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Niger Part Two.

by Ronald Rutherford Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 07:08:12 PM EST

This is a continuation of my last post about Niger and the surrounding countries. The article "Creeping dunes threaten African nation" prompted me to repost it here.

The title link is a backup copy of the title link from: In Niger Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert. In this post there is a lot of ground to cover and as such I hopefully will keep my comments short for each article.

"The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." True or false? According to the blog post, the invisible hand of the market does deliver a sustainable nation. As the blog title says it all: "...promoting capitalist acts between consenting adults." And this passage was notable:

We know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side, and wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa. It's also true that there exist social systems that damage Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies.

The title link introduced us to Chris P. Reij. After a little bit of search, I found a PDF report coauthored by Chris titled THE EMERGENCE AND SPREADING OF AN IMPROVED TRADITIONAL SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICE IN
A very fine report that talked about development practices that came from above and from the farmers themselves, in essence a cooperative dialog to address the farmers needs and the environment. I do want to quote the abstract here:

This paper describes the emergence of improved traditional planting pits (zaï) in Burkina Faso in the early 1980s as well as their advantages, disadvantages and impact. The zaï emerged in a context of recurrent droughts and frequent harvest failures, which triggered farmers to start improving this local practice. Despair triggered experimentation and innovation by farmers. These processes were supported and complemented by external intervention. Between 1985 and 2000 substantial public investment has taken place in soil and water conservation (SWC). The socio-economic and environmental situation on the northern part of the Central Plateau is still precarious for many farming families, but the predicted environmental collapse has not occurred and in many villages indications can be found of both environmental recovery and poverty reduction.
Keywords: soil fertility, soil conservation, water conservation

A tree grows in the Sahel gave some background information and provided the link to the above report.  

Chapter 5: Transforming Institutions on Agricultural Land again points out the minor changes in technology that can reap great rewards. The Zai pits not only store up water for dry periods but allow trees and other plants to use the fertilizers (organic or inorganic) more efficiently.

Researchers find Africa's land degradation can be reversed. Yes and a quote of note:

They showed that dryland degradation can be reversed if farmers, researchers and governments invest in planting trees, farming more sustainably and replenishing groundwater.

I view my attitude toward where information comes from to be agnostic, soIndigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation and Development brings out some important points while still giving credit that extension services and compilation of the information is important.

The Global Biodiversity Strategy, for example, includes as one of its ten principles for conserving biodiversity the principle that "Cultural diversity is closely linked to biodiversity. Humanity's collective knowledge of biodiversity and its use and management rests in cultural diversity; conversely, conserving biodiversity often helps strengthen cultural integrity and values"

I think they are missing one important aspect of their studies. If the farmers do not have property rights and the general population does not have freedoms then how can cultural diversity survive? So to me the first step is freedoms for the people.

The article Planners or performers? Reflections on indigenous dryland farming in northern Burkina Faso. Agriculture and Human Values states:

The paper argues that indigenous agricultural practices in semi-arid West Africa must be seen as dynamic operations that serve different ends. These ends are not only agricultural, but symbolic. By highlighting how farmers in the Central Plateau region of Burkina Faso organize their farming strategies, the paper begins to challenge and to extend the `agriculture as performance' arguments developed by Richards(1987, 1993) for the humid forest zone of West Africa. Farmers, it is argued, are also keen `planners'; in order to meet their goals they invest considerable effort in overcoming ecological constraints, and also spend time forging links with various institutions working for agricultural development.

But that is the problem, nothing is sustainable if it does not keep up with population growth. And although I agree we (Industrialized nations) need to learn more from indigenous farmers and peoples, we also have to realize that many of these techniques have failed also resulting in much famine and deaths.

Since some of the last articles mentioned The World Bank, then I thought about adding a couple of their links here...
World Bank-Niger

World Bank-Niger-Country Brief

Niger: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper - 2004 and 2005 Annual Progress Reports - Joint Staff Advisory Note (Site)

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2006 Article IV Consultation with Niger

IMF Executive Board Completes the Third Review Under Niger's PRGF Arrangement and Approves US$8.9 Million Disbursement

Economic Growth and Total Factor Productivity in Niger


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