Adonis Diaries

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The world’s food basket: Africa is heaven for agribusiness investments.

( Part 2, Nov. 12, 2009)

You may read part 1: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/africa-is-targeted-to-be-exclusively-the-worlds-food-basket/

Let us plan for the year 2050; most probably earth will be inhabited by 10 billions humans.  We are barely feeding the current world population and millions are dying of famine related malnutrition.  Many under-developed States with vast “fertile” lands are leased or acquired by foreign agribusinesses. 

So far, 30 millions hectares (the size of 30 Lebanon or the size of the Philippines) are already in use for mass agricultural production.  Even China, rich in water and fertile lands, is leading this policy of “getting out of the borders”. 

There are two main reasons for China investing in agriculture overseas:

First, more water is diverted to the thousands of giga-urban centers;

Second, water is so heavily polluted by heavy industrialization that agriculture is suffering,

Third, climatic changes are transforming main wheat fields in the north into semi-desert lands,

Fourth, while the US and Britain are fighting their preemptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China takes the great opportunity to sureptitiously invest in infrastructures in Africa that lead to the raw material fields

Africa is the target continent because it has four large and long rivers such as the Nile, the Congo, and the Niger Rivers.  The Sudan, Mozambique, and the Democratic Congo are prime targets in the medium-term. Vast fertile lands are left unproductive for lack of investment and manpower.

  Theoretically, we should have win-win situations, but the facts are that the contracts of the multinational agribusinesses are not transparent:

1. There are no clauses on specificities that might benefit the population either in technology or land development.

2. Most of the contracts are barely three pages long and contain no precisions on investors’ obligations toward investing in infrastructures, durable management of the natural resources, or the training of the local peasants for developing small parcels of land and applying the technology. 

The President of Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown,  said:

“Essentially, the technologies used by these agro-investments are meant for massive commercial production and not adaptable to the concerned small local farmers.  There is basically no transfer of technology or training. Thus, what the foreign investors are acquiring in lands is not going to feed the local population as we might hope.”

Let us consider the case of the oil rich Arab Gulf States: rice is their main staple and it has to be imported in totality. These States imported a third from India and then India had to curtail its exportation of rice due to climatic problems in order to feed its citizens.  These Emirate Gulf States imported 10% from Thailand (the first exporter of rice in the world) but then Thailand doubled the price of its rice to $1,000 the ton. 

How the Arab Gulf States were to counter this difficulty?  Their Sovereign Funds could be invested in rice fields in Thailand and that what they started to do. You could have a win-win situation: there are vast lands in Thailand that are not cultivated; increasing rice production should not hurt Thailand since rice prices are increasing and Thailand needs to secure oil provision. 

Instead of purchasing 10% of its need in rice from Thailand, the Arab Gulf States might increase it to 40%. One happier story: Thailand needs to establish a rice warehouse in the Arab Gulf to distribute rice at affordable prices.  Things should look pretty promising.  Joint-ventures in agribusinesses where Sovereign Funds invest the money and the Thai peasants got to work in jobs they are proficient in should not raise so much fuss: should it?

The problem is that internal politics in Thailand want a scapegoat: Arabs buying lands in Thailand; or rice production is a strictly national occupation and should be 100% reserved for citizens (as if the Arab is going to relocate to plant rice in Thailand!); or Thailand is not Africa and we are a developed nation.

Another case is Madagascar, a vast Island in East Africa. 

The standard of living in Madagascar has fallen below the one in 1960.  Why Independence pride has to be highly correlated with miseries in the former colonial States?  Major deforestation is the norm in Madagascar: people need to cook their meals! The South Korean Daewoo wanted to lease 1.3 million hectares for 99 years.

What it is with this taboo of 99 years lease of lands? Does every investor has in the back of his head to let his grand child witness his greatness and pray for his great spirit? The deal fell apart after the President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, fell out of power.

Apparently, not much transparency and communication were accompanied to that deal. In the meanwhile cattle thieves “dahalo” are on rampage. Even the tiny Maurice Island acquired lands (10,000 ha) in Mozambique for the island food sufficiency. Ramakrishna Karuturi (the king of rose production in 4 millions hectares) is leasing the hectare for two dollars a year in Ethiopia! Now, there can be no doubt that the Ethiopian government had received a fat bribe for such a lousy deal.

The Congo with Capital Brazzaville is half the size of France with barely 4 million citizens concentrated in the Capital and the other city Pointe-Noire on the coast. This African States was a French colony and is rich in minerals and uranium.  It cultivates potatoes.  

South Afrikaners who lost 30% of their agricultural lands for redistribution programs to the black citizens want to acquire or lease lands in this Congo; the Agri SA (South Africa) has 1,700 agribusinesses interested in producing soja, sugar cane, and corn. Ten million hectares were literally offered to the Afrikaners (a land stretching 500 by 200 km, twice the size of Switzerland) and its location is not yet decided upon; maybe entire virgin forests might be burned for agriculture. The Agri SA is promising to build agro-villages with ready-made houses contracted to Israeli firms.  What if the deal demanded that thousands of Congolese be trained to develop and grow lands after two years of working in the Afrikaners’ lands?  This deal is a striking political and ecological scandal because the terms of the deal are fishy and not communicated to the citizens.

Kazakhstan is practically a continent in size and barely 1% of the land is privately owned.  This rich and newly independent State imports 40% of milk, 30% of meat, and 45% of fruits and vegetables. The population is mostly rural. The States lease lands for 49 years. 

The State of Kazakhstan has set aside 35,000 square-kilometers to lease to foreign investors but only China is interested. Europe is not interested in leasing lands in Kazakhstan but China is.  China has already leased 40,000 hectares and planning on increasing its agribusinesses.

The long-term “Revenge of Geography”; (Oct. 30, 2009)

In ancient times, oceans, seas, high mountain chains, vast deserts, large rivers, and lakes formed natural barriers that separated settled tribes from nomadic ones.  Eventually, rivers were no longer major barriers for demographic explosions and warrior-like tribes; deserts were sort of conquered with caravans of camels by 2,000 BC that originated in Yemen; mountain chains could be overcome when the other side did not offer any worthy hardships for the wealth and bounty of fertile lands.  The Mediterranean Sea was the playground for commerce and trade of the Greeks, Phoenician City-States of Sidon, Tyr, and Byblos; later Carthage, the Roman Empire, and the Byzantium Empire conquered this sea.  Major oceans were criss-crossed by the gigantic Chinese fleet as early as 1000 AC that reached the Arabic Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.  By the 15th century, Portugal and then Spain conquered the Pacific and then the Atlantic and started the colonial period that lasted five centuries and is still going on under different labels and forms.

“It is man who has the power to create; it is nature that commands to a large extent” said Harold Mackinder in 1904.  To Mackinder, the “Heartland zone” of earth is that vast land forming Russia, Central Asia, and parts of Central Europe.  All imperial military and economic strategies such as the British and the USA were based on encircling this “heartland” with military and trade zones. 

Russia was plagued by invasions from Mongolia and Central Asia and thus, to create durable buffer zones Russia countered by expanding into that “heartland” toward Siberia in the East, Central Asia toward Turkey and Iran, and then toward Central Europe in the West.  China also suffered from relentless invasions from Mongolia and the south east civilizations and endeavored to expand westward into Tibet and Central Asia and southward into South-East Asia.  Europe turned overseas since the 15th century to open up and conquer trade implants and then colonize the bordering regions around the “pivotal heartland”.  The 13 federated states in America expanded to the Pacific Ocean and toward Mexico.

Along the borders of the “Heartland pivot land” there are natural blocks of lands such as the South-East (from Vietnam to Burma or Maynamar with their jungles); the Indian sub-continent with the Himalaya and the Indo-Kouch mountain chains which include all of current Pakistan, then you have Iran that includes all of Afghanistan, then you have Turkey and the Caucasus. That is how the 21st century is looking like when all is settled.

The main power will reside on who control the sources of the major rivers.  China has conquered Tibet because three main rivers take their sources from the Himalaya mountain chains; mainly the Mekong (that flow into the South East), the Indus (that flow in Pakistan), and the Brahmapoutre that flow in India and join the Gange River.  China has already built 86,000 dams along the Blue and Yellow Rivers that take sources on the western plateaus; China has not consulted with the South East countries and has already built four mega dams on the Mekong, including two huge lakes that will take about 10 years to fill in order to generate hydraulic power.

Turkey controls two huge rivers the Euphrates and the Tiger that flow in Syria and Iraq.  Turkey has been building dams on these rivers without consulting with the southern neighboring States.  Ethiopia is in control of the Nile if it wishes to.  The US has been building dams along rivers that flow into Mexico.

The USA would like you to believe that there are no natural borders for its military might. That is not a half truth; it is a lie and a psychological propaganda.  Planes, missiles, tanks, and navy do not conquer lands: it is the walking soldier that does this job in order to retain any conquered land. If there is the will to resist in a rough geographic landscape then there can be no conquest. The US used all kinds of defoliate gas (Orange gas) in the jungles of Vietnam but it had to declare defeat and retreat in total chaos; it is already preparing plans to retreat from Afghanistan; it gave up rapidly after the first major skirmish in Somalia.  If the US managed to enter Baghdad it is because there was no will to resist by the people: they wanted to get rid of despot Saddam Hussein; the US is packing up and leaving next year after pressuring the Iraqis to sign an agreement.

Yes, we are witnessing the era of “Anthropocene” which means man is doing more damages to the environment than nature can stabilize but the main reality is there to account for: sources of water.  China, Turkey, Russia, USA, and Brazil control sources of major rivers.  The main struggle in the medium-term is who will control the Nile, the Congo, and Niger Rivers in Africa. Water desalination of Oceans and the towing of icebergs will do for a while but cannot resolve a long-term problem in water shortages.  Actually, huge displacement of people from megapolis to near water sources will have to be undertaken because of the huge investment of supplying water to big urban cities and in order to recover sub-terrain naps and natural ecosystems.

Lions and lionesses along the Fertile Crescent ancient Empires, (August 16, 2008)

 Major civilizations built empires and cities along major rivers such as the Nile, Euphrates, Tiger, Indus (Pakistan), Ganges (India), and the Yellow River in China.

The best approach to explaining the succession of civilizations and Empires in the Fertile Crescent that raided and conquered the Near East civilizations such as in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria (Phoenicia, Canaan, Aram) is the analogy of survival among the lions and lionesses.

Young lions that attained two years, after being chased out of the clan, prowl the region for lionesses to mate and establish clans of their own.

Old lions are attacked and displaced and the cubs are eaten and slaughtered by the new King in order to quickly attract the lioness in heat and then new progenitors are formed.  The lioness fights valiantly to preserve her cubs but ends up giving up. Since a lion lives on average to be 10 year-old, while the lioness can outlive him by 7 years and manages to diffuse many progenitors of her owns, then the survival of these mammal carnivores is mainly due to the survival of the lionesses.  The lionesses chase and bring meat to the clan and care for the cubs.

Almost all the ancient civilizations in the Middle East, the Nile River of Egypt excluded, were established along the Fertile Crescent longing the main Rivers of Litany, Al Assi, Euphrates and the Tiger (for example, the people inhabiting Lebanon, Syria, the southern part of Turkey, the Western part of Iran and Iraq). The warrior Empires were Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Pharaonic Egypt, Hittite, Greek, Seleucia, Roman, and later Byzantium, Sassanid, Arab (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid), Seljuk, Crusaders, Mamelukes, and Ottomans.

The young male lions from emerging warrior Empires, during their conquests and expansion, reclaimed the civilized glory and achievements of the Near East people as their own proper.  The Near East people were constantly behaving like the lionesses: they first fight the good fight for their cubs, and when they inevitably fail against the young lions, then they mate with the conquerors after the invaders had tried to kill all their progenitors.

A few citizens of City-States like Sidon and Tyr, and much later Carthage, burned down their cities and then set fire on themselves to avoid servitude and surrender. While the young occupying lions were strutting and showing off in the regions, and adapting to the new civilizations, it was the constant duty of the lionesses to chase and bring the meat to the table and care for the household.

The Near East people were bringing the food to the tables of the invaders and caring for the glamour and wants of the occupation forces, whose sole job was to making war and killing on their war paths.

I read chapters from an Arabic book by Georges Masrou3a.  Masrou3a asked an archeologist about the Achmoun Temple in Sidon “Saida”, built around 550 BC.  The foreign archeolog replied that it was a Persian design from King Kourush One period. Masrou3a then asked the archeologist why he claimed that it is Persian, and the latter said because that is what the archeology archives claim to be.

Fact is, Persia had no such Temple at Kourush’s time; even if the Persian King paid for the monuments and palaces at the expense of the invaded people, that should not be a basis to claim achievements of other civilizations.

This is the same repeat story with the temples in Baalbek.  The archeologists would claim that it was the work of the Romans since 200 BC, but if this monument was of Roman style and glory, then why the Romans failed to build something close to it in Rome or in Italy?

We have the same contentions for the impressive horse track and humongous amphitheater in Tyr (500 by 200 meters) that was built before 500 BC according to Herodotus. If this amphitheater was the work and style of the Romans, then why did the Roman wait another three centuries to build their Coliseum?

The same goes to the Jerusalem Temple even though the architects, builders and foramen and craftsmen and master workers were from Tyre during King Hiram or “Ahiram”.

Euclid, Zeno, Plotin, Tales, Homer, Pythagoras and scores of great thinkers were born and lived in our coastal City-States stretching from Palestine to Turkey such as Akka, Tyr, Sidon (called the eldest son of Canaan in the Bible), Beirut, Byblos, Ugarit, Antakya, and so on and yet they were labeled as Greeks.

Is it simply because we were under Greek dominion that our famous thinkers should be Greeks, simply because they learned the Greek language, even if they didn’t enjoy the privileges of Greek Athens citizens?  Scores of our famous people were labeled Romans simply because we were under Roman hegemony.

For example, the eminent legal masters during the third century Papinian and Olympian lived in Beyrouth (Beryt); Olympian is indeed the martyr of jurists because he adamantly refused to offer a legal opinion in favor of Emperor Caracalla for killing of his brother Jetta.  If this is the case, then why Jesus is to be simply a Jew and not Roman?  St. Paul was actually a Roman citizen inherited from his father and great father and yet, Paul is said to be simply a Jew.

There is undoubtedly a systematic disinformation concerning the cultural heritage of the Near Eastern civilizations.

The Europeans, even before the Renaissance period, purposely have chosen to start their civilization from Ancient Greek in 600 BC because they claimed to be democratic nations and had to emulate the democratic system in Greek City-State Athens.  Democracy was developed in the City-States of Byblos, Sidon, Tyr, Ugarit and Mary several centuries before Athens existed.  These City-States had democracy within their city limits as Athens and Rome emulated later on. Why within city-State limits?  Because communication and transport were limited and the administration of such a complex democratic system was not feasible at a larger magnitude at the time; thus democracy was not translated to the colonies as Greek Athens also failed to do.

Theaters and plays, via their verbal communications, were the main medium for spreading democracy and the clashing of ideas of various opposition groups; plays created a citizen consciousness that is different from immediate civic consciousness of oratorical speeches.  The Near Eastern civilizations were ahead of Athens several centuries in theater plays; Athens got the attention because a few of its written literatures were preserved and translated.  For example, Aeschylus wrote over 90 works but only seven of his tragedies remained to prove the dynamics of Athens’ democratic system.

Although these City-States developed commercial empires, they never built theocratic warrior Empires because their citizens focused on civilized endeavors and opted in armed struggles to just defending their central Cities. Athens managed to defend its civilization outside its City limits and even asked the cooperation of other Greek City-States like Sparta and the famous Thebes that the Phoenicians had built centuries before Athens existed, and which Alexander erased completely before launching his Asian campaign.

 We can confirm that the Near East region was the bedrock of all civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea in religion, philosophy, sciences, literature and arts. Regardless of genetic sources, which are an amalgamation of many nations and which is not that important for the purpose of this article, anyone from current States in the Near East should take pride in their ancient civilizations and their original identity as the forefathers of contemporary modern democratic civilizations in Europe and the Greater Mediterranean Sea regions.

 Note 1:  Many USA and Western diplomats have described Lebanon during its civil war (1975-1991) as a special quarantine area, sustained by the super powers to retaining the quarantine, in order to prevent the spread of the Middle East social and political diseases of feudalism, sectarianism, tribalism, caste systems, and extremist ideologies in the Arabic and Islamic States to the surrounding and eventually the Western nations.

These diplomats failed to add the disease of apartheid which is the trademark of the State of Israel. This quarantine lasted for more than 17 years and in the meanwhile the USA administrations in the 80’s and 90’s created, financed and trained a potent disease in Afghanistan.

Note 2: Every stated rescue mission to Lebanon was not meant for the stability and security of the Lebanese people, but for the purpose of larger strategic geopolitical interests in the Middle East with the land of Lebanon as a staging base.  It is the Lebanese who encouraged the other nations to look at them, not as a Nation, but anonymous people living on a piece of land that the UN admitted among the “independent” States.

This is so because all the successive Lebanese governments never behaved as administering a Nation, but as fief hoods for sectarian leaders who rule over modern serfs.  Even after an unimaginably lengthy and terrible civil war, which lasted 17 years, every single monster of war-lord was pardoned by a decree from the Parliament and the ferocious sectarian leaders were inducted into the successive governments and Parliaments.

Note 3: Arnold Toynbee said that for certain people, history necessarily repeat itself because they are lazy students. Most probably, it seems that history repeats itself because philosophical concepts or paradigms on life, death, the nature of Gods, free will, predestination keep repeating themselves.

The Lebanese certainly are not very hot on archiving their history and even less on reading and revisiting their past: we have the tendency to say that what is past is past and we don’t care but for the present, and how to live a good life. This saying is true for the public consumption because, on the individual level, family feuds never vanish or are forgotten, or forgiven:  Grandchildren still hate the grandchildren of another family simply because they overheard that their grand-grand parents were in feud.

Lebanon and Palestine have suffered the same calamities of past history again and again. These two States might never had chance for lasting peace and stability. Syria could have fallen in the same trap because it was seriously targeted by the super powers if this dictatorship in Syria didn’t manage to re-read its history and learn from past adversities at the expense of democracy. Syria never managed to bed with theocratic systems, except Damascus.

In ancient history, the City-States in  “inland Syria” barely put a fight to a powerful invader, as if it learned to normally change skins and share in the dominion of the new Empire that displaced the former, as if Syria believed it was actually the new invader.

Note 4:  At the current rate of modernization and deforestation, most of the aborigines tribes would disappear within a few decades. Many civilizations have vanished but a few have managed to survive precariously so far.  Currently we still have the ethnic Saamis (Norway and Finland), Inuits (Siberia, Alaska, and Canada), Ainous (Japan), Indians (USA and Canada), Zapotec (Mexico), Mosquitos (Nicaragua), Quiches (Guatemala), Cunas (Panama), Yanomamis and Guaranis (Brazil), Galibis and Akawaios (Guyana), Paez ans Guambianos (Colombia), Waoranis (Equator), Amueshas (Peru), Chimanes (Bolivia), Araucans (Chili), Touaregs and Bororos (Sahel in Northern Africa), Tigres (Ethiopia and Somalia), Dinkas (Sudan), Masais (Kenya and Tanzania), Pygmees (Zaire), Sans or Bushmen (Namibia and Botswana), Kalingas (Philippines), Kachins and Rohingas (Myanmar or Birmani), Hmongs (Laos), Santals and Gonds (India), Punans (Malaysia), Uzbeks and Tadjiks (Afghanistan), Aborigines (Australia), Maoris (New Zealand), Papous (New Guinea).


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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