Myths on hunger debunked:

Investment by large private corporations is the only means to solve sustainably the food and hunger problem


Myth 13: Investment by large private corporations is the only means to solve sustainably the food and hunger problem


The opinion that only investment by large private corporations can solve sustainably the food and hunger problem has been prevailing for some time among international organisations, political leaders, experts and the media.

The reason for this is that the responsibility for the failure to combat against hunger and for the occurence of the 2007/2008 food security crisis has been largely attributed to governments and their alleged inability to assist efficiently and effectively those who suffer from hunger and, more generally, food producing farmers. The logical consequence of this view is to turn to the private sector with hope that it could solve the problem. This view is reinforced by the fact that today governments are seeking ways to cut public expenditure. It is true that the private sector, particularly the private financial sector, has immense resources (equivalent to several times the value of global GDP), which, if they were well invested, could help to resolve the abovementioned problems. [read]

But this diagnosis and this new doxa forget three fundamental points:

  1. If governments have been ineffective in their combat against hunger, it is in great part because they were forced by their development partners - particularly the financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank - to cut their expenditure and withdraw from direct intervention in their economies (structural adjustment)

  2. As a consequence, small farmers have largely been excluded from basic agricultural services that could have helped them to increase their production and improve their livelihoods [read]

  3. The objective of the private sector is first and foremost to make profit for its shareholders. Leaders of private corporations do not feel that they are responsible for the promotion of development or the fight against poverty and hunger. For them, most of the 570 million family farms are a constraint rather than an opportunity, and they would prefer to control directly land and water resources in order to produce - an activity that is increasingly profitable since agricultural prices started to rise, ten years ago - rather than to have to deal with a large number of small farmers. It is this preference that explains the huge movement of land grabbing that occurred since the beginning of this century [read]

Moreover, large private corporations envisage agricultural production mainly in its industrial version that rests on monoculture, the massive use of chemical inputs and sophisticated equipment and that depends on a small number of plant species and varieties (often hybrids or GMOs).

The consequences of adopting this approach would be doubly negative and would imply:

  1. An increasing marginalisation of the mass of small farmers who would be deprived of their land, would only have very limited employment opportunities and would be forced to migrate to cities and join the ranks of the impoverished people living in the shanty towns of large cities

  2. The generalisation of non sustainable agriculture that would further contribute to the degradation of natural resources (land, water, forests and biodiversity) and reinforce climate change (through increased greenhouse gas emissions) while becoming more vulnerable to it. [read]

And it is not the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems

that will provide protection to rural communities!

To conclude, the approach based on investment in food and agriculture by large private corporations, as it is envisaged, in particular, by the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition of the G8, far from solving sustainably the issues of hunger and future provision of sufficient food for the world population, would be counterproductive, because:

  1. It would marginalise hundreds of millions of small farmers that it would put in chronic hunger and poverty

  2. It would make the provision of food for the world more vulnerable and less sustainable.

Materne Maetz

(March 2015)


Last update:    March 2015

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