What Is The Mashambas Skyscraper?
Agricultural skyscrapers could solve world hunger, according to Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowski, the Polish architects behind the innovative Mashambas Skyscraper, which won Evolo’s 2017 Skyscraper Competition.
Lipiński and Frankowski say that the Mashambas Skyscraper would accomplish this in two ways.
First, it would “bring [the] green revolution to the poorest people” in the world, through education, training, and practice.
Second, it would put an end to subsistence agriculture because of its own prolific output.
Basically, the tower would itself be a high-yield farm, which would keep people fed. In the meantime, people in area would learn how to maintain the tower, and thereby have a stable food supply.
Here’s a quick video detailing how it works, in a more technical sense:
The most important takeaway points, and what makes the Mashambas Skyscraper so unique, is that it’s movable and modifiable.
It could be built in one place and shipped abroad, and tailored to fit a region’s specific needs.
Furthermore, the tower could stay in a given location only as long as needed, and then be relocated once the community is self-sufficient.
And of course, the base could remain behind, to serve as a village marketplace.
On its face, it sounds like a pretty good idea.
But it’s not.
In practice, it would be useless at best, and deadly at worst.
Agricultural Towers, Like The Mashambas Skyscraper, Won’t Solve World Hunger—They Will Feed Dictators
Unfortunately, the problems with the Mashambas Skyscraper aren’t technical.
It’s actually a reasonably sound, and logical idea. It would ensure optimal growing conditions, and the only crop yield limit would be how high you could build it, thus preserving the natural environment while guaranteeing an ample food supply.
It’s a (relatively) cheap food factory.
But it’s also a solution without a problem.
The fact is this: most of the world’s “starving people” live on some of the best farmland in the planet. Their lands are extremely fertile.
For example, Zimbabwe—where people are literally resorting to eating wild gorillas—used to be the breadbasket of Africa.
The same goes for Bangladesh, or Congo, which are located on extremely fertile floodplains (similar to Egypt). They could grow more than enough food to support themselves.
The problem isn’t a lack of fertility, it’s a lack of safety—there is no rule of law.
Why are people starving in Congo?—it’s been ripped apart by endemic civil wars.
What about Zimbabwe?
It’s because they booted out all the white farmers for political reasons, but none of the black natives knew how to sow seeds, much less drive a tractor.
Then they starved.
It also doesn’t help that most of the developing world is occupied by tribal warlords, or tyrannical dictators.
Mashambas Skyscrapers would just concentrate agricultural production, and wealth, in small, easily defended areas—they’d be easy pickings for dictators or gangs, who would then control the entire food supply.
Right now, the dispersion of agricultural productivity, even if it’s just subsistence agriculture, is probably better for the people than concentrated food supplies.
It’s hard to occupy vast farmlands. It’s easy to control a tower block.
In the end, Mashambas Skyscrapers would be dictator’s best friends, since they’d concentrate the food supply—until there is rule of law in the developing world, people will starve.
It has nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with politics.