Wednesday, November 18, 2009

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe Blasts West's Agricultural Subsidies

President blasts West’s subsidies

From Hebert Zharare in ROME, Italy
Zimbabwe Herald

RICH countries’ agricultural subsidies and denial of market access to produce from developing countries were partly to blame for low crop production in developing nations, President Mugabe has said.

Addressing fellow Heads of State and Government at the Food and Agriculture Organisation Summit here yesterday, President Mugabe said other factors militating against global food security were climate change, inaccessibility to arable land, rising costs of farming inputs and general lack of money to finance farming operations.

Western subsidies, he said, were suffocating farmers in poor and developing countries.

"Add to this denial of market access to agricultural products from developing countries and that completes the host of factors which undermine crop production in our countries," said President Mugabe.

He told the summit that Zimbabwe’s situation was worsened by punitive policies of certain powerful countries that were against the equitable redistribution of land to correct colonial imbalances.

"We face very hostile interventions by these states which have imposed unilateral sanctions on us.

"This has had a negative impact on our farmers who, according to our neo-colonial enemies, must fail so as to damn the rain-fed agriculture; which FAO reports say will see the production of food going down by about 50 percent by 2050 due to climate change.

"To protect the country from the vagaries of the weather, Zimbabwe has an ongoing programme of dam construction across the country to harness water and develop reliable water sources.

"With adequate support, Zimbabwe has the potential to increase the land under irrigation from the present 153 000 to 453 000 hectares," he said.

President Mugabe said apart from water shortages, Zimbabwe had been affected by insufficient supplies of affordable farming inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and agro-chemicals.

He said the Government would continue supporting the agriculture sector through a cocktail of schemes including concessionary loans for working capital and for the procurement of machinery.

"To buttress these schemes, the Government has also introduced a Farm Mechanisation Programme targeting both the smallholder and commercial farming sectors.

"But we remain keenly aware that the mechanisation programme cannot be complete if it does not yield the capacity to enable us to export value-added products," he said.

The energy sector played an integral role in the agriculture sector, said the President, adding that the combination of the power deficit experienced by the Sadc region last year and rising oil prices had a serious negative impact on farming operations.

He said Zimbabwe had consequently embarked on a biofuel project to produce diesel and petrol from jatropha and sugarcane.

"To avoid the negative effect of using maize as biofuel feedstock, our project uses jatropha seed and sugarcane," he explained.

Turning to the ravaging effects of HIV and Aids, President Mugabe said despite declining prevalence rates in the productive 15-49 age group dropping to 13,7 percent, Zimbabwe was concerned that the figure was still too high.

In response to the impact of the pandemic on the agriculture sector, President Mugabe said the Government adopted the Zimbabwe Agricultural Sector Strategy on HIV and Aids to offset its negative consequences.

The President also paid tribute to Sadc and FAO for assisting Zimbabwe in mobilising farming inputs for the generality of the population.

These interventions, he noted, had resulted in an increase in cereal crop yields by over 75 percent this year.

He said Sadc’s agricultural inputs support initiative and the country’s homegrown agricultural policies were paying dividends.

"We are grateful for the support we have received from the Sadc region, which provided seed and fertilizers through the Sadc agriculture inputs support initiative.

"With this support from Sadc, the country experienced a dramatic 75 percent increase in maize production this year.

"For the 2009/2010 season, we have received support from various international co-operating partners who provided input packs through the smallholder emergency support programme, which is co-ordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and is expected to reach over 600 000 households. Zimbabwe is grateful for this support," he said.

The summit, which ends today, drew leaders from mostly developing countries.

Western countries snubbed the meeting, a decision that has been described as indicative of their lack of appreciation of the global food insecurity problem that led to food riots in 22 countries last year.


‘Continent must discard European script’

By Owen ‘Alik Shahadah

"MAN’S freedom is lacking if somebody else controls what he needs, for need may result in man’s enslavement of man." — Muammar al-Gaddafi

The premises behind much of the solutions for Africa are in the ideal that a hurting Africa needs a humanist hand from Europe. This is like appealing to the fox to save you from the wolf. An agreement in the United Nations’ Security Council or other diabolical agencies such as the World Bank is like an agreement among a choir, and such agreements are not agreements at all nor are they meant to provide any succour to the problems of Africa. NEPAD insist that a richer Africa is in the interest of the entire world, true or false will not appeal to the morality of a world system that never in its legacy has and does not act along a moral compass.

There is nothing but capitalism and illusions of democracy, which are alien to the aspirations of African people. "Feed Africa" to "Make Poverty History" are mere sloganeering programs with no genuine effect to the population of the continent. These campaigns are industries unto themselves that create billions of dollars and generate millions of jobs. They subsidise ailing industries in developed countries. We are naïve and childish to believe a richer Africa is in the interest of Europe.

Poor people do not have the luxury of liberalism and freedom of speech. Poor people have no point of view other than "feed me." Poor people are absent from the luxury of agency. A poor Africa will always be a slave to a richer Europe. Today, at every major anti-slavery or save Africa project, it is Europe deciding and inviting personalities from the African world to sit at "their" table, to discuss Africa’s problems. The frontline for Make Poverty History is a "museum of rock stars" beyond their performance years, probably seeking redemption and revival; Geldolf is the expert on famine, Bono the authority on AIDS. Bob Geldof, the Jesus and Tarzan character all rolled into one.

The first name to come to mind when abolition is whispered is William Wilberforce and Granville Sharpe.

Walking in the legacy of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume": A man who single-handedly ended the entire Arab Slave trade. Again, the agent in Africa’s liberation is Europe. Not even dealing with the aspect of how Africa found itself in the continuing hole. What kind of world do we live in when the views of the oppressed are expressed at the convenience of the rich?

Media: Black Story, White Voice

Name a "Black film" and look behind the lens; who wrote it, who produced it, who directed it? Amistad. The music by John Williams. The director? Mr. Spielberg. A Jamaican film called One Love, again the same pattern. Tsosti a story of violence in the African communities- violence is a natural reality of South African people in European perception; it sells and feeds their image of us of being gang bangers, and semi-noble savages.

It is almost impossible to consider a film that does not include a European central figure. The recent Last King of Scotland reflects this. It is in the legacy of Cry Freedom. The title shows the mindset behind it. It would not be sufficient to tell the story of Idi Amin; so infamous enough and surely notorious enough character in his own right. No, they say, this would reduce the value of the project. In comes the European into the storyline. It is actually amazing to see Mel Gibson attempt to make a film of a non-white people without a central European character.

Returning to the likes of Richard Attenborough, we cannot blame him for his bias in Cry Freedom, he is by nature a European and is simply acting out his European weighted worldview, avoiding Eurocentric as a term, as every healthy race is sensitive to his or her cultural perceptions. It makes no sense to ask Spielberg to give more "Africanness" in his Amistad or The Colour Purple (which was an amazing piece of cinema). Even stories of African struggle are without exception made by Europeans: Amandla (Lee Hirsch), Roots (Collection of Whites), War Dance (Sean Fine), Life and Debt (Stephanie Black), Rize (David LaChapelle).

This pattern speaks directly to the social disinheritance. Who is paid from our experience? Who is cashing in again and again on our tears? Why can’t Africans be the central authors of their stories? The issue is not for Europeans to become more sensitive in "pretending" to be African: the issue is amazingly simpler; it is for Africans to be agents in their stories and hence removing the problem all together.

The concept that Europe is qualified in bringing out indigenous people’s stories is just as arrogant as assuming Africans are and others are a worthless child-race. All nice intentions are welcomed by these are all rooted in the same racist presumption of racial incapability on the part of Africans and other non-European races.

A journey to the local media outlet see Michael Palin in Africa, or a PBS special on Africa produced by an all European cast called Tigress productions. This is the interface, which we need to challenge; many of us are caught-up in incidentals of our struggle.

Being seen on a screen is not self-determination, especially when the gatekeepers, decision makers who determining the validity of our work are all European. African stories are attempts to explain Africans to Europeans as opposed to Africans explaining themselves to each other. These mere fact renders the whole concept of "Black cinema" and "Black perspective" redundant.

Products, not producers

Once there was a web site called Africana which explored African history and generally empowering topics, where is that site today? It has been taken over by the commercial giants AOL and is now blackvoices, a collection of trite and pointless garbage that celebrates the emptiest aspects of African-American culture; the singers and the dancers, the entertainers and the clowns.

All the adverts centred on the "Black" people are relating to sex. The commodification of the African body is an industry to itself. Inter-racial dating, meet black singles, black gays, find black love- this is what African people have come to represent in the global world. These are problems created and nurtured by Europeans. They fail to understand it is also adversely affecting the very socio-cultural existence of Europe itself.

Europe has relegated the position of women to the doldrums; they see their women as objects of amusement, just mere flesh for quenching their thirst. Who needs any "meet single" if women are respected and given the right position? And certainly it is not a problem in Africa.

So why, is it that it is sent down our throats and now our people entering the bandwagon? Hip-hop to pop embraces nothing deep but the most base aspects of the human animal. Returning us to Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness," El-Hajj Malik Shabazz said: "we stand for nothing, fall for everything." Agency is the natural actions of a self-determined people; lack thereof is testimony to the shallow position Diasporian-Africans occupy.

--Owen ‘Alik Shahadah, is an African Cultural writer and a multi-award winning Filmmaker who documents African history and culture. Published with kind permission from African Holocaust.


West has obligation to help poor nations

EDITOR — Rich countries have shown their true colours by snubbing the Food and Agriculture Organisation summit underway in Italy.

This basically underlines the nature of the problem we have in the world today.

Rich countries dissociate themselves from problems that they perceive to affect only poor parts of the world.

Ironically, it is the same countries that help create problems for the poor nations.

Right now rich countries are not ready to commit themselves to a binding climate change deal while the climate change phenomenon has already started wreaking havoc on poor countries in Africa.

Hunger and food insecurity are a result of climate change.

Rich developed countries in the West are mainly to blame for climate change as their industrialisation polluted the air leading to the diverse and complex effects of global warming and climate change.

Successive droughts and flooding that we have seen in the past few years — which threaten food security and the livelihoods of billions of people — are also a direct result of the actions of rich nations.

Other problems that the rich nations have created for the poor developing world include access to land.

Many countries in the developing world simply do not have access to good, arable land, which impacts negatively on food security and poverty alleviation.

The indignation of Western countries over Zimbabwe’s land reform mirrors this attitude by the West to want to perpetuate poverty and food insecurity among poor nations.

It is also imperative to note that rich Western countries are not forthcoming in commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which stand to mainly better the lives of those living in the poor impoverished parts of the world.

Rich nations have a moral obligation to help the poor nations of the world.

Baba Tanaka.
Harare.


Foreign aid not good for Africa

By James Shikwati

I COME from Africa, a resource-rich continent which is depicted as poor by conventional development statistics — so as to justify foreign aid. Aid has driven Africans to lose confidence in their abilities and opportunities. It has promoted a culture of dependence — a culture of relying on other people’s help.

African children are born into a cycle of dependency. Imagine yourself as a child, growing up in a country where your parents have been reduced to mere procreators. They cannot feed you, because their indigenous foods have been crowded out by exotic foods that came from donors. They cannot choose the type of education you ought to get, because donors have supplied all sorts of "free education systems" that orient you to the West. You become an automatic candidate for the "brain drain", for immigration to the developed world — but your education does not prepare you to solve Africa’s problems.

You grow up in a confused political environment. Donors’ direct funding of civil society cuts your government out of the picture and leaves it impotent. On the other hand if the donors give direct funding to your government, they breed political cronyism, corruption and the evils of ethnic division. A mixture of both leads to political upheavals — as we saw in Kenya last year. Donors made Kenya into a country whose government does not pay attention to the electorate. At the same time they paid its civil society to organise citizens into agitators.

Attempts by donors to impose their organisational structures on Africa create confusion - and force people on the continent to focus on short-term goals. Although donors might brag about promoting education in Africa, they do not admit that they’re simply helping their own industry, by creating a supply of labour. Donors decry the dearth of leadership in Africa, but stop short of pointing out that the majority of the so-called "bad leaders" were educated in Western schools using donor funds.

We must question foreign aid’s embedded, corrupting system that takes people who reside in resource-rich countries and makes them poor. Computer experts talk about malware — a short form for "malicious software" that infiltrates a computer without the owners’ informed consent. Foreign aid — like malware — harms a country’s operating system. The term "aid" in itself is corrupting. What is the justification for using such a term when Africans repay their debts, amounting to US$20 billion every year?

Let us take a moment to look at some examples of hostile and intrusive programs run by the aid industry, particularly in Africa. Since food aid was introduced in the ’60s, African eating-habits have changed — and agriculture has been re-oriented to produce exotic crops that demand far more input than indigenous ones. Over 120 million people on that continent are faced with starvation. The cause — though blamed on drought — has everything to do with this change of crops — as opposed to what could be done if we got science to work on the indigenous crops.

The "Food-aid-malware" has disorganised Africa’s food production and is currently giving wealthy nations the excuse to acquire land there, on the distorted assumption that people in Africa are incapable of producing food.

Here’s another hostile intrusion into Africa’s system. Imagine an office that installs security cameras – but then one-day finds it’s been robbed. The owners rush to the monitoring room and discover blank screens — because the cameras were faulty. Aid works very much like that. It’s a CCTV system, deliberately put in to mislead. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo have vast amounts of geological resources; but donor countries parade this country among the poorest. Behind the scenes however, their companies are plundering minerals worth billions of dollars. Africa has been relying on a faulty CCTV system to gather data about itself. And all it gets is a frozen image in the monitoring room — the picture that shows the continent as poor.

Is Africa with its immense resources really poor? Japan with its limited territory imports and exports tons of goods to the global market; Switzerland produces the finest chocolate yet she has no cocoa plantations. The United States of America, Europe and China produce millions of cell phones and laptops by sourcing minerals such as Coltan from the so-called poor continent. There is no free lunch for Africa. Donor countries have high levels of political organisation. The executive, the judiciary and the legislature all promote the rule of law and above all — property rights! This has unleashed industrial ingenuity in the donor countries. Citizens in these countries pay for the upkeep of their own governments; why should Africans surrender their governments to donors?

Children growing up in Africa want to look into the eyes of their parents and draw inspiration to live. They need incentives to utilise their talents to confront their daily challenges. Foreign aid sustains the already skewed global market system and denies individuals and nations of the third world the ability to grow their economies.

It is wrong to perpetuate the notion that Africa is in a state of permanent emergency. A change of attitude and a new confidence among Africans will unchain the continent from poverty.

--James Shikwati is Director, Inter Region Economic Network. He can be reached on james@irenkenya.org. This article is reproduced from the African Executive.

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