Friday, March 11

Sengalia Farms

There are a lot of great Zambia photos on Flickr. Here's one of my favorites -- from a guy named flixz -- of a placed I passed about once a month. Fun day, huh?

Originally uploaded by flixz.

Thursday, March 10

Zambian Porn

David Chirwa is a Zambian artist whose recent installation examines the way pornography affects Zambian culure. “Before I came here [to England] I would be visiting the Internet cafes in Zambia and I was amazed to find lots of pornographic pop-ups on my computer,” explains Chirwa.

Incidentally, porn is illegal in Zambia. Nevertheless, I often saw men with so-called "blue magazines." Also, there was a movie theater in Lusaka that played X-rated movies.

CO2 Isn't Just From Smokestacks

Greenhouse Gas Online says:
"It is estimated that man-made changes in land-use have, until now, produced a cumulative global loss of carbon from the land of about 200 thousand million tonnes. Widespread deforestation has been the main source of this loss, estimated to be responsible for nearly 90 percent of losses since the mid-nineteenth century. Losses primarily occur due to the relatively long term carbon sinks of forests being replaced by agricultural land."
Meanwhile, EarthTrends claims Zambia has the second highest Cumulative Emissions from Land-Use Change in sub-Saharan Africa (at 6697 million metric tons), second only to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That's a lot of deforestation without much being done to repair the problem.

Organic Farming Is Small

According to EarthTrends, the percentage of agricultural land under organic management in Zambia is only 0.06% of available hectares. For comparative purposes, here are a few other numbers:

Malawi -- 0.01%
South Africa -- 0.05%
United States -- 0.23%

Zambia Spells GMO As GM-No!

For years, Zambia has been at the forefront of a controversy surrounding genetically-modified foods. The US has insisted repeatedly that the best way for the world to solve hunger problems is to import GM-foods and plant GM-crops. Nevertheless, Zambia has refused, essentially citing food security issues.

Sojourners recently published an articulate essay dissecting the political, economic, and ethical struggle to resist the imposition of GMO technology into Zambian agriculture.


In the past 5 years, many Zimbabwean farmers have fled their country and settled in Zambia. As a result, Zambia's tobacco production has increased nearly 10-fold.

Jewette Masinja, Executive Director of the Tobacco Association of Zambia, claims Zambia is set to harvest more than 52 million kg of the golden leaf, nearly double their earlier forecast.

According to Zimbabwe's Daily News, Masinja said Zambia was set to earn US$83 million from the sale of the crop, up from US$26 million last year.

I'll Trade Your Rhodesia For My Nyaasaland

Tobacco companies invented trading cards and baseball cards, which used to be known, simply, as cigarette cards. The NYPL Digital Gallery has cigarette cards for Rhodesia, featuring the arms of the British Empire. The verso of the card describes the image on the front.

Rhodesia cigarette card (image courtesy of NYPL)

It's hard to imagine British kids trading cigarette cards of the Dark Continent. But I guess there were no Gameboys then.

Wednesday, March 9

Meet Sylvers! is an interesting website that discusses various sustainable farming techniques. There's an interesting article on Sylvers Katunta, a Zambian farmer who realized substantially increased yields using some of the techniques on the site, including:
  1. homemade compost;
  2. intercropping techniques; and,
  3. alternative plowing methods.
It's an easy read, has good photos, and is somewhat informative.

For more detailed descriptions of how to make your own compost, intercropping techniques, and alternative plowing methods, though, you might need to go elsewhere.

Free Basic Education: A Rock And A Hard Place?

In Zambia, an estimated 40% of rural women are illiterate. Government removed tuition fees for basic school 2 years ago; since then, the number of out-of-school children has halved, and completion rates have risen, according to Oxfam, which claims this achievement is especially important because "schools are the frontline in Zambia’s battle to slow the spread of AIDS."

But ironically -- in part, due to the success of Free Basic Education -- Zambia’s schools have been left short of some 9000 teachers. The vacancies have not been filled – because the IMF says Government can not afford to hire the teachers it has trained. According to Oxfam, "between 8000 and 9000 newly qualified teachers have been sitting unemployed."

Oxfam makes 6 key recommendations to the IMF, including cancelling "100% of the multilateral debt of the poorest countries." Oxfam's criticism of the IMF complements Action Aid's & Oxfam's recent attacks on the larger international community.

Lake Bangweulu

The New York Public Library has gobs of digital images online. It's great.

One excellent image, "The traveller Giraud amid the reeds of Lake Bangweolo," by Elisee Reclus, depicts several Africans (and what appears to be a single European) traveling by boat through a swamp. The surrounding reeds are four times the size of the men.

It's an interesting illustration, because it sheds light on what Europeans must've thought about Africa at the time (1892). It's no wonder Africa was called the Dark Continent; after all, it was a mysterious, foreboding, almost supernatural place.

Tuesday, March 8

We're Here To Pump . . . YOUR Water!

Many Zambian farmers irrigate their fields using a bucket. This means they have to make hundreds of trips from the river (dambo) to their gardens, potentially an all-day affair. According to The Times, International Development Enterprises has started promoting the treadle pump. Available for years, the low-cost irrigation technology for smallholder farmers is becoming increasingly popular, mainly because it is up to 5 times as efficient as the bucket technique.

IDE suggests the pump, at $9, is "accessible to even very poor farmers." Well, yes, at that price the pump is accessible. However, when you factor in the tubing (an additional $25 - $50), we're talking about almost an entire year's income for a typical rural farmer.

Treadle pumps are highly efficient, but considering most farms are not immediately adjacent to a dambo and don't have access to half-a-year's-salary, treadle pumps are still the Corvettes of the subsistence farmer.

Somebody's Not Going To Be Happy (Or, Guess Dad Was Right After All)

A recent ActionAid International/Oxfam International Paper skewers the international donor community (especially Italy and the US). Some of their most damning points:
  • Less than half of aid gets spent in the poorest countries, and only 10% is spent on basic services that are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals;
  • 40% of aid is tied to overpriced goods and services from the donors’ own countries;
  • 80 official agencies are responsible for 35,000 aid transactions a year that are imposing a massive administrative burden on some of the poorest countries;
  • Aid conditions continue to impose donor blueprints, such as trade liberalisation and privatisation of essential services, with often devastating results for poor people.
In brief, ActionAid/Oxfam argue in favor of:
1. Making Aid Accountable
2. Making Aid Effective
3. Reforming Aid Architecture

It's an interesting, vitriolic, easy read (at only 11 pages long). Check it out.

Just Fund It!

The Nike Foundation seeks to reduce poverty and gender inequality in the developing world.

Today, in celebration of International Woman's Day, the Nike Foundation announced its support for projects "that combine innovation with tested models that inspire and mobilize support for girls' empowerment and well-being through increased economic and social opportunities." Huh? In other words, the Foundation will promote girl's education, support local women's groups, and provide women with microloans.

According to CSR Wire, last year, Nike contributed "$37.3 million in cash, product and in-kind services." Currently, projects totaling more than $5 million have already been selected for countries the Foundation has identified as having the greatest need, including Zambia.

Kudos for Nike for doing something good for somebody else. Excuse my cynicsm, but is it corporate magnanimity or a way to atone for past sins?

Sorry, Dad, But It's Time To Go

According to The Post, a medical doctor revealed that women ditch him for refusing their demand that he abandons his 102-year-old father. I guess his refusals are better than the alternative . . .

This is a crazy story, not the least of which is that while the father is 102, the son is only 32.

Miss Manners, Zambia-Style

Of course, all cultures have their own idiosyncracies, and Zambians are no different. If you get the chance to go to Zambia, there are a couple things you might want to think about. The Zambian has a great list of 14 things to keep in mind when in Zambia. For example:

After greetings have been exchanged and you are just socializing, it's considered normal for a guest and host to sit quietly without any conversation for while. That silence may be torture to a Westerner but most Zambians find it normal. So don't try to fill empty silent moments by just saying something because you are feeling uneasy or bored. For example, in the rural areas, greetings take time as host and guest have to exchange malonje after first greeting each other. Malonje is the traditional custom in which the guest describes in detail the purpose of their trip and the host responds and describes in detail the state of the family health and what every member of the family may be doing. It also takes hours to cook a chicken because it has to be chased and slaughtered before the meal is cooked. Take your time and be patient.
This advice can be very difficult to follow for an anxious Westerner.

Monday, March 7

How Did That Happen?

As recently as January, the outlook for Zambia's 2005's crop production was looking good. Senior officials were predicting they would earn substantial revenues by exporting crops to needy countries in the region.

However, recent erratic rainfalls have threatened this possibility. Now, despite the earlier hoopla, it seems the Zambian government has suspended the export of maize because the country is expecting a poor harvest, a senior official told IRIN.

Of course, predicting rainfall is a crapshoot, but how were earlier forecasts so far off?

Bono Seen on Short List For World Bank Chief

The World Bank’s mission is to fight poverty and improve the living standards of people in the developing world. The current head of the Bank, James Wolfensohn, is stepping down on June 1.

American Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Sunday that he would not rule out the idea of Irish singer Bono, an activist on debt relief and AIDS, making the short list of potential candidates to lead the World Bank.

Starbucks to the Rescue

Coffee is second to oil on the world market in terms of foreign exchange earnings. The potential for coffee to provide for the well-being of Africans is tremendous. However, at the recent coffee growers convention in Livingstone, Mwanawasa blamed the decline of the commodity's production in Zambia on HIV/AIDS. "It is well known that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is slowing down productivity. The threat to sustainable coffee production will be bigger if HIV/AIDS is not urgently controlled," he said. In a country where life expectancy is less than 34 years and an estimated 1 in 5 adults has HIV/AIDS, having an available work force is a management nightmare.

Nevertheless, Starbucks, the world's largest coffee retailer, announced at the coffee convention that it would increase its coffee purchases from Africa in the coming years. According to Reuters, "Increased purchases from Africa . . . reflected growing demand for Starbucks’ Cafe practices certified coffee and its desire to see more cash in farmers’ pockets." Corporate magnanimity? Or reflective of the fact that Starbucks wants to add an additional 1500 stores worldwide in 2005?