AID


If you have followed my blog the over the past  week, you are now at the end of my journey through East Africa.

Leaving Africa I headed back to the UK where I live with a renewed sense of I MUST DO MORE TO HELP GET THESE WOMEN HANDICRAFTS AND TEXTILES TO MARKET!

I had seen women in dire circumstances but doing whatever they could to help themselves out of poverty, without feeling sorry for themselves whatever neither did they ask for handouts of money. One by one they asked that we  share our skills with them so that they could improve their products and be able to compete in world markets, they asked for  fair access to world markets and skills to enable them to serve the sick in their communities!

I also felt that although money was important to kick start programmes it was not necessarily the only factor in efforts to end poverty for reasons of exclusion and practices such as those of Vulture Funds amongst other things. In my minds eye the answer lay in Trade as this is a more sustainable route out of poverty and yet Africa lags behind other continents in trade terms and international trade is very low.

It is largely agreed that the economies of countries cannot grow or be sustained on the basis of international loans or grants. This is certainly true for African women too. The governments/economies lending or giving the money do not have an infinite amount from which to lend/give indefinitely. As well as being unsustainable it is undignified.

Consideration should be given to the kind of trade that adds value at source wherever possible to enable governments to generate income through increased tax revenue. The process of value addition must encompass investments in human resources to ensure that women in particular have the right skills to lift their families out of poverty. There are more details about this on www.raisetrade.com

I hope that my recent blogs have given you the reader an insight of what life if like for folk on the ground and that it ahs demonstrated that resolving poverty in Africa is not simply about the money. I would be interested in others’ view points as well as experiences on issues relating to poverty in Africa

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Why is Mrs Clinton really in Africa?

Is the US African Growth Opportunity ACt helping African women?

Tune in as we explore reason behind her visit

http://www.voxafrica.com/modx/en/ShootTheMessenger/agoa-whose-growth-and-whose-opportunities

If you have got this  far please share your thoughts

It is the final day of the G8 meeting in L’Aquila Italy. The issue for discussion as I understand it is help for African farmers and reduction in Food AID to Africa and the overall aim is bring about food security and reduce poverty.

I am encouraged by proposals to increase grain storage, irrigation projects, availability of seeds and fertilisers as way forward to reducing world hunger and extreme poverty. This is all great stuff, but I can’t help but wonder how it will work out in practice

We know about farmer’s subsidies here in Europe and the US and we also know that there is an over production of food most of which ends up as FOOD AID in Africa.

We agree that in emergency situations this is necessary. What is questionable is whether this food actually gets to those that need it. You will recall the case of the Canadian Peas?
In addition Food Aid/dumping as it is called in some circles kills local industry remember the case of the Zambian farmer?

W e also know that some parts of Africa have too much food whilst others don’t. Do we know how we can get this food from parts of Africa that actually need this food?

What about the extreme weather conditions, floods, lack of rain leading to poor soil condition etc not to mention diseases that affect the plants such as the banana and coffee wilt in sub-Saharan Africa? How do we tackle climate change? One thing for sure those in the developing world appear to be the worst hit by extreme weather conditions leading to disease, loss of shelter, food security amongst other things.
These are all big issues that will require the commitment of all stakeholders in order to effect change.

My wish list,
• I would like to see initiatives that work directly with individuals on the ground
• I would like to see more skills sharing with people in the developing world, they understand their environment much more than we will ever do
• I would like to see a system that enables African farmers to sell their food to other African countries that can’t grow enough. This might be achieved through increased food storage facilities as well as grain storage
• I would like to see a reduction in Food Aid from Developed countries as I believe that food could be provided from parts of Africa that have too much food. That would give those countries the incentive to grow more food, create jobs etc

Your thoughts please?

This week the Department for International Development here in the UK has issued a new report ELIMINATING POVERTY : Building Common future,  which spells out a new direction  and  desire to address issue of poverty in the developing world and amongst other things the report looks at the impact of the economic downturn on those in the developing countries.

And at the UN summit of September 2000 the richest nations in the world made pledges to the development world that are summed up in what has become to be known as the

Millennium Development Goals or MDGs

  • Goal 1:  Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4:  Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5:  Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6:  Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7:  Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8:  Develop a Global Partnership for Development

This was an ambitious undertaking on the one hand but one that gave hope  to folk in the developing world that we in the developed world are committed to making things better for them.

The question I ask today is whether these goals will be realised?  There has been an increase in AID but will increased AID have  made a difference in 2015? Can we in the west wait that long? what about the  folk in the developing can they wait until 2015 for the goals to be realised?

There is concern in some quarters that the MDGS will not be realised in some African countries and this appears to stem from the fact that

  • not everyone signed up to the MDGS ( it was reported earlier this year that France and Italy are two of the countries that ahve failed to honour the pledges made towards Africa)
  • increased insecurity in some  of the African countries
  • impact of diseases such as malaria and HIV
  • family breakdown
  • food availability
  • Climate change
  • and AID distribution to name but a few

Most including myself argue that the surest way to lift people out of poverty in a sustainable way is through trade.  That being the case how are we doing on that front? Are trade agreements more equitable now than they were in 2000? Are folk in the developing countries treated as equal or even potential trading partners?

Well one thing that is certain, is that Africa in particular has seen an increase in cheap imports from china, second  hand clothing and FOOD AID. Only last week I was speaking to a man I met at the Africa Matters get together. He lived in Zambia for many years as a farmer and produced vegetable oil.

He was put out of business in 6 months when cooking Oil given to Mozambique by USAID as part of teh FOOD AID package ended up for sale on the streets of Lusaka. I understand that cotton farmers in Zambia and Malawi suffered a similar fate with the increased cheap imports from China as well as second hand clothing.

Some African governments are fighting back by imposing huge DUTY on these cheap imports but what do you about FOOD AID?

So I ask the question are Millennium goals helping me?

Staying with the  “ethics” theme, I wold like to focus on Politicians today.

Since I wrote about the issue of Housing Allowances for UK MPS there have been more revelations about MP’s expenses here in the UK.

We have learned in great detail about how and what they spend our taxes on and in fact that nepotism is rampant amongst our Politicians. This is used to be normal practice in the Uganda I grew up in and may well be the case in a lot of African countries. I was however surprised at how wide spread it is in UK given all the scrutiny committees that there are as well as the availability of the Freedom of information charter!

The other reason I am surprised is the response from some of thsoe politicians that have been caught! Some have justified their behaviour by simply saying “it is in the rules”! And that may well be the case but is it ethical/morary right when so many of us taxt payers are struggling to make ends meet?

In her book DEAD AID recounts several instances of why AID to Africa has failed to lift the continent’s millions out of poverty and one of the reasons is because the money doesn’t get to those that need it and this programme for the BBC offered some insight on what really happens on the ground.

In the light of the expenses scandal here in UK some have argued that MPs are poorly paid and therefore maximise their incomes through the expenses/benefits scheme available to them. I can see parallels of this from stories elsewhere in the world this may not be a perfect example but it is the only one I can lay my hands on at the moment. Should he have accpeted that Merc in the first instance? http://www.nation.co.ke/News/africa/-/1066/604476/-/13a0ryiz/-/

This has lead to ask the question “Are Politicians inherently unethical?

 

Have we lead them down that route by not paying them a fair wage?

What would a fair wage be for a politician to ensure that they don’t abuse the trust of their constituents?

 I don’t necessarily have the answers to my questions all I know is that those tht are dependant on Welfare benefits would not get away with what the MPS have been up to and if caught they would be required to pay back the money and worse could end up in prison!

I would be interested in hearing your views on this

No folks, I am not being rude but you may remember my blog on how an english cow changed an African woman’s life.

Well you would not believe it if I told you that on 14 May 09 I actually found myself in Helen’s home town. I was disappointed with myself for not having planned ahead, because I missed the opportunity to meet Helen and the superstar cow:(

The one thing I can tell you about Helen’s village is, it is green, clean and has views to die for and above all people there have to be the frindliest people on earth.

Uganda country side

Uganda country side

The reasons I was in this village was to do with a coffee roaster based in North London. He was unhappy with the way he sourced his coffee and wanted to change, by sourcing his coffee more ethically. This meant that he had to travel out to Uganda to meet the growers on their turf so to say, and get a clearer understanding of what life is like for them. He had no idea as to how he would achieve this as he had never been to Africa.

He decided to get out onto the UK Uganda community networking circuit which is where he bumped into me last September and 8 months later we were in the middle of a Ugandan countryside on the trails of ethical coffee!

An english cow in africa

An english cow in africa

Heading out of Helen’s village we headed further east in a village called Sipi on the feet of Mt Elgon, where I met an actual English cow doing nicely thank you. I am not sure how old man David the coffee grower  acquired his cow but he was putting it to the same use as Helen did!

You see we here in the west have got into all things organic and the African farmers have listened. Old man David is an organic coffee grower and has two English cows. During our visit we had a chance to plant our very own coffee trees.

The process involved a hole being dug in the ground, a farm help went over the fence to where the cows were grazing and he came back with some cow dung straight from the Cow! This was mixed with the soil that had been dug up and put in the hole before the seedling was put into the hole and covered with more soil.

Tony planting a coffee tree

Tony planting a coffee tree

This was the rainy season, everything on the farm was alive, it was interesting to note hwo land is used here. In order to protect food supply there is a kind of inter cropping and we had fun identifying the various vegetables, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, bananas, we even spotted a kind of wild marijauna. Old man David told us it grows wildly there and it is of no interest to anyone, however it helps would be land buyers tell  if the land they are interested in is fertile;-)

Ugadan coffee organic coffee farmer

Old man David and Tony

Old man David is a pleasant and jolly man who has lead an interesting life. He has 4 children in high profile positions in the capital  city , there is a teacher , a police man, one at University and another at the main airport. We asked him how he had acheived this and he responded in one single word COFFEE!

not sure what that is?

not sure what that is?

Folk as I have often said, folk out there are capable of getting themselves out of poverty given half the chance and this old man and Helen are proof of that

So Go on SEND A COW to more Helens and David’s of this world!

Whilst driving home today I tuned into the evening news on BBC Radio 4  I heard something that left me dumb founded. I actually didn’t think that it was possible to be shocked or surprised by what is wrong with AID to developing countries.

The news item that left me dumb founded was vulture funds and at this stage I would like to come clean and say I had never heard of  Vulture funds  and perhaps that is why I was left dumb founded.

These funds work on the basis on buying up third world debt, knowing very well that the third world country is so poor and is unlikely to pay and when this become evident the “vultures” pounce.

What is shocking about this is that these vultures are not breaking the law well not here in the UK anyway. There is however an irony in this because the third world country is unlikely to pay and the only way that country can pay is by dipping into the AID that is allocated to it for health, education, or food. Furthermore, AID is made available through our tax system and as such we the tax payers are  putting money into these  vultures pockets.

This is disturbing news indeed! I have just finished reading  a book called DEAD AID by Dambisa Moyo in which she makes a case for cutting AID to Africa. She argues that Africa remains poor because of AID. It is an intriguing book and one I would recommend everyone interested in matters of international development should read.

She isn’t without   her critics and one of them is Stacey Patton however based on the case of vulture funds it is easy to see why her suggestions make sense. Interestingly her native Zambia was the first country to become a victim of vulture funds.

Sally Keeble a British MP has taken up the call to end this practice and you can read about it here

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/may/06/vulture-funds

I am at a loss as to what it would take for western governments to realise that unless AID is structured and monitored there will always be the case of winners and losers and that the losers are those in dire need of our support.

Would love to hear your view on any of the issues raised here