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Submitted by Ina & Esu on
Some of the best rice I have ever eaten was the indigenous rice of the Gour'mache people in eastern Burkina Faso. They have a long tradition of growing their traditional rice however now the local population can't afford it because white rice, imported from China, is much cheaper. How can rice grown in China and imported all the way to Burkina Faso be cheaper than the rice grown indigenously there on African soil? It's not... it's just that the true cost is not self-evident. Not only is the white rice from China far inferior in nutritional value than the nutrient-rich brown rice of the Gour'mache, when you weigh in the cost to the environment for the transportation, the use of fossil fuel, the effect on the atmosphere and other hidden costs, one is able to see that it is astronomically higher. Is the goal here creating new markets for China's booming economy, or empowering smallholder farmers to break free of poverty? Also, since a country like Burkina consists of 90% subsistence farmers, and 64% of the entire population lives on less than $1/day, how do irrigation systems get deployed to the poorest of the poor, who make up the majority? Irrigation is what they need no doubt, so they can first grow enough food for their families, and then to have a surplus and increased variety to bring to market, but the real question is how do we serve this very poor constituency with large and small scale irrigation schemes? This is a people that has no concept of credit, that is almost entirely illiterate, that has no savings, and is even skeptical of technology and westerners (for good reason). Lastly, the assumption that chemical fertilizers created by for-profit agro-businesses are to be used without question is contradictory to our understanding and vision of a Green Revolution. What kind of green are you referring to-- money or Gaia? Chemical fertilizers and even GMO crops are being touted as key to Africa's success. Is Africa truly better off with dependence on external agricultural inputs or could we possibly work together to find an African solution for Africa? Again, what is the result here- to get Africa hooked on fertilizer made in the US and Europe- a system designed to further benefit the richest 1%, or to create sustainable empowerment and autonomy of smallholder farmers? We need to re-think everything and question existing assumptions about how we do things and systems that are in place which may be causing more harm than good.