• The United Nations backs seed sovereignty in landmark small-scale farmers’ rights declaration

    On Dec. 17, the United Nations General Assembly took a quiet but historic vote, approving the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas by a vote of 121-8 with 52 abstentions. The declaration, the product of some 17 years of diplomatic work led by the international peasant alliance La Via Campesina, formally extends human rights protections to farmers whose “seed sovereignty” is threatened by government and corporate practices.

    “As peasants we need the protection and respect for our values and for our role in society in achieving food sovereignty,” said #Via_Campesina coordinator Elizabeth Mpofu after the vote. Most developing countries voted in favor of the resolution, while many developed country representatives abstained. The only “no” votes came from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, Israel and Sweden.

    “To have an internationally recognized instrument at the highest level of governance that was written by and for peasants from every continent is a tremendous achievement,” said Jessie MacInnis of Canada’s National Farmers Union. The challenge, of course, is to mobilize small-scale farmers to claim those rights, which are threatened by efforts to impose rich-country crop breeding regulations onto less developed countries, where the vast majority of food is grown by peasant farmers using seeds they save and exchange.
    Seed sovereignty in Zambia

    The loss of seed diversity is a national problem in Zambia. “We found a lot of erosion of local seed varieties,” Juliet Nangamba, program director for the Community Technology Development Trust, told me in her Lusaka office. She is working with the regional Seed Knowledge Initiative (SKI) to identify farmer seed systems and prevent the disappearance of local varieties. “Even crops that were common just 10 years ago are gone.” Most have been displaced by maize, which is heavily subsidized by the government. She’s from Southern Province, and she said their survey found very little presence of finger millet, a nutritious, drought-tolerant grain far better adapted to the region’s growing conditions.

    Farmers are taking action. Mary Tembo welcomed us to her farm near Chongwe in rural Zambia. Trained several years ago by Kasisi Agricultural Training Center in organic agriculture, Tembo is part of the SKI network, which is growing out native crops so seed is available to local farmers. Tembo pulled some chairs into the shade of a mango tree to escape the near-100-degree Fahrenheit heat, an unseasonable reminder of Southern Africa’s changing climate. Rains were late, as they had been several of the last few years. Farmers had prepared their land for planting but were waiting for a rainy season they could believe in.

    Tembo didn’t seem worried. She still had some of her land in government-sponsored hybrid maize and chemical fertilizer, especially when she was lucky enough to get a government subsidy. But most of her land was in diverse native crops, chemical free for 10 years.

    “I see improvements from organic,” she explained, as Kasisi’s Austin Chalala translated for me from the local Nyanja language. “It takes more work, but we are now used to it.” The work involves more careful management of a diverse range of crops planted in ways that conserve and rebuild the soil: crop rotations; intercropping; conservation farming with minimal plowing; and the regular incorporation of crop residues and composted manure to build soil fertility. She has six pigs, seven goats, and 25 chickens, which she says gives her enough manure for the farm.

    She was most proud of her seeds. She disappeared into the darkness of her small home. I was surprised when she emerged with a large fertilizer bag. She untied the top of the bag and began to pull out her stores of homegrown organic seeds. She laughed when I explained my surprise. She laid them out before us, a dazzling array: finger millet; orange maize; Bambara nuts; cowpea; sorghum; soybeans; mung beans; three kinds of groundnuts; popcorn; common beans. All had been saved from her previous harvest. The contribution of chemical fertilizer to these crops was, clearly, just the bag.

    She explained that some would be sold for seed. There is a growing market for these common crops that have all but disappeared with the government’s obsessive promotion of maize. Some she would share with the 50 other farmer members of the local SKI network. And some she and her family happily would consume. Crop diversity is certainly good for the soil, she said, but it’s even better for the body.
    Peasant rights crucial to climate adaptation

    We visited three other Kasisi-trained farmers. All sang the praises of organic production and its diversity of native crops. All said their diets had improved dramatically, and they are much more food-secure than when they planted only maize. Diverse crops are the perfect hedge against a fickle climate. If the maize fails, as it has in recent years, other crops survive to feed farmers’ families, providing a broader range of nutrients. Many traditional crops are more drought-tolerant than maize.

    Another farmer we visited already had planted, optimistically, before the rains arrived. She showed us her fields, dry and with few shoots emerging. With her toe, she cleared some dirt from one furrow to reveal small green leaves, alive in the dry heat. “Millet,” she said proudly. With a range of crops, she said, “the farmer can never go wrong.”

    I found the same determination in Malawi, where the new Farm-Saved Seed Network (FASSNet) is building awareness and working with government on a “Farmers’ Rights” bill to complement a controversial Seed Bill, which deals only with commercial seeds. A parallel process is advancing legislation on the right to food and nutrition. Both efforts should get a shot in the arm with the U.N.’s Peasants’ Rights declaration.

    The declaration gives such farmers a potentially powerful international tool to defend themselves from the onslaught of policies and initiatives, led by multinational seed companies, to replace native seeds with commercial varieties, the kind farmers have to buy every year.

    Kasisi’s Chalala told me that narrative is fierce in Zambia, with government representatives telling farmers such as Tembo that because her seeds are not certified by the government, they should be referred to only as “grain.”

    Eroding protection from GMOs

    As if to illustrate the ongoing threats to farm-saved seed, that same week in Zambia controversy erupted over two actions by the government’s National Biosafety Board to weaken the country’s proud and clear stance against the use of genetically modified crops. The board quietly had granted approval for a supermarket chain to import and sell three products with GMOs, a move promptly criticized by the Zambian National Farmers Union.

    Then it was revealed that the board secretly was drawing up regulations for the future planting of GM crops in the country, again in defiance of the government’s approved policies. The Zambian Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity quickly denounced the initiative.

    The U.N. declaration makes such actions a violation of peasants’ rights. Now the task is to put that new tool in farmers’ hands. “As with other rights, the vision and potential of the Peasant Rights Declaration will only be realized if people organize to claim these rights and to implement them in national and local institutions,” argued University of Pittsburgh sociologists Jackie Smith and Caitlin Schroering in Common Dreams. “Human rights don’t ‘trickle down’ — they rise up!”
    #ONU #semences #déclaration #souveraineté #souveraineté_semencière (?) #agriculture #paysannerie #Zambie #OGM #climat #changement_climatique
    ping @odilon

  • Colonial and Postcolonial Logistics | FOOTPRINT

    This article addresses the logistical aspects of colonial and postcolonial governmental practices and the way in which such practices structured the African territory. In particular, it focuses on Zambia (Northern Rhodesia at time of British domination), a landlocked country located in the centre of Southern Africa, whose historical evolution, since it was conquered at the beginning of the twentieth century, is deeply intertwined with the discovery, extraction and export of copper and with the import of fossil fuel.

    In the first part, I introduce the concept of ‘colonial logistics’ intended as the modification and rationalisation of territories for military and political domination, and extraction and export of resources. In the second part of the article I show how, after independence, Zambia dealt with its complex geopolitical entanglement, partially inherited from colonial planning and partially generated by the end of direct forms of imperialism, which required the rerouting of its resources and the rebalancing of uneven territorial structures. The analysis of infrastructure development in postcolonial Zambia illustrates the competing strategies through which imperialist powers attempted to secure a new form of control on Africa and elucidates the role of logistics as a decisive tool to shape the African territory.

    #colonialisme #néo-colonialisme

  • The New Heart of Darkness

    North of South by Shiva Naipaul Simon and Schuster, $10.95
    By Judith E. Matloff, July 13, 1979

    ACCORDING TO SHIVA and V.S. Naipaul, Mistah Kurtz—he ain’t dead. His capacity for barbarism is alive in African dictators who act like capricious children in fatigues, and in Australian tourists who visit Africa to prove racism is justified because the natives are so in competent.

    The two Trinidadian writes are brothers, which partly explains why their recent books on Africa both argue that the heart of darkness has relocated to a new bend in the river, just north of South Africa. They have not left Conrad far behind in their assertion that Africa is a dark and irrational continent.

    The books differ stupendously in their quality, but that’s thoroughly explainable. V.S. Naipaul, who is the superior writer, has more experience. He has produced 15 books since 1952, but his diversity in style is more remarkable than his productivity. V.S. Naipaul has mastered social satire, essays on development, historical accounts and pessimistic novels about racial conflict and independence in the Third world. Although writing about disparate societies, Naipaul displays an astute sociological ability to muster and link problems common to all former colonies.

    A Bend in the River is in the same genre as Naipaul’s later novels-those set in tropical areas where a blacked majority has recently seized power. A Bend takes place in the interior of a guerilla-ridden African nation. It is stifling hot, and the wet bush seems to reinforce the violence lurking in men’s souls. An Amin-like dictator rules the nation, periodically purging his national youth guard and murdering potential rebels.

    Ferdinand, one of the “young black men of Africa who rise from the bottom to the top with nothing, because he is young and a black and African” fears he will not survive the president’s arbitrary purges. A well-meaning missionary is beheaded by the very people he is trying to educate. And the protagionist’s store is seized because he is an East Asian and thus a “traitor.”

    Salim, the protagionist, is an archetypal Naipaul character—East Indian, sallow, passive and alienated. Salim’s lethargy reflects his anxiety about the ultimate, senseless violence. As the president’s forces creep deeper into the interior, Salim becomes more desperate. He tries twice to rouse himself, via an affair and a flight to London where illusions of a Western civilized arcadia lie. But neither succeeds as a safety-value. Salim renounces all hope and returns to Africa, only to find that the violent abyss has widened.

    A Bend is yet another of V.S. Naipaul’s impeccably crafted books. He maintains a level of tension that becomes almost intolerable; the reader can feel the vines and the president’s guard coming too close to his house. This is writing that makes one want to open a window or turn on a fan. Or keep a gun by the bedside.

    The author’s capacity for developing his characters’ humanity forces the reader to empathize with all of them—the wealthy white Europeans, black African cab drivers or Asian shopkeepers. His humanity does not extend, however, to his women characters—nymphomaniacs on whom he vindictively inflicts sexual abuse and mutilation.

    Another weakness is Naipaul’s pessismism about Africa’s future. He fells ruination and debauched immorality will scar Africa’s future as they have scarred its past. Naipaul consistently uses examples from unstable areas like Zaire and Jamaica and ignores relatively stable ones like Tanzania and Kenya.

    But because he is from a developing nation himself, V.S. Naipaul has a perspective a Westerner cannot glean. Naipaul’s perspective as an East Indian in a black nation sets him apart from other Third World writers. This gives him a curiously advantageous literary position—he is both a participant and observer in his society.

    IT MUST BE hard to follow in the footsteps of a famous and brilliant older brother. Unfortunately, Shiva Naipaul cannot compete with his brother’s polish or his sensitivity. Both are missing from North of South. The book is a montage of conversations held or overheard by the author during a six-month visit to Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. For Shiva Africa is a land of hypocrisy, deceit and irony. Some of his examples are apt: an African student loves books but hates to read; young boys selling peanuts are condemned as capitalists in Tanzania; religious Hindus devour beef sandwiches; a white tourist asks her companion, “In Burundi do the tall ones kill the short ones or do the short ones kill the tall ones?”

    But Shiva’s persistent sardonic tone undermines his anecdotes’ effectiveness. The reader tires quickly of his smug arrogance, and yearns for some affirmative statement about Africa. Everyone on the “dark continent” seems to be a caricature—all racist and drugged white tourists, or insufferably dogmatic bureaucrats.

    The work has two other major flaws. First, Shiva presents no connecting analysis to link his anecdotes. This approach aggravates the reader’s impatience with Naipaul’s tone—as he becomes increasingly weary from traveling overland, so the reader becomes more tired of nasty asides.

    Second, Shiva’s theoretical point that “the African soul is a blank slate in which anything can be written” is offensive. For Shiva, Pan-Africanism, Tanzania’s self-reliance and the rebirth of Swahili mean nothing. He sees only Kenyans worshipping the West’s wealth and culture. And Shiva, like his brother, does not give enough credit to the governments and people of these nations who are struggling with the racial and class problems of a colonial past.

    Shiva Naipaul is most weak where his brother is strongest—the ability to empathize with all the people he writes about. He does not try to understand why a nouveau riche black Kenyan has two freezers (which she never uses), whisky at every meal, gold-painted nails, and an expropriated mansion too large for her needs. He simply finds her ludicrous and tasteless.

    Where V.S. Naipaul is a universalist, drawing parallels among the people he sees, Shiva Naipaul is a defensive separatist. This sense of separation stems in part from the nature of a travelogue, which forces him to keep a distance from his subjects. For hi, sanity only exists in the industrialized West—i.e., England. The nightmare only begins when one boards the flight to Africa.

    Both Naipaul brothers see Africa through Conrad’s eyes—as a ruined land where logic is an anomaly and men become corrupted. But for V.S. Naipaul, the entire world is a senseless, despondent morass. For Shiva, civilization and Mistah Kurtz are only dead in Africa.

    #littérature #afrique #congo

  • I grew up in one of the world’s most toxic towns

    I grew up in #Kabwe, a beautiful place in central Zambia that was once one of the world’s leading mining towns. Now it is better known as one of the most polluted places on Earth because of lead poisoning.

    Before I was born, my father and mother moved from a village in the central part of Northern Rhodesia, as Zambia was called back then, to a town called Broken Hill, which became known as Kabwe after independence. Kabwe is right in the middle of Zambia’s Central Province, about 100 miles from the capital Lusaka.
    #pollution #zambie #mines #santé
    cc @albertocampiphoto @daphne @marty

  • Zambia drought could slash 2018 maize output by around 50 percent

    Quand le sorgho est une céréale résistante à la sécheresse...

    Zambia’s maize production may drop around 50 percent in the current 2017/2018 crop season if a dry spell which the nation is experiencing continues into next month, an industry body said on Monday.

    #Zambie #sécheresse #maïs

  • Commercial Farming and Displacement in Zambia | HRW

    The Zambian government regards agriculture as a “panacea” for rural poverty, and the country’s leaders have been promoting agribusiness investments on huge swaths of land. However, flaws in the government’s regulation of commercial agriculture, and its poor efforts at protecting the rights of vulnerable people, instead of helping people climb out of the poverty mire, are actually hurting them. Families that have lived and farmed for generations on land now allocated to commercial farms are being displaced without due process or compensation. Some have been left hungry and homeless.

    Any one commercial agriculture project, whether a massive investment by foreign investors on tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land, or smaller land deals on a few hundred to a few thousand hectares, may impact individuals and households. Without proper safeguards, they may have a tremendously negative cumulative impact on local communities. Rural people suffer when governments fail to properly regulate land deals, large or small, and the operation of commercial farms. That is precisely what is happening in some rural communities in Zambia.

    #Zambie #déplacements_forcés #terres #agro-industrie

  • ‘The Position of Women in Science Has Changed for the Better’, but ‘Is Still Far From Ideal’ · Global Voices

    As part of a two-pronged series of interviews with medical researchers based in Africa (read the first part here), Global Voices reached out to Dr. Shilpa Iyer, who is currently working in Zambia.

    Iyer grew up in Pune, India, where she obtained her bachelor’s and masters degrees in zoology and molecular biology, respectively. She then moved to the US and obtained her PhD in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale University with a Fogarty Global health research fellowship to conduct research in Lusaka, Zambia.

    #sciences #femmes #discriminations #inégalités

  • China approves 10 international agricultural parks

    China has approved plans to establish international agricultural demonstration zones in 10 countries, the agriculture ministry said on Monday, as Beijing looks to extend its influence in the global farm sector.

    The projects include an agriculture technology park in Laos, an agricultural products processing zone in Zambia and a fisheries park in Fiji, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

    The demonstration zones are based on existing projects set up by Chinese firms, which will be given government backing to serve as platforms for other Chinese companies.

    China also approved 10 pilot agricultural parks at home, which will be open to overseas investment. They are located in coastal, river and border regions to help encourage overseas cooperation and local connections.

    The agricultural parks are part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, an ambitious plan to expand infrastructure and trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

    #Chine #OBOR #agriculture

  • My favorite images: Magee McIlvaine

    My photographic work is and always has been deeply personal to me. The majority of my childhood was spent in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I grew to be comfortable with being marked as different, whether in Lusaka or in Washington D.C., and found hip hop as a point of common ground, as a way…

  • Zambia’s peasants at risk of becoming squatters on their own land – UN expert warns

    The expert drew special attention to the fact that in the Zambian dual-model of land tenure tenants on state land enjoy the full protection of their property rights. “However,” she noted, “landholders under customary tenure, affecting around 85% of the land, mostly in hands of peasants, are essentially occupants or users of land and their property and land rights remain unprotected.”
    #Zambie #agriculture #paysannerie #terres #propriété
    cc @odilon

  • Kenneth Kaunda and the national question

    As he attains the young age of 93, #Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda (KK to his supporters), has lived to see five of his successors have a go at leading the country. When he lost the 1991 presidential elections to Fredrick Chiluba, he witnessed what must have been a heart wrenching campaign of vandalisms designed…


  • Lessons from Kaundanomics

    A story is told that a few years after independence in 1964, Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president, visited one of the mines in the mineral rich Copperbelt Province and was immediately struck by the complete absence of Zambians in senior management positions. He proceeded to ask the mine owners as to when they reasonably thought…

  • Chinese ‘mafia boss’ turns to timber in Namibia - Oxpeckers

    Evidence shows Xuecheng Hou and other timber traders are taking advantage of a legal loophole that allows rural Namibians to harvest slow-growing species such as African rosewood, mukula and bloodwood trees for their own use.

    They harvest most of the logs in south-eastern Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), countries that have banned the export of raw logs, and then transport the timber by truck to Walvis Bay harbour in Namibia.

    Using Namibia as their backdoor, they are exporting raw logs from the region at a rate of thousands of trees every month.

    Currently, an estimated 250-300 containers of raw timber are leaving Walvis Bay for China every month, representing a region-wide decimation of a resource valued for its medicinal and nutritional properties. At around US$35,000 to $40,000 per container, this illegal trade is worth between $8.75-million and $16-million per month.

    Smuggling route

    The wood-smuggling route is the same as that followed by the illicit trade in rhino horn, ivory and pangolin scales and skins, among others. Containers of illicit timber are often used to hide wildlife contraband, as a recent bust of one such trader with three tons of pangolin scale hidden in a container packed with wood from the DRC showed.

    #bois #bois_précieux #contrebande #extinction #Chine #Namibie

  • #Madagascar drought: 330,000 people ’one step from famine’, UN warns | Global development | The Guardian

    The severe drought afflicting southern Madagascar has left 330,000 people on the brink of famine, a senior UN official has warned.

    Three successive years of failed rains have left the island nation wrestling with crop failure and a chronic lack of food and clean drinking water, with agencies warning last month that nearly 850,000 people are experiencing “alarming” hunger levels.

    “Three hundred and thirty thousand are on the verge of a food security catastrophe, next step being famine,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies and rehabilitation at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    “People go from one lean season to the next, resorting to negative coping strategies. People are eating anything to fill their stomachs, selling most of their belongings, cattle and land. It shows the severity of the situation and the need for us to act.”

    #sécheresse #famine #climat


      Malawi is one of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation and in a situation that the UN says needs requires immediate action.

      It has been devastated by a combination of a long drought caused by a strong El Niño weather cycle and climate change. Successive maize harvests have failed, leaving communities there and in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere, desperate for food.

      Madagascar is the most critical, said David Phiri, UN food and agriculture coordinator based in Harare, Zimbabawe.

      “Hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of famine. We may see deaths there from starvation. People appear to have no food or money. The cost of inaction or further delaying our response is too ghastly to contemplate. It needs immediate action,” he warned.

  • 100, 000 Women From 20 Countries Set To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro - The Whistler

    The women, mostly rural farmers, are drawn from Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe etc.

    The main event will be the climb by the farmers to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to symbolize the challenge facing women and represents the starting point to dissemination the message throughout Africa.

    Amongst the climbers are two representatives from SWOFON, Mary Afan and Lovelyn Ejim who are also members of the network of Rural Women Farmers across Africa and are already in Tanzania to be joined by others from Nigeria at the assembly.

    The #Kilimanjaro Initiative is spearheaded by ActionAid International. It was conceived during a meeting of rural women and civil society organisation in 2012 in Dar es Salam Tanzania.

    #femmes #accès_à_la_terre #Afrique

  • #Zimbabwe declares ’state of disaster’ due to drought | World news | The Guardian

    Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, has declared a state of disaster in rural areas hit by a severe drought, as more than a quarter of the population face food shortages.

    A regional drought worsened by the #El_Niño weather phenomenon has affected South Africa, Malawi and Zambia as well as Zimbabwe, leaving tens of thousands of cattle dead, reservoirs depleted and crops destroyed.

    Formerly known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has suffered perennial shortages in recent years and has relied on importing grain from neighbouring countries to meet its needs.

    #sécheresse #Afrique_australe #silence_on_meurt