Tuesday, May 31, 2011

no money - no eat

This year at least 20 million people are suffering hunger in east Africa. From 2008-2010, the Red Cross launched four international appeals to respond to hunger in the Horn of Africa. However, a Red Cross review, highlights how such repeated large-scale appeals and relief operations are not the answer to addressing people’s food needs in the region. Hunger is a chronic and ongoing humanitarian issue in the Horn of Africa.

Distributing food aid, that is often purchased from abroad, is not usually the best option. Not only does this destabilise local markets, but is also costly and takes time to purchase and distribute. Repeated large-scale emergency appeals have failed to generate significant funds and in the current global financial situation it’s unlikely this will change any time soon.Repeated distributions of food aid every year do not help families get out of poverty – instead they lock them into dependency.

Socialist Banner reads that Mary Atkinson, British Red Cross economic security adviser, says “Most people living in hunger, even farmers, rely on purchasing most of their food. Food is usually available in the market but they cannot afford it, particularly now that food prices are so high. If they had more reliable sources of income, they often wouldn’t need to rely on food aid.” (our emphasis)
Cash is increasingly used as an alternative to food aid as it is easier and quicker to distribute and allows people to buy what they really need while supporting local markets.

rape is power

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health indicates that nearly 2 million women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been raped. Many rapes are a part of military operations, designed to terrorize and control the population. Rates of domestic rape and rape by civilians, however, also appear to be growing rapidly in the DRC. Last year, a study commissioned by Oxfam showed that incidents of domestic rape grew 17-fold between 2004 and 2008.

Dr. Guylain Mvuama, said the main reason rural Congolese women are such frequent victims of rape is simple. It is part of the war. Mvuama said armed groups raid and loot villages, raping women, children and sometimes babies or men to control the people though terror. The doctor says , what better way is there to keep everyone subdued, than to rape every man’s mother, sister or wife?

Congolese Army Colonel Seraphin Mirindi said soldiers still rape as a direct result of extreme poverty. Between low pay, and corruption among commanders, soldiers take home between $17 and $55 a month. About 30 percent of soldiers desert their posts, he said, and since they receive hardy any salaries, they also are immune from punishment when they leave. Most deserters, he said, also take their gun with them when they go and with almost no money, soldiers and deserters are tempted to rape because they are isolated deep in the forest, and cannot afford wives or prostitutes.

Attorney and victim’s rights activist Gilbert Kasereka
said that while soldiers do rape because they are isolated, poor or as part of an attack, many rapes also occur in Congo for more unusual reasons. With the absence of regular, informed medical care, many people believe they can gain power or good health by raping the young. Kasereka said some people believe military prowess can be derived from raping a teenager or someone who is an ethnic minority, like Congolese Pygmies. Others believe the rape of a baby will cure AIDs.

For some activists, no programs to reduce rape numbers will be completely effective without ending the conflict for good. They say as long as much of Eastern Congo continues to be overrun with militias fighting each other and the government, and battling for control of what is believed to be $24 trillion worth of mineral wealth under the ground, sexual violence will continue to be a fact of life.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

BEE in our bonnet

After 17 years of democracy and the promise of a land handover to blacks, only 7% of the land has been redistributed -- and it is said that 90% of agricultural development projects on this land have failed. It will take us at least 100 years at the current pace to return the promised 30% of land. At the same time farm workers are underpaid, overworked and suffer all kinds of gross human rights violations. The South African agricultural sector is driven by a racial feudal system under which black workers are mere ­factors of production and the environment is disrespected and harmed. This system can best be described as a commitment to the principle of "profits before people".

AgriBEE was designed to "bring in" black players to reap the benefits of slave labour. Conceptually AgriBEE was designed as a new avenue of accumulation by politically connected elites who skim the fat off the land. AgriBEE funds have been siphoned off through blatant corruption -- news reports have revealed how money meant for enterprise development has ended up buying soccer teams and being invested in golf courses. BEE has increasingly been associated with corruption. Corruption is not an aberration but a constitutive element of capitalism.
A related element of these legalised thieving practices is the general treatment of black workers, which has not improved under black-owned enterprises. Often it has worsened. Power relationships on farms have to be altered through the massive redistribution of land to the landless. The primary beneficiaries of the agricultural sector's transformation must be the farm workers to whom the Freedom Charter had promised that "the land shall be owned by those who work it". This transformation is impossible in the present frenzied state of white agricultural moguls, politically connected AgriBEE players and aspirants just aiming to make a quick buck.

20% of South Africans suffer an acute lack of food security. It highlights the priorities of the agriculture sector - maximisation of profit through exporting produce -- to the European Union and elsewhere.

Taken from here

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Blue Food Revolution”

“With Earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed, we must turn to the sea with new understanding and new technology,” Cousteau presciently predicted in his 1973 television show The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. “We need to farm it as we farm the land.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), only about 2 percent of the world’s food is currently obtained from the sea with traditional marine fishing annually producing about 100 million tons. Simply maintaining current per capita consumption will require 1.6 million tons more fish every year by 2015, increasing to 4.2 million tons by 2030. Since 80 percent of the world’s fishing stocks are fully or over exploited, sea farming or marine aquaculture may be the only answer for filling the gap. Worldwide, half the fish consumed by humans are now produced by fish farms. Harvesting the sea is the fastest-growing form of food production in the world promising a “Blue Food Revolution” based upon greater productivity of the sea than that of land for feeding the future.

As a source of animal protein, farmed fish are a godsend in a grain-limited world. The estimated amounts of grain are far more economical for producing fish than for beef or pork and on par with that of chicken. Whereas seven kilograms of grain are required to produce each kilogram of beef, and four for each kilogram of pork, only two kilograms of grain are needed to produce one kilogram of either chicken or fish. In terms of how much of an animal is actually consumed by people, fish also trump: approximately 65 percent of the raw weight of finfish is eaten, compared with 50 percent of raw weight of chicken and pigs and 40 percent of sheep. This is because fish are supported by water so they don’t have to put as much of their growth energy into bone structure resulting in greater edible mass. Fish are also low in fat, cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids which helps reduce blood clotting and in turn the risk of heart attacks - all notable advantages over other meats.

300 million people, half living along the coast, populate the 16 states ensconcing the Gulf of Guinea and the livelihoods of millions are dependent on the fishing sector. Average per capita fish consumption is estimated at 20-25 kilograms, about double that of the world average, and marine fish provide over 80 percent of the supply. Annually, the region catches about 200,000 tons of fish, which is the same amount that it imports. Amazingly, there are no plans for the region to exploit its 2.6 million square kilometers of sea with a sustainable marine aquaculture industry. The Gulf of Guinea boasts one of the most bountiful Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) supporting significant biomasses of plankton, tuna, sardines, mackerel, shrimp and other species. However, the Gulf of Guinea’s LME is over-fished and terribly stressed creating a crisis for those who depend on fisheries for their livelihoods and jeopardizing food security for the region. j Since the Gulf of Guinea’s wild fisheries have reached or exceeded their maximum sustainable harvest, marine aquaculture should be given serious consideration for food security. Offshore marine farming operations contemplates cages deployed in pristine waters having optimum currents for cultivating “free range” fish not sequestered in polluted bays and estuaries. This concept softens the environmental footprint and reduces reliance on wild fishery resources.

By developing a modern marine aquaculture industry, the region could become a major producer of seafood for feeding its population and feed others. The Gulf of Guinea possesses the resources to capitalize on the sustainable Blue Food Revolution as its vast non-renewable petroleum resources are depleted.

Protecting the oil

The Gulf of Guinea has emerged as the second largest pool of commercial petroleum resources in the world and recently surpassed the Persian Gulf as America’s largest supplier of crude oil. African oil tends to be of high quality, low in sulfur, and 2,000 miles closer to U. S. refining centers without maritime transit chokepoints. Unlike security concerns associated with Middle Eastern oil, offshore oil production is easier to protect from ground turmoil. Understandably, the Gulf of Guinea is a nexus of concern for U.S. energy policy since the region will supply 25 percent of its crude oil by 2015.

Just of few years ago, the U.S. military was all but absent from the oil-rich waters of West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. This year, it plans to be there every day. Consequently, the Pentagon has forged both bilateral and regional military partnerships with every African nation in the region with the exception of the Ivory Coast. A report recommends the development of a “regional maritime security network” with U.S. and international security assistance efforts, including planning support, asset donation, and training. A regional maritime security network would help secure oil supplies in the Gulf of Guinea for quelling America’s concerns while strengthening cooperation and geopolitics for the region’s political stability and economic prosperity.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Never a follower be

This article touches on a topic that Socialist Banner finds close to its heart (see here)

"Before we fix Africa, however, we must understand what ails it. The easy answer is always to blame the leadership we've had to date. Change our leaders, and we'll change Africa and give it its pride back. True, Africa's loss of pride is caused primarily by its grotesque leadership choices and its disdain for good governance and probity. But underlying all of those issues is a singular driving force. It is the one thing we need in order to get Africa's pride back, and it can be stated in two words: voter discernment. We are in the mess we are in because the average person does not have the faintest clue about selecting leaders. We elect and appoint leaders on the most spurious of grounds: that they come from around the same river we do; that they make loud noise and entertain us at rallies; that they throw money around; that they have big stomachs and big cars and big wives. In other words, it is not our leaders we should be most worried about; it is the choices made by their followers. Africa's leaders only reflect the values and wishes of most of its people...We need root-and-branch overhaul of governance systems. We need to run the election process with foolproof institutions. We need to install all the infrastructure that powers up and connects the scattered people of the continent. We need all that and more. But we also need to fix the human capital: we must make Africa's ordinary people wiser, more knowledgeable and more informed in the choices they make...Our leaders won't do this for us -- it is in their interest to have armies of idle, ignorant people available to vote as directed. It is in their interest to have unquestioning, sheep-like people at their disposal." writes Sunny Bindra

Each of us can be our own leader. The greatest command is that over oneself. The leaders we are asked to support, and sometimes choose between, are a myth, created and maintained by--leaders. They are poor examples of honesty, integrity, even of humanity. They are not interested in truth, justice, or any of the grand notions they spout about. They exist, have always existed, will always exist, for one purpose only: to line their own pockets and empty yours. They are parasites on the social body, unwanted, unnecessary and destructive. To follow leaders is to hand over your heart on a platter, with knife and fork attached. It is an admission of defeat, acceptance that you are inadequate, in and of yourself. It is an act of submission and indeed an act of cowardice unworthy of the human animal.
To refuse to follow leaders is a liberating step. Socialists are their own leaders, and they follow nobody but themselves. "Neither a follower, nor a leader be." So the next time you are asked to vote for a leader, do yourself a big favour. Don't.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poor in Nigeria

The National Coordinator, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), Dr. Magnus Kpakol has disclosed that 80 million Nigerians from a population of about 160 million people live below the poverty line.

There are states where 12.5 per cent of children below 16 years cannot read or write

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Amidst plenty and natural endowment, Nigeria still accounts for the highest rate of people living below the acceptable poverty level in Africa. Rich Nigerians purchased six private jets worth a total value of more the $25 million. The acquisitions increased the number of private jets in the country to around 70, according to reporters. The luxury jets were bought by renowned individuals in the Area: Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga and David Oyedepo.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Rape of the Congo

A study by US scientists has concluded that an average of 48 women and girls are raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The study, in the American Journal of Public Health, found that 400,000 females aged 15-49 were raped over a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007.

The highest numbers of rapes were found in war-ravaged North Kivu, where an average of 67 women out of 1,000 have been raped at least once. However, the report said sexual violence was also widespread outside the conflict zones of eastern Congo.Amber Peterman, leading author of the study, said:

"Our results confirm that previous estimates of rape and sexual violence are severe underestimates of the true prevalence of sexual violence occurring in the DRC.Even these new, much higher figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men,"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The global food crisis of 2007 and 2008 had forced many governments of food deficit countries to redesign their food security strategies. And as a part of that strategy, they fixed their eyes on countries having unexploited or under-utilized vast tracts of fertile arable land as sources of food supply. Even affluent nations found it hard to import food for their populations as a number of countries, including India, Russia, Argentina and Vietnam, imposed ban on export of food grains in 2007 and 2008 when food prices in the international market had gone all-time high.

Land acquisition is not an entirely new phenomenon. The 19th century colonialism was all about taking control over land in other countries. And western food companies have owned or leased land in other countries for many years. But following the food and fuel prices shocks in 2007-08, less traditional actors -- companies from countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea -- have entered the race for growing food or fuel crops. State-owned or private investors from wealthy Arab and Southeast Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea and China, are now approaching many poor Southeast Asian and African nations in their quest for building up cooperative activities in the agriculture sector. Many investment banks, hurt by the crisis in the banking and property sectors, which were looking for new sources of investment outside the banking and property sector, saw opportunities in agricultural land markets, expecting the value of both food and fertile land to increase.

Bangladesh has set its eye on African land where millions of hectares of land have remained either fallow or highly under-utilised for decades after decades. A high-profile official team recently visited a number of African countries to explore scopes for sending Bangladesh manpower and expand areas of cooperation in various fields, including agriculture. The newly appointed ambassador of Bangladesh to Kenya prior to his departure for that country called on President Zillur Rahman last Monday and broke a piece of good news -- Kenya and Uganda have agreed to lease their land to Bangladesh government for farming. Kenya will offer land on lease for 99 years at a cheap price of 99 cents per bigha annually while Uganda wanted 20 per cent of the produce, no annual fees. No agreement between Bangladesh and two African nations have been signed yet. Prior to signing of the agreements, the policymakers here would have to examine a lot of issues, including those relating to sending of farmhands there and their security, input prices and the ways to bring home the farm goods produced in these countries.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

food for thought

Agriculture is the mainstay of most African economies and experts insist that Africa has what it takes to produce food for its population of about one billion people and even export food to other regions of the world. The continent, which is blessed with good weather and geographical conditions, has the capacity to produce food to feed its inhabitants, all things being equal. Only 4 percent of the cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is currently equipped for irrigation. Nearly 90 percent of African food is produced from rain-fed agriculture. However, United Nations World Food Program on Thursday said it fears crop production in Africa will get slashed by 50 percent in less than a decade due to climate change. Just in the next eight years rain fed agriculture in Africa will be reduced by 50 percent.”

It’s often said that Kenya has potential to produce enough food for its population. A large part of the country is arable. It has the memory of what has worked or failed in the past, a sizeable amount of research findings, and a robust human resource base to meet the challenges involved in food production.

"Conservation agriculture is the core of climate-smart agriculture for both mitigation and adaptation," said FAO Senior Officer Theodor Friedrich. "And it is worldwide, growing exponentially." CA integrates technology in agricultural production and environmental management through three basic practices: crop rotation, maintenance of soil cover, and minimum soil disturbance. While the first two methods promote diverse and healthy produce, the third reduces manual and mechanical tilling and plowing, significantly cutting cost and consumption of fossil fuel. Friedrich explains that this practice mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of fossil fuel, fertilizers, and other agricultural inputs. CA features adaptive technology, including a water infiltration system that adjusts to extreme weather conditions. In dry periods, it reduces the water requirements of crops by 30 percent, enhancing soil fertility to withstand extended droughts. During rainy periods, this method facilitates the course of rain water to prevent soil erosion and flooding.

Fish stocks in West Africa are declining drastically. And local fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their livelihoods or feed their families. The best fish ends up on European plates, while the rest is turned into animal feed or discarded as bycatch. One large trawler can carry 15 million meals’ worth of frozen fish to Europe while many Africans go hungry, unable to access the fish from their own waters. Local artisan fishermen in West Africa now find themselves competing against the largest of European trawlers. In one day, these massive vessels can capture the same amount of fish as thirty or forty traditional pirogue boats would catch in one year. These foreign fishing fleets then take their giant catch to ports far from Africa, making millions of dollars, while Africa's coastal communities struggle and grow poorer.

Friday, May 06, 2011

class in africa

One in three Africans is middle class, a rising group of consumers to rival those of China and India, researchers have found. Mthuli Ncube, the African Development Bank's chief economist said the study used an absolute definition of middle class, meaning people who spend between $2 and $20 a day. Africa's middle class had risen to about 34% (313 million) of the continent's population but of those an estimated 21% earn only enough to spend $2 to $4 a day, about 180 million people vulnerable to economic shocks that could knock them out of the new middle class. 61% of Africa's population living on less than $2 a day.

However, at the top of the pyramid, there exists an elite of about 100,000 Africans who possess a collective net worth of 60% of the continent's gross domestic product in 2008, the report said.

As some economists are prone to do , Ncube uses a consumption pattern to define class, claiming record numbers of people in Africa own houses and cars, use mobile phones and the internet and send their children to private schools and foreign universities. Sales of fridges, TVs and mobile phones have surged in virtually every African country in recent years, the report said. Possession of cars and motorcycles in Ghana, for example, has gone up by 81% in the past five years. The add lifestyle to the definition. The Africa middle classes are more likely to have salaried jobs or own small businesses. They tend not to rely entirely on public health services, seeking more expensive medical care. The middle classes tend to have fewer children and spend more on their nutrition and schooling.

Socialist Banner however uses the Marxian method of defining class and challenges the whole concept of a "middle class". Anyone with no other choice but to sell their physical or mental labour power in order to earn money which provides the means necessary to sustain living is, no matter what the difference in their salary/wages, job description/ responsibility, a member of the working class. Sociological definitions based upon cultural preferences, job types (professional, salaried or blue collar, waged), or number of TVs or cars owned in more likely to reflect a false consciousness of one's actual class position.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

biofuel ban

To overcome two of Africa's most urgent problems, food insecurity and hunger, some are arguing for a ban on the production of food crops for bio fuel.

"Yes, there are droughts and floods, and yes, war and civil unrest have had a big impact on Africa's food security...," said Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, chairman of the board at Nestle, during the World Economic Forum on Africa being held in Cape Town. "But bio fuel also has an important role to play when it comes to Africa's and the world's situation with food insecurity and hunger, as a large part of the world's agricultural production is used for the manufacturing of bio fuel," he explained. "Currently, 15% of the global maize production is turned into bio fuel. The same counts for 21.4% of the world's sugar and 45% of rapeseed. In the meantime, millions go hungry."

Food prices are higher now than at any time since 1984. Higher prices make life even more difficult for Africa's poorest, who already spend between 60 to 80 per cent of their income on food. Faced with reduced access to food and increased vulnerability to the seasonality of local food prices and markets, households are forced into unavoidable compromises, such as choosing cheaper (often less nutritious) food, selling productive assets, withdrawing children from school, forgoing healthcare, or simply eating less than they need.

The gap between the continent's domestic food supply and demand will widen as global consumption patterns continue to shift towards more profitable bio-fuels which supplant food crops.