Where Is It Easiest To Get An Abortion…and Why? The Geography of Women’s Rights.

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Which countries have laws preventing violence? Which have laws requiring married women to obey their husbands? Which legislate for gender equality? Which allow abortion? Which require that women be given time off during the work day to nurse their infants? Which punish dismissal of pregnant women?

There are a great many stylized facts (oftentimes myths) about how women are doing and how far we have come in the formal acquisition and assertion of our fundamental rights. I have been fortunate to find many outlets for my legal training during my study and practice of economics, and I have discovered to my utmost delight that both of these exceedingly individualistic fields intersect, and in no small measure I might add.

Questions about economic growth, productivity and the alleviation of rural poverty among African farmers and across all occupational groups and sectors for that matter, can hadly be addressed without an examination of issues surrounding land rights, property law, contract enforcement, labor law, family law…and the list goes on and on and on.

Furthermore, I am quite certain that it is impossible to fully understand and provide effective solutions to development issues without a clear study of the problems in the context of gender, because whether anyone likes it or not, regardless of if we are in rural Uganda or the in the mountains of Ethiopia, the solutions for men will in most cases be an entirely useless tool for addressing the very same problems among women.

We were supposed to move on to the next topic in our current series but I am sure no one here would mind if we take a small detour, and gorge ourselves on this amazing interactive map from The Guardian. Using World Bank and UN data to create “a snapshot of women’s rights across the globe, they composed a tool with which you can select a region and hover over a country to see how it has legislated for violence, harassment, abortion, property and employment rights, discrimination and equality. Click on a country to tweet a message on the figures. Country data can be viewed in relation to its population size and those of its neighboring states. Click the centre of the circle to return to the beginning.”

Women's Rights By Country - Graphic Representation Courtesy of The Guardian

Women’s Rights By Country – Graphic Representation Courtesy of The Guardian (click here or on the image to get to the map)

Enjoy! I know I did 🙂

Next Up: “Good Neighbors…Good Friends”

Source: The Guardian.

Feeding Souls

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Photo Credit: bdlive.co.za

Photo Credit: bdlive.co.za

We left our discussion of agricultural development paradigms in a place of tension between the use of commercialized cash-cropping as a way to remedy the deepening poverty within small farm holder communities, and the idea that progressive improvement in farmer livelihood occurs not as a result of more cash-in-hand, but as a consequence of individual and community self-improvement efforts. Proponents of community development, were of the opinion that economic growth should occur by way of capacity development, rather than by the accumulation of money and wealth which should be seen as a result of rather than a basis for development.

We also discussed that despite the pervasive influence of community development on national policies and foreign aid agendas, the idea of development via cash crop commercialization stubbornly continued to find its way into community development discourse, and by the time community development evolved into the more commonly known Integrated Rural Development, it had become very difficult to separate the functioning of one idea from the other.

It is because of this inability to completely divorce the desire to achieve human capacity development from the need for commercial and economic gain that discussion of Basic Human Needs began. Increasing dissatisfaction with the achievements of development efforts so far, and a general concern about deepening rural poverty resulted in a shift in development thinking from its more high-brow persuasion to a focus on principles that prioritized the poor and destitute over other economic groups, that paid attention to requirements determined by society as a whole rather than the preferences of the individual consumer, that catered to immediate consumption over investment for the distant future, and that placed more emphasis on detailed composition of consumption in terms of specific quantities and specific goods and services, than to overall income.

Andrew Saftel - Food, Clothing & Shelter

Painting by Andrew Saftel – Food, Clothing & Shelter

Attempts to define what exactly basic human needs were never reached a place of universal consensus. Rather a range of meanings were ascribed beginning at one end with a minimalist list of requirements for basic human survival e.g. food, shelter and clothes, to the other extreme which considered not just physical needs but psychological as well which were in themselves context specific. Therefore basic human needs were perceived as including not just commodities but public services such as clean water, transportation, employment, education and rights of political expression and participation.

Taking the failings of community development-plus as a whole, development thinkers through the 1950s and 1960s argued for a more direct approach to meeting the basic needs of the poor as quickly as possible. While BHN cannot be said to have been a new economic theory, like the Keynesian and Marxist methods of analysis that were emerging at that time, it is a paradigm that proponents of these schools of thought could quite easily have adopted. While it may be difficult to pinpoint a single coherent theory of BHN, and while when considered side by side, it may seem to almost mirror the community development and other similar growth movements, the former differs from the latter at a very fundamental level in the sense that BHN was primarily concerned with more immediate rather than the more distant future and with the distribution of growth among the poorest of the poor.

Pyramid of basic human needs.

Pyramid of basic human needs.

And no; BHN was not anti-growth, in fact rapid and substantial growth was considered to be a necessary component for the fulfillment of basic human needs within a target period (commonly set at 20 years). However, it was different from the main stream “redistribution-with-growth” school because it considered the finer details of supply and demand and was focused on restructuring the production process in a way that favored the poor; ensuring that they were provided with the resources they needed to begin to rise out of poverty.

The advent of the BHN paradigm in Africa can be linked to a number of factors pertinent among which were; (1) rapidly increasing sprawl of capital cities and urban underclass arising from the urban bias that was reflected in polices of the day, (2) deteriorating terms of trade combined with the commodity boom for those that were fortunate enough to have access to coffee, tea or cocoa land which further deepened rural inequality, (3) a significant drought in the early 1970s that turned the world’s attention to the frightening levels of poverty and famine in the Sahel and Ethiopia, and (4) the surge in development assistance flows to Africa in the 1970s which financed most BHN interventions.

However, the actual adoption of BHN as a development strategy, happened as a direct result of five International Labor Office (ILO) country missions in the early 1970s; most notable of these for our purposes was the 1972 mission to Kenya. Let me tell you that story.

Street Vendors

Street Vendors

Development programs in SSA the 1950s and 60’s were structured and implemented based on the widely accepted assumption that with the right mix of economic policies and resources, the poor, traditional economies of the region could transition into dynamic modern ones. The plan was that the traditional sector which comprised of petty traders, small producers and all sorts of casual works would die a slow but deliberate death; absorbed into what would emerge as the new capitalist, formal and more desirable economy. Stories of success from Europe and Japan based on this model and burgeoning industrialization in Europe and North America following WW2 further reinforced its credibility; and everyone was positive that Africa would follow suit. By the 1960’s things were not quite shaping-up as hoped and people began to get worried. Persistent and widespread unemployment was a major concern for national governments and poverty seemed to be dipping to unprecedented levels. Deciding to take on the daunting task of figuring out how to address the unemployment problem the ILO sent a series of caravan missions to a number of developing countries, and in 1972, the first of these touched ground in Kenya where they found a traditional sector that was not only stubbornly thriving despite a harsh economic climate, but one that had also expanded to include profitable and efficient enterprise and marginal activity.

Bike (okada) Drivers

Bike (okada) Drivers

The ILO mission report labeled this small-scale, unregistered economic activity “the informal sector”, and although the report hailed the sector’s efficiency and creativity, other development circle observers were not so sure. In the minds of the skeptics, this so-called informal sector was marginal and peripheral and because it had no ties to the formal, modern capitalist economy, it had little chance for long-term survival once countries reached the industrialization stage of development. Fans of the informal sector however, argued that maybe…just maybe developing countries in Africa were not set up in a way that demanded that they follow the development path of the developed economies and the informal economy should not be discounted offhand.

Following the presentation of both sides of the argument at a 1976 World Employment Conference, held under ILO auspices and attended by 121 member state delegates, an agreement was reached to adopt strategies and national development policies that included as priority the promotion of employment as a basic human need. Their rationale was one that we have alluded to here; that a basic needs-oriented policy goes beyond the provision of physical goods and services, but also implies the participation of people in making decisions which affect them through means of their own choice, and freely chosen employment enables this to occur. Employment yields output, provides income and gives individuals a feeling of self-respect, dignity and of being a worthy member of society. Consequently, employment is both a means towards acquiring the resources to meet basic human needs, and an end product of the acquisition of these resources. Therefore, it is an essential non-divisible element of the basic human needs approach to development.

Adoption of BHN as a policy priority for allocation of program and public investment in Kenya occurred as a natural consequence of the ILO mission recommendation, and beyond Kenya’s borders, BHN very quickly became a guide for national government and donor priorities across SSA.

Bringing the discussion home to the context of agriculture, the BHN paradigm was very instrumental in redirecting national emphasis to food production for increased self-sufficiency. It argued that improved welfare, education, technical knowledge and active participation of poor people will go a long way towards improving their productive capacity, especially when compared with the trickle-down approach of other growth strategies.

BHN considerations in the context of African agriculture gave priority to smallholder agriculture. It summarily rejected the trickle-down approach, and looked towards targeting the poor directly, and the poorest in those days, were the smallholder farmers who were considered to be more efficient agricultural producers. Remember also that food production was prioritized over export production (which is more of a cash-crop commercialization formula for growth) and because resource allocation was not focused on who could produce more cash crops, but rather on who was just simply…poor, local food production was viewed as a better way of ensuring that the poor were catered to.

A major pitfall of the BHN paradigm was something I mentioned briefly earlier; which was the tension surrounding the definition of what constitutes a basic human need. This tension was felt most acutely at the implementation stage of BHM centered programs and the issue was most often centered on the extent of distribution polices i.e. should shelter and clothing be included in a package with clean water, food and health services? Subtler questions emerged around issues such as the right to employment and free political expression and participation as basic human needs. In the context of agriculture, the latter was of particular significance because it raised the question of how best to ensure that smallholders benefit from polices that protect their production interests. Furthermore, local government officials were viewed as increasingly instrumental agents of agricultural development as they were critical to securing pro-agricultural policies and mobilizing resources in rural areas.

While it is difficult to determine decades later what the exact growth results of BHN polices were, especially considering the fact that BHN was only one of many growth policies and paradigms shaping agricultural development at that time, it is fair to say that it had a significant influence on the intellectual thinking and discourse surrounding African agriculture at that time and far into the 1990s.

Next Up: “Good Neighbors…Good Friends”

References:

ILO (1972) Employment, Incomes and Equality: A strategy for Increasing Productive Employment in Kenya. Report of an Inter-Agency Team Financed by the United Nations Development Program and Organised by the International Labour Office Geneva; ODI (1978) Briefing Paper No. 5. London, United Kingdom; WIEGO. Informal Economy – History and Debates; Hart, Keith (1973) Informal Income Opportunities and Urban Employment in Ghana. The Journal of Modern African Studies, Volume 11, Issue 1.

 

40 Maps that Explain the World – #21 through #40

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Here are the rest of the maps.

Meanwhile, I must say that I find the first of these (#21) to be very ironic considering the fact that I am posting this in the wake of the capture of Dionisio Loya Plancarte, a Mexican Knights Templar drug gang boss also known as ‘El Tio’; a nom de plume that other Breaking Bad fans like myself will find delightfully droll 🙂

But I digress. Enjoy the maps!

21. What territory Mexican drug cartels control

Click to go to source. (Farhana Hossain and Xaquín G.V. / The New York Times)

Click to go to source. (Farhana Hossain and Xaquín G.V. / The New York Times)

This infographic shows which Mexican drug cartels control what territory. It’s a staggering indication of how powerful these groups have become, as well as a glimpse into the vast cartel economy they collectively run – one in which territory is especially important.


AFRICA

22. The empires of Africa, before colonialism

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

This map of indigenous African empires is not exhaustive. It spans two thousands years from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., so these empires were not concurrent; some existed centuries apart. But it shows that, like with North America and perhaps even more so, sub-Saharan Africa was rich with vast and powerful empires long before the Europeans arrived. (One of the biggest, Ethiopia, was actually unusually and perhaps uniquely successful in resisting European imperialism.) The Songhai Empire, at its peak in the 14th century, was a global center of culture and learning, based in the still-famous mosques of Timbuktu.


23. What Africa might look like if it had never been colonized

Click to enlarge. (Nikolaj Cyon)

Click to enlarge. (Nikolaj Cyon)

Historical counterfactuals aren’t much more than informed speculation, but this one is still awfully interesting. Made by the Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon, the map asks what Africa would look like today if colonialism had never happened. (Africa’s present-day borders were determined largely by colonialism, which continues to create lots of very big problems.) Cyon drew these boundaries based on a study of political and tribal units in 1844, the eve of Europe’s “scramble for Africa.” He oriented it with south at the top to subvert the traditional Europe-on-top orientation. You can see it here with north on the top, if that’s easier for you to read.


24. The amazingly diverse languages of Africa

Data source: World Language Mapping System/Ethnologue. (Steve Huffman/WorldGeoDatasets)

Data source: World Language Mapping System/Ethnologue. (Steve Huffman/WorldGeoDatasets)

This is another way of looking at and thinking about Africa’s divisions, without seeing them through the European-imposed colonial borders that we have today. Each shade is a language; each color is a group of languages. Yes, there are an awful lot of languages in Africa, reflecting the continent’s deep history and its diversity. You can see that a number of the borders, such as in Kenya or Cameroon or Nigeria, overlap big swathes of people who speak entirely different language families.


EUROPE

25. Europe, as mapped by tweets

Each color represents a different language. See global version linked below. (Kalev H. Leetaru, Shaowen Wang, Guofeng Cao, Anand Padmanabhan, and Eric Shook)

Each color represents a different language. See global version linked below. (Kalev H. Leetaru, Shaowen Wang, Guofeng Cao, Anand Padmanabhan, and Eric Shook)

This shows tweets made in Europe in location and language between Oct. 23 and Nov. 30, 2012, with each language shown in a different color. It’s no surprise that more populous and richer countries have more tweets. But what’s most interesting is places where languages don’t quite line up with national borders. Look at all those German-language tweets in the parts of the Poland that once belonged to the German Empire. Or look at how Belgium seems to disappear, the French- and Dutch-speakers merging into France and the Netherlands. More on the findings here; click here for a much larger version that shows the whole world and with the languages labeled.


26. How the Barbarian Invasions reshaped Europe

(Wikimedia commons)

(Wikimedia commons)

Europe was completely reshaped in the third, fourth and fifth centuries. The Huns of far-Eastern Europe and Central Asia invaded Central Europe, destroying the Gothic kingdoms. Germanic tribes conquered much of Spain and North Africa. And, of course, the Visigoths of southeastern Europe sacked Rome in 410 A.D. All of this destroyed the Roman Imperial system, starting the dark ages. But it also sparked mass migrations throughout Europe that reshaped the continent in ways that are still with us.


27. When the Vikings spread across Europe

Click to enlarge. (Max Naylor/Wikimedia Commons)

Click to enlarge. (Max Naylor/Wikimedia Commons)

A few hundred years later, the Vikings had their turn. We often forget just how far they spread. Red, orange and yellow shows areas under their control. Green shows areas where they frequently raided. The word “Russia” actually comes from the Rus tribe, who were descendants of Viking settlers. The “Vikings” who took over Sicily and southern Italy were actually Normans, Vikings who had conquered parts of Northern France, settled in, and then later sailed to Italy. Their descendants also included William the Conqueror.


28. World War II in Europe, day by day

press play

This one speaks for itself and is a fascinating watch; there are countless stories embedded in these frames. If you enjoyed this, I would encourage you to watch this version that includes Asia and the Pacific as well.


29. The word for “bear” in European languages

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The Cold War taught us to think of Europe in terms of East-versus-West, but this map shows that it’s more complicated than that. Most Europeans speak Romance languages (orange countries), Germanic (pink) or Slavic (green), though there are some interesting exceptions.


30. People who die trying to immigrate to Europe

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNITED For Intercultural Action (Olivier Clochard/Migrinter)

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNITED For Intercultural Action (Olivier Clochard/Migrinter)

This shows where and how people die trying to migrate into Europe. In October, when 300 would-be African immigrants to Europe died when their boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, it was seen as a sign of how dangerous and deadly migration paths into Europe had become. It’s a result of wide economic disparity between Africa and Europe as well as European policies to prevent immigration. It’s an ugly issue and, as this map shows, it kills many, many people every year.


THE MIDDLE EAST

31. The Islamic states of the world, from 1450 to today

(M. Izady/Gulf 2000 Project)

(M. Izady/Gulf 2000 Project)

This doesn’t show all Muslim-majority countries – southeast Asia and parts of Africa aren’t included – but it does show the history of political borders and nation-states in most of the Islamic world from 1450 though today. You’ll notice themes of invasion and occupation, or empires rising and falling.


32. The 1916 European treaty to carve up the Middle East

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

In 1916, French, British and Russian diplomats signed an agreement to divide up the Ottoman Empire into areas of direct control and “spheres of influence.” It’s easy to overstate how big of a role this treaty actually played in designing modern Middle East borders; in many ways, those divisions had already organically occurred during Ottoman rule. Still, it did fall along the Middle East’s problematic present-day borders, and you hear about that a lot today, so here it is.


33. The religious lines dividing today’s Middle East

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

Data source: The Gulf/2000 Project and United Nations ReliefWeb (The Washington Post)

Religious distinctions are deeply important for many of the problems in today’s Middle East, particularly between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq. This map shows not just that those divisions cross of national borders, but that they’re all over the place. This is one of many reasons why these conflicts can be so persistent.


34. How the 1948 Arab-Israeli war helped lead to Israel’s borders

The leftmost map shows, in blue, Israel as established by UN resolution in 1947. Red shows the initial Arab state; green is the Arab state after the 1949 armistice. The center map shows the advance of Arab armies in the 1948 War. The right-most map shows the advance of Israeli armies in that war. (Wikimedia commons)

(Wikimedia commons)

Lots of maps show Israel’s territory from the 1967 Israeli-Arab war to the present, but I thought I’d show this map from the country’s 1947 founding onward. The leftmost map shows, in blue, Israel as established by United Nations resolution in 1947. Red shows the initial Arab state; green is the Arab state after the 1949 armistice. The center map shows the first months of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war and the advance of Arab armies to retake what they saw as rightful Arab land. The right-most map shows the advance of Israeli armies in the latter half of that war. At the end of fighting, Israel occupied much of what is considered Israeli land today.


ASIA

35. Percentage of Indian homes with toilets

Data source: Indian census, 2011 (Avinash Celestine / Data Stories)

Click to enlarge. Data source: Indian census, 2011 (Avinash Celestine / Data Stories)

India’s ongoing rise as a new economic powerhouse continues to be an amazing story. But much of the world’s second-most-populous country still lives in poverty or in otherwise difficult conditions. This map, created from census data by the designer Avinash Celestine, shows what percentage of families in each district have a toilet in their homes. As you can see, it’s less than half in huge swathes of the country, a reminder of how far India still has to go.


36. The languages of China and the surrounding area

Each shade is a different language; each color is a language group. Click to enlarge. Larger version linked below. (Steve Huffman / World GeoDatasets)

Each shade is a different language; each color is a language group. Click to enlarge. Larger version linked below. (Steve Huffman / World GeoDatasets)

This map, for me, is a wonderful way to observe China’s very long history of expansion and consolidation. Remember that each shade is a different language. Even after thousands of years, Chinese itself remains remarkably diverse, particularly in the country’s dialect-rich southeast. And there are many entirely different language families: Mongolian in the north; the Turkic language Uighur in the West and; in southern Guangxi province, the Zhuang language that’s closer to Thai. This is another of Steve Huffman’s amazing creations; see a larger version here.


37. The WWII firebombing of Japan

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

This map shows each Japanese city that was bombed during World War II, an American city of equivalent size, and the percentage of the city estimated destroyed by the bombings. All Americans learn about the two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan at the end of the war, and we’re starting to become more aware of the firebombing campaigns that wiped out much of Germany, including civilians. But we are nowhere near confronting the U.S. firebombing of Japan, which killed several times as many people as the atomic bombs and devastated Japan’s wooden-constructed cities. By the time the war ended, 30 percent of the residents in Japan’s largest 60 cities were homeless.


38. Territorial claims in the South China Sea

(Voice of America)

(Voice of America)

It’s no secret that China claims islands and maritime territory in the South China Sea that other countries see as theirs. But this map shows just how assertive China’s claim is – Beijing claims everything in red, a giant scoop of an area way, way beyond Chinese soil. China’s neighbors are very, very conscious of feeling a bit bullied, and this map shows why.


39. The naval firepower in the Pacific

Click to enlarge. (Cameron Tulk)

Click to enlarge. (Cameron Tulk)

The Pacific Ocean, after being set on fire by World War II, is still heavily militarized. Japan, even though its U.S.-imposed constitution bans warfare and codifies pacifism, still has a pretty substantial navy. So does Russia, a legacy of the Cold War. And China’s is, of course, growing substantially. All of this combines with rising nationalism in East Asia, China’s not-misguided fear that the United States is attempting to contain them and growing concern about China itself.


40. Every airline flight in the world over 24 hours

Original video source here. Data source: AirTraffic LIVE. (Zurcher Hochschule school of Engineering)

Original video source here. Data source: AirTraffic LIVE. (Zurcher Hochschule school of Engineering)

This map shows every airline flight around the world during a single 24-hour day, looped endlessly. To me, it’s the perfect way to end. Even with no borders, you can still see so much of how the world is shaped. Where people are connected and not, where they are wealthier and not, how and where people have made social and economic connections and how deep they go.

Next up; “Feeding Souls”.

Source: The Washington Post- Max Fisher.

 

40 Maps that Explain the World – #1 through #20

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Let me digress from our series for a bit and share the most fabulous set of maps from the Washington Post; which were brought to my attention by a colleague of mine last week.

Now I understand that not all my readers may find maps as fascinating as I do, or be as maniacally enamored with all things National Geographic as I am, however, I can assure you that this particular geographical expedition will prove to be a delightful and not to mention educational diversion for everyone, regardless of if you are a map/GIS/NatGeo geek or not. For my fellow international development practitioners most especially, this may be one of those resources to save and pull out when you need a quick and simple birds-eye illustration of topics ranging from climate change to happiness indices.

It is long list so I will share in 2 pieces. Enjoy maps 1 through 20.

1. Where the world’s people live, by economic status

Data source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, World Bank. (David Whitmore, John Grimwade / National Geographic)

Data source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, World Bank. (David Whitmore, John Grimwade / National Geographic)

Those dots represent people: the brighter the dot, the more people. The color shows their country’s average income level: blue is richest and yellow is poorest. I want to start with this map because it’s a reminder that the world is first and foremost made up of people; to me, the best maps are primarily about showing us people, not politics or geography. It’s also a way of looking at the divisions in the world other than by political borders; that’s a theme we’ll come back to. (One caveat to this map: it doesn’t show economic variations within countries, just the national averages.)


2. How humans spread across the world

Click to enlarge. (New Scientist)

Click to enlarge. (New Scientist)

Human beings first left Africa about 60,000 years ago in a series of waves that peopled the globe. This map shows where those waves of migration went and when they occurred (the “40K” over Europe means humans arrived there about 40,000 years ago). You can see that humans have the most history in the Middle East, India and of course Africa itself (the map does not show the much longer history of migration within Africa). We are relative newcomers to the Americas, one of the reasons it has not until very recently been as densely populated as other parts of the world.


3. When the Mongols took over the known world

(Wikimedia commons)

(Wikimedia commons)

The Mongol conquests are difficult to fathom. Although their most important technology was the horse, they conquered much of the known world from China to Europe, a series of wars that killed tens of millions of people, then a substantial chunk of the world’s population. The Mongols also established what may well have been the largest empire in history until the British surpassed them six long centuries later. It’s difficult to understate how much we still feel their impact today; the country we know of today as Iraq has never fully recovered from the 1258 sacking of Baghdad, which until then had been a center of global wealth and knowledge.

4. When Spain and Portugal dominated the world

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

Click to enlarge. (Wikipedia)

This map shows the Spanish and Portuguese empires at their height. They didn’t hold all of this territory concurrently, but they were most powerful from 1580 to 1640, when they were politically unified. Portugal would later pick up more territory in Africa, not shown on the map. We often forget that Spain controlled big parts of Europe, in Italy and the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, Spain and Portugal were so powerful that they signed a set of treaties literally dividing up the globe between them. They became so rich so quickly that their trade with the Ottoman Empire, perhaps the other great imperial power of the time, filled the Ottoman economy with more gold than it could handle and plunged it economy into an inflationary crisis so severe that the empire never fully recovered.


5. Major shipping routes in the colonial era

Data source: Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans (James Cheshire)

Data source: Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans (James Cheshire)

This map shows British, Dutch and Spanish shipping routes from 1750 to 1800. It’s been created from newly digitized logbooks of European ships during this period. (Unfortunately, the French data is not shown.) These lines are the contours of empire and of European colonialism, yes, but they’re also the first intimations of the global trade and transportation system that are still with us today. This was the flattening of the world, for better and for worse.


6. Actual European discoveries

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

Americans have mostly come around to accept that, despite what our grade school teachers may have told us, Europeans did not “discover” America; the original arrivals had done that 15,000 years earlier. But Europeans did discover lots of land that had never been before seen by human eyes. You can, embedded in this map, see successive waves of European exploration: first the Portuguese, then the Spanish, then the British and much later the Americans. The map’s creator, the always-insightful Bill Rankin, writes, “this map particularly underscores the maritime expertise of Pacific Islanders. Unlike the islands of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, nearly all of the Pacific was settled by the 14th century.”


7. How countries compare on economic inequality

Bluer countries have better income equality. Redder countries are more unequal. Data: CGDev, DIIS (Max Fisher / Washington Post)

Bluer countries have better income equality. Redder countries are more unequal. Data: CGDev, DIIS (Max Fisher / Washington Post)

Yes, the United States has worse income inequality than Nigeria. That’s according to a metric called the Palma Ratio that measures economic inequality. Read more here about how the metric works and the fascinating results of using it to compare the world’s countries.


8. If the polar ice caps completely melted

Click to enlarge. (National Geographic © September 2013 National Geographic Society / Full source info here)

Click to enlarge. (National Geographic © September 2013 National Geographic Society / Full source info here)

It’s not clear precisely when the polar ice caps will melt completely. But if and when they do, sea levels will rise by 216 feet. This map shows what the world would look like then. Given how many people live near coastlines today, that’s not good. You can see National Geographic’s wonderful, full interactive here.


9. Where the world’s 30 million slaves live

Share of each country's population that is enslaved. Data source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Share of each country’s population that is enslaved. Data source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

This is not some soft, liberal, by-modern-standards definition of slavery. This is slavery. There are 30 million people living today as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages or other forms of property. There are 60,000 right here in the United States – yes, really. This map shows the proportion of each country that is enslaved. It’s highest in Mauritania, a shocking four percent, due in part to social norms tolerating the practice. A little more than one percent of people in India are enslaved, which translates to 14 million Indians living as slaves today. You can see the breakdown by numbers of slaves here.


10. Our globalized economy: What it takes to make nutella

Click to enlarge. (OECD)

Click to enlarge. (OECD)

Put this map alongside No. 5 above, of European colonial-era shipping routes. This is the end product of today’s ultra-globalized economy. A simple jar of Nutella requires natural resources from four continents, vast manufacturing facilities in entirely different countries and a supply and distribution chain that spans the globe.


11. Where populations are growing and shrinking

Blue countries have growing populations; red countries are shrinking. Purple are growing slowly or not at all. Data source: United Nations Population Fund. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Blue countries have growing populations; red countries are shrinking. Purple are growing slowly or not at all. Data source: United Nations Population Fund. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

The world is in for some major demographic changes over the next generation or two. Populations are booming in Africa, growing faster than ever before, just as they’re slowing in Asia and outright shrinking in Japan and Eastern Europe. What’s most interesting about these population changes is what demographers say they will mean for the world’s political and economic future. For more, read: The amazing, surprising, Africa-driven demographic future of the Earth, in 9 charts.


12. Walls of the world

Source: "Atlas des migrants en Europe. Géographie critique des politiques migratoires européenne," Armand Colin. (Nicolas Lambert / MigrEurop)

Source: “Atlas des migrants en Europe. Géographie critique des politiques migratoires européenne,” Armand Colin. (Nicolas Lambert / MigrEurop)

A French non-governmental organization put together this map of the world’s major physical barriers – its most consequential walls. The red lines indicate walls and barriers meant to prevent or control immigration; you see a number of those particularly where there are rich countries next to poorer countries. The green walls are mostly political barriers, such as the 1,700-mile-long “Moroccan Wall” dividing Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, the West Bank separation barrier and the Korean demilitarized zone. No single map of something this controversial and sensitive is ever going to satisfy everyone, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into why and where we choose to limit human movement.


13. The Arctic land grab

(The Economist)

(The Economist)

As the polar ice caps melt, it’s creating something that the world hasn’t seen in a long time: vast, unclaimed territory. That territory also happens to include oil and other natural resources, as well as valuable trade routes. Five countries are competing to claim the new land: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark and the United States. How the Arctic land-grab resolves is so potentially important that even Canada is getting much more assertive.


14. Who wins Nobel prizes (and who doesn’t)

Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

It’s no secret that Europeans and Americans win most Nobel prizes. But just how much more is pretty astounding. When I looked into how the Nobel prizes have broken down over their century-plus history, I was surprised by the results, which you can see here illustrated in maps and charts. One of several facts from the data: More than one in every three Nobel laureates is from the United States. Put another way, the United States has 4 percent of the world’s population and 34 percent of its Nobel laureates.


15. The 17 countries that could have housing bubbles

The 17 countries identified as having potential housing bubbles. Click to enlarge. (Washington Post)

The 17 countries identified as having potential housing bubbles. Click to enlarge. (Washington Post)

You probably remember the U.S. housing bubble burst of 2007 (it was pretty memorable). According to a recent economic estimate, a full 17 countries could face potential housing bubbles today. Alarmingly, that includes China, the world’s second-largest economy. Read more here on the countries at risk and what could happen if they burst.


16. The happiest and least happy countries

Data source: Columbia University's World Happiness Report. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Data source: Columbia University’s World Happiness Report. Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

A recent study conducted by the United Nations and Columbia University attempted to infer happiness measuring a series of social metrics and survey results. Some of the results are unsurprising: wealth, health, political stability and economic equality all appear to coincide with happiness. But there are some real surprises in the data. Latin America and the Caribbean are, by this measure, the happiest on average in the world. Here’s why that might be and more lessons from the data.


17. All terror attacks worldwide in 2012

Click to enlarge. (Start GTD)

Click to enlarge. (Start GTD)

This study by the University of Maryland-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism tracked every single terrorist attack in 2012 (the most recent year for which all data was available). This should drive home how remarkably safe Americans are from terrorism today. It drives home who the real victims of terrorism are. And it reveals some of the global hotspots for terrorist activity and all the instability and mayhem that can bring. Some readers might be surprised to see how much terrorism there is, for example, in Nigeria, in Kenya and most especially in eastern India, where the Maoist “Naxalite” insurgency has been wreaking havoc for almost 50 years.


THE AMERICAS

18. North America’s languages, before colonialism

Click to enlarge. Data source: Ives Goddard. (Wikipedia Commons)

Click to enlarge. Data source: Ives Goddard. (Wikipedia Commons)

This a remarkable reminder of the diversity and cultural richness of North America before it was so completely transformed by the arrival of Europeans – to the terrible detriment of the societies that once proliferated here. It’s also a reminder that some of these societies had spread widely and established themselves deeply, despite the common American perception today of a mishmash of disparate and unconnected tribes.


19. Where place names come from in the Americas

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

Click to enlarge. (Bill Rankin/Radical Cartography)

This map shows the origin language for place names in the Americas. For example, the word “Texas” comes from the Caddoan language, of the Caddo people who lived in what is today East Texas. It’s a fascinating lens into the Americas’ history, of which Europeans arrived or conquered where, as well as a legacy of the people who lived here first. Bill Rankin, the map’s creator, has this chestnut: “‘Huron’ derives from a French slur for the hairy natives (it shares a root with ‘hirsute.’)”


20. American ancestry by county

Click to enlarge. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Click to enlarge. (U.S. Census Bureau)

This map, which shows the dominant ancestry in each U.S. county, is a wonderful show of American diversity and a living museum of America’s history of immigration, voluntary as well as forced. There are countless stories embedded in this map, and not just American stories. Much of this immigration was driven by far-away wars, economic catastrophes, famines or other major historical events, most especially the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In that sense, America’s diversity – like this map showing it – is a global story.

 

Source: The Washington Post- Max Fisher.

 

Our communities; ourselves.

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Community in the North; Arusha, Tanzania.

While it is true that cash-cropping as an agricultural development paradigm in SSA, provided small holder farmers with a much needed avenue to flex their productive muscles, it is also true that  it was primarily a macro-economic growth strategy aimed at aggregating productive capacity, capitalizing on economies of scale, breaking into global markets and shoring-up foreign exchange reserves. However, the wildly successful instances of commercialization-via-cash-cropping were equally instrumental in emphasizing the chasm that divided those that were able to capitalize on the cash-crop wave and those that were not.  On its best day, cash cropping as a method of agricultural development, did not do very much to improve the state of the everyman at his most elemental level, and I think it is fair to say that any system of development that leaves groups of people behind is at best, unsustainable and at worst, a hot mess.

Community Development (aka participatory development, aka integrated rural development), at its broadest basic level was about getting the people in a community involved in their own education as a way to improve their own life circumstances through health, agriculture, civic education and mass literacy schemes. Early 18th century socialist thinkers like Robert Owen looked to community planning as a way of creating a perfect community, and this ideology became important in the 1920s and 1930s in East Africa, where the idea of community development was perceived as a way for local people to improve their own lives with the indirect help of the colonial authorities.

Illustration by Leslie Gilbert (1902-1979) – Daily Mail, 17 February 1943

A somewhat unanticipated spillover from the Second World War was a clear and monumental shift in the relationship between state and society. In November of 1942, Sir William Beveridge laid bare the deplorable welfare status of the colonial states themselves before British parliament by way of the Beveridge Report, which in pertinent part provided a summary of principles, and a system of state-sponsored social security necessary for the banishment of poverty from Britain following the cessation of the war. What followed was the introduction of the welfare state in Britain. What is more interesting for our purposes however, is that this turn of events echoed through Britain’s African colonies and precipitated the establishment of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act (1940-1945). And so the age of state-sponsored social welfare initiatives was born in Africa, and while it was first described as mass education, by 1948, it became more commonly known as community development.

The 1950s saw community development programs move into full implementation. At this time, African nationalist sentiment was in full bloom, and the official strategy for community development began to take hold and function as a means of preparing the colonies for independence. While a great deal of administrative effort aimed at instituting community development schemes was frustrated, and in some instances thwarted by the burgeoning independent spirit that ruled this time in African history, and despite the triumphant end of the colonial empire which closely followed in the 1960s, community development remains one of the most resilient legacies of the colonial government.

As a system, community development utilized various channels and approaches, but as a means of bringing about agricultural development, the key elements were essentially the same, and typically involved a package of rural social services and the promotion of cottage industries. Oddly enough, the financing of these schemes usually derived from profits taxed from export oriented crops. So, even though community development as a system was geared primarily towards the development and promotion of human capital, in the agricultural context, it was still heavily dependent on cash cropping and commercialization. In fact the only real difference was the added dimension of emphasizing the necessity for quality human labor input in agricultural production strategy; which could only be achieved with improved social and welfare service provision (better schools, skills and health). This singular dimension, however made all the difference.

Let us take a moment here to explore an example of community development as it concerns agricultural growth in Africa; let’s take a trip to Tanzania.

Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania was born in 1964 out of the marriage of two East African sovereigns; the mainland of Tanganyika and the Isle of Zanzibar which had gained its independence the year before. Tourists from across the globe are drawn in droves to her multiple natural wonders. Those that are not traveling the endless plains of the Serengeti are scaling the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, basking in the sun-warmed waters of the Zanzibar Archipelago, or are splayed across the welcoming shores of lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa.

Tanzanian sea coast

Perched on the very edge of the Continent, facing the Indian Ocean, Tanzania’s climate is warm and sunny by day, and cool and balmy at night. Tanzania is one of the largest countries in East Africa, but despite being one of Africa’s premier tourist destinations, it is also one of poorest countries in the world with many of its people living below the World Bank poverty line.

Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) - Gregory Rift, Lake Natron - Arusha Region

Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) – Active volcano near Lake Natron; Arusha

Tanzania at the time of its inception had very few minerals and a primitive agricultural system. Suffering from a severe foreign debt burden, a decrease in foreign aid, and a fall in the price of commodities, her first president Julius Nyerere, in an attempt to stimulate growth and development, called for the collectivization of agriculture. His plan; laid out in the 1967 Arusha Declaration, essentially focused on a system of rural community development that encouraged people to live and work on a cooperative basis in organized villages or ujamaa (meaning familyhood in Kishwahili). The idea behind this socialist system was to build a nation state in which all members had equal rights and opportunities, and in which all had a gradually increasing basic level of material welfare.

Nyerere on the cover of Time Magazine on March 13, 1964

Nyerere on the cover of Time Magazine on March 13, 1964

In his mind agricultural development occurring within a community had to happen in a way that did not ignore the connection between freedom, development and discipline. According to Nyerere, development had for a very long time, involved spending large sums of money on agricultural production, modern equipment, and a management hierarchy, all with the promise of quick gain and wealth. The objective was always increased output and the provision of subsidies and services, but nothing was being said about the development of the people themselves. Therefore, his major objective was not the development of things in a vacuum, but primarily involved the development of people who were innately interested in their own personal growth and development. Nyerere asserted that; “…we are trying to overcome our economic weakness by using the weapons of the economically strong – weapons which in fact we do not possess. By our thoughts, words and actions it appears as if we have come to the conclusion that without money we cannot bring about the revolution we are aiming at. It is as if we have said, “Money is the basis of development. Without money, there can be no development….”. The development of a country is brought about by people, not by money. Money, and the wealth it represents, is the result and not the basis of development”.

And so agricultural development in Tanzania by way of community development turned the cash-cropping paradigm on its head, by de-emphasizing financial gain, and fostering the idea of education for self-reliance i.e. education that works for the common good, fosters co-operation and promotes equality. Nyerere’s education for agricultural development reforms met with some success, and some failure. They were never fully implemented and were constrained by a lack of resources, and a global sentiment that gave a greater degree of recognition to more individualistic and capitalistic understandings of the link between education and production.

By the early 1970s, community development at the urging of the United Nations Agencies and the World Bank, had evolved into Integrated Rural Development (IRD) schemes with central policies incorporating adult literacy, youth and women’s groups, community business ventures, compensatory education, dissemination of alternative technologies, village nutrition and water supply programs. While African IRD projects emphasized sweeping social development, cash cropping remained the true engine of growth and majority of the IRD projects tended to be concentrated in export crop-growing areas. Soon after, the criticisms of this merger of the community development social agenda and the cash driven ag commercialization paradigm became too loud to ignore and what happened next is a story for another day.

Happy New Year dear friends; there are few things quite as inspiring as the promise of a new beginning. Let’s give this one our best shot shall we 🙂

Next up; “Feeding Souls”.

Sources:

The Tanzania High Commission: http://tanzaniahighcommission.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=28

The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14095776

Nationsonline.org

R. Smyth. 2004. The Roots of Community Development in Colonial Office Policy and Practice in Africa. Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 418-436.

Msuya J.M. & Kinabo J.L. 1999. Expecting Too Much From the Rural Development Projects: A Case of the Iringa Nutrition Project. Proceedings of the FoA Conference, Vol. 4. Department of Food Science and Technology, Sokoine University of Ag. Morogoro, Tanzania.

Culture & Public Action: http://www.cultureandpublicaction.org/bijupdf/mansurirao.pdf

Infed: http://infed.org/mobi/julius-nyerere-lifelong-learning-and-education/

FAO.ORG

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

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Music by Band Aid - "Do they Know It's Christmas"

Music by Band Aid – “Do they Know It’s Christmas”

Christmas is one of my most cherished times of year. It is a season that celebrates and is celebrated by foodies near and far, and as a person whose life revolves around food and the talk of food, and the production and use of food, this time of year more than any other brings to mind those who do not have a lot of food and it is in these moments of quiet thought that I remember why I do what I do.

As my fellow comrades in the fight to annihilate hunger from the earth I ask you to take a moment in this gloriously special season to remember those for whom a mouthful of tender braized leg of lamb (or whatever succulent meal you are having tonight or tomorrow) is as unimaginable as a trip to the moon and back, and then maybe in salute of these quiet victims of this our wildly unfair existence, think twice about throwing away that bowl of leftover beef carpaccio, or mediterranean orzo salad with feta vinaigrette, or the last few marzipan mushrooms from your yule log.  Maybe save it for work the next day or donate it to the closest soup kitchen, or send it away in tiny bowls with your guests. Whatever you chose to do, let’s cooperatively make an effort in this best beloved season to  do our bit to curb food waste, and in so doing, venerate all we have been given, most especially the surplus which we somehow appreciate the least.

As always, thank you for accompanying me on this agricultural expedition.

Merry Christmas All and see you in the New Year.

Liquid Gold – A Tale of Tea Farming in Kenya

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Over the last few weeks, I have been away traveling in West Africa, specifically within the République du Bénin and Nigeria, and I had the opportunity to interact with some of the most enterprising smallholder farmers I have come across in a long time. Now, I for my part have always been partial to small holder farmers, not only because they are truly and undeniably the lifeblood of African agriculture in all its forms, but also because I am of the opinion that they are invariably the closest to the ground and as such, are intimately connected to and aware of the subtle vagaries of the land and stock they tend. However, my trip took a fortuitous turn, and I was able to see a different face of agricultural development in West Africa; one whose aesthetic I had held serious doubts about for a long time. I was presented with the opportunity to visit what I can only describe as one of the most innovative, entrepreneurial and sustainable agricultural development centers in Africa; a place called Songhai, located in the Porto-Novo region of Benin. Because we have to finish our story about the Kenyan tea farmers, I will not go into further detail, but I promise to dedicate an entire post (or two) to what I did and saw in this wonderful place, and I promise that you too will quickly come to be under its spell.

Now….back to African models of agricultural commercialization beginning with a tale of success and great achievement. Let us consider the Kenyan tea farmer.

Kenya and her neighbors.

Kenya and her neighbors.

Kenya is one of those countries I would describe as a geo-climatic wonder. Straddling the Equator and sharing a border with Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Indian Ocean, Kenya peaks at the snow- capped mountains of Mt. Kenya and dips into the Great Rift Valley buzzing with geothermal activity. In between these extremities are red plains teeming with wildlife and the sandy shores of her coastline.  Nairobi, the capital city is the business and communication hub of East and Central Africa, while historic Mombasa houses her natural harbor and regional gateway – Kilindini.

Kenya is one of the oldest tea producers in Africa, with a history dating back to 1903 when a man by the name of GWL Caine planted tea seeds from India on a two acre farm. Commercial tea farming however, did not begin until 1924, and the first tea bushes that emerged from that first foray, have grown into large trees and are now an historical feature on what is now Unilever’s Mabroukie Tea Estate.

First Tea Tree in Kenya

First Tea Tree in Kenya

Tea Production Areas in Kenya

Tea Production Areas in Kenya

Kenya’s equatorial climate allows for perennial tea cultivation, and the primary tea growing regions endowed with tropical (volcanic) red soils, well distributed rainfall (ranging between 1200mm and 1400mm per annum), and long sunny days, total approximately 157,720 hectares.

Tea is grown on the highlands (1500m-2700m) with alluvial soils, and absolutely no application of pesticides and chemicals (fertilizers are added regularly to replenish the soil); all of which are factors that contribute to its unique quality and taste.

The Kenyan tea subsector, is considered to be one of the most famous success stories in Africa’s journey to agricultural development; in fact it is heralded as a model for smallholder commercialization. Tea production in Kenya is dominated by smallholder farmers (shambas) who produce approximately 60% of Kenya’s tea, run their own tea gardens and sell their teas to cooperatives. With production of around 345,817 metric tonnes of made tea and over 325,533 metric tonnes exported, Kenya today is the third largest producer (second only to China and India) and the leading exporter of the best black tea in the world (23%).

world tea export

world tea export

world tea production

world tea production

The next question you might ask would be, how did Kenya accomplish all this, and with a predominance of smallholder farmers no less?

Ag commercialization 101 emphasizes the idea that certain areas of intervention are crucial for commercialization to occur, and these areas to a large extent, have a common theme; reduction of transaction costs. High cost of doing business triggers a basic fear that causes people to shy away from participating in the marketplace thereby constraining commercialization. High transaction costs can derive from transportation costs, poor infrastructure, limited physical market infrastructure as well as the overarching challenge of poor institutional infrastructure (poor police protection, contract enforcement and limited essential public services); all of these (especially the last) are a severe constraint on ag commercialization.

Tea Production

Tea Production

Experiences in smallholder farmer commercialization in Sub-Saharan Africa highlight 3 key policy all related to the high cost of doing business; public support to smallholder farmers for market participation and orientation, land tenure and property rights, and policy and program coordination. Kenya succeeded in commercializing smallholder tea production, because they were able to successfully tackle all 3 of these policy items.

Tea gained global popularity as a healthy, low-cost beverage with the advent of British-owned tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka. Independence in these two countries provided an incentive for both governments to take the steps necessary to gain control of their tea industries thereby causing the British to look elsewhere for tea production. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi were the countries of choice, and between 1947 and 1973, tea production in Kenya and most of East and Central Africa grew by 9.6% and 9.5% per annum respectively. World exports during this time were also on the rise.

Kenya rose to surpass her contemporaries, producing 14,000 tonnes by 1960 and graduating to a whopping 200,000 tonnes by 1990. This growth however did not occur in a vacuum rather, it happened under the auspices of what has become the world’s largest smallholder tea production scheme – the Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd (KTDA –formerly the Kenyan Tea Development Authority), which is a farmer owned organization currently managing 63 tea factory companies.

Leaf collection center

Leaf collection center

KTDA assists smallholder tea farmers in the provision of agronomic and other technical services in farming, processing and marketing of tea. KTDA also provides financial services and credit to farmers in form of inputs. Reports show that at some point nearly 7% of Kenya’s population was dependent on KTDA in some form or other for their livelihood.

But the question still remains; why did KTDA do so well? Afterall, they are a privately owned firm which like all other firms, has to contend with the prevailing business environment. But that’s just it you see, the prevailing business environment made this sort of entreprenural activity possible.

Public support and program coordination brought about the establishment of the  Tea Board of Kenya in 1950 with the sole directive of regulating the tea growing and manufacturing industry in Keya. Working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, the board’s mandate includes the licensing of tea manufacturing factories, carrying out research on tea through its technical arm – the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya, the registration of growers, buyers, brokers, packers, management agents and any other person dealing in tea, and promotion of Kenyan tea in both the local and the international markets.

Org structure of tea industry in kenya

Org structure of tea industry in kenya

Furthermore, Kenyan leaders were heavily invested in the tea industry, and as such had a personal stake in its success. Government policy was also structured in a way that discouraged nationalization in favor of private Kenyan participation in the tea export industry. Individual land titles for smallholder farmers were secure, and the government practiced sound macro-management strategy  by keeping taxes on tea export low. KTDA benefited from this favorable environment, and because of its very structure benefited from economies of scale in terms of input services, packaging, transport, auction costs, etc., all of which are factors that directly impact cost of production.

KTDA was honest with its smallholder farmer members and conducted its affairs with integrity. This gave the farmers the incentive they needed to deliver their produce to KTDA , confident that they would receive a fair price for their leaf.

While all examples of smallholder commercialization in Africa are not as warm and fuzzy, Kenya’s story is one that very provides an accurate illustration of one nation’s journey to commercialization, while at the same time providing a map for how the same can be replicated elsewhere on the Continent taking into consideration country specific factors.  3 main lessons emerge here and they are that;

  1. Smallholder commercialization is not only possible it is necessary for improved welfare of the sector and its participants.
  2. Trade policy heavily impacts global competition and the success of commercialization – Kenya’s low taxes relative to higher levies on tea exports in India and Sri Lanka accelerated the growth of the export industry in Kenya.
  3. Finally and most importantly, smallholders are the lifeblood of the agricultural sector and given a favorable market environment, they have the capacity to respond to economic incentives, compete and gain specialized skill in their various production areas.

And that my friends concludes the first of these many paradigms of agricultural development in Africa.

Next up….”Our Communities; Ourselves.”

Sources: Embassy of the Republic of Kenya , The Tea Board of Kenya , Kenya Tea Development Agency Limited, The United Kingdom Tea Council , Majani Exquisite Kenyan Tea , The UNDP , Jaleta et al. Smallholder commercialization: Processes, determinants and impact , Poulton et al. All-Africa Review of Experiences with Commercial Agriculture Lessons from Success and Failure.

 

 

 

“Money does grow on trees! (the farmers exclaimed incredulously…)” – Part 1

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It is the mid- 1900s. Majority of the nations in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa who had spent the last 80 years laboring under the weight of a European colonial dispensation, were slowly but surely beginning to warm to the idea of going-it alone. By the early 1960s, almost all the countries in the region had attained independence.

Stamp_British_East_Africa_1897_2aIt was triumphant time for free-thinkers and glory-seekers, however, in all but five of these countries, the elation of emancipation was quickly and in some cases, subtly quelled, by the two decades of explicit or implicit military rule that followed. As Africa was struggling to emerge, the rest of the world was at odds; shadowed by the grim countenance of the Cold War. However, despite the relatively disfavorable global environment within which these African nations achieved independence, and began to emerge, they somehow began to occupy a place in the global marketplace. It was an occupation which was largely evidenced by subtle but clearly discernible shifts occurring in tandem with major world economic events like commodity price booms and oil shocks.

These nations were further distinguished from other regions of the world by the unique demographic factors that were common only to them at the time; such as high population growth rates. The education of the elite within these nations swelled significantly following independence, and these intellectuals were primarily educated in a small group of non-African nations.

wasu students2

West African Student’s Union

Individuals within this group generally returned home and were largely responsible for the creation of development strategy in majority of the countries in the region. 

CoverWASU

Development agenda within these nations however, was often subject to conditions imposed by a disproportionately small group of donor organizations which had significant influence over the allocation of public investment in many countries in the region, and it was these investments that formed the background of major ag development strategies disseminated by the African intelligentsia.

The atmosphere in those early years following independence was charged with a combustible mix of emotions. Expectation of the eventual emergence of the Continent into the global marketplace, mixed with an uncomfortable lack of knowledge about how to swim with the big boys, all shadowed by the unpredictability of the unfamiliar playing field they had been so suddenly thrust into,  caused African leaders to feverishly begin to reach for ways to ensure that they did not drown under the weight of their new responsibilities. It was from this turmoil of decision that various thought patterns began to emerge.

In the context of agriculture, the years following the independence of various African nations is a period checkered by development models and ideologies all geared towards fostering the growth and development of the region. Each paradigm had its own period of dominance and they were all similar in that they developed in Africa in roughly chronological order (with some overlap) beginning at the tail end of the colonial period.

ag dev paradigms

Dominant Paradigms of Agricultural Development in Africa

Furthermore, while none of these ideologies can accurately be attributed to any geopolitical or intellectual interest, every one of these paradigms by nature and application were in some significant way, the result of changes in global economic and political events. The application of each ideologies was always characterized by a tension between creating a structured, pragmatic tool of development and a desire to present a perfect, technically sound theory of development, and every single one of these paradigms, while championed by African leaders, was the direct result of some external influence or other.

Indigenous farmers in the regions were up until the early 60s, subsistent smallholders who ate what they grew. Production was limited by a complete lack of access to markets and services, labor was primarily available in seasonal spurts, and agricultural technology was non-existent. Export cropping in Sub-Saharan Africa however, began much earlier in 1910 and became even more pervasive after the Second World War. Following independence, governments began to explore agricultural potential within the contexts of their own productive landscape, and commercialized farming began to be viewed as economic activity with the dual capability of producing foreign currency reserves, and as a source of resources for industrialization.

And so smallholder commercialization began, and it was a transformative process. Individual farmers began to shift focus from a highly subsistence-oriented approach to production to a more specialized one in which they targeted markets for both the procurements of their inputs and the supply and marketing of their output. To overcome the issue of labor bottlenecks, in addition to existing seasonal cropping patterns, plants with significantly different seasonal labor profiles than the traditional food crops were introduced, thereby allowing for expansion of production using existing resources. These were the glory-days of cash crop production and they continued through the 1960s. Commodity prices were at their best and African smallholders previously unable to engage in commercial activity, now had access to cropping opportunities previously reserved for colonial farmers.

Now, enter the Kenyan tea farmers.

“…yes I know you said Africa…but where in Africa??”

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farmer sunsetThinking through the direction of our conversation here on the Seed-Africa platform, it occurred to me that I should dedicate a post to making some very important connections between the agricultural histories of the many countries that make up the African continent. A late-evening conversation last Friday, with one of my partners; Jumoke Balogun (co-founder – Compare Afrique), led to the conclusion that development discourse that does not restrict itself to conversation about one country or region in Africa, opens the door to a more robust interaction not only with other interested African development wonks, but with the wider development community.

Click map for detailed NatGeo Image.

Click map for detailed NatGeo Image.

However, taking that thought a little further over the days that followed, it occured to me that it is awfully difficult to write about Africa not just for the simple fact that it is boiling stew of experiences and contexts as varied as each of its many countries, but because it is just as easy to fall into the trap of not drawing clear distinctions when making conclusions and value judgments about the Continent especially in the context of development. This is a trap that a lot of development discourse falls into and one which is particularly irksome to me as a reader, a practitioner and most especially as an African. That being said, it is important to note that while no two African nations will ever perfectly align regardless of whether they are considered from a geographical, political economy or any other standpoint for that matter, there are quite often, a few shared experiences that tie each of these bad boys together.

farmer_plowingThe even more interesting thing is that close examination and documentation of frequently occurring patterns can potentially serve as a sort of agric development manual for African nations looking to catch up to some of their more developed sister states within the immediate region and across the continent.

With these thoughts in mind, I decided that it would be useful to do a series of short stories on of some these shared development experiences specifically in the context of agricultural development strategy. Over the next few posts, I will tell a story with a narrative that weaves in one or two agricultural development paradigms reflected in the agric development strategy of the day. This is by no means an exhaustive account of broader agricultural development history in Africa as that will be a narration that can scarcely be contained in a few posts. What this series will be, is a look at some of the similar (key) agricultural development strategies across African countries, culled from my somewhat extensive research efforts, with the goal of providing an overview of the general consensus of what worked and what didn’t.

african independenceMost African  countries achieved independence in the 1960s and each one of the paradigms I will incorporate into my stories is relevant to most of these countries in the 3 to 4 decades that immediately followed.

My hope at the end of this set is to provide a clear perspective on what has been tried and rejected, thereby setting the stage for our future discussion of how strategy today and tomorrow can learn from yesterday’s failures. The really nice thing about a discussion like this is that we will be able to see how some of these major issues while fundamentally the same, occurred in different ways in the different country contexts; further illustrating the uniqueness of each nation. One end will however remain the same as you will see; and that is that regardless of what country these stories take us to, people in each context were thoroughly and commonly affected within a relatively short period of time.

storytellingI hope you will follow along and hopefully join, via comments and contributions, what I think will be a fun next few weeks. For my African readers, I look forward to having you walk with me inside the great African art of storytelling and for my non-African audience, take a seat on the mat, put your feet up, pour yourself a cup of palm wine and join in; we are an exceedingly hospitable people.

First up; “Money does grow on trees! (the farmers exclaimed incredulously…)”.

Happy World Food Day!

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food_map

The infosphere is buzzing today with some pretty heavy facts about hunger, particularly hunger in Africa. You may ask (and rightly so I might add); why the focus on Africa? Why does Africa seem to always occupy center stage when the discussion turns to an issue as damp as hunger? Well maybe because UN estimates report that out of the 925 million hungry people worldwide, the second largest contingent of the starving (239 million) resides in our fair Continent. The incidence of hunger in Africa is surpassed only by that in Asia and the Pacific (578 million) and they win only because there are more people there!

I should at this point, throw in an important distinction between hunger and malnutrition, because they are quite different and should be treated accordingly if we want to have a technically sound discussion. Hunger is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food. Malnutrition on the other hand (or under-nutrition), is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health, and if we examine the incidence of global malnutrition, even the Asia and Pacific region with all its numbers does not surpass sub-Saharan Africa. Put in simple terms, nearly one in four in Africa go to bed hungry.

But as with all things concerning the African continent, there is always a silver lining; enter the African farmer.

farmerAbout 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa and yet in these infinitely paradoxical times which we find ourselves, most Africans cannot seem to rustle up enough food to eat. BUT in the midst of this tragedy lies the opportunity for great triumph. Because under a strategically aligned set of circumstances that do not even necessarily have to be optimal, Africa can not only find itself in a place where it can feed itself, it has the potential to transform itself into a breadbasket for the entire world. Now, it would be unrealistic to propose that smallholder farmers can single-handedly transform African countries into net producers, however we do need to solve the more immediate problem of feeding ourselves, and this is a need that is not restricted to rural areas. Evidence in the form of true stories of people coming up with innovative ways to solve this problem abound.

Take Harriet Nakabaale’s story as one example. She transformed a small 50-feet-by-32-feet sliver of  urban land next to her house in Uganda’s sprawling capital, Kampala, into a food stream for her family. Now called “Camp Green,” Harriet’s backyard enterprise currently mixes intensive gardening with community education on urban agricultural practices demonstrating to Kampala’s urban dwellers that food security is possible for them as well as the traditional rural farmers with access to more open land (click on the photo below to watch a video on Camp Green). 

On her small city plot, Nakabaale grows everything from herbs to fruits to root vegetables. She raises poultry. She makes briquettes. She composts and recycles. A single mother of two children, Nakabaale makes a living that not only ensures the well-being of her family through a healthy diet but has provided her with income to help cover other important expenses, such as school fees.  Harriet’s story demonstrates to the rest of us the power that resides in land that is treated with respect no matter how little it is. She says “Anywhere weeds can thrive, crops can grow there, too…[i]n Africa, we get hungry because we don’t know what to do with the soil we have, the land we have. It’s very important to people in urban areas to use the small space they have. If they use it profitably, it would help you cut the cost of living in town, which is very high. If you don’t cut costs, you’ll always buy and be poor forever.”

So on this very important day, my principal thought is that Africa’s farmers in all contexts can feed Africa. The key is equipping ourselves with the right tools and training to do so. This along with those strategically aligned set of circumstances I alluded to above will set us on the path towards ending hunger in Africa for good.

Your next question probably is; what are these tools and strategically aligned set of circumstances? Well…that is a blog post for another day.

Meanwhile I ask you to take a few minutes to reflect on what this day means to you as an African or an individual interested in ending hunger in Africa.

These are my thoughts; I would like to hear some of yours!