Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two Successes in African Agriculture

In a news report that could be a reprinted press release, Zambeef - a Zambian meatpacker - reports that they have grown from "an abattoir and two butcher shops" into a $200 million-a-year company. After a beginning that speaks of the great promise of Zambian agriculture to become African's next breadbasket, the rest of the article details the many infrastructural, financial, and societal limitations preventing agriculture from reaching its potential... in most cases.

FAO is also celebrating that rinderpest - a deadly cattle disease - is on the brink of extermination worldwide. This would be the second disease in the world we've eradicated (the first being smallpox). The disease came to Africa in the mid-1800s from Europe and Asia and has been known to single handedly cause famines and kill millions of people because of the loss of livestock. "When the disease arrived in Africa at the end of the nineteenth century between 80% and 90% of cattle and buffalo on the continent were killed." FAO is expecting the announcement of total eradication May 2011. The last outbreak was in Kenya, 2001. It was accomplished in large part by training locals to recognize the disease and getting them a vaccine developed in the 1960s. Reports emphasize the need for international cooperation to eradicate the disease: one country would make an effort to combat it, but it would spread to another country and come back again later.

In other news (where news = another reprinted press releases), Planters (you know, one of those eeeevil US MNCs) is training African cashew farmers about sustainable farming practices.
Or at least that's how the company is selling it. "To date we’ve educated over 60,000 farmers on how to improve the yield of their crop. Our goal is to reach 150,000 farmers. These farmers actually have pretty large families, so you’re helping the families and helping entire communities." When asked for specifics about what the training entailed, it's mostly improved production efficiency rather than sustainability where their efforts are focusing on precision agriculture via satellite - less valuable for poor smallholders.

And, though it has nothing to do with agriculture, Tanzania is using mobile phones to register voters and then to help them find their voting station. The service costs 2 cents. Nice idea.

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