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close this bookAfrican Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)
close this folder3. Food self-sufficiency: Crisis of the collective ideology
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe Lagos plan of action: A critique
View the documentWorld bank 'counter-plan'
View the documentThe United Nations' plan (PPERA)
View the documentFood self-sufficiency strategies: Problems of implementation

The United Nations' plan (PPERA)

Finally, the contradiction (at the level of the problematic and not reality, of course) was resolved by the OAU's adoption at the July 1985 Summit of the five-year(1986-90) programme PPERA.

According to the authors' summary of the document, it is articulated around the following five measures:

1. Implementation of the Lagos Plan of Action and Final Act in an updated form.

2. Improvement of the food situation and rehabilitation of agriculture.

3. Alleviating the external debt burden.

4. Action against the effects of the destabilization policy of South Africa on the economies of southern African States.

5. Measures for a common platform of action at sub-regional, regional, continental and international levels.

It could be portrayed as a stage in the implementation of the Lagos Plan. One may have one's doubts. It may be thought closer to the World Bank's problematic. On the one hand, industrialization is no longer considered as a priority and, on the other, a special solemnity is given to recourse to external assistance. It is, in fact, a programme for the recovery and development of African agriculture and not of food agriculture. It proposes priority for agriculture, not for food crops. It proposes raising productivity without industrialization: thus virtually all the proposed financing ($116 billion out of $120bn) is for agriculture strictly so-called (42.2% of the total), infrastructure supporting agriculture (44.1% of the total), developing associated human resources (2.1 %) and finally the struggle against desertification (5%). Nothing is proposed for industry!

This distribution of resources is inevitably surprising in a plan whose successful implementation formally relies on 30% external funding (and above all Official External Aid); 'formally' since among the own resources (70%), the Plan includes aid already obtained and aid promised. It is surprising because only 5% is devoted to the fight against desertification whereas in my opinion the bulk of external resources should be channelled towards that - most of the other programmes could be carried out with the mobilization of domestic resources, particularly human ones. The naivete in the matter of economic diplomacy is also surprising: the refusal of the 'aiders' to commit themselves solemnly at the United Nations was predictable.

In reality, it is all as if the principle of self-reliance which appeared alongside the request for aid in the Lagos Plan of Action is giving way to the principle of 'partnership'.

In these circumstances, the fact that the Programme (PPERA) puts the accelerated implementation of the updated Lagos Plan of Action as the first measure to be taken ought not to deceive anyone. There has been a move from a stage marked by a coherent voluntaristic doctrine to one marked by the coherence imposed by alleged economic laws said to operate without the intervention of nation-states endowed with unequal powers, the most powerful of which resist the action of economic laws, notably in their external relations.

In addition, does not the United Nations' PPERA threaten to act as a mechanism to divide the Third World, in that, coming after the World Bank's accelerated development programme, it can be taken up by those forces seeking to isolate Africa from the rest of the Third World? In my view, special action to help African states, and especially the poorest, can be taken in the framework of existing structures within the UN system to help the least developed countries. It must be noted that, while the PPERA formally concerns all OAU member states, in reality it deals above all with the problems of sub-Saharan Africa where 25 countries are among the 36 'least developed countries' (LDCs); and the fact is that a structure already exists for dealing with these countries' problems.

It was in 1968 that the 'international community' acknowledged that special international measures were necessary to deal with the real economic and social difficulties of the least developed countries' situation and improve their peoples' extremely low living standards.

In 1972, the Third UNCTAD Conference adopted the first resolution including the whole set of special measures in favour of these countries. UNCTAD held several meetings on this issue. 'Despite these efforts, during the 1970s, the least developed countries were lagging further and further behind and in many cases, regressing.'

The 1981 UN Conference in Paris adopted the 'Substantial New Programme of Action for the 1980s' in favour of the least developed countries for the 1980s. The key objectives were: 1) to make possible the transformation of these countries to put them on the path of self-sustaining development; 2) to enable them to meet some at least of the minimum international standards in nutrition, health, education, transport, marketing and housing, as well as employment opportunities for all citizens and, in particular, for poor peasants; 3) to induce the 'international community' to look upon it as a duty to provide substantial assistance to meet these targets and to do so to complement the national effort.6 The approach at this Paris conference or any other organization need not have singled out Africa and would have been more interesting psychologically.7

In short, in the space of a few years, we have witnessed a sharp ideological shift from nationalism to neo-liberalism and the risk of a weakening of the Southern front from Africa.

The agro-industrial and financial policies of the EC and the United States involve a degree of open anti-Third Worldism. Inevitably, their productivism at any price and the aggressiveness of trade policy have uniformly negative effects on African agriculture. The way packages are sold to African states on credit from Centre states, after quick feasibility and profitability studies by Western consultants, paid for through bilateral or multilateral gifts, is too well-known to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that since the mid-1950s, related to the technological revolution in agriculture that has obliged states in the North to think in terms not of agricultural policies but of agro-food system policies, the goals of food self-sufficiency have been rapidly achieved in Europe, thus at least partially closing-off access to that market to North American products. Competition, notably in cereals, was raging in the world market. By means of food aid, the agro-food systems carved out markets for wheat and milk in the South. Contrary to the IMF's ultra-liberal thesis, the high price policy played a less important role in agricultural policies designed to achieve self-sufficiency than did credit and subsidies. As the French example shows, the prices of agricultural products remained very stable for over 30 years, as did the prices of intermediate consumption goods for agriculture (Table 3.1), while the productivity of agricultural labour rose fivefold!

Table 3.1

France: comparison of production prices and prices of intermediate consumption goods (1970 = 100)

































The fact is, that the credits and subsidies make it possible to put agriculture and agricultural enterprises more firmly under the control of big industry, the banks and big business that dominate the state. This subordination makes possible a more effective production-oriented agricultural policy than that of incentives through the price mechanism.