Category Archives: Africa

Africa’s ‘Green Revolution’ helps only the richest

As for the poor, forget about it.

In reality, the set of practices endorsed by neoliberals in Washington and Europe, is a cover for driving the poorest farmers into debt as they are driven to buy fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, and pesticides from Big Agra companies in the North.

driven into debt and foreclosed when they can’t pay because of crops failures and poor yields, the only beneficiaries are large landholders.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rather than alleviating poverty, a farming revolution aimed at increasing and modernising agricultural production in Africa could be harming the poorest, according to a new study.

The University of East Anglia research details how changes brought on by modernisation programmes disrupt subsistence practices, deepen poverty, impair local systems of trade and knowledge, and threaten land ownership.

The “green revolution” of the 1960s and 70s – when policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asia – has also become increasingly popular in Africa where up to 90 percent of people in some countries are smallholder farmers.

In Rwanda, government, donors and development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund have hailed the strategy as a success for the economy and in reducing poverty.

But in interviews with villagers in Rwanda’s mountainous west the researchers found only a relatively wealthy minority had been able to keep up with modernisation, while the poorest cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the seeds and fertilisers required for modernised agriculture.

Here’s the summary from the study from the report, Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications of Imposed Innovation for the Wellbeing of Rural Smallholders, which is available free in its entirety from the journal World Development, under a Creative Commons agreement sponsored by  Natural Environment Research Council:

Green Revolution policies are again being pursued to drive agricultural growth and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. However conditions have changed since the well-documented successes of the 1960s and 1970s benefitted smallholders in southern Asia and beyond. We argue that under contemporary constraints the mechanisms for achieving improvements in the lives of smallholder farmers through such policies are unclear and that both policy rationale and means of governing agricultural innovation are crucial for pro-poor impacts. To critically analyze Rwanda’s Green Revolution policies and impacts from a local perspective, a mixed methods, multidimensional wellbeing approach is applied in rural areas in mountainous western Rwanda. Here Malthusian policy framing has been used to justify imposed rather than “induced innovation”. The policies involve a substantial transformation for rural farmers from a traditional polyculture system supporting subsistence and local trade to the adoption of modern seed varieties, inputs, and credit in order to specialize in marketable crops and achieve increased production and income. Although policies have been deemed successful in raising yields and conventionally measured poverty rates have fallen over the same period, such trends were found to be quite incongruous with local experiences. Disaggregated results reveal that only a relatively wealthy minority were able to adhere to the enforced modernization and policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants. Negative impacts were evident for the majority of households as subsistence practices were disrupted, poverty exacerbated, local systems of knowledge, trade, and labor were impaired, and land tenure security and autonomy were curtailed. In order to mitigate the effects we recommend that inventive pro-poor forms of tenure and cooperation (none of which preclude improvements to input availability, market linkages, and infrastructure) may provide positive outcomes for rural people, and importantly in Rwanda, for those who have become landless in recent years. We conclude that policies promoting a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa should not all be considered to be pro-poor or even to be of a similar type, but rather should be the subject of rigorous impact assessment. Such assessment should be based not only on consistent, objective indicators but pay attention to localized impacts on land tenure, agricultural practices, and the wellbeing of socially differentiated people.

German far-Right party racks up new gains

First, some telling numbers from Deutsche Welle:

The German daily “Bild am Sonntag” reported on Sunday that the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has reached 10 percent for the first time in a recent poll.

According to the article, 17 percent of men would vote for AfD while only 2 percent of women would do so.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, saw its support fall by 2 percentage points to 36 percent. The Social Democrats (SPD), the CDU’s coalition partner, came in at 25 percent.

That ten percent figure is twice the percentage points needed to win seats is the national and state legislatures.

The AfD began as a party of Merkel’s more conservative opponents who sought to distance the country from the European currency and loans to indebted nations of the common currency zone.

But the founders were ousted in an internal coup by those on the party’s far Right extreme, who then added a hefty dose of xenophobia to the party’s financially conservative agenda.

The party’s rise in the polls is linked to the increase in violence and sexual abuse associated with nation’s rising number of refugee immigrants from war torn nations of the Mideast and North Africa.

More from

Katja Kipping, chairwoman of Die Linke [Germany’s major Left party — esnl], told The Local that the Christian Social Union (CSU), a junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, was to blame for the rise of the AfD, accusing their leadership of making “xenophobic slogans socially acceptable.”

The CSU, which are the single largest party in Bavaria, Germany’s wealthiest and southern most state, have in recent weeks called for the erection of border fences to stem the flow of refugees arriving in Germany.

“The AfD is also profiting from the impression that people in need could overwhelm a rich country like Germany – but this is a fictitious emergency: the relevant authorities at the federal level didn’t react quickly enough to the predictable rise in refugee numbers,” Kipping added.

And still more from the European edition of Politico:

Since World War II it was taken for granted that Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union, would not allow a democratic party to permanently exist further to their right. For decades, they lived up to that principle. But in early 2013, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was founded as a home for conservative critics of Angela Merkel’s policies for saving the euro. The AfD narrowly failed to enter the Bundestag that same year by only 0.3 percentage points, then the party suffered a split one year later — but it came back.

As of today the AfD is a nationalistic, anti-establishment party which capitalizes on xenophobia and the ongoing refugee crisis. Opinion polls put its support at an amazing 10 percent, and it is on its way to entering the regional assemblies of the three Bundesländer scheduled to hold elections in March 2016.

That should be enough to send shivers down Merkel’s spine. But it will not. Instead, in the short term it promises to be a tactical win for the chancellor and her party. And in the long run, the AfD will either vanish as a political threat by splitting one more time, or it will turn into a potential partner to secure what would be a structural majority right of center — something entirely new to Germany’s political system.

The conclusion reached in that last paragraph betrays an astonishing ignorance of German history. Adolf Hitler assumed the chancellorship as part of a coalition government with the conservative and monarchist Deutschnationale Volkspartei [DNVP]. In other words, a government with “a structural majority right of center.”

Hitler came to power under the 1919 Weimar Constitution, which forms much of the basis of the current constitutional document, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.

While the new post-World War II document contains provisions designed to enhance civil rights and block a would-be dictator, Germany remains, as before, a parliamentary system.

Regrets from a man who ignited Arab Spring

Two self-immolations by Tunisian peddlers, angry and frustrated by abused and beatings by police, sparked the series of events that became known as the Arab Spring of 2011.

Lauded by Western media and facilitated by the actions of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been transformed into bloody, ongoing civil wars, in which forces of religious fanaticism are opposed by military forces, often equipped by the state Western powers that originally aided and abetted in the initial violence.

Of the two Tunisians who set themselves ablaze, one died and the other, Hosni Kalaya, know regrets all that followed his act of desperation.

He tells his story in this video, produced by Mediadante for the Guardian.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

‘I changed Tunisia’s history. I regret it all now’

Program notes:

Five Years After The Revolution: A look at Tunisia five years after the revolution, and one of the men who started it

Five years ago, in a desperate act of protest against the oppression he faced in Tunisia, fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi killed himself by setting himself on fire. His death prompted protests in his home town of Sidi Bouzid. Hosni Kalaya tells how he set himself on fire to further fuel the anger, triggering a revolution in Tunisia and the Arab Spring in the wider region.

The Empire Files: The U.S. role in birthing ISIS

Our respect for Abby Martin continues to grow as she matures as a journalist, first moving from hosting a show on Berkeley’s community access cable station to RT America, where she hosted Braking the Set, and then, after a brief hiatus, moving on to teleSur where she now hosts The Empire Files.

Each step of the way she has matured as a journalist, attaining a sense of gravitas that is the antithesis of what it takes to survive on this country’s corporate media.

In this latest edition of The Empire Files, she conducts what is probably the best interview we’ve seen on the troubles now afflicting the Middle East and North Africa, and lays the blame squarely at the doorstep of those most responsible, the U.S. Department of State and successive presidential administrations, and their use of oil as a weapon to bring down governments.

Her guest is Vijay Prasad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and he dissects the U.S. role in the violence now unfolding in Libya and Syria.

One of his most trenchant statement brilliantly sums up the nexus of crises across the globe: “The rich have gone on strike and are refusing to pay taxes.”

And so, from teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Examining the Syria War Chessboard

Program notes:

The war in Syria is an unparalleled crisis. It has gone far beyond an internal political struggle, and is marked by a complex array of forces that the U.S. Empire hopes to command: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and more. To simplify this web of enemies and friends, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Vijay Prashad, professor of International Studies at Trinity College and author of several books.

Quote of the day: Bill and Melinda, Gateskeepers

We’ve written extensively about the role of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in privatizing the worker of public university researchers, folks then work they did at, say, UC Berkeley, then turn into mechanism for private profit, and in so doing belie the hypocrisy inherent in their declarations of altruism.

Now Gated Development: Is the Gates Foundation always a force for good? [PDF], a major report by Mark Curtis for Global Justice Now takes a close look at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and comes to the same conclusion:

[T]he trend to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality is central to the priorities and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We argue that this is far from a neutral charitable strategy but instead an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation.

Big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities, despite evidence to show that business solutions are not the most effective. For the foundation in particular, there is an overt focus on technological solutions to poverty. While technology should have a role in addressing poverty and inequality, long term solutions require social and economic justice.  This cannot be given by donors in the form of a climate resilient crop or cheaper smartphone, but must be about systemic social, economic and political change – issues not represented in the foundation’s funding priorities.

Perhaps what is most striking about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is that despite its aggressive corporate strategy and extraordinary influence across governments, academics and the media, there is an absence of critical voices. Global Justice Now is concerned that the foundation’s influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.

Chart of the day II: Female genital mutilation rates

From a new report [PDF] from the Centers for Disease Control [and click on the image to enlarge]:

Prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) for countries known to practice FGM/C and from which substantial numbers a  of women and girls have come to the United States, by age and year: most recent prevalence estimate, 2002–2011,  and prevalence used for 1990 estimates.

Prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) for countries known to practice FGM/C and from which substantial numbers a of women and girls have come to the United States, by age and year: most recent prevalence estimate, 2002–2011, and prevalence used for 1990 estimates.

Map of the day: Ebola cases in West Africa

From the World Health Organization, Ebola cases during the outbreak, less the new cases announced today:

BLOG Ebola