To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

September 24, 2012

Unrest in Egypt may be spurred by greater dependence on grain imports from US, reduced farmer viability

Why does there appear to be so much widespread pent up rage against the US in the Arab world, even in country considered a long time friend like Egypt?

Political analysts of all shades are groping for answers to this question, with the range of answers as varied as the people who give them. Unfortunately and typically of 'the international media,' not many think to simply ask the Egyptians and other Arabs themselves!

Thomas Kostigen has an interesting take on the issue.  In his article 'Behind Arab riots lie U.S. agricultural policies, he argues part of the antipathy is due to "U.S. policies that disrupt people’s lives and darken rays of hope."

Writes Kostigen,  "The backlash by the Muslim segment of the Arab world goes deeper than one recent, hateful film; it goes back to 1992 when small farmers in Egypt lost their land rights under a reform scheme implemented by former President Hosni Mubarak."

Kostigen cites an article he wrote at the start of Egypt's 2011 anti-Mubarak upheavals, and long before the present protests initially attributed by some to anger over a crude anti-Islamic film.

In the earlier article, Why U.S. farm policy caused Egypt crisis,
Kostigen said under U.S. and International Monetary Fund pressure, "the country’s small farmers who were ‘registered tenants’ became subject to rent increases, in many cases triple what they had been paying. As expected, these small farmers couldn’t afford the steep rent increases and were forced off their land. More than half of all Egyptians live in the countryside, and millions were forced into poverty. Moreover, Egypt itself became more reliant on imports."

Kostigen points out a great deal of those imports that have made many farmers destitute come from the United States. The fact that U.S. wheat and other grain farmers enjoy subsidies that make it that much harder for Egyptian and other world farmers to survive, let alone compete, may have just fueled resentments, suggests Kostigen.

Quips Kostigen, "It’s a great thing to provide food at cheap prices to people. But once a population is hooked on cheap food and then prices rise, as they have to their all-time highs, a shift in mood should be expected."

Some will find it easy to reject Kostigen's contentions as a rant against his country, but he provides the kind perspectives on real-world issues affecting people in country's like Egypt that more prominent political talking heads are completely oblivious of.

U.S. president Barack Obama recently announced a grand initiative to help kick-start agriculture in several African countries. It will be significantly private sector driven.

The Egyptian example given by Kostigen is just one of many reasons some agriculturally-engaged people in Africa are suspicious and worried about the 'help' the U.S. proposes to give for African agriculture. Will it be 'help' to African farmers become more productive and competitive, or will it be actually help to American agricultural corporations to create and find new markets at the expense of African farmers, as Kostigen claims has been the case in Egypt?

In agrarian societies, issues like those pointed out by Kostigen are matters of life and death for millions of people. The damage to livelihoods and resentment over them cannot be compensated by then donating military or other aid to the ruling classes.    

Kostigen provides deep, well written and very readable perspectives on some little known but important contributors to Egyptian's love-hate relationship with the U.S. Too bad it is almost entirely predictable that politicians and government bureaucrats in Washington D.C. will pay little or no heed of the warnings of people like Kostigen that the issues and feelings go far deeper than anger over an anti-Islam film.

African Agriculture

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by

Back to TOP