The article was originally published on the website of the Louis Dreyfus Fondation d’entreprise, one of the Scholarship Programme’s generous donors. The Foundation’s work includes promoting sustainable agriculture and improving food security throughout the developing world.
The behaviour of small-scale farmers has changed in many areas of rural South Africa. This is a result of a complex mix of factors that impact on one another in various ways undermining the ability and the desire to cultivate. My research was conducted in Mbotyi, a small coastal village in the ex-Transkei region of South Africa, previously a semi-independent ‘homeland’ during Apartheid. It is in regions like this that the bulk of South Africa’s rural poverty is concentrated and that the greatest challenges for rural development exist (See below, notes 2 & 5). The problem I address is one noted by a handful of authors (notes 1,4 & 7): There has been a marked movement away from the cultivation of arable fields in the former homeland areas of South Africa, leaving available land underutilised. I set out to gain a better understanding of why rural South Africans, in a context of relatively high levels of unemployment and poverty, are leaving fertile fields fallow in regions where agriculture has historically been a cornerstone of livelihoods. Read more “Aspirations and Incentives: An Investigation Into Changing Agricultural Behaviour in Rural South Africa”
Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Scholar Ida Githu from Kenya writes of her experiences conducting research on water provision Karagita – supported by a Max Weidenfeld travel grant – and the uncomfortable insight it gave her into the dire economic inequality in the area.
Some academics have classified slums as ‘slums of despair’ and ‘slums of hope’. Well, that was one of the things I got out of my “Cities without Slums” elective…and a classification I found to be greatly disturbing! How could someone decide that a people were without hope? The lecturer explained that the classification was based on the state of their environs and whether there was hope for a family, and consequent generations, to get out of the deplorable situation of slums. Deplorable is a word often used to refer to the state of sanitation, drainage, housing, urban planning and water access – amongst other things – in low-income urban settlements. Whilst I acknowledge the debate on the role of inequality in driving economic growth, I disagreed with the language of this classification and maintain that people are always hopeful to better their living conditions. The deplorable situation that some find themselves in is a product of factors beyond their control: social systems, regulatory practices, labour laws among others. My experience in Karagita strengthened this belief. Read more “I really need to understand capitalism – thanks Karagita!”
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place – like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll also miss the person you are now at this time and in this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
Oxford for me – with its rigorous academic schedule, a social climate so far removed from my previous world, the love of knowledge and coming to regard my Weidenfeld scholarship friends as family – will always be the place that transformed me and forced me to grow up, all over again; the place I will always miss for the person I became there. Read more “Life After Oxford”
The International Monetary Fund’s now much maligned Structural Adjustment Programmes rolled through Africa in the late 1980’s, liberalising markets, trimming the reach of the African state and re-orienting the continent towards the prevailing market economic status quo. A key aspect of these interventions was the privatization of state enterprises. Tanzania’s long experiment with ‘African Socialism’ under Julius Nyerere came to an end in 1987 with the implementation of an IMF Economic Recovery Program that brought these reforms to bear on its struggling economy. It was in this climate that Tanzania’s first independent power producer, Independent Power Tanzania Ltd (IPTL) was established to construct a power plant, as a partnership between VIP Engineering and Marketing, a Tanzanian company, and Mechmar corporation, its Malaysian partner. The resulting deal, like so many at the time, was marred by corruption, fraud and theft as VIP’s foreign partner’s allegedly moved to extract huge sums of money from the company, at the expense of VIP and the Tanzanian people, precipitating what was recently described as a “20 year-long nightmare”, littered with scandal and litigation. As another example of mismanagement and corruption at the expense of an impoverished people, this story is perhaps unremarkable on the continent. However it is instructive, taking recent developments into account, when one considers the persistent issue of illicit financial flows from Africa and the role of foreign courts in what are arguably domestic issues.
Read more “Stemming the Financial Tide: a Developmental Imperative”
I was a precocious pre-pubescent child when I first encountered the word penetrate in a newspaper. It was not really a proper newspaper, I must confess. It was, more accurately, a rough pamphlet of a few pages with words typewritten in blue font. I still remember poring over the page where the word appeared, the paper worn and dog-eared from being read too many times. It confused me, the word. I did not understand what it meant. I found it intriguing that the adults had huddled together whilst reading the pamphlet, lingering on the page, and discussing its contents in hushed tones. I remember hearing the words Kudirat Abiola – the name of a woman I did not know – mentioned repeatedly in their sombre conversation. Growing up in Nigeria under the dictatorship of Sani Abacha in the 1990s, I thought it was perfectly normal that my country’s president was a military Head of State. It seemed perfectly normal that an imposing portrait of Abacha glowered at me – and hundreds of other pupils – every morning as we recited the national pledge in the assembly hall of our primary school. Read more “Collective Memory and a Born-Again Democrat – On Nigeria’s Recent Presidential Election”
Flying over the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province, one cannot help but marvel at the beautiful scenery from the dense forests on plains and occasional hills, with meandering rivers and scattered lakes. To add onto this geographical beauty, the country’s sub-soil is overflowing with natural resources – from minerals to oil and natural gas – a phenomenon many have called a ‘geological scandal’. This phrase reflects the general perception of many people both inside and outside the country – always seeing the Congo in a negative light. While its bountiful natural resources are seen as a scandal rather than a potential for greater blessings, the Congo’s history has often wrongly been summed up by terms bearing a similar sense of negativity – instability, conflict, violence, poverty, incapacity – in academic circles, journalistic discourse and any other conversation about the African continent, in the very few instances where it is mentioned. The Congo is mostly, if not solely, portrayed as a warzone. Read more “Max Weidenfeld Travel Grant: To Katanga and back”