Rwanda

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

Failing Africa’s Farmers, Starving the Continent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 10:20pm in

By Timothy A. Wise

This article was originally published at Inter Press Service News Agency.

African organizations are demanding answers after a recent report found that Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) strategies have failed spectacularly to meet its goals of increasing productivity and incomes for millions of small-scale farming households by 2020 while reducing food insecurity on the continent.

The theme for the tenth annual African Green Revolution Forum, a virtual week-long event hosted by Rwanda that opens September 8, is “Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent.”

Based on the findings of a recent report on the host, AGRA, a more appropriate theme would be “Failing Africa’s Farmers, Starving the Continent.” The report, “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” found that the 14-year, billion-dollar AGRA initiative has failed spectacularly to meet its self-proclaimed objectives.

My background research, which contributed to the report, showed that yields have risen slowly, poverty remains endemic, and there has been an alarming 31% increase in the number of undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries.

After AGRA offered no substantive responses to the findings from the July 10 report, three African organizations are issuing a public letter to AGRA demanding it release internal documents on its impacts.

They demand that AGRA provide “evidence to refute the study’s findings that AGRA and the larger Green Revolution project are failing to meet its goals of doubling yields and incomes for 30 million small-scale farming households by 2020 while reducing food insecurity by half.”

As Zambian researcher Mutinta Nketani told the German outlet DW, when an organization like AGRA “fails to achieve the goals it had set itself, all alarm bells should go off — not only amid civil society, but also amid AGRA itself as well as its donors.”

Failed policies of the past

The annual Green Revolution Forum brings together (virtually this year) leaders from government, business, civil society, research institutions, and the donors who have funded the latest effort to promote commercial seeds, fertilizers, and the markets that deliver them to Africa’s millions of small-scale farmers. Since its launch in 2006, AGRA has received about $1 billion in funding to lead this productivity revolution in its target countries.

African governments, though, have provided the bulk of the Green Revolution funding. Many use significant portions of their agricultural development budgets to subsidize the purchase of these commercial inputs for farmers who otherwise would not buy them. Collectively, those subsidies have totaled as much as $1 billion per year.

The strategy promises that commercial seeds and fertilizers will dramatically increase yields, allowing small-scale farmers to sell surplus crops, increase their incomes, and improve their food security.

According to the False Promises report, none of that has happened as AGRA reaches its self-declared 2020 deadline:

    • Instead of doubling yields (a 100% increase), yields have gone up only 18% over 12 years for staple crops. Even for maize, heavily promoted by AGRA and subsidized by governments, yields increased a disappointing 29%.
    • All the subsidies to maize diverted land and investment from other crops, some more nutritious and climate-resilient than maize. Millet production fell 24% under AGRA with yields declining 21%.
    • Not only did farmer incomes fail to rise, hunger increased dramatically in AGRA countries, rising 31% since 2006 according to United Nations estimates.
    These policies, heavily funded now for 14 years, have failed.

Rwanda: “AGRA’s hungry poster child”

Not only does AGRA have a lot to answer for at this year’s forum, so does Rwanda, which now hosts these annual gatherings. According to former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is now chair of AGRA’s board, Rwanda was selected to host the AGRF because “Rwanda has shown the best example in agriculture transformation.” Based on that reputation, Rwanda’s former Agriculture Minister Agnes Kalibata now leads AGRA.

According to the False Promises report, Rwanda is a very poor example for sustainable and inclusive agricultural development. Under the government’s strict mandates to increase maize production, crop diversity declined dramatically.

Kalibata may point to a 300% increase in maize production and a 66% increase in yields, but traditional and nutritious crops like sorghum and sweet potato withered from neglect.

Overall yields for a basket of staple crops increased just 24%. And according to the latest U.N. figures, the number of undernourished Rwandans increased an alarming 41% since 2006 in spite of the boom in maize production.

The report calls Rwanda “AGRA’s hungry poster child.”

former U.N. official recently decried Rwanda’s approach under Kalibata as “replacing hunger with malnutrition.” He and others have questioned her appointment by the U.N. Director General to lead next year’s scheduled Global Food Systems Summit.

Demand for accountability

In the public letter, PELUM-Zambia, BIBA-Kenya, and HOMEF of Nigeria ask Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy, to provide evidence from AGRA’s own monitoring and evaluation to address the serious concerns raised in the False Promises report.

They note that AGRA refused researchers’ requests for such data to inform the report. They pose a provocative series of concrete questions about AGRA’s impacts.

“African farmers deserve a substantive response from AGRA to the findings in the report. So do AGRA’s public sector donors, who would seem to be getting a very poor return on their investments. African governments also need to provide a clear accounting for the impacts of their own budget outlays that support Green Revolution programs.”

They conclude with a plea that could be addressed to all the esteemed stakeholders at this year’s Green Revolution Forum: “We hope this request can refocus this important discussion on AGRA’s 14-year record in increasing productivity, incomes, and food security for smallholder farmers in Africa.”

That would be a better theme for the forum to take up.

Timothy A. Wise is a senior advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Future of Food (New Press 2019). He provided a background paper that contributed to the report, “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.”

Three Books on African Languages

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 9:28pm in

Teach Yourself Swahili: A Complete Course for Beginners, Joan Russell, (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1996).

Teach yourself Swahili Dictionary, D.V. Perrott, (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1965).

Teach Yourself Yoruba, E.C. Rowlands (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1969).

I’ve an interest in languages, and two that I considered learning are the African languages Swahili and Yoruba. I tried teaching myself a bit of Swahili when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol in the 1990s and very early couple of years of this century.  I didn’t get very far with either of them, and haven’t really done anything more with the Yoruba book than look at it since I bought it. However, I thought some people out there might be interesting in knowing about them, especially now that the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked an interest in African culture and civilisation.

Kenneth Katzner in his book, Languages of the World (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1977) has this section on Swahili:

Swahili, more correctly called Kiswahili, is the most important language of east Africa. It is the official language of both Tanzania and Kenya, and is also spoken in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire. (In Zaire a separate dialect is spoken, known as Kingwana.) Swahili is the mother tongue of perhaps only a million people, but at least ten million more speak it fluently as a second language, and many millions more at least understand it to some degree.

Swahili is one of the Bantu languages, which form a branch of the Niger-Congo family. Its vocabulary is basically Bantu but with many words borrowed from Arabic. The name Swahili is derived from an Arabic word meaning “coastal”, having developed among Arabic-speaking settlers of the African coast beginning about the 7th century. During the 19th century it was carried inland by Arab tradesmen, and was later adopted by the Germans as the language of administration in Tanganyika. In modern Tanzania it is the national language, and in 1970 it was proclaimed the official language of Kenya.

The Swahili alphabet lacks the letters c, q, and x, but contains a number of its own. The dh is pronounced like the th of “this” (e.g., dhoruba-hurricane), gh like the German ch (ghali-expensive), and ng’ like the ng in “thing” but not as in “finger” (ng’ombe-cow). Whereas English grammatical inflections occur at the end of the word, in Swahili everything is done at the beginning. Kitabu is the Swahili word for “book” but the word for “books” is vitabu. This word falls into the so-called Ki Vi class, one of eight in the Swahili language. Others are the M Mi class (e.g., mkono-hand, mikono-hands; mji-town, miji-towns), and the M Wa class, used mainly for people (mtu-man, watu-men; mjinga-fool, wajinga-fools). Furthermore, these prefixes are carried over verbs of which the noun is the subject, as well as to numerals and modifying adjectives. Thus “one big book” in Swahili is kitabu kikbubwa kimoja (“book-big-one”), but “two big books” is vitabu vikubwa viwili.

Katzner gives as a example of a text in the language the poem, The Name, by Shaaban Robert. This runs

Mtego wanaotega, ninaswe nianguke,

Sife yangu kuvuruga, jina liaibike,

Mungu mwema mfuga, nilinde lisittendeke,

Na wawekao kaga, kudhuru watakasike.

 

Kwa wingi natangaziwa, maovu nisiyotenda,

Na habari nasikia, kila ninapokwenda,

Lakini Allah mwelewa, stalifanya kuwanda,

Jina wanalochukia, badala y kukonda.

 

Badala ya kukonda, jina litaneenepa,

Ugenini litakwenda, lisipopendeza hapa,

Kutafuta kinbanda, ambako halitatupwa,

Huko wataolipenda, fadhili litawalipa.

 

A trap they set, for me to get caught,

My reputation they blemish, to spoil my name.

Oh, Lord the Keeper, save me from the plight,

And those who promise me harm, remove their aim.

 

Many slanderous charges are published against me,

And these I hear, wherever I go.

But God who understands, my name will clear,

The name they hate, He will surely emancipate.

 

Rather than wither, my name will thrive,

Abroad it will succeed, if here they will not heed,

Shelter it will find, where it will not be remiss,

Where those who care, it will reward and recompense.

 

The blurb for Teach Yourself Swahili runs

This is a complete course in spoken and written Swahili. If you have never learnt Swahili before, or if your Swahili needs brushing up, Teach Yourself Swahili is for you.

Joan Russell has created a practical course that is both fun and easy to work through.She explains everything clearly along the way and gives you plenty of opportunities to practise what you have learnt. The course structure means that you can work at your own pace, arranging your learning to suit your needs.

Based on the Council of Europe’s Threshold guide lines on language learning, the course contains:

  • Eighteen graded units of dialogues, culture notes, grammar and exercises
  • A guide to Swahili pronunciation
  • Swahili-English and English-Swahili vocabularies

By the end of the course you’ll be able to cope with a whole range of situations and participate confidently in life in Tanzania, Kenya and other Swahili-speaking areas.

The blurb for Teach Yourself Swahili Dictionary simply says that it is

A concise working dictionary that contains all the Swahili words you are likely to hear or read. The Swahili-English and English-Swahili sections of the dictionary provide clear definitions for a range of words and phrases, including words that are particularly appropriate to life in East Africa. A useful Swahili grammar and practical hints on pronunciation are also included at the beginning of the dictionary.

Katzner says of the Yoruba language that

Yoruba, with the stress on the first syllable, is one of the major languages of Nigeria. It is spoken in the southwestern part of the country, in the region whose principal city is Ibadan. There are about 12 million speakers. 

He also notes that it is a member of the Kwa languages, which are a subgroup of the Niger-Congo family. It’s written with grave and acute stresses over letters, which indicate the rise and fall of the voice.

The example he gives of a text in the language is a passage from A King’s Election in Yoruba Land. Here it is, but I’ve been unable to include the tone accents.

Ajo igbimo ti awon agbagba ni ima yan oba larin awon eniti nwon ni itan pataki kan ninu eje. Ilana kan ti o se ajeil ana saju iyan ti oba. Awon olori ama dan agbara ti iroju re ati ise akoso ara re wo. li ojo ti a yan fun dide e li ade, awon olori ama lo si afin oba, nwon a mu u dani pelu agbara, nwon a si na a pelu pasan. Bi oba ba farada aje n lai sun ara ki, nigbana nwon yio de e li ade, bi beko, nwon yio yan oba miran.

The king is chose by a council of elders from among those who have a certain blood descent. A curious ceremony precedes a king’s election. His powers of endurance and self-restraint are tested by the chiefs, who, on the day appointed for the coronation, go to the king’s palace, get hold of him forcibly, and flog him with a whip. If the ordeal is suffered without flinching, then the king is crowned; if not, another king is chosen.

The blurb for Teach Yourself Yoruba runs

This book provides a complete introductory course in Yoruba, the mother tongue of over 10 million people living in Western Nigeria, in parts of Northern Nigeria and Benin.

The book is concerned with the generally accepted “standard” Yoruba which is widely understood even where regional dialects exist. The course assumes no previous knowledge of the language and every stage is illustrated with examples and exercises. Pronunciation, grammar and syntax are comprehensively covered and the book will equip you with a basic, everyday vocabulary.

I’ve no doubt that other books are available on these languages, and that these may well be a little dated after all this time. Reading about them, it’s clear that they’re very different, and therefore very difficult for speakers of European languages like English. Nevertheless, I thought that people interested in Africa and its languages might like to know about them.