Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Africa: an impending ecological catastrophe

Much has been written about global warming and the fact that Africa is least responsible for the emission of the associated pollution. Yet Africa remains most vulnerable to the impact of global warming. Rather than remaining silent observers of this issue, Africans can take certain steps to intercede.
One of the factors that touches Africa directly, helping to increase its rate of deforestation, is the spread of organisms such as hybrid maize. Hybrid organisms, apart from being less nutritious than native species, tend to dominate the environment by thawarting the growth and propagation of indigenous species. Africans need to rediscover the farming techniques and foods of their forefathers, which were more environment-friendly than those in wide use today. The crops they grew were also more nutritious than the ones we depend on today. Reducing malnutrition in Africa's child population requires that we radically rethink our agricultural practices. In the long term, doing so would force us to improve the quality of leadership on the continent. Currently, we tend to promote exploitative models of leadership, which idealize short-term gain and turn a blind eye to environmental degradation.)
One article illustrates my point: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some chiefs were bribed with bags of sugar in exchange for allowing European transnationals to exploit virgin forests in the region. Whereas the value of the sugar, salt etc was estimated to be US $100, each tree was priced at $4000. This is just one example of the waste that goes on on the continent. Increasingly, Africa's indigenous resources are being exploited for the benefit other people, but Africans get the blame for their depletion. Ignorance, the stigmata of extreme poverty (e.g. childhood malnutrition which interferes with optimum intellectual development) and the despair associated with disease likely all contribute to impairing the judgment of those concerned.
This phenomenon is not new. It was apparent when the trans-Atlantic slave trade was at its height. It was also apparent during the era of forced colonial labour. Today, malnourished communities watch as their resources are taken over by those claiming to bring the benefits of globalization to the African village. Africans have a long way to go before they can stem the out-of-control exploitation of the continent's resources. They must wake up and take charge as the custodians of their resources.

  1. Alert over food security.” Peter Cummings Thatiah. Sunday, November 6th, 2005. East African Standard.
  2. Vast forests with trees each worth £4,000 sold for a few bags of sugar.” John Vidal. Wednesday, April 11th, 2007. The Guardian.

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