In several past articles I have discussed the food shortage situation in the country. The articles were based on what was presented at the recent National Food Security Policy conference at the National Research Institute.
In this article I would like to look at a story in the Bible. It is about Egypt’s food security program under Joseph’s stewardship.
The story starts with King Pharaoh having two consecutive dreams. In the first, the king saw seven fat cows coming out of the Nile River. While they were grazing by the river, seven ugly and bony cows also came out of the river, and ate up the fat cows. Pharaoh woke up, and when he slept again, he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk that were plump and good looking. Then he saw another seven heads which were blighted by the wind. While he watched, the seven blighted heads of grain ate up the seven good ones.
Pharaoh woke up and immediately called all the wise men and magicians of Egypt together and told them his dreams, but none of the men could interpret it for him. Finally Joseph was called out of the dungeons of Egypt, and he told Pharaoh that the dreams meant the same thing. There were going to be seven years of abundance in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. The famine would be such that the good years would be obliterated from peoples’ memories.
Joseph therefore advised the king as what he should do to ensure the country’s food security during the famine years. His advice was basically that the king should establish warehouses in every city in the country where the excess food from the good years would be collected and stored under the stewardship of a wise and prudent man. This food would be available to the people during the seven years of famine.
The king accepted the advice and appointed Joseph to take charge of the program. In fact Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his second-in-charge, or Prime Minister of the country. Joseph therefore went throughout the country, built large warehouses, and collected the excess food and stored them. There was so much food that Joseph’s officials gave up trying to keep records!
The story gets interesting as the famine begins. It goes that the people came to Joseph to buy the food which they had initially given away to be stored during the years of plenty. Joseph gathered up all the gold and silver in the land of Egypt by selling food. When all the money was transferred from the people to Pharaoh, the people came and offered their livestock in exchange for food. So Joseph gathered up all the animals in the country for Pharaoh. In the following year, the people came and told Joseph: “All our money and livestock is gone from us. There is nothing left but our bodies and our land.”
Joseph told the people to trade their land for food, which the people were more than willing to do (when survival is at stake, people can get desperate). So Joseph bought up every piece of real estate in Egypt for Pharaoh, and he moved the people off the land into the cities. The foot note in one of the translations of the Bible says that Joseph ‘made the people virtual slaves.’ The only people who were given free food and whose land Joseph didn’t buy were the priests.
By the time the good times returned again, the people had been displaced from their land. They were all at Pharaoh’s mercy. They were then given seed to sow – on Pharaoh’s land – and told to return 20% of the harvest to the landlord while they kept 80% for themselves. So the people of Egypt went from being land owners to peasants with a 20% tax on the produce of the land. Pharaoh’s rule over them therefore became more entrenched.
If you are not familiar with the Bible, the story is found in the book of Genesis chapters 41 and 47. To summarise the story, we can say that the people of Egypt traded their money for food, then they traded their livestock for food, followed by exchanging their land for food, and finally their lives for food. In short, it was:
• Gold and silver (money) for food;
• Livestock for food;
• Land for food; and
• Lives for food.
One important lesson we can deduce from this story which took place thousands of years ago is that one can never go wrong producing or trading in food. If you have food, you get sell it for money. In a situation where the demand for food exceeds its supply, you can sell at very high prices. And if you are the only one selling food, you can sell at monopoly prices.
With the money you can buy and own livestock, which is another form of wealth. This is especially so in the Highlands region, where pigs in particular are in very high demand such as to cause prices to triple in the past few years.
You can also use the money to buy land anywhere in the country. Can food empower you to become a real estate owner? According to this Biblical story, the answer is ‘Yes’. You start by producing food on your own land in the village, and slowly make you way into the urban areas.
And you can use the money from your farm to buy slaves (also known as employees). It doesn’t matter whether you have been to school or not. If you use your knowledge of gardening which you have received from your primitive ancestors, you can eventually make very highly-educated people work for you.
The ultimate result? You rule and reign over the land and other people. You become a Pharaoh in your own way.
If you are a landowner reading this, I hope you get the lesson from this ancient story. I hope you start producing food tomorrow. If you are unemployed and looking for a job in town or just hanging around in your community, I am telling you that there is hope and money – and it is in your land in the village. There is more than enough money in the land for you to build a high-covenant house or buy the latest model Toyota Land Cruiser with cash!
If you have a job, you will realize that the bulk of the money you earn goes to buying food and keeping yourself alive. You are working, buying food, and working – without getting anywhere financially. It is probably time for you to cast aside your educational qualifications and your job, and return to the village to till the land. You can start from scratch as a farmer, then work your way back into town as a real estate investor and an employer.
I have said this several times on different occasions, and I will say it again: In the kind of economy we are living in today, the people who are going to make the most money are business people and farmers. Working class people are the ones who will become poor while farmers and those in business become rich.