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... article linked to, part of the support for local agriculture has been the previous history of driving people into the cities, which in many countries creates both a supply of land to be worked with new methods, as well as turning all subsistence crops into cash crops.

Its not universal ... again as partly recounted in the article. Some nations, like Mali, are so densely populated that substantial increases in agricultural productivity will still leave them in a near-Malthusian state.

And roving bands of soldiers financed by alluvial diamonds, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are worse than plagues of locusts for agricultural development. And no story about an "agricultural revolution" in Africa can ever be a complete success story unless the breadbasket of Central Africa is one of the success stories.

I'd say the core anchors for political stability in sub-Saharan Africa are South Africa, the DRC, and Nigeria. One way to understand the strong "project" focus among economics working in economic development in the continent in the 80's and 90's is in terms of the elephant in the room ... given that all three anchors were instead spreading instability, the only solace was to try to get some project up and running and providing some marginal benefit as things fell apart.

So until the DRC gets on track with agricultural development, all of the good news is provisional.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:37:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mali is densely populated? It's not the African country that leaps to my mind in that regard, deeply ignorant as I am....I guess a lot of Mali is desert, but still. Is there some key feature of Mali that causes you to mention it instead of Malawi, Burundi or Rwanda?

Incidentally, I may be getting involved in a conservation planning exercise in the Congo Basin, but sometimes it as myself "why bother".  I mean, I am pretty sure we can adapt our boreal-based method produce some interesting results that could be the starting point for a systematic implementation by a regional authority. But then it occurs to me that any given effort in Africa can be undone by 500 guys with automatic  rifles, of which no shortage, as you point out.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 02:21:49 PM EST
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... my fingers were being lazy.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 05:42:00 PM EST
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... that, unlike the classical USAID type development project, it is something that can be propagated by the people on the ground once it gets started.

In that case, "why bother" is because if it gets rolling, then individual instances can get knocked out, but not each seed that has been planted.

And if it is the classical USAID model where its a one-off, non-reproducing, dependent-on-imported inputs project, then in that case, not bothering would be the ideal approach.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 05:53:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is (or will be if the deputy minister ever signs the forms) a CIDA funded agroforestry initiative of some sort. My involvement is strictly in a protected areas / biological conservation capacity. It's possible it could have the sort of KT legacy of which you speak, and that would be worthwhile, I suppose. Though when I consider the enormous impact all our research is not having on boreal conservation, where there are no starving gazillions or unreconciled armed conflicts, I still wonder.

I'll write something up about this project if and when, and would value any remarks you have at that time. It'll be a completely new thing for me, working in (or at least, on) Africa.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 06:00:37 PM EST
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Actually, even if the project itself is not locally sustainable, it could well be very worthwhile to have a component that reduces the damage it does until it comes grinding to a halt.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 06:08:13 PM EST
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I'll get back to you when I know more. The PI is one of those wheeling dealing academic woozles, so I have taken steps to get things in writing before I accept responsibility for a grad student. I have someone I recruited for another project, but she's Congolese of some sort, it turns out, and wants to work on conservation issues in that part of the world. I am all for helping people follow their dreams, provided it doesn't kill me.

Singing: look, look, look to the rainbow...

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 08:09:48 PM EST
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An Academic?

<Prepares Garlic, religious siverware and sharpened sticks> ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 08:13:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For I, too, am an academic. I just try to not be a woozle, nor associate much with those who are. Unless I have Mr. Pointy close at hand. That, or a deftly prepared memo to the chair of the Graduate Program.
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 08:19:36 PM EST
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... the East, or where? I'd be awfully nervous of going any further east than the general Kisangani region.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 at 10:54:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really don't know, BruceMcF. The system we have developed works over very large areas indeed, so we could do the entire Congo River Basin, in principle. We have a prototype design of a network of ecological benchmarks developed for the entire Canadian boreal, for example.

In practice, as with the boreal, we'd probably want to divide up the region into ecologically meaning chunks...I have no idea how to approach that for the Congo, which is what the grad project will mostly be about...that and determining the appropriate ecological representation criteria. In the boreal, we use a number of remote/sensed attributes (categorical land cover glasses from GLC 2000, and some continuous measures of productivity, soil moisture deficits, and riparianicity). Some of these may make no sense in the region, but I am no Tropical Ecologist.  I guess my interest in this project is to see if the components of the abstract system we have developed for northern forests can be shown to have functional analogues in a completely different system.

There will be a lot to learn. I am leaning to the north and west, as I find The Gabon really intriguing...the Land that People Forget (To Screw Up)? And if this gets off the ground, I promise to put up a short diary about the problem.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Mon Apr 14th, 2008 at 12:24:42 AM EST
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You could divide the Congo river basin into subbasins (one for each tributary, and then do the same for the tributaries until you get bite-sized regions).

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 09:24:49 AM EST
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