Ethics


BBC 2 is currently running a series of documentaries that are looking at the FUTURE OF FOOD fronted by former Fair Trade patron George Alagiah both here in the UK and the rest of the world generally.

The first episode looked at the issue food security and water in particular and showed the lengths to which  a Punjab based wheat farmer goes too to access water to irrigate the wheat that is headed to the west and the level of debt this has left him with whilst elsewhere in Punjab some have committed suicide as they could not cope with the level of debt they were in nor could they see a way out.

This week’s episode has left me (us) with some dilemmas. With European waters over fished and  dwindling supplies, we are heading further a field  to look for fish and one of the countries at the receiving end of our quest for fish is Senegal a relatively poor African country. Fish is a vital part of the diet of the coast villages in Senegal but with the  arrival of European fishing boats, these locals don’t stand a chance and one fisherman said "he simply wishes they would go away". The consequences of the Europeans fishing Senegalese waters has meant that fish in Senegal has become so expensive that most local people can’t afford it!

The story moves on to a farm in Kenya that grown green beans for UK supermarkets. I was having dinner whilst watching this part and on my plate was grilled Salmon, mangetout, grilled courgettes and tomatoes and I must admit to struggling to finish it.

The Kenyan story is very sad indeed. A country that grows and exports a lot of food to the UK but has to rely on UN FOOD AID to feed its people! Perfectly good beans being rejected because they have a bit of soil on them or are  the wrong shape!

The programme touched on the issue of Bio fuel. Yes we need to protect the environment and one way is to check our fuel consumption and the sources of fuel. But is it fair to take away farming land form rural people that use it for growing food and turn it into a field for bio fuel crops that neither people nor animals can eat?

What about feeding cattle on cereals/grains in order to fatten them whilst  some people can’t access this cereal for food? I sincerely don’t know what the answers to these questions are, but all I know is that we need to address these issues one way or another.

As George said we have some tough choices to make especially here in Europe. Our food choice is currently threatening  the food and water security of some of the poorest people in the world. It would appear too that we face unknown future in as far as our own food security is concerned unless we rethink how we farm and eat.

Is the way forward to "GROW" our own? Is the ethical thing to do to farm our own fish instead ot taking fish from those that need it the most? What about our shopping habits? Are supermarkets simply giving in to our demands of super perfect Kenyan green beans?

Have you got a view on any of the issues raised here? Please share it! I would urge to to watch George’s programmes on BBC 2 or iplayer

The debate about Hillary’s Clinton’s real reason for being in Africa continues. Some have argued that she has not done enough to address human rights abuse as well as worker’s rights. You will recall my recent post about this  and if you missed here is the link

The choice of countries that Mrs Clinton chose to visit have mostly one thing common EXTRACTIVE COMMODOTIES. However according to this article the agricultural money promised has meant that banana barons have strengthened their hold on Mozambique and Angola.

I appreciate their observation about the role of bananas in the day today life of most African countries, in fact certain tribes in Uganda the only thing that passess as food is Matoke  a type of banana that is boiled/steamed, mashed then served with any type of stew. In some families this is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner

matoke

Matoke

This type of banana is facing a different kind of challenge compared that, that is of interest to the like of Chiquita, the BANANA WILT. This as I understand is a type of bacteria that affects banana plants and kills off whole plantations and thus threatening food security. In countries where bananas play an important role in day to day life this a real threat and  work has been under way  to develop a super banana plant that can resist the WILT. That fight has not gone unnoticed by those that object to GM food.

Having read the article, I wonder if the author is concerned that if bananas, if Africa are exported to the West then this affects the local economy that depends on the banana? I also wonder whether how much the author knows about bananas . Bananas come in different kinds and each kind almost always has a specific use, the bananas for juice and beer can be eaten as fruit ripe but the taste is awful, unless cooked, even then there are an acquired taste.  Whislt the  bananas that some is like to come across in the West are for instance not suitable for cooking, the same way you would cook Matoke.

The degree to which the activities of the likes of Chiquita will impact of the banana market will depend on the types of bananas any given country has, as well as how the workers are treated.

Although the article has a valid point regarding homelessness in many african countries I am not entirely sure I follow the Banana point!

Have you got a banana opnion? Please share it

I caught up with an acquittance on Friday evening at our local wine bar where we shared a glass of wine and caught up on all manner of things. She has hit the dating scene in a big way and I was fascinated by how she is getting on. In her opinion she has gone from zero man to being spoilt for choice and this seemed to be causing her a degree of stress! So much choice!

During the course of the evening the issue of Social media came up, specifically that how to use socia media  to the best advantage. I asked her if she had connected with a South African lady I had introduced her to on Twitter. I told her that the person I had introduced her to would benefit from her experience of educating her children at home.

This took the discussion to my own family that resides in South Africa which raised an interesting question for my acquitance. How did some of your family end up in South Africa whilst some are in Uganda?

Well, this stopped me in my tracks! I had to think  for a moment or two, should I tell the real reason or should I give her the diplomatic answer. I opted for the truth!

Do you remember when you had APARTHEID in South Africa? I asked her and she nodded, well during that time Uganda had the best medical school in East Africa so most students who qualified from it got jobs in the South African townships as the whites did not want to or could not treat blacks. Other professionals such college professors and tutors got in too. This has meant that I have family and friends in South Africa.

I had never been in this position before, discussing APARTHEID with a white South African, and wasn’t sure how my acquittance would react. She responded by nodding her head and telling me about her Welsh mother and we moved on to another conversation. I told her about my experience of growing with Uganda Asians and Idi Amin!

The unintended consequence of this system of exclusion/segregation was what has come to be known as BRAIN DRAIN amongst other things from Sub Saharan countries. But I understand that this is on the reverse as Africa appears to offer economic prospects to those that are able to take them up.

Whilst thinking about this form of exclusion I happened upon a BBC Radio 4 programme in which the Rev, Jesse Jackson talked about the impact of segregation on the generation of African Americans.

The question on my mind is what drives us humans to behave this way and whether we have seen the end of the worst form of exclusion?

Voluntary Work was the subject of at least two BBC radio 4 programmes yesterday.  The first YOU and YOURS a consumer programme considered all manner of issues relating to voluntary work including Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, the other PM considered the issue of Internship/Interns.

Interesting these days it si not enough to want to volunteer, you have to  have  an enhanced CRB, not quite sure what that stand for, but in lay mans’ lingo, it is a Police check to ensure that you do not have criminal records and will not pose a danger to children, and vulnerable adults!

Corporate Social Responsibility has become increasingly a vital part of many companies activities  with most companies “wanting to be seen to being doing their bit for the community” and folk in the developing nations have in part benefited form this  too, but interestingly some companies “contract their CSR out” and this doesn’t make much sense to me but hey who am I to argue with them?

It was interesting to note that whilst some Interns find this a valuable experience and indeed some have gone on to great jobs as a result if not planned properly it may well turn into a disappointment. An MP that was interviewed for the programme suggested that Interns should be paid as they do great work and without them some politicians, media groups would not function without them and to make matters worse prospective employers expect job applicants to have done  some kind of Internship. The hard/moral question that was posed was whether young people from poorer families could participate in the  Internship programmes without any pay for a whole year.

Although I have previously written about my own experiences as a volunteer, yesterdays programmes got me thinking about the numbers of times most of  us volunteer our time (especially) without being aware of it!

In my line of work for instance I get called on to speak my work or my experiences to an interested audience and often this is unpaid. I must admit hat following past experiences I do weigh up what I have to gain and if it doesn’t add up the I iwll not  give my time.

As dear old Jim Rohn says, you have to make people deserve your time
What really constitutes volunteering, If you go out to Africa for what ever period of time, are you on an extended holiday or are you volunteering?

Are you are volunteer? What are your experiences as a volunteer or as an intern?

How generous are you with your time and money?

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this year’s Reith Lecturesby Professor Sandel.  He asked some tough questions that face us today and one that  stopped me in my tracks was one about the role of markets in achieving public good.

Have markets been disconnected from the public value and if so how do we remedy them? Is it that we have become so greedy or are markets simply responding to demand.  Can greed be put to some good use or specifically public good?

Are there things that money can  buy but should not buy? He cited examples such as outsourcing security in war torn areas, paying surrogate mothers, access to health care and education as well as refugees!

Should refugees fleeing war torn areas be required to  pay $50,000 for an American green card for instance ? Or is a better way to market refugees? How would this work? If Japan had to take in 10, 000 refugees as an obligation but didn’t want to and instead chose to enter into negotiations with Uganda to take on these refugees for a fee. That would enable Japan to meet its obligation and provide Uganda with an income, and provide refugees with somewhere safe to live but would this be fair to the refugees. Is it ethical or morally right to sell refugees?

These are tough questions folk. There are implications for whatever choices we make. Is Equality the same as being fair?

Should UK politicians have claimed all that money simply because they were entitled to it? Were their actions ethical? Do markets have a role to play in ethics? How do you balance it all? Where do we draw the line.

 
You will recall my earlier blog on Vulture funds  someone that read it on Twitter had this to say” GOD SAVE US ALL IF THIS IS A SIGN OF THINGSS TO COME” is she right to be concerned

I would be interested in your views on the issues raised in Reith Lectures

Yesterday afternoon Nigel and I went up to London to attend a fundraiser BBQ at the Nigerian High Commissioner’s residence in Kensington.

The BBQ was in aid of the Commonwealth Countries Countries League education fund (CCLF).

The aim of this fund is to enable girls in deprived commonwealth countries continue their secondary school education. The fund is unique in that the money is paid directly to the school to guarantee the girls’ places but also to ensure that the girls’ families/guardians do not divert it to other things.

One of the ways that the fund raises money is through their annual fair and I was introduced to the folk at the education fund by the Ugandan High Commission in London in 2007 and since then I try to get to their events whenever I can. This year’s fair is in the Kensington Town Hall in London on 17 October 2009.

But yesterday’s event was different. We got the opportunity to meet a former recipient and her story was so moving that there was hardly a dry pair of eyes in the audience.

Her Name is Ladi and she is from Nigeria

Ladi’s father had 3 wives and between them bore 13 children and he died unexpectedly living 13 children of primary school age. Ladi’s mother was the first wife therefore all the children from the other two wives were dumped on her door step.

She had no income of her own  so she did what she could to find the money to feed the children and any little money went on the education for the boys as the girls were expected to get married as soon as possible

Fortunately for Ladi primary school education is free in Nigeria so she was in school until age 13 and was expected to get married at this age because her mother could not afford to pay the fees for  her secondary school education.

As luck would have it Ladi came across CCLF and they agreed to fund her secondary school education and on completion she went on to university. She found a job and paid her way through University.

Ladi majored in Banking and is currently doing a Master’s degree at a London University and is herself sponsoring 20 girls through secondary education.

She said “I am grateful to you good folk for your generosity and you will never know what that means for girls like me”

I turned around and looked at Nigel and everyone around us and we all had tears in our eyes.

Nigel said to me imagine that!

Indeed, on the way up to Kensington we had a conversation about education and recalled a conversation in which my father had said to Nigel to “I paid good money for Ida’s education and I hope you never forget that”

We found it hilarious at the time but my father was serious, education was very important to him especially the education of girls and here we were years later faced with a young girl who had  almost missed out on a decent education by virtue of the family/country she was born in.

The mood was very somber on the way home as we went considered Ladi’s words. We compared the situation of girls in the developing world to that of children in western world that fail to appreciate how lucky they are to have access to free education as a right.

For my part I suddenly felt so emotional and my father’s words hit me like a ton of bricks, and today being father’s day I miss him dearly and feel awful that he is not here for me to thank him for my education!

I hope that Ladi’s story will inspire you to help girls like her

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

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