EmmaBond Gardner

A virtual repository for the bits and pieces of life I find interesting. These include (but certainly aren't limited to) digital media, NYC, history, southern culture and food, international affairs, sports, traveling to faraway lands, books, and women's rights. Even shorter musings can be found on Twitter at @EmmaBGardner.
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Posts tagged "africa"

Interesting map via the Geographic Travels blog. It shows both private and state farm ownership in Africa (pre-2011, so Sudan is just one big country here). The blog’s author points out: 

According to the map, Saudi Arabia is the behemoth in terms of African farmlands.  Saudi Arabia, mostly desert and unable to feed its population by itself, seeks to end its dependency of buying food by renting 2.27 billion (with a “b”) acres (~918.6 million hectares) of farmland in Sudan for food production.

Acres don’t really mean anything to me, but a quick Google conversion to square miles reveals that 2.27 billion acres is 3,546,875 square miles. Good lord, that is A LOT of land that Saudi Arabia is renting to feed its population. And anyone know which American companies (or our government) owns land in the Sudan? 

There are about a billion people in Africa, and right now about a third of them live in cities. By 2025, about half the African population will be living in cities, and some cities — Nairobi included — will see their numbers swell by 70 percent or more. That kind of growth can’t help but put a strain on traffic, water and other infrastructure, which are the kind of problems that IBM has proven itself pretty good at solving here in the U.S.

There’s a nice article on The Guardian’s Global Development blog about Advance Aid, an initiative that is trying to help Africa manufacture its own humanitarian supplies. The way it normally works is that when there’s a natural or man-made disaster in Africa, supplies like tarps, tents, or mosquito nets are shipped in from China. The intention here is a good one: An African country is in a crisis situation and needs products, China manufactures these supplies cheaply. But this is a short-term solution. In the long-term, wouldn’t it better to develop Africa’s own industry, keep $$$ in the region, and have emergency supplies get to a crisis-stricken country faster?

And this is where Advance Aid comes in. They’re working to develop local industry and connect the local manufactures with the humanitarian organizations who sweep in following an emergency. Marc Tran writes, 

Advance Aid made a breakthrough last year by supplying World Vision and Catholic Relief Services with non-food items. Advance Aid said it was the first time that African-produced emergency relief goods had been provided for African emergencies. The goods are bought in Kenya and more than 80% of their value will be manufactured domestically, pumping $1.5m into the economy, said Advance Aid, adding that, directly and indirectly, it had brought orders to 12 Kenyan manufacturers.

I’m excited to see where this organization is headed. What others are like them out there (working to strengthen local economies versus sending in goods)? 

The Economist concluded its previous article by saying that the evidence does not yet support the claim that the millennium villages project is making a decisive impact. That still seems about right.”

Great chart of the day from The Economist shows how pervasive mobile banking is in Africa. As The Economist points out, “For the most part, mobile phones are a substitute for traditional banks, enabling people who live miles from a branch or ATM to use financial services.” In Kenya, however, where mobile banking penetration rates are the highest, mobile banking is growing along with traditional (paper-based) banking. It’d be interesting to see the demographic breakdown of these figures. Do more women than men use mobile banking services? Is mobile banking more common in rural areas? 

In my experience studying international development, there has been a common assumption that we (scholars, Westerners, practitioners) know what’s best for the developing world. Of course, we’ve moved beyond blatant colonialism. But what remains is a reliance on the expertise of Western universities, scholars, and organizations. The findings of a large study done by an Ivy League institution, the conclusion from a book written by a famous academic, or a statement from a respected multilateral organization all carry a tremendous amount of weight - as they should. When the World Bank finds that African farmers need better access to technology, we listen. We know and (probably) respect the World Bank, so we can assume the study is accurate without having to do our own vetting. But, all too often, this reliance on information that we can pre-label as trustworthy leads us to neglect the opinions and priorities of people from the developing world. 

That’s why this study and workshop, from researchers at Oxford (there’s some brand name trustworthiness), is so interesting. The researchers ASKED Kenyan farmers what their problems, priorities, and challenges are - and how they could be empowered to address them. Then, instead of burying the Kenyans’ responses in a dense study, the researchers made the Kenyans’ opinions the centerpiece of a great photo essay. And, I’m a sucker for photo essays. Check out the photos and find out what Kenyan farmers’ priorities are at The Guardian’s Global Development blog