The Food Situation in Africa and the Rest of the Third World
The Third World is the term used to refer to countries in Africa, Central and South America as well as part of Asia. These are also referred to as Developing Countries or Less Developed Countries (LDCs).
Most of them were colonised by Western European countries and their economies were determined by their former colonisers. Although they gained political independence, the economies of most of these countries have remained weak, while their food situation remains fragile.
Most of their attempts to attain self sufficiency in food production have been unsuccessful. This has led to serious food shortages and so they have had to get food aid from developed countries and international organisations like the World Food Programme (WFP).
Factors that have Contributed to the Shortage of Food in the Third World
Inappropriate Agricultural Policies
Greater attention has been paid to cash crops such as coffee, tea, cocoa, rubber, cotton and sugar-cane at the expense of food crops like maize, rice and wheat. This is a carry-over from the colonial period when cash crops from the colonies served as raw materials for the industries in the "home" countries.
Large tracts of land as well as a lot of resources have been devoted to these cash crops at the expense of food crops. This trend did not change at independence as these crops were and continue to be the main earners of foreign exchange.
Adverse Climatic Conditions
Most Third World countries lie within the tropics. Many of these countries experience climatic conditions characterised by little or no rain at all. It is in these areas that most deserts are found like Sahara and Kalahari deserts of Africa. The Sahel Belt of West Africa is another example.
Rapid Population Growth
The rate of population growth exceeds the rate of food production in most of these countries, leading to food shortages. This is further complicated by the fact that most of the population is wholly dependent and is not involved in food production due to their young age.
Insufficient Infrastructural Development
In most of these countries, infrastructural development in transport, communication, storage facilities and marketing is insufficient. Efforts by farmers to improve yields are often frustrated by this.
The poor transport and communication network in most Third World countries has hampered the investment in food production which requires immediate access to markets and storage facilities.
Rural-urban migration has increased labour shortage in the rural areas and negatively affected food production. A bias towards white collar jobs within the population is partly responsible for this drift.
In Africa, the HIV/AIDS scourge is seriously affecting the availability of labour for agriculture, as most of those infected are those that are economically active. This has made the aged and very young to assume the responsibility of working on the farms so as to feed the greater majority, a task they can hardly perform leading to low agricultural output.
Lack of capital to buy costly machinery, and fertilisers, and to practise modern agriculture has had adverse effects on food production.
Consequently, farmers in most Third World countries are still using traditional methods and tools like hoes and digging sticks which limit the area that can be cultivated. This limits the yields.
Destructive human activities like cutting down trees expose the soil. These coupled with overgrazing have led to soil erosion, landslides and a decline in soil fertility. These have lowered food production.
Pests and Diseases
These have rendered many potentially productive areas useless. Such areas include those infested with tsetse flies, and locusts. Pests such as the grain borer, locusts and the army worms have destroyed large quantities of food crops in the Third World countries.
Poor Processing Facilities
The processing facilities in many of these countries are poorly equipped and are therefore inefficient. Many of the processing firms do not pay the farmers that provide the raw materials promptly, a situation that has discouraged the farmers from seeking ways and means of improving production.
Many countries in the Third World suffer from various natural calamities such as floods and droughts. These destroy farmland and lowers crop yields.
Political instability in several Third World countries has diverted attention from food production. Many countries in Africa have experienced war and so they have relied on food imports. Many have been rendered as refugees hence dependant on food aid.
The Declining Production of Indigenous Crops
The production of disease and drought- resistant indigenous crops like cassava, yams, sorghum and millet has declined. Farmers have opted for crops such as maize, wheat and rice without paying attention to their suitability for the area.
Overdependence on Donations and Foreign Aid
This has greatly affected investment in agriculture as more of these donations from external donors like the World Bank are used in cash crop than in food crop production.
Consequently, the economic programmes of Third World countries are altered to suit these donors. This has also led to a situation where Third World countries have heavy annual debt repayments that leave inadequate finances for the agricultural sector.
Poor Implementation of Policies
Many Third World countries lack the commitment to implement the plans and policies on food production that they design.
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