At one time such plunder would have consisted of “precious” minerals like gold, silver, copper and diamonds. Subsequently, with the advent of industrialisation, the exploiting nations turned their attention to the plundering of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Now, rather than precious metals and fossil fuels, it is arable land and access to water that is most prized by neo-colonialists. Our own populations continue to expand exponentially whilst simultaneously our arable farmland is disappearing, thanks to disastrous modern agricultural processes. Water is becoming increasingly precious because it is a finite resource with more and more of us demanding access to it.
The principal neo-colonialist nations of the 21st century are China, India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the USA and western European nations, in particular the UK. These countries have been buying up arable land at an astonishing rate in some of the poorest nations on Earth, in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.
In recent years China (which has 20% of the world’s population but only 8% of its arable land) has acquired an area of land greater than the size of Wales within the Democratic Republic of Congo where it grows palm oil, cabbages and other produce. It has also bought up a vast tract of land in Mozambique which provides it with peanuts, cashews and sesame seeds.
The major “land grabbers” on the African continent – China, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, South Korea and the UK have between them acquired arable land in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Ghana . These African countries already have problems feeding their own populations, and between them already require billions of dollars and millions of tonnes of food in aid each year. Depleting these impoverished countries of arable land to “solve” the problems created by our failed agricultural model is morally indefensible.
Another country which has fallen prey to the neo-colonialists is Pakistan, where the oil-rich but agriculturally arid countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have each acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land to grow fruit and vegetables and farm livestock for their domestic populations.
In South America, the USA owns huge tracts of arable land in Brazil. In turn, as its own economy has grown, Brazil has bought up farmland in neighbouring Uruguay (as has Argentina and the USA). Much of this land is now used to grow soy beans for cattle feed.
Most of this land acquisition has been achieved “under the radar”, through the use of front investment companies, but it is clear that this stealthy acquisition of farmland in the third world represents a food security strategy of governments in the developed world.
The fact that this all this is happening is also, of course, clear evidence that western agricultural practices are unsustainable and beginning to fail.
Populations in these exploited poorer countries are going to become more hungry as a result of this large scale plundering of land. Rising global inequalities, combined with dwindling access to water, large-scale loss of arable land, the continued effects of climate change and a spiralling world population make for an incendiary mix.
Make no mistake: what we see here is the start of the trenches being dug and the battle lines being drawn. The wars of the future are going to be waged over access to the world’s increasingly scarce supplies of food and water.
On to the recipe, and in complete contrast to me ranting on about impending food shortages, this is the time of year when most vegetable growers realise they’ve ended up with far more courgettes than they know what to do with. This recipe represents one modest suggestion to help tackle this seasonal glut.
The amount of wasabi I suggest in the recipe is just enough to give an elegant lift to the flavours in this this rich, creamy soup. If you would prefer your soup with a bit more of a kick then add a touch more wasabi, but do err on the side of caution.
broccoli, courgette and wasabi soup
300 g broccoli/calabrese, broken into florets
300 g courgettes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp wasabi paste
1 tsp sea salt
1½ litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a few fresh chive leaves, finely chopped
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt, courgette and broccoli and cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring every so often.
2. Add the vegetable stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce to a low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli and courgette are tender.
3. Remove from the heat, add the wasabi paste, stir and leave to cool for a few minutes.
4. Using a blender, process the soup in batches until smooth and creamy. Return to a clean pan and warm the soup over a low heat until it just starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle over the chopped chives.
Tags: land ownership