How to reform the foreign aid to better help the third world develop, increase food security, reduce CO2, increase forest cover in the UK and build cheap and affordable houses for British people.
This is long, so bear with me:
We should convert 12% of farmland in the UK into 90% woodland and 10% housing. This would build roughly 3.8 million houses and add another 560,000 hectares of forest, increasing the amount of forest cover of the UK by 56%. This would also cut our carbon footprint by 8% (a big contribution towards our aim to cut 80% by 2050) and generally improving the environment.
Then use the Foreign Aid budget to build farms in the developing world by buying licenses of the governments there. We can then use the food grown in this otherwise unused but productive land to feed our population and increase food sustainability.
There is of course the matter of security for our farms. It is unlikely for there to be Zimbabwe style farm invasions as this policy shall increase affluence and decrease unemployment in these countries. In the very worst case scenario, we can deploy British troops to protect these farms, though this may also be unnecessary as we should try to get the foreign governments to control crime.
And just to clear one thing out the way, Africa is not all barren and unfertile. It has 28% of all the worlds arable land, more than North America and Europe combined and furthermore more than any other continent, even Asia or South America. The reason it is not very productive is that it is poorly run by corrupt governments. Prime examples are Sudan, Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The amount of shipping and flights from foreign countries to the UK delivering food may generate some emissions, though this is dwarfed by the mass of trees and other plants being grown in the UK and the foreign countries.
Why does this idea matter?
Firstly, It will help the third world to develop. The current policy of foreign aid only benefits the corrupt dictators of third world countries. This policy would offer real help by increasing the GDP and decreasing the unemployment of these countries, allowing them to grow naturally and without having to depend on foreign aid.
Secondly, It will decrease our net CO2 emissions and create a more pleasant environment to live in. We will not be able to simply cut our CO2 emissions without any negative economic consequences, the increase in forest cover will, for obvious reasons, in effect reduce our net CO2 emissions. The increase in plantations in the foreign countries shall also decrease their net CO2 contribution as well. It shall also create a more pleasant environment to live due to the large increase in forest cover and woodland for tourists, locals and people from the rest of the UK to visit.
Thirdly, It will increase our food security. We are currently relying very heavily on foreign countries to import food from. We cannot carry on like this as food is not simply another good or import, we rely on it very heavily.
Fourthly, it will increase affordable housing. The "Land Economy" publication by the Adam Smith Institute claimed that 950,000 houses could be built on 0.3% of the countries farm land, I have extrapolated my figure from this. An extra 3.8 million houses over however long this project shall take (I am under no impression it shall take much longer than this remainder of this Parliament) is a Godsend.
Fifthly, it is cheap. If housing could be done by the private sector it would not only cost nothing, it would increase tax revenues from increase activity in the construction industry and VAT on building materials. The cost for land in other countries ought not to be much as it is relatively unused, and many countries shall be desperate for foreign investment such as the Congo and Zimbabwe. True, the cost of setting up farms would be a few million for each farm, but overall not much in comparison to the government budget as a whole, and could probably fit easily in the scope of the foreign aid budget, set to reach 0.7% of GDP soon. Planting forests may be rather expensive though, however as it is such a large project there may be significant media interest and therefore it ought to be relatively simply to encourage rich tycoons and individuals or even entire companies to sponsor it and receive naming rights in exchange for the forests or sections of forest they plant.