AfricaFocus Bulletins on Food and Agriculture - 2003-2006
Nov 5, 2006 Africa: Economics of Climate Change
"All countries will be affected. The most vulnerable - the poorest
countries and populations - will suffer earliest and most, even
though they have contributed least to the causes of climate
change." - Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
Nov 5, 2006 Africa: Up in Smoke?
"The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is historically a
result of rich world activity. Therefore to be fair, the rich world
should bear the full costs of adapting to climate change, at least
in the early years." - Working Group on Climate Change and
Oct 15, 2006 Africa: Rice Congress
Rice development will be one of the key testing grounds of whether
Africa's new "Green Revolution" can avoid some of the failures of
earlier Green Revolution efforts, and reduce African rice imports.
Enthusiasts point to the Participatory Varietal Selection methods
used by the Africa Rice Centre to disseminate new rice varieties,
and to growth in small-farmer income as well as yields.
Oct 15, 2006 Africa: Green Revolution?
The Gates Foundation has joined with the Rockefeller Foundation in
promoting a new "Green Revolution" in Africa. But will the new
effort learn from the mistakes of earlier "Green Revolution"
initiatives? Sceptics say that the new proposals still disregard
the interests of small farmers and the environment.
Sep 10, 2006 Africa: Environmental Threats/Opportunities
Many of Africa's ecosystems are not just serving the region, but
the whole world, for example, through the carbon soaking value of
tropical forests. This alone probably equals or exceeds the current
or exceeds the current level of international aid being provided to
Feb 21, 2006 East Africa: Dams and Lake Victoria
Low water levels in Lake Victoria, at their lowest point in 50
years, are threatening the livelihood of people dependent on
fishing, raising the prices of fish, and provoking shortages of
water for electricity generation. And now a new report charges that
the crisis is due not only to drought but also to overuse of the
lake's water for power generation by existing powerplants. At the
same time the Uganda government has signed a new $500 million
contract for building a third power plant, on the Bujagali Falls.
Environmentalists charge that the new plant is likely to have more
negative effects and that the hope of providing more electricity
will prove unsustainable.
Dec 16, 2005 Africa: Trade Talks Analysis, 1
"Any expectations that developing countries or the public might
have of Hongkong marking progress to achieving 'development' in the
Doha negotiations have been very much dashed. The 'Doha Development
Agenda' (DDA) got its nickname when the developed countries
pressurised the developing countries to accept a new Work Programme
at the Doha Ministerial in November 2001. To cover the fact that
the programme was really aimed at opening the markets of the South,
the WTO secretariat leadership and the major developed countries
dubbed it the DDA." - Third World Network
Dec 16, 2005 Africa: Trade Talks Analysis, 2
Having failed to come up with a joint proposal on agriculture that
begins to satisfy the demands of developing countries, Europe and
the United States have proposed a "development package" that they
hope will preserve some image of success in the World Trade
Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong. But critics say
whatever the face-saving agreements reached by the weekend, the
results will clearly show no progress at all for poor countries in
what was supposed to have been a "development round."
Oct 24, 2005 Africa: Cotton Producers Demand Results
Two years ago in Cancun, the issue of the damage done to African cotton producers
by rich-country subsidies sparked the breakdown of world trade talks, highlighting the
failure of rich countries to make this round of trade talks a "development round."
In Geneva last week, African countries warned that their interests were still being ignored.
Oct 18, 2005 Southern Africa: Food Emergency Shortfall
With attention diverted and disaster fatigue accentuated by
response to the hurricanes in North America, the UN's World Food
Programme (WFP) as well as private agencies are finding responses
slow to the earthquake in South Asia and to food crises in Africa.
The WFP appeal for Niger, which briefly hit world headlines in
July, has still only raised $36 million of its $58 million target;
the appeal for 12 million people in Southern Africa has only raised
$245 million out of an estimated $622 million needed.
Oct 15, 2005 Africa: Trade Smoke and Mirrors
In an effort to give momentum to international trade talks, the
United States and the European Union this week released new offers
to cut widely-criticized subsidies to rich-country farmers. The
proposals have already provoked opposition from defenders of
subsidies, including U.S. legislators and French officials. But
non-governmental analysts say in fact the concessions to developing
countries are "smoke and mirrors."
Sep 6, 2005 USA/Africa: Call for Food Aid Reform
On August 26, just before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of
the United States, the World Food Programme called for the
international community not to turn away from Niger, as food
contributions began to tail off with less than half of the budget
funded. As subsequent images of devastated New Orleans both
displaced and evoked comparisons with "Third World" catastrophes,
there was abundant material for reflection on U.S. and international
responses to entirely predictable disasters.
Jul 22, 2005 Niger: Background to Famine
With a BBC film crew in Niger broadcasting images of starving
children to the world, food aid shipments to the country are
starting to pick up. But UN under secretary-general for
humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland, who has repeatedly warned of
neglected emergencies in African countries, told reporters that if
donors had responded to earlier appeals, a child's life could have
been saved for little more than a dollar a day. Now the estimated
cost has risen to 80 times that, and for many it is too late.
Jul 5, 2005 Ghana: Playing Chicken
"For the last few years the Ghanaian market has been flooded with
cheap imported chicken from the European Union and the United
States. These are usually fatty chicken parts that come in packages
without labels. Nonetheless, demand for local poultry has
collapsed, threatening the livelihoods of over 400,000 poultry
farmers in the small West African nation." - Corpwatch
Mar 23 2005 USA/Africa: Cotton Dumping
Pressure to reduce rich-country subsidies for agricultural exports
ratchetted upward this month when the World Trade Organization
(WTO) issued its final ruling that U.S. current payments to cotton
farmers were illegal. The Bush administration's 2006 budget
submitted to Congress proposes reduction in these subsidies by
setting new upper limits on payments. But the outcome in Congress
is uncertain, and African cotton farmers need more than promises of
somewhat fairer terms for their exports in the distant future.
Sep 6, 2004 Africa: Trade Deception
Initial news stories from world trade talks in Geneva heralded rich
country commitments to cut agricultural subsidies, celebrating the
July 31 framework agreement as a victory for rich and poor
countries alike. For those who followed the later dissection of the
fine print, however, it quickly became apparent that the commitment
was largely a "shell game," as James Flanagan put it in the Los
Angeles Times (Aug. 15, 2004).
Jul 31, 2004 Africa: Trade Talks Background
Discussions continued beyond Friday's midnight deadline in world
trade talks in Geneva, as major countries pressed for wording
compromises that would avoid an obvious breakdown. West African
cotton-producing countries reportedly accepted a U.S. pledge to
deal with the issue of cotton subsidies expeditiously within the
wider agriculture negotiations. Even if disagreements are papered
over, however, fair trade campaigners note that the text remains
deeply unbalanced in favor of rich countries, with their
commitments under the framework text still vague and ambiguous in
comparison with concessions exacted from developing countries.
May 14, 2004 Africa: Cotton Update
"This system [of U.S. cotton subsidies] pits a typical Malian
producer, farming two hectares of cotton, who is lucky to gross
$400 a year, against US farms which receive a subsidy of $250 per
hectare." - Oxfam. The World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon
issue a formal ruling, in response to a Brazilian and African
challenge, declaring these U.S. subsidies in violation of
international trade rules. This changes the climate for
international trade talks, but no policy shifts that could directly
affect African farmers are yet imminent.
Mar 16, 2004 Congo (Kinshasa): Forests under Threat
Central Africa is the region having the richest rainforest resources
on the continent, and its Congo basin is second only to the Amazon
among the world's rainforest regions. How these resources are used
and who controls their "development" are issues that deserve wide
debate. Yet new legislation to permit rapid expansion in logging is
being introduced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on
the advice of the World Bank, without significant consultation with
civil society or people living in forest areas.
Mar 9, 2004 Africa: Commodity Trap
Africa remains caught in a "commodity trap," says a new report on
trade performance and commodity dependence from the UN Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Africa is less competitive than
in previous decades even in traditional primary commodities, its
trade position undermined both by competition from Asia and Latin
America and by agricultural subsidies in rich countries. Market
solutions have aggravated this structural vulnerability, and it is
time to reconsider a greater role for both national and
international state actions, UNCTAD concludes.
Feb 4, 2004 Africa: Rice for the Future
Only two decades ago, rice was considered a luxury food in West
Africa, comments Dr. Kanayo Nwanze of the West African Rice
Development Association (WARDA). Now it is a staple, accounting for
more than 25% of cereal consumption. Import growth has consistently
outpaced growth in production. But new rice varieties developed
by WARDA researchers give hope that Africa could rapidly increase
Nov 16, 2003 Africa: Agriculture Strategic, Neglected
"Unfortunately, development partners have paid much less attention
to agriculture and rural development over the past two decades,"
commented Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a speech last week. "The World
Bank, the major funding source for Africa, targeted 39 percent of
its lending in 1978 to the agricultural sector in Africa. By 2002,
this proportion had dropped to 6 percent."