HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsJust how sovereign is a hungry nation?

Just how sovereign is a hungry nation?

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Food production last season improved remarkably compared to a year ago where over half the population qualified for food handouts.

The humanitarian situation remains fragile, with over 1,3 million still in need of food aid from January to March 2011.

Bread prices went up following Russia’s grain export moratorium after drought and veld fire wilted their grain fields, pushing the price of grain to a 23-month high.

Though Russia has enough for its people, many people still can’t figure out how a sovereign and independent country like Zimbabwe can have its food prices affected by a Russian prime minister’s grain export freeze.

A thousand times we have been reminded that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again: just how sovereign is a hungry nation?

Sovereignty is the right of a country to govern itself. It is the entitlement of having supreme power to rule, make laws and independent authority over a territory.

Thomas Hobbes, a political philosopher, throws a spin by stating that the ruler’s sovereignty is contracted to him/her by the people in return for maintaining their safety, security and welfare including food affordability and availability.

He further concludes that if the ruler fails to do this, the people are released from their obligation to obey him.

That the government is unable to protect its people from the effects of a Russian veld fire is an indication of waning territorial and leadership sovereignty.

While politicians can use the effects of globalisation as an excuse, in my view, exposing your people to the vagaries of external economic and political pressures is a threat to their lives and national security since food is a serious security issue.

A country that can’t feed its people can’t be completely secure and sovereign.

Food price hikes sparked massive strikes in Mozambique recently, forcing the government to reverse its decision to cut subsidies on basic commodities and services.

In Haiti two years ago, food riots led to loss of lives and forced departure of their prime minister.

Food is not just a soft power issue but also a hard power issue therefore food aid, though vital for saving lives in dire situations, exposes a country to external political and ideological manipulation, which further threatens the aspect of sovereignty.

Western donors have political and economic agendas to pursue, an aid industry to feed, their farmers to placate and very little to worry about Zimbabwe, apart from it being an excess food market.

Food aid is sometimes used as an entry point to influence ideological and regime changes under the guise of strengthening “stability, peace and democracy, and participation of people living under repressive regimes”.

Europe protects and defends its agriculture industry because authorities consider food for the people as a more serious security issue than a military threat.

The United States and India also support and defend their agriculture extremely energetically, passionately and effectively.

The US even aims to undertake an economic strategy that asserts them political power and supremacy of their “green power” because they understand that if they control food, the source of life, they can control the global agenda.

Why shouldn’t it be our government’s first priority to ensure that citizens have enough to eat?

The denial of access to food is in fact the denial of the right to life itself. It boggles the mind that after a decade of land reform, most of the farms remain under-utilised, while the country goes hungry.

We can avoid this worst form of human suffering by dumping some of the archaic nationalism policies which have created this disaster in which we find ourselves today.

We need to ensure fields are being planted for upcoming harvests.

The government should, in addition to creating a conducive environment, provide incentives, to lure strategic local companies and partners into food production.

I find it logical to have fewer land owners who can produce enough food to wean the country off food handouts and importations than a situation where everyone owns land and yet everyone is hungry.

There is urgent need to rearrange our agriculture sector, ensure that we produce our own food and stop these socialist experimental land reform policies of patronage.

The recently released Food Security Risk Index 2010 should have sent enough warning signs to any serious policymaker or planner.

It places Zimbabwe among the top 10 countries to be extremely affected by food shortages as a result of extreme climate changes.

The future of rain-fed farming, the lifeline for many peasant and new farmers, looks gloomy.

Not even the sendekera jingles can save the situation unless there is colossal investment into irrigation and other sources of water for agriculture.

That alone is beyond the reach of many new farmers, which therefore calls for strategic corporates which can invest resources into this vital sector of lives.

For as long as veld fires and droughts in Russia and floods in Canada directly affect our food prices, for as long as millions of our people rely on food aid, for as long as the little money we have is used to import food while our people are sitting on fertile vast pieces of land, then our independence and sovereignty is highly questionable.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria , South Africa

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