What exactly is famine? Many people think that famine is always caused by environmental factors, but this was not the cause for the African famines. Famine can be defined as a natural or man-made disaster. Some of the signs of a famine may be the price of food goes up, certain amount of economic distress, minor migration to different countries, increase in crime, or an increase in population. These were all of the signs of the African famine.
When people think of a famine, many people think about, bad weather, poor soil, or even lack of water. But what was different from any regular famine and Africa’s famine is that it was a direct result of man-made disasters. One of the reasons for the African famines may be the lack of communication in some areas. Some cities and villages do not have the means of communication that some of the more prosperous countries enjoy. They do not have telephones and they don’t always have post offices and many of the people in Africa live in small villages outside of cities. Another reason why the famine can be considered a man-made disaster is the lack of capital in parts of Africa. Countries in Africa just cannot support their own economy and they don’t want to ask for help because they think that it is embarrassing. There were so many more people that were unemployed in Africa then those that had jobs. Those who did have jobs sometimes did not receive enough money yet to support themselves and their family. Lack of capital and communication was just the beginning for the long road to the African famines.
Another one of the reasons why Africa had a famine was all the poor decisions that the people of the African nations made. First of all, the farmers were not properly educated on how to efficiently farm the land. All the farmers thought that it was best to farm cash crops, which is far from the truth. This was imposed on them by some of the European powers, such as France, Britain, Russia, and Germany. Cash crops were crops, from which one gets money for exportation. Sometimes farmers were not even able to export these crops because of the lack of transportation. What they farmers should have learned to do was how to use the soil, such as rotating crops, which crops to plant in what kind of soil, not planting crops in a field one year to let the nutrients come back to the soil. If the farmers had had an education they would have learned these simple ideas and could have avoided the famine. Colonial interference made it impossible for farmers to learn about new ways and innovations. Not only were their poor decisions made agriculturally, but also politically. People that played an instrumental role in politics in some of the African nations saw that there was a problem. They did not come out and say they had a problem because they thought that it was embarrassing asking another country such as the U.S. for food. This was probably one of the worst things that they could have done for their country. Instead of helping their country they merely dug the hole bigger for themselves, which would make it tougher for the relief programs to pull them out of. So, if a couple more educated decisions were made, the famine may not have been as bad as it really was or might have been prevented.
The Western Powers are another reason why the famine occurred and why it got to the severity it did. The great nations such as Britain, France, Germany and Russia may have first started the famine with them colonizing the African nations. They were not there to help the people or look out for them, but they were there for the money. They were the ones that were telling the African nations what to plant, in order to benefit their country. The African people had no choice but to listen to the Western Powers or else there would be serious consequences for their nation. Europe played a major role in controlling the African nations and bringing prosperity to their homeland, even though the people of Africa were suffering from a lack of resources.
Another problem that may have contributed to the famine in Africa was the growing population. People in Africa are not knowledgeable about birth control. As the population increased, the amount of food and resources gets used up in that country. Also, most of the people were unemployed, so if a couple has another baby, then that is another mouth that the family cannot feed. This makes the agencies job tougher in dealing with nations suffering from famine. It is hard to get enough food to distribute to people when the population keeps going up. The population increases could also have other effects such as sanitation, pollution, or water problems.
One by one as the people of the suffering nations came forward with their pleas for help, relief agencies set up in these countries. Sending and providing food to a nation always seems like it is helping from the outside, but inside it may actually be harming the country more. This was the job of strong countries such as the U.S. to provide aid to where it is best needed. When a country becomes too reliant on the support of another country, the country receiving the aid might start to depend on the relief. This was the case in the African famines, the countries receiving aid did not continue to try do things themselves or improve their ways. One of the problems with the relief agencies is that they are looking only at the short-term picture, instead of the long-term. This caused the African nations to continue to be in a longer famine than they should have. Countries are not willing to risk lots of money to help nations for the long-term. If they did they would have to increase the education and teach the country the proper and efficient way to do things. They would have to send more efficient equipment to farm the lands and machines to produce goods in factories. These are the reasons why the countries did not want to help the African nations for a long period of time.
The giving of aid can be categorized as purely political. Take the U.S. for instance; it helped the nations of Africa that were politically friendly to the U.S. There has never been a time were the U.S. has helped a communist nation because they are not friendly politically to the U.S. Aid can be used as a weapon against nations that have gone into a famine that we help. We can then play a major role in what happens politically within that nation. Also the distribution of food can be unfair too. The people that live within the cities will get a majority of the food and first pick, compared to the province people who receive minimal amounts of food. All starving people are not all equal; you must be a politically positive government to receive any kind of aid at all.
The people of Africa seemed to be right in the middle of the Cold War. The Soviet Union would go and help countries in Africa that supported communism and the U.S. took offence to this. The Soviets would provide military support to a nation that was pro communism. They would provide them with missiles, weapons, and transportation. The U.S. did not want the Soviet Union intervening in the African famines because it caused the countries to go into a deeper hole than they were already in. And when the Soviets armed these African nations it meant the U.S. had to deal with another problem. The U.S. provided support to South Africa because they were anti-communism and they could have an influence in this country. So the U.S. and the Soviet Union were fighting over the countries of Africa because they were very weak and they could have a political influence on them.
The African famine was built up over a long period of time that all started with colonization. But all of the causes tend to point in the direction of education. If African nations would have been better educated they would have been able to make better decisions. There is no doubt that the African famines were man made, instead of environmental factors as so many people may think. It always seemed as if the African nations could not do anything right, and they were always making the wrong moves.