop was the largest on record and
there is little fallow land ready to be taken under the plough. If
there were another supply or demand shock, the farm-trade system would
not cushion the blow.
// Need to exploit non arable land.
It may not be many years away. In the first ten months of this year,
food prices rose by 9.8%, prompting fears of a resumption of the surge
that began in 2007, the first of the two years of crisis (see chart,
left). The "breakfast commodities" (tea, cocoa, sugar, important
sources of calories in some parts of the world) are trading at their
highest levels for 30 years. Worse, the price respite, while it
lasted, did nothing for the poorest and most vulnerable. According to
the FAO, the number of malnourished people in the world rose to over 1
billion this year, up from 915m in 2008 (see chart, below). Economists
at the World Bank reckon that the number living on less than $1.25 a
day will rise by 89m between 2008 and 2010 and those on under $2 a day
will rise by 120m. A quarter of a century after a famine in Ethiopia
which dramatised failings in the food system, famine is again stalking
the Horn of Africa. Has anything been done to prepare for future food
Certainly, say most governments. Money is starting to pour into
agriculture after 30 years of neglect. There has been a spasm of
institutional reform. And public and private sectors are doing more to
help farmers than ever.
At their meeting in L'Aquila in July, the Group of Eight (G8) large
rich economies promised to increase spending on agricultural
development by $20 billion over the next three years. Not much of this
was new money (probably $3 billion-5 billion) and it is not clear how
much, if any, has been delivered. The amount also falls far short of
the $44 billion that the FAO guesses will be needed each year to end
malnutrition (and even shorter, aid agencies reflect, of the $14
trillion poured by rich countries into their banks). Still, the amount
is not trivial. It would finance for three years the annual $7 billion
that the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a think
tank in Washington, DC, estimates will be the bill for developing
countries to protect agriculture from the impact of climate change.
And it excludes the far greater sums developing countries themselves
are promising to farming.
Agriculture and food security have become "the core of the
international agenda", as the G8 called it. In 2009, the World Bank
increased its spending on agriculture by 50%, to $6 billion. The
Islamic Development Bank is creating an agriculture department for the
Barack Obama asked Congress to double to just over $1 billion
America's aid for agricultural development in 2010. And in a sign that
food productivity means more than warm words and cash, he nominated a
pundit, not a politician, to head USAID, the assistance agency: Rajiv
Shah, the chief scientist for the Department of Agriculture. In the
West, there is a new consensus on the need to invest more in
agriculture in emerging markets.
Jeffrey Sachs, an economist at America's Columbia University, has
argued that the next step should be to create a new international
agency to co-ordinate all the money and perhaps have a big budget of
its own. He wants something similar to the global fund to fight
HIV/AIDS, a public-private partnership. Earlier food shortages, in the
1970s, had also produced institutional shake-ups: the International
Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Consultative Group
for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), influential groups in
the field, were both set up then.
But the latest crisis has not spawned any institutional children,
mainly because the UN food agencies-FAO, IFAD and the World Food
Programme-spent too much time bickering. Instead, institution-building
took the form of tinkering. The idea for what was grandly labelled a
global partnership on food security began with the French president,
Nicolas Sarkozy, in the spring of 2008 and morphed into a UN committee
and a "high-level task force" attached to the secretary-general's
office. So far, this modest arrangement seems to be working rather
well, at least in terms of mobilising attention and resources.
The most important activity, though, is taking place at the national
level. Here, the price rises of 2007-08 have unleashed an
unprecedented pack of policies. Practically every developing country,
however cash-strapped, has done something (often a lot) to help
farmers. African governments are finally starting to fulfil a promise
they made in 2003 to spend 10% of their budgets on agriculture. The
most popular measures have been to build rural roads, subsidise inputs
such as seeds and fertilisers, give special help to the poorest
smallholders as a kind of safety net, and to intervene in the
operation of markets, sometimes to improve and sometimes to control
The Philippines set up a seed bank to improve the quality of seeds and
provide a reserve against occasions when crops are wrecked by typhoons
(the country is prone to such disasters). Lesotho and Uganda created
"seed fairs" in the hope of increasing the varieties on offer to give
farmers. Tanzania and Mali tried to achieve the same end by
subsidising the grain and fertiliser merchants directly. Nepal and
Jamaica offered cheap kits (pumps, drip feeds) to persuade
smallholders to irrigate their fields. Malawi kept going its
much-studied fertiliser subsidy, which practically gives the stuff
away to the poorest farmers. The jury is still out on what will happen
if and when the country can no longer afford the programme, which is
eating up 4.2% of GDP. But there is no doubting the impact so far: the
programme has turned Malawi into a breadbasket: in 2005, the country
imported over 40% of its food; this year, it will export more than
half its output, including to famine-stricken Kenya, having trebled
the maize harvest in four years.
// Outstanding Malawi, outstanding.
Brazil also subsidised inputs, launching a programme that provided
credit for 14,000 tractors in its first year. But its bigger
intervention was to expand a safety net which allows family farmers to
sell $800 worth of food to the government each year; the government
uses part of the food for reserves to help stabilise prices and
another portion for school meals which are part of the country's
much-admired conditional-cash transfer scheme, Bolsa Familia.
Many countries are using help to farmers as an anti-poverty measure.
India, for example, last year extended to every rural district its
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees 100 days of
minimum-wage employment on public works to every rural household that
asks for it. The act, one of the biggest job-creating schemes in the
world, is widely credited with maintaining rural demand in the face of
one of the worst monsoons for years. India also introduced a one-off
agricultural-debt waiver programme for about 40m farmers.
At the height of the food-price spike in 2008, many of the biggest
food producers banned the export of crops (they sought to cushion the
domestic impact of rising world prices). Most of these restrictions
have been lifted and replaced by a variety of price and marketing
policies. Many of them are sensible. Uganda, for example, reckons
farmers got 5-15% more for their crops after publishing price and
market information more widely. Kenya improved peoples' nutrition by
removing restrictions on the sale of unpasteurised milk (milk is one
of the most important foodstuffs in east Africa). There is also a
fashion for creating grain reserves to smooth out local price
fluctuations by building silos in villages: Burkina Faso, Burundi and
Gambia are doing this.
It all sounds admirable. And it is matched by an almost equally
frenetic pace of change among commercial food companies. Some have
started to invest directly-often for the first time-in farming in poor
countries, providing farmers with new varieties of seeds or drought-
and disease-resistant plants (see article for a case study of
Monsanto). Agricultural business centres-one-stop shops where farmers
can go to buy seeds and fertilisers, rent farm equipment, and get crop
insurance-are springing up everywhere.
Yet there are worrying signs that all is not well. For alongside the
increases in investment and attention is something more insidious: a
turn away from trade, markets and efficiency. Depending on how far
this goes, the trend could undo much of the benefits of new
The price rises of 2008 were traumatic. When Thailand and Vietnam, the
world's two largest rice exporters, banned exports, the Philippines,
the world's largest importer, concluded that the international grain
trade could no longer be trusted to supply its needs. Fearing what
might happen as a result of India's poor harvest this year, the
Philippines in the past two weeks has concluded contracts to buy 1.5m
tonnes of rice-equivalent to 5% of the total annual trade in the
grain. This is panic buying driven by mistrust. In turn, India is
negotiating directly with Thailand and Vietnam for rice, which would
further reduce the tradable supply of an already thinly traded
The large "land grabs" in Africa and Asia are also signs of distrust
in world markets. Food importers which can afford it-like Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, China, South Korea-have opted to grow food on land
they own or control abroad rather than import it through international
trade. "Land grabbers" (mostly state companies or governments) have
concluded contracts to buy or lease roughly 20m hectares (50m acres)
of the best farmland in poor countries.
// The rise of the food cartels
Trust in world grain markets seems weak among industrial countries,
too. Western countries share the blame for the failure to complete the
Doha round of trade talks. They have done little to reduce subsidies
to biofuels, which have taken large quantities of maize out of food
markets and put it into petrol tanks. IFPRI and others have urged
countries to calm the wildest price fluctuations (and hence provide a
measure of reassurance to importers) by setting up a system of
international or regional grain reserves or by providing emergency
financing to be drawn upon if prices spike. But the summit did nothing
to improve the operation of world markets or to cut biofuels
And just as distrust of world trade seems to be growing, so confidence
in domestic markets seems to be falling. According to a review of
national farm policies by the FAO, around two-thirds of developing
countries have undertaken some sort of non-market-based measures to
support farmers since 2007, including input subsidies and price
interventions. The governments of Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone have
started to negotiate with wholesalers to control prices indirectly.
Other countries, such as Madagascar, have imposed direct price
controls. The picture here is mixed: some countries are seeking to
improve the operation of their markets. But six of 34 African
countries which reported their policy responses to the FAO said they
were proposing price controls.
Perhaps the most striking trend is the move from "food security"
towards "food self-sufficiency" as a goal of national policy.
// It is indeed the core of the matter.
The frst means ensuring everyone has enough to eat; the second, growing
it yourself. The Philippines says it hopes to grow 98% of the rice it
needs by next year, though whether it can meet this target is unclear.
"Indonesia must struggle to reach food self-sufficiency," said
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year, announcing big increases
in seed, fertiliser and credit subsidies. Senegal imports 80% of its
rice, putting this small African nation in the top ten rice importers.
Rocked by food riots in 2008, the government responded with what it
called the "Great Offensive for Food and Abundance", and promised to
become self-sufficient in staples. Others with the same aim include
China, Malaysia, Colombia and Honduras.
This shift towards self-sufficiency coincides with growing scepticism
about world trade, examples of price controls and more extensive
government involvement. The FAO has even suggested the shift may
amount to "a change of paradigm" in farming.
Such a shift could undermine the hopes raised by new investment
because farmers would get bogus price signals, efficiency would be
compromised and because, says IFAD's head of operation, "it's harder
to do good projects where the policy environment is poor." Food policy
has never been free. For the past 20 years, agriculture in developing
countries has been dominated by a gradual decline in investment and a
shift towards a somewhat more liberal policy environment. The first
trend is now being reversed, for the better. The worry is that the
second trend will be reversed, too-for the worse.
from PRINT EDITION | International
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