Rethinking “food security” in Africa




Food Security, Agricultural Development, Africa


First paragraphs:

In Food Security for Rural Africa: Feeding the Farmers First, Terry Leahy makes what he knows is an unpopular argument: that subsistence—not com­mercial—agriculture is the surest path to food security. Since the colonial era, government offi­cials—and, later, development agencies—have sought to convert African smallholder farmers into industrial producers. Today, certain proponents of a “new” Green Revolution for Africa are guided by the theory of the agricultural exit, the idea that agri­cultural consolidation is essential for economic growth, and that such consolidation requires a majority of farmers to find off-farm employment.

It is in this context that Leahy intervenes and warns that a hypothetical agricultural exit would lead to a population of landless peasants. As an alternative, Leahy argues for reinvestment into subsistence agriculture, what he defines as when “food being produced is distributed without money changing hands” (2019, p. xii). This definition is purposely broad, as it allows Leahy to consider a variety of strategies to strengthen food production at the household level first and to plan for the market second. Such a model, Leahy argues, is not “a traditional relic of past practices,” as some detractors of the phrase “subsistence” often sug­gest, but rather, “a response to current problems” embedded in the current capitalist moment (2019, p. 132). . . .


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Author Biography

Joeva Rock, University of California, Berkeley

Anthropologist and Lecturer

Cover of "Food Security for Rural Africa"



How to Cite

Rock, J. (2020). Rethinking “food security” in Africa. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(1), 277–279.