One of the principal issues that affects land and resource use is that of food security. It is a well recited point that more and more food needs to be produced to feed a growing and ever hungrier population. In addition, this must be achieved in the face of growing resource scarcity and unprecedented global climate change.
Indeed this is a pressing humanitarian issue. Yet the manner in which it is addressed has intimate consequences over who gets to control arable land.
This dramatic discourse has been used to justify major acquisitions of land and natural resources by governments and agribusiness giants. Financial speculators have also jumped in to profit from the desirability of arable land for food production. Some have called this land grabbing, others see it as land investment.
Yet the current model of industrial agriculture, based on technical inputs controlled by a handful of agribusiness corporations, has proven catastrophically inefficient at allocating food supplies. Often it is rural peasants and indigenous communities that have been marginalised and ironically plunged into hunger as a result.
The focus on increasing volume of outputs has deflected attention from more important aspects of food security. Distribution is key: we already produce enough food to feed the world and more, yet the structure of the global food system creates both widespread hunger and mass food wastage at the same time.
In addition, the logic of the superior efficiency of ‘modernised’ industrial agriculture has become increasingly questionable. Evidence has started to suggest that smaller scale agro-ecological production, as already practiced by many of the worlds peasant producers, is more efficient in terms of output and distribution to starving populations. Despite this, small-scale rural producers continue to be ignored in policy, and continue to be forced off their lands to make way for ‘necessary’ agricultural modernisation.
Challenging the dominant discourse on food security is essential in striving for greater justice in land and resource use. Making these marginal discourses visible can also help to provide real solutions for the problem at hand.