In a world where poverty is found in rural areas1, a great number of observers greeted the soaring food prices as a “windfall” for farmers in developing countries, on the assumption that their revenues were bound to increase accordingly.
The example of Swaziland, a country that currently profits from an emergency program initiated by the FAO, has just reminded us that reality is slightly different. Faced with increased input prices, farmers in this small southern African nation were not in a position to jumpstart their agricultural production in spite of higher prices. This situation, all the more damaging since Swaziland’s agriculture is mostly sustenance farming, has prompted the FAO to start “input fairs” to offset the country’s shortages of agricultural inputs, especially in seeds.
We will never stress enough the dangers of thinking shortcuts that, if first appealing, remain nevertheless misleading. Indeed, let’s not forget that, a few years ago, international organizations’ experts were “selling” the benefits of low international agricultural prices to fight poverty. These are the same people who, today, defend the contrary without any assessment of suitable bases. Where will this schizophrenia end, that is the question.
1 According to the FAO, 75% of the world’s 750 million people suffering from hunger live in rural areas.