AFRICA: Africa World Press Guide

compiled and edited by WorldViews

Building another Africa

What captures the media headlines and the popular imagination about the subject of Africa and food is the specter of famine. Famines are real and they are catastrophic. But famines are also as sporadic as volcanic eruptions and major earthquakes in other areas of the world and, when they do occur, they are localized to relatively small areas of the broad African continent. What goes unnoticed is the fact that when the media rush off to the next cataclysm the people of Egypt, Ghana, Z ambia, Mauritius, Sudan, Chad, and other countries in Africa continue--day-in and day-out--to grow the food they need to feed themselves. There are problematic questions that need to be examined relative to the topics of food and agriculture in Afr ica, but these should be set against a backdrop of the sustained effort that Africans invest in providing for their daily needs often against overwhelming odds.

"There is another Africa today," says Father Nzamujo Godfrey Ugwuegmulam, director of the Songhai Project in Benin. "This Africa is not yet known by the mass media. But there are a growing number of communities and nongovernmental organizations and ass ociations that refuse to accept a gloomy picture of the future of Africa....It is our duty to create the human capabilities for solving both the social and economic problems of our African communities. We have no right to decry what is happening in Africa and stop there. The only way to get out of our problems is to build another Africa--our Africa, where we can be recognized as human beings." (African Farmer, January 1994, p. 41)

The resource materials in this chapter describe some of the food- and agriculture-related issues that Africans face in building "another Africa." These include control of seeds, distribution of land, export-oriented cash crops, water, sustainable farmi ng techniques, food shortages and war, unavoidable natural phenomena (drought, locusts), the role of foreign agencies in disaster relief, agricultural policies sponsored by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) , foreign trade and aid, and so forth. The resources also emphasize Africa's accomplishments--the successful projects, the creativity and resiliency of people determined to be self-reliant, the sense of community responsibility for the provision of food and other economic necessities , and the role of women in agricultural production.

World food system

The best place to begin for an understanding of how the world food system functions is the classic study by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins, World Hunger: Twelve Myths (Lappé and Collins 1986). Their analysis, which has stood the tes t of time, is reflected in the publications produced by the organization they founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First. Publications issued by the World Hunger Educational Service (Washington, D.C.), Bread for the World (Silver Spring, Md.), and World Hunger Year (New York) are also of value.

Seed and Surplus: An Illustrated Guide to the World Food System (Delpeuch 1994), co-published by the Catholic Institute for International Relations (London) and Farmers' Link (Norwich), is another introductory guide that presents the workings of the world food system in readable terms and superlative illustrations (more than 50 full-page illustrations in all).

The annual reviews published by the Bread for the World Institute (BFWI) are noteworthy for their analytical essays and their clearly presented charts and tables of statistical data. See

The 11 essays in The Color of Hunger: Race and Hunger in National and International Perspective (Shields 1995) probe for reasons why hunger is concentrated among people of color, both in industrialized and emerging nations. Africa-related essays include Tshenuwani Simon Farisani's "Hunger Amidst Plenty: A South African Perspective" and Mutombo Mpanya's "Stereotypes of Africa in U.S. Hunger Appeals."

Food and agriculture in Africa

Myths of African Hunger (Danaher and Riak 1995) and two related "Food First Backgrounders," Myths and Root Causes: Hunger, Population, and Development (Rosset et al. 1994) and Hunger in the Horn of Africa (Hammond and Prendergast 1991 ) sort through the myths and misconceptions that continue to surround this issue in order to identify the "real causes of hunger in Africa."

See also

  • The Agrarian Question in Southern Africa and "Accumulation from Below": Economics and Politics in the Struggle for Democracy (Neocosmos 1993);
  • Agribusiness in Africa: A Study of the Impact of Big Business on Africa's Food and Agricultura l Production (Dinham and Hines 1983);
  • Agricultural Transformation in Africa (Seckler 1993);
  • The Crisis in African Agriculture (Gakou 1987);
  • Food in Sub-Saharan Africa (Hansen and McMillan 1986);
  • Inducing Food Insecurity: Perspectives on Food Policies in Eastern and Southern Africa (Salih 1994); and
  • World Recession and the Food Crisis in Africa (Lawrence 1986).

    The pros and cons of World Bank and IMF involvement in African agriculture are laid out in Aid to African Agriculture: Lessons from Two Decades of Donors' Experience (Lele 1992) and A Blighted Harvest: The World Bank and African Agriculture i n the 1980s (Gibbon et al. 1993).

    The following books are particularly useful for delineating the causes for African agricultural crises:

    The following studies feature case studies of initiatives that are being implemented in Africa to encourage agricultural self-sufficiency:


    Biodiversity and biotechnology:
    Lost Crops of Africa. Volume 1: Grains (Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council 1996); New Hope or False Promise? Biotechnology and Third World Agriculture (Hobbelink 1987).
    Cash crops:
    Food Crops vs. Feed Crops: Global Substitution of Grains in Production (Barkin et al. 1990).
    Intervention in Child Nutrition: Evaluation Studies in Kenya (Hoorweg and Niemeijer 1989).
    Land ownership and use:
    Land in African Agrarian Systems (Bassett and Crummey 1993); Searching for Land Tenure Security in Africa (Bruce and Migot-Adholla 1993).
    Population and Food Security (Islam et al. 1993-1994).
    Rural development:
    Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. Part 2: Africa and the North (FAO 1994).
    Urban agriculture:
    Cities Feeding People: An Examination of Urban Agriculture in East Africa (Egziabher et al. 1994) contains chapter-length studies of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

    Region/country studies

    Country studies of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Zambia are featured in No Condition is Permanent: The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Berry 1993). Food Policy and Agriculture in Southern Africa (Mkandawire and Matlosa 1993) contains case studies of Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland.

    Cameroon: Chapter 8 in Institutional Sustainability in Agriculture and Rural Development: A Global Perspective (Brinkerhoff and Goldsmith 1990): "Policy reform as institutional change."
    Cape Verde: History and Hunger in West Africa: Food Production and Entitlement in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (Bigman 1993).
    Côte d'Ivoire: An End to Hunger? The Social Origins of Food Strategies (Barraclough 1991).
    Egypt: Sustainable Agriculture in Egypt (Faris and Khan 1993).
    Ethiopia: Ethiopia: Failure of Land Reform and Agricultural Crisis (Mengisteab 1990); Environment, Famine, and Politics in Ethiopia: A View from the Village (Dejene 1990).
    Guinea Bissau: History and Hunger in West Africa: Food Production and Entitlement in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (Bigman 1993).
    Kenya: Intervention in Child Nutrition: Evaluation Studies in Kenya (Hoorweg and Niemeijer 1989).
    Morocco: Chapter 9 in Institutional Sustainability in Agriculture and Rural Development: A Global Perspective (Brinkerhoff and Goldsmith 1990): "The Three Phases of Sustainability in Morocco's Institut Agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II."
    Senegal: Gender, Class and Rural Transition: Agribusiness and the Food Crisis in Senegal (Mackintosh 1989).
    Sudan: To Cure All Hunger: Food Policy and Food Security in Sudan (Maxwell 1991).
    Tanzania: Liberalizing Tanzania's Food Trade: Public and Private Faces of Urban Marketing Policy, 1939-1988 (Bryceson 1993); Chapter 5, "Ujamaa: The Failure of a Non-coercive Agricultural Policy in Tanzania," in Famine in East Africa: Foo d Production and Food Policies (Seavoy 1989); Food Insecurity and the Social Division of Labour in Tanzania, 1919-85 (Bryceson 1990).
    Zimbabwe: Seeds for African Peasants: Peasants' Needs and Agricultural Research. The Case of Zimbabwe (Friis-Hansen 1995); Zimbabwe's Agricultural Revolution (Rukuni and Eicher 1994); Government and Agriculture in Zimbabwe (Mas ters 1994).

    "I grew up in a village of 1,000 people in Tshikapa, Zaire. There were no soldiers, policemen, prisons, or criminals. Everyone had enough food to eat; there were no beggars. Children, elders, and sick people were all taken care of by their families. Pe ople grew their own food, built their own homes, and created their own arts and entertainment. Of course, my village was not Korem in Ethiopia [center of the Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s], or any other village, but this image of peace and self-suffic iency is as valid and real an image of Africa as any other."
    --Mutombo Mpanya, "Stereotypes of Africa in U.S. Hunger Appeals," The Color of Hunger: Race and Hunger in National and International Perspective (Shields 1995), p. 32

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