Narratives of scarcity: Framing the global land rush
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Global resource scarcity has become a central policy concern, with predictions of rising populations, naturalresource depletion and hunger. The narratives of scarcity that arise as a result justify actions to harness resourcesconsidered‘underutilised’, leading to contestations over rights and entitlements and producing new scarcities.Yet scarcity is contingent, contextual, relational and above all political. We present an analysis of three framings–absolute, relative and political scarcity–associated with the intellectual traditions of Malthus, Ricardo andMarx, respectively. A review of 134 global and Africa-specific policy and related sources demonstrates howdiverse framings of scarcity–what it is, its causes and what is to be done–are evident in competing narrativesthat animate debates about the future of food and farming in Africa and globally. We argue that currentmainstream narratives emphasise absolute and relative scarcity, while ignoring political scarcity. Opening upthis debate, with a more explicit focus on political scarcities is, we argue, important; emphasising how resourcesare distributed between different needs and uses, and so different people and social classes. For African settings,seen as both a source of abundant resources and a site where global scarcities may be resolved, as well as wherelocal scarcities are being experienced most acutely, a political scarcity framing on the global land rush, andresource questions more broadly, is, we suggest, essential.