Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.
To this day, I’ll never understand why that poor boy had to die such a violent and senseless death for something so trivial. I feel the same way about Fabianne – she survived one of the most catastrophic events in living memory, only to be shot in the head for petty theft. And for stealing wall hangings where there are no walls.
Fabianne’s childhood was brutally stolen from her and it got me thinking about how quickly so many young people in places like Africa, Asia and the Americas have to grow up, forced to fend for themselves through child labour or prostitution, denied an education and exposed to violence, disease and hunger at an age when they should be learning and playing.
from Commodity Corner:
More than a billion people go hungry each day -- about the same number as did in the late 1950s. That's both a "tragedy on a grand scale" and an "astounding success," according to a new report called "Millions Fed," produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
While the absolute number of hungry people is the same as it was 40 years ago, the proportion is dramatically smaller -- one in six today, compared to one in three then, the report said. It illustrates 20 successful case studies where progress has been made in the fight against hunger.
Some solutions come from science: new varieties of wheat, rice, beans, maize, cassava, millet and sorghum. Others deal with markets, government policies, or the environment.
Two farmers from the Sahel region of Africa, oft plagued by drought and famine, visited Washington last month to talk about solutions they found close to home -- one of the success stories trumpeted in "Millions Fed."
Almost 30 years ago, farmers in Burkina Faso experimented with a traditional technique called "zai," digging pits in their plots and adding manure to improve soils before the rainy season, resulting in dramatically better yields.
"There was a long period of drought in my village," Yacouba Sawadogo told reporters. "Many people left because their life was very, very difficult. But I decided to stay," he said, explaining how he taught others the technique.
In Niger, farmers manage trees on their land to prevent erosion, improve yields, and provide livestock fodder. Before, women had to walk 6 miles to get firewood, but now they have enough for themselves and to sell to others, said Sakina Mati, who coordinates tree projects in six villages.
The projects have improved 13 million acres of farmland and fed 3 million people, said Oxfam America, a development group that works with the farmers.
It's food for thought as rich nations ramp up efforts to help small farmers grow more food in poor countries. "In our approach toward solutions and programs, we really need to listen as well as talk," said Gawain Kripke of Oxfam.
"Solutions don't always come from us."
Rich countries look set to fall roughly $40 billion short of the amount they had pledged to give to Africa by 2010. So says a report released on Monday by the panel set up to monitor commitments made amid much fanfare at the Group of Eight summit in 2005.
The panel said G8 countries were not keeping their promises at the very moment rising food prices threaten to increase hunger and child mortality. The report also calls for a rethink of trade policies to help African countries and urges rich nations to spend more on renewable energy sources there.