Foreign investment in agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean food security is in danger
But there’s a risk associated with it. These massive agricultural investments, which produce food and cash crops that are exported, could result in the loss of land rights local to the area and access. It could also be a threat to the sovereignty of food, which is the power of the people to control the distribution and production of food.
In all land use uses, there are positive and negative impacts and outcomes that the authorities and communities must consider during the negotiations of these agreements. It is generally believed that the effects of these investment decisions on family nutrition security and the rural economy are mainly negative. However, very few studies have been conducted to verify this assumption.
We conducted one such research on Madagascar and discovered that massive land acquisitions do not always bring these negative consequences. When it comes to tackling the issue of combating poverty, it’s essential to be aware of what’s actually taking place on the ground.
Beating the pros and cons
The land is crucial to the lives, food security, and social identity of many. Lack of access to adequate and safe access to natural resources and land is the main cause of poverty and hunger. Around the world, half of the people who suffer in need come from smallholder farmers. One in five of these households is landless.
The global narrative is focused on the negative consequences of land investment. It usually focuses on the negative effects on those who rely on grazing, fishing, and access to the forest.
However, investments in agriculture can provide employment opportunities, provide contracts and outgrower possibilities, facilitate rent markets for land, enhance access to markets, and boost the development of infrastructure. Opportunities like these could help in reducing poverty and improving the security of food by increasing incomes and improving the supply of nutrition.
The Madagascar Case Madagascar
Madagascar is among the most sought-after countries for investments based on land in Africa, with an estimated 1.4 million hectares of land in completed agreements. We looked at the effects on food security of massive agricultural investments in the region of Madagascar.
Security in food is achieved when families are provided with adequate, healthy, and safe food sources to satisfy their nutritional requirements. The concept of food security can be diverse and is not a simple, internationally recognized measure. This is why we employed seven internationally accepted indicators to determine the impact of large-scale investments in agriculture on the dimensions of security for food in Madagascar.
The study focused on two models of agribusiness.
There were a handful of households who complained of losing the rights to land. The research study on Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique discovered that patterns of land use have changed as the businesses changed grasslands to croplands. Unfortunately, the levels of food security for the local communities before the introduction of the agribusiness ventures were not documented. This hindered the ability to conclude the possible changes that might be taking place.
The study thus concentrated on comparing the health and nutrition of 3 types of households that are part of agricultural industries.
Living in the areas of the major agricultural businesses (within a 25km radius) was not found as a cause of low household food security. In this case, at least one of the members worked for the largest Agribusiness, or contracted with these firms. We discovered that households that the agribusiness employed had more secure in their food than other households.
Their diets were not diverse, but this was likely due to the income earned from work wasn’t enough to pay for the variety of nutritious foods. A lack of diversity in diets can limit the intake of micronutrients that are essential and can result in lower efficiency of adults and negatively impact the development and growth of kids.
Families with employees experienced less hunger than households that engage in contract farming. They also experienced there were fewer months of food supply, due to their regular earnings. However, many households had no assets to sell during times of crisis. This weakened the ability of households to deal with the threat of food insecurity should a drop in income or a natural catastrophe occur. The payment was sufficient to keep them from starving but not enough to save or put money into assets to ensure the future.