A friend alerted me to this great quote by Claude Ake from his 1988 paper “Building on the Indigenous” (in Recovery in Africa: a challenge for development cooperation in the 90s: Swedish International Development Authority):
â€¦My thesis is that we cannot significantly advance the development of Africa unless we take African societies seriously as they are, not as they ought to be or even as they might be; that sustainable development is never going to occur unless we build on the indigenous [â€¦]
The indigenous is not the traditional, there is no fossilized existence of the African past available for us to fall back on, only new totalities, however hybrid, which change with each passing day[â€¦]
The indigenous refers to whatever the people consider important in their lives, whatever they regard as an authentic expression of themselves. We build on the indigenous by making it determine the form and content of development strategy, by ensuring that developmental change accommodates itself to these things, be they values, interests, aspirations and or social institutions which are important in the life of the people. It is only when developmental change comes to terms with them that it can become sustainable.
I don’t suppose Ake had plant genetic resources in mind, but this could be applied verbatim to development in agriculture, couldn’t it?
Another addition to the literature on the tyranny of global commodities: in Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet Carol Off “investigate(s) the unjust means by which the raw material has been, and continues to be, procured.” See it reviewed here. Haven’t read it, so will not pass judgement yet, but it doesn’t sound from the review (or indeed the title) likeÂ the book gives a very balanced assessment of the contribution of cacao to livelihoods in West Africa. But I am probablyÂ wrong – and I certainly hope I am.
Concidentally, two articles appeared today highlighting how modern diets are impacting the health of people in both the industrialized and the developing world, and what can be done about it. From the BBC, a report on a diabetes conference, where delegates are suggesting that this disease threatens the survival of indigenous peoples the world over. Then, from FoodNavigator, an article on how a nutrition group is planning a campaign to promote the Mediterranean diet in the US.
A seminar organized by the Nairobi Stock Exchange suggested that “sorghum, cassava, soy beans, palm oil and Jathropha curcas, are the five crops that will run agri-business this century.” Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Since we’re talking about blogs, here’s another great one: Agricultural Information News from IAALD, maintained by Peter Ballantyne. IAALD is the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists. Not specifically about agrobiodiversity, but many of the postings will be very relevant. Here’s an example. Peter links to an article inÂ the People’s Daily Online about how Chinese farmers are signing up to receive sound and text messages on their phones and are also visitingÂ a new web site, all to receive – and also to give out – advice, technical guidance and production information. No reason why that shouldn’t include information about new varieties, threats to genetic diversity, new ways to promote local crops etc., is there?