by Patrick Appel
Evan Osnos sits next to a Chinese scientist on his way to an agricultural project in Congo:
China has stepped up the growth of large-scale agricultural projects in Africa over the past five years. As Howard French described, in The Atlantic, in a terrific piece in May, large Chinese-run farms designed to export rice and other staples to China are one of the new and least-understood elements of China’s push into Africa. Two years ago, the Chinese government earmarked five billion dollars for farm projects in Africa, intended to ease China’s concerns about food security. But ceding land to foreigners, to manage it and claim the products, are acutely sensitive issues in Africa. In 2007, French notes, Chinese and Mozambican officials reportedly agreed to have three thousand Chinese settlers begin farming the fertile soil in Zambezi River Valley, but the news prompted an uproar, and Mozambique’s government now denies all reports of the idea.