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Letters

Public responses

by D+C / E+Z
In recent months, we published letters from readers that may be of interest to web users to in the print editions of D+C/E+Z. Among other topics, they concern the Basic Income Grant in Namiba, the modernisation of agriculture and resource extraction in Peru.

Biased and misleading

D+C/E+Z 2013/05, p. 216 f., Rigmar Osterkamp: Lessons from failure

Rigmar Osterkamp has unfortunately been running a personal campaign against the proponents of the „Basic Income Grant“ (BIG) in Namibia, ever since they responded to his first criticism in a rather rude way a few years ago. The topic deserves a more nuanced coverage however. The underlying idea is better than sceptics and sneerers, most of whom are better off, would admit. These people will feel reassured by the essay in D+C/E+Z. In view of an unemployment rate of up to 50 % for young people, it is cynical to state that a basic income grant only amounts to a comfortable hammock for people who shy away from work. It is totally wrong to make such statements for political leaders who like to celebrate with French champagne they buy with tax money and who demand the latest Mercedes limousines as their office cars, even arguing in public that they need those cars given their obeseness. One merit of the BIG project was to trigger debate on innovative ways to fight poverty. The essay fails to spell out, moreover, that BIG was supported by Namibia’s national trade union, which is close to the government. Rigmar Osterkamp’s statement that “media reports are not encouraging either” is biased and misleading. He only refers to a single newspaper that serves a privileged white elite as its forum. BIG is certainly controversial, but it is not rejected by all, or even a majority. On the contrary, it is appreciated in Namibia, including by some major local newspapers. There even are some supporters in the government, including the current prime minister who will probably become the next president. Rigmar Osterkamp ends his essay with the admonition of someone from a German agency that the BIG experiment “is not about an academic exercise, it is about the people”. He would do well to heed that advice himself. Henning Melber, Uppsala, Sweden

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Selfreliance is feasible

D+C/E+Z 2013/04, p. 159 ff., Sandra Abild: Damaging investments 

Agriculture will determine Africa’s future. Anyone who wants to fight poverty, must promote agriculture. But even though lots of arable land remains unused (up to 27 % of Earth’s remaining potential farm land is assumed to be in Africa), African countries import food worth $ 50 billion per year. Millions of jobs could be created by using land prudently.  To reduce the dependence on food imports, African agriculture must become more productive. Unfortunately, food security is only a top priority in rather few African countries. Governments still don’t understand that agriculture is key to economic development. Selfreliance is feasible in Africa, however, as Malawi’s and Rwanda’s farm sectors have proven. Today, the Gulf States, China, South Korea, Russia and India are spearheading agrocapitalism in Africa. They want to ensure their own food security. In recent years, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Mali – countries prone to hunger crises – have leased huge landholdings to foreign powers. Some 45 million hectares of land are said to have been subject to such transactions since 2009. That is more land than all German woodlands combined. Instead of prioritising domestic food security, ruling elites are inviting rich investors to acquire ever more land. African peasants are simply displaced. Foreign countries’ food security is gaining priority on arable subSaharan land. At the same time, Brazilian biofuel producers are setting up sugar cane plantations in Africa. They need more resources as well as new markets – and Africa’s rural populations are paying the price. Whereas Brazil claims to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, its companies’ ethanol production is exacerbating poverty and hunger. The last thing Africa needs is foreign investors taking over farm land and, in cooperation with corrupt elites, marginalising rural people. Where governments act in a  responsible and transparent  way, taking people’s needs into account, foreign investments can be valuable. Land transactions, however, must neither infringe upon human rights (displacement), nor breach social and environmental standards. To the extent that jobs are created and technology is transferred, the people of a region can benefit from investments. Local farmers, however, are unlikely to get a fair share in the business unless a prudent government makes sure they do. African governments should bear in mind what happened in Madagascar in 2008. The country’s president was chased away because of obscure landdeals with the South Korean multinational Deawoo. Volker Seitz, Six Fours les Plages, France

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Pope Francis

D+C/E+Z 2013/04, p. 174, Hans Dembowski: Italian Argentinian 

Your comment really spells out all important points on a single page. Nothing relevant is missing. I‘ll keep this clipping. Hans-Ulrich Bünger, Baiersbronn, Germany

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Harsh rule

D+C/E+Z 2013/02, p. 76 f., Henning Melber: Colonial shadows

Your article is well argued. It concerns not only Germany, but serves as a casestudy of the misrule of European powers in their colonies. The NamaHerero and the MajiMaji resistance in today’s Namibia and Tanzania respectively were clear indicators of people saying: “We want to be free!” Thank you very much for your effort to see that Africans are compensated for their past suffering under harsh colonial rule. But as you well know, neocolonialism is just as ruthless. All we need is fair trade and Europe not to safeguard Africa’s embezzled resources. Manyasi Daniel Katira, Nairobi

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Legal aspirations and ground reality

D+C/E+Z 2012/12, p. 480 f., Interview with Gabriel Quijandría Acosta: “I hope for the best”

The picture painted by Peru’s vice minister for the environment is too rosy. It is true that Peru’s legislature has passed ILO Convention 169 on consulting people affected by projects, for example in the rain forest. But there is no implementation. Environmental risks are huge in Peru. Corporations have been awarded concessions to produce oil, gas, timber, gold, copper et cetera in more than 60 % of the country’s rain forest and more than 50 % of the Andean region. Commodity exploitation is threatening survival. Just one example: On the shores of Lake Titicaca, a Russian stateowned company is entitled to dig for oil. The local people are worried, but they have not been informed. Indigenous organisations in Peru (AIDESEP) have expressed serious criticism of government ideas, according to which an international carbon capandtrade system (REDD+) is supposed to result in appreciation for the value of forests and, accordingly, their protection. The indigenous people fear such a programme will lead to their displacement as fishing and farming on small plots become prohibited. In Peru as elsewhere, legal aspirations are one thing, and ground reality is another. The big issue of regional planning is not being tackled. Heinz Schulze, Informationsstelle Peru e. V., Freiburg

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The technocrats’ view

D+C/E+Z 2012/12: front page/focus section: “Managing migration”

The term “managing migration” may sound dynamic, but it does suggest that we are dealing with a task that can be accomplished by technocratic means. Many people oppose that idea however. Around 1800 delegates from 50 countries took part in the World Social Forum on Migration in Manila in November 2012. They called for a more comprehensive understanding of development, and insisted that the focus must not be on “managing” migrants, but on the rights of the people concerned. Stefan Rother, Arnold-Bergstaesser-Institut, Freiburg

 

Relevant questions

D+C/E+Z 2012/12, p. 444, Sheila Mysorekar: “Regional markets matter”

Finally, in late 2012, the World Bank has found the key to preventing famine in Africa. Hurray! Sadly, its recent report leaves many relevant questions unanswered:

1. After 60 years of international development programmes, what made World Bank experts suddenly see the light?

2. Many subSaharan countries are importing evergrowing quantities of food for their urban people. Such supplies are shipped from the USA and the EU, for example. In view of such competition, how are African smallholder farmers supposed to export their goods within the African continent? Or are African governments procuring food abroad even though enough is being produced domestically?

3. Indeed, Africa is exposed to draught, civil strife and landmines. But does that apply to all countries and all districts? Marietta Slomka, the German TV journalist, reported as early as 2010 that Ethiopia alone could easily feed all of Africa. What has the World Bank been doing all these years?

I cannot believe that the World Bank did not understand the root causes of Africa’s problems. Apparently, humanity must wait – as the Ethiopian saying goes – for the egg to start walking by itself. In my eyes, denial and misrepresentation of facts are likely to lead to spiritual and moral decline. Kiros Abeselom, Cologne

For good reason you asked Benjamin Luig to critically assess the World Bank statements. The World Bank really has not come up with anything new. It is merely reiterating familiar ideas on how to manage increasing food insecurity. Luig correctly points out that worldmarket orientation is part of the problem. In my eyes, however, land grabbing matters too, because it compounds the problems of commercial agriculture and its extension for export purposes. Eva-Maria Bruchhaus, Cologne

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Evidence based analysis

D+C/E+Z 2012/10, p. 389 ff., Friedrich Kaufmann and Winfried Borowczak: “New paradigm”

Friedrich Kaufmann and Winfried Borowczak have come up with a sober and solid assessment of private sector development in Mozambique. Thanks to their great professional expertise, they obviously have a thorough understanding of what is going on in the country. Moreover, they convincingly managed to convey their insights in plain terms. I’d like to thank both authors for their balanced, profound and evidence based analysis. It is a pity that the donor community keeps shying away from challenging the government head on. Donors should demand that conflicts of interests be regulated in a sensible way.  Volker Seitz, former German ambassador, Six Four les Plages, France

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