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Public responses

by Wolf Dagmar
In our December edition, we published letters from our readers concerning the focus on "Dwindling forests" in October, the articles on "Farmers' expertise" by Richard Oelmann and on "New spirit" by Eva-Maria Verfürth in September and on the editorial "A belonging to belong" by Hans Dembowski in our May edition.

Ruthless ­developers

D+C/E+Z 2013/10, Focus: Dwindling forests

Until a UN-sponsored environmental police force is set up to monitor tropical forests and water purity in Africa and South America, there will be no long-term solutions to the problems in those regions. On their own, the governments of the places concerned cannot cope with ruthless business interests.

Anton Padua, Aigen, Austria

Link to the dossier on sustainable forest management


Productive ­agriculture

D+C/E+Z 2013/09, p. 328 f.: Richard Oelmann: "Farmers’ expertise"

In this essay, the author, a political scientist, makes the dubious claim that relying on high-yield agriculture and hybrid seeds is risky, but admits that "farmers and agricultural authorities are thrilled" with the results.

I experienced the enthusiastic reaction Oelmann describes myself some years ago in East Africa, specifically in Ethiopia. The introduction of Mexican wheat and maize varieties doubled, even quadrupled, harvests – with the use of chemical fertiliser of course. Nobody thought that this was a bad thing. On the contrary, the local people were happy.

When I returned to Germany in 1970, I was amazed that people had reservations about high-yielding varieties. Everyone was focussing on social problems rather than on the opportunity to alleviate farmers’ hunger. But it is only thanks to the impact of the Mexican varieties, that many people in Africa have not starved by now.

Productive varieties, fertiliser and pest management are needed to reduce hunger. That is the only way to overcome the limited yields produced by current organic farming methods. Doing so will require a lot of money and decades of support. After all, whatever is taken out of the soil must be given back. Social behaviour must also be changed so that people do not eat their surpluses, as is often the case, but rather save a portion to buy seed and fertiliser.

Jochen Alkämper, professor emeritus of tropical agricultural science, Giessen, Germany

Link to the article


Open markets

D+C/E+Z 2013/09, p. 342 f.: Eva-Maria Verfürth: "New spirit"

I was very interested to read the report on the ‘Chance Entrepreneurs’ Dialogue’. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the assertion that African companies need fair access to rich nations’ markets.

Again and again, people wrongly claim that the terrible situation in Africa is caused by the fact that it does not have fair access to rich nations’ markets. However, in 2001, the EU introduced a programme called ‘Everything But Arms’ to support the world’s least developed countries. It guarantees these nations duty-free access to EU markets for all goods except weapons.

The World Trade Organisation created an exception to allow a one-sided market opening. Thirty-four of the least developed countries are lo­cated in Africa. These countries are allowed to export all products except arms duty-free to the EU.

Since President Bill Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a large share of all goods manufactured in Africa, including textiles, can be exported to the USA under favourable conditions.

But the problem is that these countries do not produce competitive goods. Africa will never have an industrial revolution like the one that took place in Asia unless it begins to process commodities and develops manufacturing.

Volker Seitz, former German ­ambassador, Six-Fours-­les-Plages, France

Link to the article


Recurring ­debates

D+C/E+Z 2013/05, p. 178: Hans Dembowski: "A longing to belong"

As a long-time reader of D+C/E+Z, I am pleased to inform you that your editorial appeared in Spanish in the June issue of Sentido Humano, a small magazine that is published several times a year by the National Human Rights Commission of the Mexican state of Yucatán. I thought your article was very good, although I do not entirely agree with you. According to Catholic social teaching and especially liberation theology, there is no contradiction between "supernatural salvation" and "peaceful co-existence". However, your editorial is an excellent contribution to the recurring debate about the roles of church and state – consider, for instance, the Catholic bishops who want to strengthen the Church’s involvement in schooling and mass media.

Stefan Krotz, Universidad ­Autónoma de Yucatán, Mexico

Link to the article