The high-profile economist Prof Jeffrey Sachs says plans by Gulf countries to invest in developing world farms could be “win-win” for both sides, but cautions that the schemes could end in “disaster” if the focus is solely on profits.
"Prof Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said East Africa and other cash-strapped regions could produce enough cereals and meats to feed the UAE and its food-importing neighbours.
But he urged the region’s leaders to help sustainable development rather than chase profits by turning vast tracts of purchased land into mechanised factory farms.
“The idea of the Middle East buying food – not only grains but also meat – from the pastoral regions of East Africa is a real economic opportunity that could work, but it has to be done in a way, I believe, that is sensitive to people’s rights and their economic needs,” said Prof Sachs.
Prof Sachs, an adviser to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and his predecessor, Kofi Annan, said unethical agricultural investment had seen “smallholders pushed aside” by “big commercial projects and mechanised plantations”.
There were, he said, “social implications that could potentially be a disaster. Quite a different model, of course, are out-grower schemes, where small farmers work their individual plots of land, participating in farmer co-operatives that aggregate their output and then go to world markets.”" (From "The National")
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