Almost two years ago the Agriculture Matters Initiative was launched. It has worked wonders. The Kingdom imported hundreds of tractors and sold them at throw-away prices to those we owe for their support during the elections. We’re inviting plenty of large scale investors to buy big tracts of land (at a reasonable commission of course) and have introduced a fertilizer voucher scheme that generates very smooth pays offs to my people.
The Agriculture Matters Initiative has also helped keep the inquisitive donors at bay. As the Kingdom’s homegrown plan to address poverty, their rhetoric of country ownership leaves the foreigners little choice but to embrace the initiative. Even the smarter foreign sponsors who smell a rat (after all which country asks the business sector to develop its poverty reduction strategy?) prefer to ignore the initiative’s inconsistencies in the interest of good relations.
Now that our self-promoting scheme is bearing ‘results’ and paying my supporters handsomely, complaints crop up. The other day an academic argued that the credit window of the Agriculture Matters Bank is not pro-poor because it only allows loans of at least Kingdom Shillings 100 million, a massive amount. Well, of course, the amount is massive. These loans are meant for my supporters; not for peasants! It was a great move to state that small cultivators should organize themselves into groups to qualify for the loans. They’ll never manage to do that.
While I will deal with the academic who raised the loan issue, the fact that people start to express concern demonstrates the need to be careful. I should avoid that the Agriculture Matters Initiative creates dissent amongst my most loyal power base: smallholder farmers. It seems that the Initiative creates fear of being displaced from agriculture, their livelihood, because of losing their land to land grabbing large-scale investors.
The remarks by the former Secretary General of the United World, who leads another large scale agriculture initiative, were helpful. He stated that “responsible large scale farming systems can play an important role in directly supporting small farmers through technical advice, transfer of new technology and support and access to markets”. Maybe I can tell my supporters to change tack a bit and make sure that in addition to enriching themselves, also peasants benefit. And possibly I can hear more from the former Secretary General when he visits the Kingdom: he really seems to understand our situation.
23 March 2011
* A quick apology: this post is terribly late as I have been lax in my blogging lately. As punishment The King has given me a manual lawn mower and ordered me to clear up the Ikulu grounds. I guess it's better than the dungeons.