Category Archives: Capitalism

In Tanzania Maasai land Stolen Under Development


Tanzania allows Maasai land to be stolen under the guise of development

Ebe Daems | 8 december 2016 | MO*MEDEWERKERS

Tanzania is receiving development assistance to further develop the agricultural sector through public-private cooperation. The projects are being promoted under the premise that fertile land is abundant but, in practice, this land is almost always occupied. This means that large-scale agricultural projects are driving people off their land. An example is the case of the Maasai of Mabwegere, who are being dealt with harshly.


Land, water and access to natural resources become scarcer due to climate change, population growth, and the increasing demand for land for investment.
The Tanzanian government wants to develop the country by attracting investors, and for that it needs land.

Maasai unwelcome in their own village

The village of Mabwegere in the district of Kilosa in the Tanzanian province of Morogoro is home to 4105 nomadic pastoralist Maasai, while the surrounding villages are made up of crop farmers.

Although Mabwegere is an officially registered village and the Maasai have been living there since the 1950s, the elites and the local government are abusing their power so as to drive out the Maasai and to drive a wedge between the crop farmers and the cattle herders. They want to use the land for speculation or for growing crops.

This fuels the conflicts between these two groups, who are given less and less land and living space.

The first time the local authorities tried to evict the farmers was in January 2009. We interviewed nine men and seven women from the village who were there at that time. For their own safety, they prefer to remain anonymous.

‘The district administration gave the order to seize the cattle. They wanted to cash in the cattle and evict herders to give the land to agriculturists,’ says one of the village elders.

During the large-scale operation to remove pastoralists from Kilosa, police and paramilitary units throughout the district confiscated their livestock.

© Ebe Daems

Young Maasai herder in Mabwegere

The villagers say 5000 cows and goats were seized in their village alone, but the exact number is difficult to determine. A report of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) shows estimates ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 or 300,000 confiscated animals in the entire district.

‘Although we paid the fines, we never saw our cattle again. The police sold every animal at a large cattle market in Dar es Salaam.’

‘We tried to stop them, but the police held us at gunpoint and fired warning shots. They bombarded us with teargas and beat people,’ says a villager.

‘There were at least 200 of them and there were also people from neighboring villages with whom we don’t get along.’

All the cattle were herded into large stables. The villagers had to pay a fine of 30,000 Tanzanian shillings, about 15 Euros, for each cow and 5 Euros for a goat or sheep.

‘Although we paid the fines, we never saw our cattle again. They sold every animal at a large cattle market in Dar es Salaam,’ says one of the villagers.

Read MORE:

Tanzania accused of backtracking over sale of Masai’s ancestral land

Cattle, Capitalism, and Class: Ilparakuyo Maasai Transformations

Land grabbing

The Maasai’s livelihood depends entirely on their cattle. At the time of the seizure, a cow was worth about 500 Euros on average. People were left in poverty.

‘We had no money to buy cattle. Some borrowed cows from relatives to survive, but those who were not so lucky still have nothing today,’ said one of the villagers.

‘The cows were all we had,’ says one of the women from the village. ‘We cannot grow crops. Our sons moved to the city. They now live far away in Iringa.’

Blocking access to water may be a strategic move to prevent the Maasai from returning to their territory.

Farmers from neighboring villages used the chaos to their advantage by occupying Maasai land and using it to grow crops.

Much of the land they confiscated is located at the river and drinking spots.

The farmers let the IGWIA know that blocking the herders’ water access was a strategic move to prevent them from returning to their territory.

One of the women shows a plastic bottle that appears to be filled with lemonade: ‘This is our water. We no longer have proper water. The cattle can’t drink it. It makes us ill, too.
Whenever we have our blood tested, the results show we have typhoid. When we want to let our cattle drink from the rivers, the farmers who are now growing tomatoes and sugarcane stop us. We have to get our water from puddles.’

© Ebe Daems

The women show their drinking water.

‘We sued those farmers but lost the case, even though in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that Mabwegere officially belongs to us’, says one of the men from the village.

‘We have been living here since 1956. The local government is ignoring court orders.’

‘The government considers this a good region for farming rice. There are important people in the government who are particularly interested in this land.’

One of the reasons why the local authorities ignore court orders may be that the district administration has already given parts of the region to influential people without following the legal procedures.

‘There are rich people from the cities that want our land’, says one of the older women from the village. ‘What are they expecting? That we’re going to live in trees like baboons or birds?’

According to the men from the village, some of those who want their land are in the government themselves: ‘The government considers this a good region for farming rice. There are important people in the government who are particularly interested in this land.

That’s why they are turning our neighbors against us. They are conducting a hate campaign, portraying us as violent and uncivilized.’

Murder, arson and rape

This hate campaign also fits in with the policies and discourse of Jakaya Kikwete, who was president of Tanzania until late 2015. Kikwete considered the lifestyle of the nomadic cattle farmers unproductive and outdated, something that didn’t belong in a modern state.
He stated in his speech at the start of his tenure that the people of Tanzania should go from being nomadic herders to become modern sedentary farmers.

FOTO Young Maasai herder in Mabwegere
© Ebe Daems

‘They came with clubs, spears and machetes. They tried to seize our cattle. They torched houses and raped women.’

© Ebe Daems

Young Maasai herder in Mabwegere

Local politicians continue to incorrectly label the nomadic cattle farmers as illegal immigrants who cause conflicts.

In January 2015, the conflict escalated further when residents of the neighboring villages invaded Mabwegere.

‘They came with clubs, spears and machetes. They tried to seize our cattle. They torched houses and raped women.

The IWGIA report that six women were raped, the villagers themselves say there were four. ‘The real number is much higher’, says Maasai leader Chris.

Chris is not his real name, because he, too, fears persecution. He represents 200,000 people and, in the past, he has reported to the UN about the situation in Tanzania.

‘Women in my community can’t say they’ve been raped. They feel it would damage their reputation’, says Chris.

Chris believes those who attacked the village were trained units.

‘The elite are financing these conflicts. They want our land in order to sell it to investors. They finance the farmers from neighboring villages and train them to fight. This is not just a conflict, it’s war.’

‘The elite are financing these conflicts. They want our land in order to sell it to investors. They finance the farmers from neighboring villages and train them to fight. This is not just a conflict, it’s war.’

‘Women and children are the most vulnerable during such violence’, say the women. ‘The men are often away from home and can stay in the cities or in the forest, but we are always at home to take care of the children. We have nowhere to go.’

The trauma runs deep. The women of the village cry when talking about the seizure of the cattle in 2009 and about the more recent rapes. A recurring theme is their indignation about the fact that they do not get help in coping with the traumatic events.

‘After the invasion in 2015, the representative of the regional government even came to the village, but nothing happened. Everything stayed the way it was and no one was punished’, says a resident.

Since the cattle seizure, there has been a culture of impunity. The cattle farmers sued at different levels of government, but to no avail. They were given no protection at all.

The Tanzanian newspaper Daily News did report this February that the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau has started investigating politicians and others who may have spurred on the conflict.

Land disputes and demarcation

Mabwegere is not an isolated case. The IWGIA has gathered statements from cattle herders in about twenty villages in five provinces of Tanzania. The general narrative is always the same.

Tanzanian NGO HAKIARDHI reported in 2012 that, in the span of a year, there were 1825 land disputes in courts and, in sixty percent of those, a powerful investor was involved.

The village of Mabwegere is located in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT). The government, donors and the private sector want to realize this fertile region’s agricultural potential and modernize it through public-private cooperation, focusing on small-scale farmers.

© Ebe Daems

Maasai boys become warriors during the rite of passage, which takes place every three years.

This supports the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NASFN), an initiative launched in 2012 by the G8 in order to pull 50 million people in Africa out of poverty and hunger through public-private cooperation in the agricultural sector.

The initiative is supported by the EU, the US, the UK, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

In this case, the demarcation is not intended for securing the rights of the villagers, but for providing security to investors.

The NAFSN projects are aimed at the SAGCOT region.

The Tanzanian government promised to demarcate the SAGCOT region’s land in order to obtain the support of the NAFSN.

This would allow the government to create a mechanism to provide investors with land in a correct and transparent way.

A clear demarcation could help villagers secure the rights to their land. However, in this case, the demarcation is not intended for securing the rights of the villagers, but for providing security to investors.

Paolo De Meo of Terra Nuova, an NGO cooperating with the Hands on the Land coalition, considers EU policy partially responsible for the land grabbing.

‘Nomadic cattle farmers are one of the most vulnerable communities, because their lifestyle is not productive from an industrial perspective.’

‘EU support of African agriculture is increasingly focused on expanding an industrial agricultural model. This makes nomadic cattle farmers one of the most vulnerable communities, because their grasslands are considered unused and because their lifestyle is not productive from an industrial perspective.’

Edward Louré of the Tanzanian NGO Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), which supports the rights of nomadic cattle farmers and hunter-gatherers, is also concerned.

‘The NAFSN is receiving much support from the World Bank. We are worried because the project documentation for the NAFSN does not mention the rights of indigenous peoples. This is unusual for the World Bank. They know much about the rights of indigenous peoples.

Their silence in this matter leads us to assume that they are allowing the ousting of local communities to make room for big investors.’

Land that isn’t there

Tanzania divides all land into three categories. Under SAGCOT, the only category accessible to investors is general land, but this only constitutes two percent of the land. The other two categories are village land and reserved land.

The president can convert village land into general land if this serves public interest, such as in agricultural projects. SAGCOT wants to increase the percentage of general land in the region from 2 to 20 percent.

This would free up 350,000 hectares of land for agriculture and would require converting village land or reservations to general land.

‘The World Bank does not want to be accused of facilitating land grabs.’

Professor Lusugga Kironde of the Ardhi University conducted a non-published study for the World Bank concerning land matters in the SAGCOT region.

‘The World Bank requested that study because they wanted to know if the land is really available. We believe it is not. The World Bank wants to know which steps they need to take in order to acquire the land. They do not want to be accused of facilitating land grabs.’

© Ebe Daems

Maasai boys become warriors during the rite of passage, which takes place every three years.

‘The conflicts between farmers and nomadic pastoralists are a clear sign that there is no free and available land’, says Professor Kironde.

‘If the land were available, we would not be seeing these conflicts. Farmers would not be taking the nomadic pastoralists’ land if they had enough land available themselves.

The conflicts are growing in frequency and lethality. A project like SAGCOT is impossible without taking families’ land.’

Investors who want land have to go through the Tanzanian Investment Center (TIC). A TIC employee, who wished to testify only anonymously, also agrees that there is no land available.

‘Now that they are revising policy, there is a strong lobby that wants to convert village land to general land in order to make it available to investors. If this happens, it will lead to large-scale land grabs.’

‘There is no indisputably available land. The procedures to make land available for investing are time-consuming, because the village land needs to be converted into general land. The investors have to wait for months until the conversion is complete.’

National policy concerning land is currently being revised, which worries Professor Kironde.

‘There is much pressure because it is difficult for investors to gain access to land. Now that policy is being revised, there is a strong lobby that wants to convert village land to general land in order to make it available to investors. If this happens, it will lead to large-scale land grabs.

It will take some time, because converting all land to general land would require changes to the constitution. However, the process could become more simplified and faster.

‘It would be good if they could shorten the procedures for conversion, for instance by involving the Minister for Lands rather than the President’, says the TIC employee.

No budget for proper consultations

State organization RUBADA (Rufiji Basin Development Authority) is in charge of the demarcation of the land under SAGCOT. This organisation visits villages to demarcate land and, at the same time, tries to attract investors.

RUBADA made Tanzanian headlines last year because of a corruption scandal involving the disappearance of about one million Euros of development and investment money.

‘One of our main goals is attracting investments in the SAGCOT region’, says RUBADA Director for Planning and Investment John Rutabwaba.

A RUBADA employee told academic Mikael Bergius that they handle as many villages as possible each day. Bergius has been researching agricultural development in Tanzania for decades at the Norwegian University NMBU and for the Oakland Institute thinktank.

‘We cannot adequately consult the villagers because we lack the budget’, says Rutabwaba. ‘We are a governmental organisation, but the government doesn’t support us. Luckily, we’ve gotten some help from the UNDP, otherwise we would not be able to do anything at all.’


Ebe Daems & Kweli Ukwethembeka Iqiniso
This article was created with the support of Journalismfund.eu

Translation coordinated by Koen Van Troos


 

Tanzanian Farmers Face Heavy Prison Sentences for Traditional Seed Exchange


Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange

Ebe Daems | 7 december 2016 | MO*MEDEWERKERS

In order to receive development assistance, Tanzania has to give Western agribusiness full freedom and give enclosed protection for patented seeds. “Eighty percent of the seeds are being shared and sold in an informal system between neighbors, friends and family. The new law criminalizes the practice in Tanzania,” says Michael Farrelly of TOAM, an organic farming movement in Tanzania.


africa_rising_combined

In order to get developmental assistance, Tanzania amended its legislation, which should give commercial investors faster and better access to agricultural land as well as a very strong protection of intellectual property rights.

‘If you buy seeds from Syngenta or Monsanto under the new legislation, they will retain the intellectual property rights. If you save seeds from your first harvest, you can use them only on your own piece of land for non-commercial purposes. You’re not allowed to share them with your neighbors or with your sister-in-law in a different village, and you cannot sell them for sure. But that’s the entire foundation of the seed system in Africa’, says Michael Farrelly.

Under the new law, Tanzanian farmers risk a prison sentence of at least 12 years or a fine of over €205,300, or both, if they sell seeds that are not certified.

‘That’s an amount that a Tanzanian farmer cannot even start to imagine. The average wage is still less than 2 US dollars a day’, says Janet Maro, head of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT).

Under pressure of the G8

Tanzania applied the legislation concerning intellectual property rights on seeds as a condition for receiving development assistance through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). The NAFSN was launched in 2012 by the G8 with the goal to help 50 million people out of poverty and hunger in the ten African partner countries through a public-private partnership. The initiative receives the support of the EU, the US, the UK, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Companies that invest in the NAFSN are expected to pay attention to small-scale farmers and women in their projects, but sometimes little of that is noticed. As a result, the NAFSN receives a lot of criticism from NGOs and civil-society movements. Even the European Parliament issued a very critical report in May this year to urge the European Commission to take action.

‘In practice, it means that the fifty million people that the New Alliance wants to help can escape poverty and hunger only if they buy seeds every year from the companies that are standing behind the G8.’

With the changes in the legislation, Tanzania became the first least-developed country to join the UPOV 91-convention. All countries that are members of the World Trade Organization must include intellectual property rights on seeds in their legislation, but the least-developed countries are exempt from recognizing any form of intellectual property rights until 2021. After that, the issues would be reviewed.

‘In practice, it means that the fifty million people that the New Alliance wants to help can escape from poverty and hunger only if they buy seeds every year from the companies that are standing behind de G8,” says Michael Farrelly.

‘As a result, the farmers’ seed system will collapse, because they can’t sell their own seeds”, according to Janet Maro. ‘Multinationals will provide our country with seeds and all the farmers will have to buy them from them. That means that we will lose biodiversity, because it is impossible for them to investigate and patent all the seeds we need. We’re going to end up with fewer types of seeds.’

Read MORE:

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‘I have seeds of my family, because my great-grandmother used them. She gave them to my grandmother, who gave them to my mother and my mother then gave them to me. I’ve planted them here in the demonstration garden in Morogoro and that’s why very rare plants now grow here’, says Janet Maro. ‘Local farmers find it hard to understand the idea that you can patent and own a seed. Seed should simply be something that is easily available”, says Janet Maro.

Ownership for investments

‘Intellectual property rights ensure that farmers have better access to technology’, claims Kinyua M’Mbijjewe, head of Corporate Affairs in Africa for Syngenta. Syngenta is a Swiss company that produces seeds and agrochemicals alongside Yara, one of the two largest players in the private sector in the NAFSN.

‘A company that wants to invest wants to be sure that its technology is protected. African farmers have been sharing, bartering and trading their seeds as a form of tradition. For farmers who want to continue to do so, it is important that they have that choice.’ Kinyua M’Mbijjewe claims not to be aware that the Tanzanian legislation no longer allows that freedom of choice. This is strange, since Syngenta is one of the companies that is part of the leadership council of the NAFSN, meaning that they negotiate directly with the partners about the changes in legislation which must be met in exchange for aid.

Nevertheless, according to the Tanzanian Government, the legislation never intended to penalize small-scale farmers, only to protect their property rights – that is, if they patent their own seeds.

‘Small-scale farmers do not have the means to get a patent for their seeds.’

‘But who’s going to sell non-certified seeds? Small-scale farmers do not have the means to get a patent for their seeds’, says Janet Maro.

“The government is working on a revision of the seed legislation. We hope that they will add an exception for small-scale farmers and will expand the Quality Declared Seed System,” says Michael Farrelly.

The Quality Declared Seed System gives quality guarantee for seed. It is a kind of compromise, because quality is cheaper and easier to obtain than a patent.

Currently, a farmer is allowed to sell recognized seeds in only three surrounding villages, but the government says it wants to expand this at the district level with the new legislation. ‘That way, the seeds could be sold in seventy villages, which is economically viable,” says Farrelly.

© Ebe Daems

Janet Maro, head of SAT, in the demonstration garden in Morogoro

Removal of trade barriers

An additional problem is that the seeds of foreign companies are not always adapted to the local climate. ‘What works in Utrecht doesn’t necessarily work in Zanzibar,’ says Michael Farrelly. Tanzania alone has five different climate zones. ‘Even the region of Morogoro has different climate zones,” says Janet Maro.

‘Africa’s trade barriers have not pushed forward the farmers and the economy.’

Yet soon it will be easier for seeds from different regions to enter the country, and other African countries are on the way to follow Tanzania’s example. In 2015, eighteen African countries signed the Arusha Protocol for the protection of new plant varieties.

The purpose is that all countries would try to work on eliminating the trade barriers and incorporate intellectual property rights on seeds in their legislation, in order to achieve a harmonized regional system. Among others, the Community Plant Variety Office, an EU agency for the protection of plant varieties as intellectual property, invariably takes part in all meetings related to the Protocol.

Syngenta believes that these measures will help advance Africa: ‘We are pleased that it is finally going in the right direction after years of negotiations,’ says Kinyua M’Mbijjewe. ‘The EU has a harmonized policy regarding the seeds that are allowed to be brought into another country. In Africa this doesn’t exist. You could not bring seeds from Kenya over the border to Tanzania, an area with the same climate zone. Africa’s trade barriers have not pushed forward the farmers and the economy.’

More intensive farming?

In order to feed the world population by 2050, the World Bank and FAO (the UN food agency) state that food production must increase by half. A figurative war is fought regarding the approach to increase production, but there will likely be many victims among the small-scale farmers.

According to the business world, Africa needs more agricultural inputs: fertilizers, hybrid seeds, pesticides… But is the commercial approach best suited to help the poorest segment of the population?

‘The small-scale farmers are not our target.’

All the development initiatives of the NAFSN in Tanzania focus exclusively on the most fertile part of the country. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) covers much of the southern half of the country. Fertile soil easily attracts investors. But what about the farmers who are located in less-than-ideal regions? Or what about the statement by the World Bank (2008 report) that input subsidies for fertilizer in Zambia were beneficial mainly for relatively rich farmers rather than for the small-scale farmers whom the subsidies were meant to benefit? Another essential fact: this type of intensive farming is one of the biggest causes of global warming.

Syngenta itself has admitted that it is logical that they, as a company, have little concern for the less successful farmers. ‘We are a commercial company and therefore we invest in Africa. We believe that Africa is done with development aid and that it is now all about trade,” concludes Kinyua M’Mbijjewe. ‘The small-scale farmers are not our target. We focus on small-scale farmers trying to grow businesses and we are happy to work with NGOs that have a commercial approach. Farmers who merely try to survive or operate in an unfavorable climate are left out.’

© Ebe Daems

Janet Maro, head of SAT, in the demonstration garden in Morogoro

Agro-ecological alternative

Many farmer organizations and FAO have more faith in ecological methods. Particularly the smaller-scale farmers would benefit from it, because they usually cannot afford the expensive inputs for conventional agriculture.

Janet Maro, on the other hand, works in challenging rural areas. Together with SAT, she trains small-scale farmers in agro-ecological farming methods. SAT teaches farmers to do farming with what is available in their surroundings.

‘After our training, there were many farmers with good results who questioned why they should still go into town to buy expensive synthetic fertilizer.’

‘Our training center is located in the dry areas of Vianze, which most people would claim to be impossible to farm,’ says Janet Maro. ‘If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere. We plant additional trees that hold back the water when it rains, so that it is incorporated into the soil, and we have an irrigation system with water bottles, so we consume less water.’

‘We teach small-scale farmers how to make compost with the plants they cut in their fields. We also teach them to do mixed cropping and to make extracts from plants that grow in their surroundings in order to control crop pests and diseases. The most common pest, for example, is the aphid. You can make an extract of Lantana camara, a shrub that grows in almost every village in Tanzania, to control the aphids,’ says Janet Maro.

‘We also trained farmers in a region where they were given government subsidies to purchase fertilizer. After our training, there were many farmers with good results who questioned why they should still go into town to buy expensive synthetic fertilizer, as they can have a good harvest and can fight pests with resources that are available in their own fields. Those farmers returned their vouchers for subsidized fertilizer to the government. The government has now also come knocking on our door, asking us to train farmers.’

© Ebe Daems

Shop in Morogoro where products manufactured by farmers who work with SAT are sold.

Choosing between grandmother and industry

‘Doing nothing and thinking that you can continue with what your grandmother grew, is a guaranteed catastrophe’, says Kinyua M’Mbijjewe from Syngenta. ‘The reason we have hunger in Africa is that there are insufficient agricultural inputs.’

‘Doing nothing and thinking that you can continue with what your grandmother grew, is a guaranteed catastrophe.’

Abel Lyimo, the CEO of the Tanzanian Rural Urban Development Initiatives, a NGO that focusses on the development of small-scale farmers through the private sector, thinks the same: ‘Tanzania is one of the countries with the lowest use of farm inputs and the lowest productivity in the world. There is a link between proper use of inputs and productivity. Use only half, and you’ll produce only half.’

Janet Maro contradicts that. ‘In the Mlali Region, there were projects in which they gave the farmers parcels of land to grow tomatoes. It went really well for a while and they produced a huge quantity of tomatoes, but this year things went wrong. The price of a bucket of tomatoes ranged between two and three Euros. Nowadays, because of the overproduction, you have to consider yourself lucky if you get 40 cents. Now, the farmers can no longer afford those expensive fertilizers and chemicals.’

‘And I haven’t even started to mention the environmental damage and the deterioration in soil fertility that these projects cause. The government has asked us to train farmers because the quality and quantity of the water from the Mzinga and Ruvu Rivers have considerably worsened because of the government’s agricultural projects. They want to save the situation before it is too late and have seen that the projects of SAT have a much better impact on the environment.’

Even the United Nation’s former Special Rapporteur for the Right for Food, Olivier De Schutter, stresses the importance of more research and investment in agro-ecological methods in a report in 2011.

According to FAO figures, more than 80 percent of the food in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is produced by small-scale farmers. If they cannot afford commercial inputs, they can still make progress with agro-ecological methods. The methods are not immediately patentable and therefore the industry treats them shabbily. An unfortunate consequence of this is that insufficient research is being done into such methods.


Ebe Daems & Kweli Ukwethembeka Iqiniso
This article was created with the support of Journalismfund.eu

Translation coordinated by Koen Van Troos


 

Who Pays for Think Tanks?


Who Pays for Think Tanks?

Corporate and foundation money often comes with an agenda


thinktank1-master1050

Think tanks are important institutions that provide information and analysis to both policy-makers and the public. But when they court donations, it can become unclear whether that analysis is tainted by donor agendas.

Read MORE:
Wealthy Donors and Corporations Set Think Tanks’ Agendas

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Revealed: who pays for the corporate lobbyist Think Tanks?

Ken Silverstein in the Nation (5/21/13) recently exposed the extent to which positions at the center-left Center for American Progress (CAP) and other think tanks were shaped by the interests of donors. “Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors,” Silverstein reported.

The 25 institutions in FAIR’s study of think tank citations have gotten money from corporations, foundations, governments and individual donors. The law does not require public disclosure of who the donors are, though donations above $5,000 are reported to the IRS. Many think tanks thank their donors in their annual reports, while others list donors on their websites. Sometimes the trawling of tax documents is required to figure out who is giving—and what they’re getting in return.

The sobering news about atmospheric carbon dioxide passing 400 parts per million (Guardian, 5/10/13) is another reminder that the global community needs to quickly take serious steps to avert looming ecological catastrophe, but with world leaders relying on research funded by the energy industry, it is unlikely the drastic measures required will be considered.

Pete Peterson (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Billionaire Pete Peterson has ties to five top think tanks (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Almost two-thirds of the think tanks studied (16 out of 25) took money from at least one oil company. Thirteen—more than half—were funded by ExxonMobil, while more than a third, nine, were funded by Chevron; the Koch brothers contributed to seven. Shell gave to four think tanks, and Conoco-Phillips and BP each funded three.

Reflecting the clout that big donations bring, various think tanks have Big Energy sitting on their boards. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has Rex W. Tillerson, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, on its board of trustees, along with John Hess of Hess Oil. Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers sits on the boards of the Brookings Institution and the Aspen Institute. Aspen also has David Koch of Koch Industries, who’s on the board of the Cato Institute as well. The board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) features the “Honorable Richard B. Cheney.”

Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird

War-related issues are also of vital public concern—and the companies that most profit from war are using their wealth to shape the discussion in ways that benefit them. Just under half (12 of 25) of the most-cited think tanks take money from weapons manufacturers; General Electric bankrolls 11 of them, while Boeing and Lockheed Martin each contributed to six. Four got donations from Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon financed three.

Ten of the 25 think tanks received donations from finance corporations. Five have finance executives on their boards; Brookings has three different Goldman Sachs–linked individuals, while Aspen has two. The board of the Institute for International Economics (IIE) has three members linked to Citigroup, and the Carnegie Endowment has one.

Thirteen of the think tanks had connections to the for-profit healthcare industry, either by donation or by board members. Nine received donations from pharmaceutical interests like Pfizer, Merck and the lobbying group PhRMA, while three have accepted money from health insurance companies like MetLife. AEI’s board has Wilson Taylor, chair emeritus of Cigna, while Brookings’ contains former Cigna chair Ralph Saul. IIE’s board holds Karen Katen, former vice chair of Pfizer, and Ronald Williams, retired chair and CEO of Aetna.

Think tanks are also funded by charitable foundations, often channeling the fortunes of wealthy families of individuals, many of which have an ideological agenda that can be seen clearly in their choice of beneficiaries. Foundations tied to Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon banking heir who has helped to “fund the creation of the modern conservative movement in America” (Washington Post, 5/2/99), have bank-rolled the Manhattan Institute, AEI, Heritage, Hoover, Cato and CSIS. Scaife sits on the boards of Heritage and the Hoover Institution.

The Koch brothers foundations support Cato (where David Koch is on the board), Heritage, AEI, Manhattan and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The DeVos family, whose fortune derives from Amway, fund through various foundations AEI, Heritage and Cato. The Gilder Foundation funds the Manhattan Institute (where its founder is chair emeritus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Cato and Heritage. The Bradley Foundation donates to AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato.

The Walton Family Foundation, created by the family of billionaires who own Walmart, have given money to conservative groups like AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato. They’ve also given money to the centrist Brookings and the center-left CAP, which backs President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a program that may drive up costs for Walmart’s small business competitors (Business Insider6/30/09).

Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who has relentlessly campaigned against retirement benefits through programs he helped launch like the Concord Coalition and the Fix the Debt campaign (Extra!3-4/976/10CounterSpin3/15/1311/16/12), is the former chair of the Council on Foreign Relations (and is still on CFR s board) and the founding chair of the IIE. His entities have bankrolled the Atlantic Council, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and New America Foundation (NAF).

Billionaire financier George Soros is an outlier among wealthy givers, contributing through multiple foundations and corporations to a variety of institutions ranging from center-right to progressive: the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Woodrow Wilson Center, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Carnegie, Aspen, Brookings, Cato, CFR, EPI, NAF and CAP.

Think Tank Ties to Media


 

Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism


Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism

Sharon Beder

Citation: Sharon Beder, ‘Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism’, Environmental Politics, 10(2) Summer 2001, pp. 128-133.

This is a final version submitted for publication.
Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made. 

Sharon Beder’s Other Publications


Corporate-funded think tanks have played a central role in promoting free market environmentalism onto the policy agenda throughout the English speaking world. These think tanks have consistently opposed government regulation and advocated the virtues of a ‘free’ market unconstrained by a burden of red tape. The role of think tanks in the establishment of this ‘neoliberal’ agenda in the US and the UK in recent decades has been well documented. However their central role in a range of specific policy areas, such as environmental policy, has been neglected.

Conservative think tanks are generally set up as private, tax-exempt, research and advocacy institutes, and are largely funded by foundations and corporations. They have sought to insert neoliberal ideology into environmental policy. They advocate the use of the market to allocate scarce environmental resources such as wilderness and clean air and promote the replacement of legislation with voluntary industry agreements, reinforced or newly created property rights and economic instruments.

Presidents from Carter through to Clinton have made wide use of think tank personnel to fill high level government positions [Abelson:1995 108-09; Smith:1991 206-07]. Think tanks also employ ex-government officials giving them access to politicians and others in government. The interchange of personnel between think tanks and government officials observed in the US is now a feature of the Australian scene.

In Britain a few conservative think tanks have been extremely influential. These think tanks, particularly the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), played a major role in setting the policy agenda of the Thatcher government, providing it with most of its policy initiatives, including trade union ‘reforms,’ privatisation of public authorities such as water and electricity, and welfare cuts. The influence of think tanks continues with the Blair government.

To be effective, think tanks insert themselves into the networks of people who are influential in particular areas of policy. They organise conferences, seminars and workshops, publish books, briefing papers, journals and media releases for policy-makers, journalists and people able to sway the policy makers. They liase with bureaucrats, consultants, interest groups, lobbyists and others. They seek to provide advice directly to government officials and to government agencies and committees, through consultancies or through testimony at hearings. Ultimately think tank employees become policy-makers themselves, having established their credentials as a vital part of the relevant policy/issue network.

In their efforts to influence and become part of the policy-making process think tanks have more in common with interest groups or pressure groups than academic institutions. Nevertheless employees of think tanks are treated by the media as independent experts and, as such, are often preferred to representatives from universities or interest groups as a source of expert opinion.

Some Key Think Tanks 

Think tanks put a great deal of effort and expense into ensuring the work of their ‘scholars’ is marketed and disseminated effectively. The Heritage Foundation in the US has often been credited with changing the face of think tanks with its aggressive marketing tactics. The greater proportion of its budget goes on marketing and fund raising, including 35-40 per cent of its budget on public relations. Many other think tanks have emulated Heritages’ marketing techniques.

The Heritage Foundation has a budget of over $25 million per year of which almost 90% comes from more than 6000 private donors. These donors include corporations such as automobile manufacturers, coal, oil, chemical, tobacco companies, foundations (about 25% of the foundation’s total income).

Heritage promotes deregulation of industry, an unrestrained free market and privatisation, including the sell off of public lands. In line with this ideology it advocates free market solutions to environmental problems or free market environmentalism [Anon:1992 49-53; Shanahan:1993]. It seeks to cast doubt on environmental problems such as global warming and to lobby against legislation or international agreements to prevent such problems.

The Institute of Economic Affairs, (IEA) in the UK which has promoted laissez-faire libertarianism or ‘economic liberalism’ for decades. It formed an Environmental Unit and launched Global Warming: Apocalypse or Hot Air in 1994. It promoted property rights as a way of protecting the environment and sought to apply free market solutions to all aspects of society including environmental problems and to reduce the role of government and regulation [Desai:1994 29]. For example, one of its publications stated: “There is a strong case for letting market forces work in energy… A policy for energy is not only unnecessary but undesirable. It hampers market adjustment and induces producers to spend time influencing government rather than improving efficiency.” [Weaver:1989 573]

In Australia a prominent conservative/neoliberal think tank, and the oldest, is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Almost one third of IPA’s $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies. The IPA produces articles challenging the greenhouse consensus, attacking mandatory recycling, and promoting the use of pesticides. [Burton:1995 279], [IPA Report:1991 1-3].

Additionally a number of smaller specialist think tanks have been set up, particularly in the US, to promote free market environmentalism, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI) the Political Economy Research Centre and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

These particular examples are merely illustrative of the much larger push that has been evident in the last decades. What they have in common is the desire to downplay the urgency of environmental problems, to reduce environmental regulations, and to apply neoliberal policies to environmental problems, as has occurred in other areas of policy. These ideologically motivated think tanks have sought to discredit environmental legislation, giving it the pejorative label ‘command and control’, highlighting its deficiencies and ineffectiveness (ineffectiveness that corporations and corporate-funded think tanks have done their best to ensure). In their place they have advocated market-based mechanisms including price-based and rights-based measures.

Free Market Environmentalism 

Think tanks have popularised and promoted the work of environmental economists who promote economic instruments and many of the leading scholars in this area are associated with think tanks. Such scholars include one of the foremost proponent’s of tradeable pollution rights, Robert Hahn, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, Terry Anderson, who has written for several think tanks in Australia and the US, Robert Stavins and Bradley Whitehead, authors of a Progressive Policy Institute study as well as Alan Moran, from the Tasman Institute.

Think tanks produce numerous books and papers promoting free-market environmentalism. Their books have included Free Market Environmentalism published by the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in 1991; Reconciling Economics and the Environment published by the Australian Institute for Public Policy in 1991; and Markets, Resources and the Environment published by the Tasman Institute in 1991.

The market solutions being advocated by neoliberal think tanks provide corporations and private firms with an alternative to restrictive legislation and the rhetoric to make the argument against that legislation in terms that are not obviously self-interested. While legislation is aimed at directly changing the behaviour of polluters by outlawing or limiting certain practices, market-based policies let the polluters decide whether to pollute or not.

Some neoliberal think tank economists also argue that there is little incentive to protect environmental resources that are not privately owned. The solution put forward is to create property rights over parts of the environment that are currently free. Rights-based economic instruments such as tradeable pollution rights, for example, “create rights to use environmental resources, or to pollute the environment, up to a pre-determined limit” and allow these rights to be traded. [Cth Govt. of Australia:1990 14] Rights-based measures are also a way of providing a pricing mechanism for allocation of scarce environmental resources.

The influence of neoliberal think tanks on environmental policy has been pervasive. Yet their efforts to replace legislative solutions with free market programs have been accepted largely without scrutiny of the ideological agenda behind them. Many environmentalists have been persuaded by the rhetoric of free market environmentalism. For example the US Environmental Defense Fund has been at the forefront of the push for tradeable pollution rights and the Natural Resources Defense Council has also supported them.

The ideological and political shaping of these instruments has been hidden behind a mask of neutrality. Stavins and Whitehead exemplify this in arguing that “Market-based environmental policies that focus on the means of achieving policy goals are largely neutral with respect to the selected goals and provide cost-effective methods for reaching those goals.” [Stavins & Whitehead:1992 8] Far from being a neutral tool, the promotion of market-based instruments is viewed by many of its advocates as a way of resurrecting the role of the market. They serve a political purpose in that they reinforce the role of the ‘free market’ at a time when environmentalism most threatens it.

By accepting market instruments as a solution to environmental problems, environmentalists have accepted the conservative definition of the problem-that environmental degradation is caused by a failure to ‘value’ the environment and a lack of properly defined property rights and therefore environmental degradation results from a failure of the market to attach a price to environmental goods and services [Beder:1996]. By allowing this redefinition of the environmental problem, environmentalists and others not only forestall criticism of the market system but in fact implicitly agree that an extension of markets is the only way to solve the problem.

The root of the environmental problem, however, is the priority given to economic considerations over environmental considerations. Economic instruments, privatisation and environmental ‘valuation’ ensure that priority is still given to economic goals and they enable firms to make decisions that affect others on the basis of their own economic interests. Even if those economic interests have been slightly modified to give a small economic value to environmental impacts, the basic paradigm remains unchanged: whenever big profits can be made the environment will be destroyed.


Professor Sharon Beder is an honorary professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Sharon Beder’s Publications can be found at http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb

Neo-Con Think Tanks that Drive Policy and Send us to WAR


The military-industrial-propaganda complex: The neo-con think tanks that drive policy and send us to war

Well-funded think tanks push corporate agendas through media “experts” and sustain the neo-conservative apparatus


America’s first think tanks developed in the early 1900s and grew out of a desire to improve government and to help government think, according to McGann. The first kind of think tank was the academic model, such as the Brookings Institution, founded in 1916 by reformers devoted to fact-based studies of national public-policy issues. Experts at Brookings played a role in shaping plans for the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. The next model, McGann says, was the RAND Corporation, established in 1920 as a consulting agency for the government.

The advocacy think tanks emerged in the 1960s. These new-style organizations, which campaigned actively for their policy preferences, tended to reflect that decade’s swing to the political left. But the next two decades saw what McGann calls “a sort of conservative counter-revolution,” leading to a “war of ideas,” with openly ideological or partisan think tanks proliferating on both sides.

In 1963, during the period of the Vietnam War and the Great Society, the first advocacy institution was the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. The neoconservative Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973.

Conservative think tanks have more power and influence today in U.S. politics, McGann says, adding that there is “increasing criticism and worry over the domination of the right on policy.” David Callahan wrote in the Washington Monthly in November 1999, “The big development of the 1990s is that conservative institutes have had spectacular new success in tapping business money to fund ideologically charged policy research.” According to Callahan, “Corporate giving to right-wing groups has steadily increased as private sector leaders have seen the effectiveness with which conservative think tanks, and their armies of credentialed ‘experts,’ advance business interests in the political arena. Money, it turns out, can buy scholars as well as politicians.”

Callahan wrote that the “current gusher of corporate funding for right-wing policy work has its roots in the 1970s, when leading conservative thinkers appealed to corporations to fund intellectuals who supported their economic interests.” He pointed out that corporate leaders make up the overwhelming majority of board members at most conservative think tanks. “Even the American Enterprise Institute, among the most scholarly of conservative think tanks, has some two dozen corporate leaders on its board and only one academic, James Q. Wilson.” Wilson, who taught at Harvard, died in 2012.

One of the most powerful underwriters of far-right-wing conservative causes is Koch Industries, the oil and chemicals conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion. The conglomerate operates oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota and controls some four thousand miles of pipeline.

Writer Jane Mayer described the political activities of Koch’s owners, David and Charles Koch, in an August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker magazine. Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have provided more than $30 million to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, much of it for a think tank called the Mercatus Center, which describes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas and real world problems.”

Mayer quotes an environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center and who explained to her how corporate interests use think tanks to promote their private agendas. “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank” that “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” Among the largest and most influential of the conservative think tanks, in addition to the American Enterprise Institute, are the Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

More than twenty AEI people wound up with top jobs in the George W. Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and backer of the Iraq War, is now a visiting scholar at the AEI, which has an annual budget of about $20 million. It has about fifty so-called scholars and about 150 on the payroll. Its objective is to influence public policy. Christopher DeMuth, president of the AEI from 1986 through 2008, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, put it this way: “We try to get in the newspaper op-ed pages and hawk our books and magazines much more aggressively than a university would feel comfortable with.”

If you watch the op-ed pages in the newspapers carefully, you will find the AEI and other think tanks well represented, week after week, month after month. You will also see them on television presenting their point of view. When network-television talk shows and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) want “experts” on foreign policy, they often turn to the AEI or other prominent think tanks. But they don’t always tell the public who is paying the salaries of the “experts.” You can bet it is corporate America.

DeMuth, for example, has said that his board of trustees is composed of twenty-four business and financial executives. “They read our work. They tell me what they like, and they tell me what they don’t like.” In his 2005 interview, DeMuth said the AEI raised $20 million to $25 million a year with a third of the money coming from corporations, a third from individuals, and a third from foundations. “We have over three hundred corporate donors,” he said.

Rob Stein, by profession a venture capitalist, but a former strategic adviser to the Democratic National Committee, has spent years studying conservative groups. From 2003 to 2005, by his estimate, conservative organizations spent about $295 million seeking to influence policy while those of the left spent about $75 million.

More recently, bestselling author Thomas Frank wrote in a New York Times column, “During the last three decades a cottage industry of conservative institutions and foundations has grown into a powerful quasi-academy with seven-figure budgets and phalanxes of ‘senior fellows’ and ‘distinguished chairs.’ While real academics dither and fret over bugbears like certainty and balance, the scholars of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute act boldly in the knowledge, to quote a seminal conservative text, that ideas have consequences.” The AEI “has long been the reliable source of corporate money. Its principals effectively ran the Goldwater campaign in 1964 and it was deep thinkers from the institute who, after moving into the Bush administration, dreamed up the war in Iraq.”

A prominent opponent of the war was the libertarian Cato Institute, which is conservative on domestic issues but traditionally opposed to foreign intervention. In California’s Orange County Register, Cato vice president Ted Galen Carpenter wrote—just days before the war began—that the pro-war camp’s justifications for invading Iraq were faulty: “The United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic. As such, the job of the U.S. military is to defend the vital security interests of the American people. U.S. troops are not armed crusaders with a mission to right all wrongs and liberate oppressed populations. American dollars are too scarce and American lives too precious for such feckless ventures.”

As for the idea that Saddam’s overthrow would trigger a democratic transformation in the Middle East, Carpenter said, “This is a fantasy. The harsh reality is that the Middle East has no history of democratic rule, democratic institutions or serious democratic movements. To expect stable democracies to emerge from such an environment is naïve.” He went on, “If free elections were held today in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they would produce virulently anti-American governments.”

The libertarians were right. The hawks were wrong.

HAWKS IN AFGHANISTAN

Two of Washington’s most successful think-tank hawks are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the husband-and-wife team who spent a year in Afghanistan working as unpaid volunteers for the U.S. general in charge of the war. Frederick Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which has a history of supporting American military intervention around the world.

Having written papers that advocate an aggressive U.S. military policy, the Kagans moved to Afghanistan in 2010 and embedded themselves as “de facto senior advisors” to General David Petraeus. The Kagans were given top-level security clearance in Kabul, where they reviewed classified intelligence reports and participated in strategy sessions. The Kagans used their positions to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, “including a harder-edged approach,” according to a Washington Post report about them, published December 18, 2012.

Think-tank hawks have always sought to impact defense policy. The Kagans found a way to go beyond traditional influence peddling and gain the ear of the military man in charge of a real war. The Kagans were not paid by the U.S. government for their work, but their proximity to Petraeus provided valuable benefits. The Post article reported that the arrangement with Petraeus “provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank,” the Institute for the Study of War, which advocates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. At an August 2011 dinner, Kim Kagan thanked two contractors, DynCorp International and CACI International, for funding her institute and making it possible for her to spend a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus.


Excerpted from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts by James McCartney with Molly Sinclair McCartney. Copyright © 2015 by Molly Sinclair McCartney and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Think Tanks Vs. Crony Capitalism


How Did He Get So Rich? Think Tanks Vs. Crony Capitalism


I still recall my long summer vacations in Argentina. That was before globalization and competitive pressures pushed most of the elite of developing countries to take shorter and shorter breaks. Europeans continue to buck the trend. They seem more attached to their long vacations than to the welfare statethat sometimes mandates those long relaxing weeks.

Volleyball was part of my South American beach life. It was easy to recover between endless games by taking a relaxing swim in deep sea water and then the mandatory, and now we know, dangerous sun-bathing. However, I am not writing here about life as a temporary beach-bum; I want to focus on how one of my most admired volleyball partners responded to economic incentives. Being a firm believer that all humans deserve a chance to rebuild their lives, I was hesitant to use his name, but as he wrote a book about this, mentioning him might help him increase his sales.

Enrique Piana was tall and handsome. His girlfriend and future wife, Solange, was also picture perfect. “Quique” as we called him, had a killer volleyball smash and killer looks. His family owned one of Argentina’s oldest and most respected trophy and medals companies. He seemed to have everything.

During part of the ’90s, the government of President Carlos Menem, and then-Minister Domingo Cavallo, had a policy for the importation of gold and exports of gold fabrications that amounted to a major subsidy for exporters. Attracted by the incentives, Quique, who had become CEO of his company, became a key player in a scheme whereby exporting overvalued gold-plated products netted them 30 million in subsidies for fake transactions. As it seems that none of the medals were sold at artificial value to true customers, the only victims here ended up being the Argentine tax-payers.

The scheme involved a “business” in the United States. As there is still substantial respect for rule of law in the United States, Quique was indicted, captured, and—after some months in a U.S. jail—extradited to Argentina. In his book, he lists the government officials who he claims knew about the scheme and who received bribes for his fraudulent activities. I will not mention them here. None of them were sentenced to jail.

If it would not be for the fraud in the value of the medals, the entire scheme would be just a case of crony capitalism. Receiving legal export subsidies (or export reimbursements as they are called in Argentina) is not a crime. No one would have ended up in jail. Quique was greedy. By overvaluing medals and overstating the gold content, he would help maximize his profits—but Quique lost his freedom for a while, and his century-old family company is gone forever.

Those of us who, like most writing for Forbes, believe in capitalism, defined as the private ownership of the means of production, are being faced with many similar cases. Increased publicity about economic transactions where profits are the result of being close to power, rather than serving the customer, have led to a surge in articles and complaints about crony capitalism. Making a moral case for capitalism obliges us to distinguish between “good and bad” capitalism.

Think tanks from all over the world that favor free-enterprise are trying to counter the flood of news about private players who use government and corruption to increase their profits. Through books, videos, and conferences, they are trying to portray the good side of capitalism. (I leave for another article a more complete list of groups engaged in this task.) In the United States, a short list of think tanks investing more of their budget on the moral defense of capitalism or free-enterprise should include the American Enterprise Institute and its Values and Capitalism program, the Acton InstituteThe Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and several organizations which are inspired by Ayn Rand’s writings. Talented entrepreneurs such as John Mackey, author of “Passion and Purpose: the Power of Conscious Capitalism” and Steve Forbes, in his “How Capitalism will Save Us” have also entered the debate. The Centre for Independent Studies in Australia, CEDICE in Venezuela, and PAFERE in Poland, are active in other parts of the world. The battle against this privileged form of capitalism is also taking place in social media, with AgainstCronyCapitalism.org and a special Crony CapitalismFacebook site gradually growing in presence.

As the true story I told about Quique shows, there is a fine line between corruption and crony capitalism. Several think tanks are active in exposing corruption, but they have learned that mentioning culprits can lead to more headaches or worse. The Adriatic Institute in Croatia, has been waging a David-versus-Goliath battle and has received multiple threats. Those who have exposed crony capitalism and corruption in Venezuela are currently being sued in the United States for defamation. The billions earned by cronies can buy lawyer power from the left, center, and worse, from leading rightwing legal counsel. Most free-market think tanks therefore prefer to speak about the generalities of corruption and crony capitalism rather than mention the guilty parties. This is seldom effective. I confess that in this column, I am guilty of the same prudence.

Considerable credit should be given to Transparency International for having created the most important effort to measure the perception of corruption, which has been a helpful tool to combat corruption. Having measurements to assess the magnitude of a problem, like monetary inflation, or huge deficits, helps think tanks confront the problem. To win the moral debate about free-enterprise, it would help to develop a comprehensive index of crony capitalism. There is a need to develop measurements about what percentage of profits in the United States and the world economy come from exchanges which result from favoritism, contracts between state-owned companies, corporate welfare (which the Cato Institute measures for the United States), corruption, and “sanitized corruption”—or getting legal favors, cheap loans, and foreign currency at preferential rates. This won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.



Growing Food Crisis NONE Talking About


Hundreds of thousands face starvation and death in Africa in the growing crisis no one is talking about

Ian Johnston | Sunday 25 December 2016

‘As we enter 2017, over 37 million people across Africa are without food,’ warns International Development Secretary Priti Patel


During the drought that devastated the Horn of Africa in 2010 and 2011, women bound their waists with rope to deaden the pangs of hunger as they gave what little food they had to their children.

In stark contrast to such selfless acts, the international community stood back and watched until it was too late for the 260,000 people who starved to death.

Now aid workers are increasingly concerned that 2017 could see a tragedy on a similar scale with droughts – and floods – meaning some parts of southern and east Africa have not had a significant harvest for three years.

The Government is leading calls for the world to take effective action this time – just as right-wing politicians and newspapers call for David Cameron’s flagship pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid to be scrapped.

The Department for International Development (DfID) has already committed £362m in aid over this year and next, and is understood to be considering increasing its contribution further.

“As we enter 2017, over 37 million people across Africa are without food,” International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement sent to the Independent. “Families face losing their homes and livelihoods as the effects of widespread drought worsen.

“That is why ‘Global Britain’ is leading the response to the escalating crisis by providing life-saving food, water and shelter.”

Warning the crisis could force many people in the region to become refugees, Ms Patel appealed to other countries to “step up to prevent people from going hungry”.

“Tackling the global challenges of our time such as drought and disease which fuel migration, insecurity and instability is the right thing to do and is firmly in Britain’s interest,” she said.

A source in the international aid community told The Independentthat there was a danger of a repeat of “the desperate conditions and extreme hunger that killed hundreds of thousands in 2010”.

“Certain population groups are now in the third year of having very limited household input,” the source said.

“They will have already sold off household assets, livestock will have died or are likely to be unhealthy and not productive.

“That’s when you start to see changes in mortality that we shouldn’t be seeing in populations.”

The source said during the previous drought “there was an issue around a slow response by the system” and efforts had been made since then to try to pick up on the warning signs sooner.

But, with the world focused on events in the Middle East, the current refugee crisis, Brexit and the US presidency, there are fears an unfolding disaster could go unnoticed once again.

The problem has been caused by a particularly severe El Niño weather system, a natural recurring effect that has been exacerbated by climate change. While the El Niño has ended, there are suggestions that the next harvest could be in trouble.

Rebecca Sutton, Oxfam’s global El Niño campaign manager, said: “The vegetation cover index in parts of the Horn of Africa area is lower now than it was at this stage in the 2010/11 drought. That indicator is looking worse now than it was then.

“With drought, it’s a slow-onset crisis. It doesn’t attract media coverage and very unpleasant pictures of people and animals in a very bad way come only once it’s way too late.

“By the time you get headline media coverage, things are extremely bad and way too many people have suffered more than they needed to.”

She praised the UK Government, saying it had “responded quite well to this crisis”, but warned that “something of this scale is more than a handful of donors can deal with”.

As part of its aid package, DfID has now given £16.9m to Unicef to help countries in southern Africa, which are approaching the “peak of the lean system”, the United Nations aid agency said in a statement.

It said this year had seen the “worst El-Niño induced drought in decades”, and the money would be used for “life-saving interventions to prevent the escalation of malnutrition and child illness or death in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe”.

Increasing numbers of children have been dropping out of school due to a lack of water or more pressing problems at home, Unicef said, while all four countries were seeing outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea.

The money will allow 456,000 children to be checked for severe, acute malnutrition and more than 65,000 to be treated for several common diseases. A further 194,000 people will get access to safe drinking water.

Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, Unicef’s regional director for eastern and southern Africa, said: “As already vulnerable children and their families enter another lean season, these funds are critical for helping them to cope with the ongoing impacts of this chronic emergency.

“We greatly appreciate – and applaud – DfID for leading the way in ensuring that communities are significantly supported to become further resilient to the recurrent climatic crises we are seeing across much of the region.”


 

Miracle Grow


Farming in Africa | From the print edition | Leaders | Mar 10th 2016, 16:02 | The Economist | 

Miracle Grow

After many wasted years, African agriculture is improving quickly. Here is how to keep that trend going


SOMETIMES it seems as though Adam’s curse, which promises mankind a harvest of thorns and thistles, applies only to African farmers. The southern part of the continent is in the teeth of a drought, which has been blamed on El Niño. The weather has been even worse in northern Ethiopia, where crops are shrivelling and cows are dying. But droughts, unlike biblical curses, end eventually. El Niño does not change the fundamental, remarkable fact about farming in sub-Saharan Africa: it is rapidly getting better.

The post-war green revolution that transformed Asia seemed to have bypassed Africa. But between 2000 and 2014 grain production tripled in countries as far-flung as Ethiopia, Mali and Zambia. Rwanda did even better (see article). Farming remains precarious in a continent with variable weather and little irrigated land. But when disaster hits, farmers nowadays have a bigger cushion.

African countries are on the whole more peaceful and better run than they were. Farmers are no longer forced into disastrous socialist collectives or banned from selling their crops in open markets. Border tariffs are lower and export bans rarer. As a result, innovation is accelerating. Africa has seen an explosion of seed companies producing clever hybrids, which can endure drought and resist disease. Perhaps the best proof of the importance of good government comes from Zimbabwe. It has an awful one, and productivity has crashed.

The progress that has been made elsewhere is wonderful, but not enough. African farms remain far less productive than Asian ones: Chinese farmers harvest more than three times as much grain per hectare. Climate change is expected to make conditions harder. Yet agriculture is essential for firing economic growth across the African continent. More people still live in the countryside than in cities and many of Africa’s cities are not all that dynamic. Asia has a tight grip on labour-intensive manufacturing, although there is certainly space for more food-processing factories in Africa—so, for example, it could export cocoa powder instead of cocoa beans.

Turning an agricultural uptick into a lasting boom will demand more reforms. One priority for Africa’s governments is to dismantle the remaining barriers to innovation in farming. It still takes years to approve new hybrid seeds in some countries. With a few exceptions, such as South Africa, the continent is holding the line against genetically modified crops. This is mad. GM is particularly helpful in making plants resistant to pests—a terrible scourge. The region’s governments should also take greater advantage of mobile technology. Many try to subsidise fertiliser for poor farmers, only for the stuff to be stolen before it reaches the intended recipient. They should be sending money or vouchers directly to mobile wallets.

Africa’s cities are swelling, and the people who live in them crave meat and processed food. That is a huge opportunity for local farmers, but it will be missed if transport does not become far cheaper and easier. At the moment, the rule of thumb is that it costs three times as much to move goods one mile along an African road as it does to move them along an Asian one—and that is before the police shake you down. As a result, fertiliser is expensive and much food is wasted on the way to market. More investment in upgrading shoddy rural roads would be good. Better still would be an assault on the trucking cartels that keep prices high.

Clearing out the weeds
It would help a lot if farmers—particularly women—had clearer rights over land. Proper titles would encourage them to make long-term investments, like terracing and tree-planting, and allow them to use land as collateral for loans. Getting there is tricky. Many countries have long traditions of communal land management and a complicated web of customary farming rights. Charging in and handing out freeholds can actually strip people of rights. But a sensible first step, which a few countries are trying, is to register farmers’ entitlements so their land cannot be pinched.

The rest of the world can help, too. Although some egregious subsidies have been trimmed, the rich world’s taxpayers still spend vast sums propping up their own farmers. America heavily subsidises peanuts and cotton—two things that Africa can grow well. Why shell out to make Africans poorer?


Can Agroecology Feed the World and Save the Planet?


Can agroecology feed the world and save the planet?


Man shovelling maize corn into a pile in Tanzania
 Up to 50 million people across east and southern Africa are at risk of hunger. Photograph: Cheryl-Samantha Owen/NPL/Alamy

You wouldn’t necessarily know it, but right now Africa is facing a food crisis. With Brexit, global terror attacks, the war in Syria and the seemingly endless string of sporting fixtures vying for our collective attention in 2016 so far, the fact that up to 50 million people across east and Southern Africaare at risk of hunger seems to have largely escaped mention.

The continent has been wracked by drought following one of the strongest ever El Niños. And while a natural phenomenon is the immediate cause, however, Africa’s food security has been undermined over recent decades by the rise of monocropping – the planting of single-crop tracts across vast swathes of scarce arable land.

Starting in the 1960s, the “green revolution” saw industrial farming practices transplanted to poorer nations. In the second half of the 20th century, its success seemed unassailable: the global harvest of maize, wheat and rice trebled from 640 million tonnes in 1961 to almost 1.8 billion tonnes by 2000.

Africa, in particular, embraced new maize varieties with alacrity. Corn now covers up to 70% of some African nations’ farmland and accounts for about 50% of calories consumed by humans.

But the enormous cost to the land and people is now becoming clear. A recent report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summed up the problem bluntly, stating: Past agricultural performance is not indicative of future returns”.

The meticulously-researched document concludes that the green revolution’s “quantum leap” in cereal production has come at the price of soil degradation, salinisation of irrigated areas, over-extraction of groundwater and the build-up of pest resistance. Add climate change into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. While Africa’s population is set to double to 2.4 billion by 2050, the FAO warns that maize yields could fall by nearly 20% over that period.

The problem is affecting not just quantity, but quality. Lack of rotation and over-use of phosphates and nitrates has degraded the nutrient content of the soil, leaving 2 billion people globally suffering micronutrient malnutrition, many in sub-Saharan Africa.

In fact, soil degradation in Kenya, which I’ve been visiting regularly for more than 35 years, is so severe it’s estimated that the productivity of cropland in the country declined by 40% between 1981 and 2003 as the population doubled.

Productive agriculture isn’t just a nice thing to have. For economies such as Kenya’s, it’s the essential foundation for everything else, generating 30% of GDP and employing more than 60% of the workforce.

Kenya is determined to move its economy away from over-reliance on agriculture by transforming itself into a regional hi-tech hub (dubbed, somewhat inevitably, “Silicon Savannah”) with billion-dollar projects coming down the line. But the context is a country in which up to 4 million people still receive food aid annually.

But there is an alternative that more and more farmers are exploring. Agroecology – an approach which takes into account natural ecosystems and uses local knowledge to plant a diversity of crops that boost the sustainability of the farming system as a whole – is establishing itself in small pockets across Africa.

In east Africa, more than 96,000 farmers have adopted a “push-pull” system for dealing with problematic stemborer pests and striga weed. The system plants maize alongside fodders and wild grasses that “push” pests away, or “pull” them towards decoy plants. Their maize yields have increased from an average of 1 to 3.5 tonnes per hectare without the use of chemical insecticides and with minimal external inputs, according to an evaluation by the Oakland Institute.

Meanwhile, Kenyan farmers are showing how adaptation to climate change can benefit them and the wider economy. Numerous initiatives are encouraging a switch from single-crop maize to drought-resistant and nutritious sorghum and millet, intercropped with legumes. One such scheme in Wote, run by the Kenyan government and crop research body ICRISAT, has seen nearly 400 farmers switch, boosting yields and fetching a better price for their crops.

Agroecology isn’t confined to Africa. In fact, there are examples from across the global south of farmers embracing new thinking to improve their yields and the sustainability of their communities. To cite just one example from Brazil, thousands of hill farmers using mulch to cover crops made up of legumes and grasses saw their maize yields jump from 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare without using chemical fertiliser.

The big question often asked is: can agroecological farming really feed the world, with the global population hurtling towards 9.6 billion by 2050? It’s clear that there’s increasing evidence it could.

A landmark 2001 study by Jules Pretty and Rachel Hine examined 208 projects from 52 countries and found yield increases of 50-100% for rain-fed crops like maize. The cases studied involved 9 million farmers on around 3% of all of the farmed land in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the increases were typically bigger at lower yields, indicating greater benefits for the poorest farmers.

To scale these advances even further, however, we need to radically rethink the economic and social mechanisms that keep farmers trapped on the treadmill of producing for international markets at the expense of themselves and their families. Junking the dogma of monocropping is a crucial part of this process.


Henrietta Moore is director of UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Vertical Farming the Answer to Hunger In Africa


Could Vertical Farming Be The Answer To Hunger In Africa?

AFRICAN TECH INDUSTRY | GOVERNMENT | SCIENCE

, JULY 6, 2016


According to the World Food Programme (WFP),  Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished. This means that new ways are required to increase food production and with technologies that now permit all year round farming, it’s still not enough to feed the over 1 billion people on the continent. The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) says  today in sub-Sahara Africa, 550 million people are still living in extreme poverty, on less than $1 a day! Of this number, 180 million are the breadwinners for the other 370 million (children, elderly & the sick). There are no jobs, so most of these motivated parents established their own micro enterprises and tiny farms. But due to low capital, they are not earning enough profits to get their families out of poverty.

Skyscraper-Farming

It’s no longer enough to just employ traditional methods of agriculture to adequately feed the hundreds of millions of people who need food. Other methods are therefore necessary and in the article from Gizmodo which you’ll see below, a state in the US is already building the biggest vertical farm in the world whose output is in excess of 907,000 Kilograms worth of vegetables a year. But first what’s vertical farming? Find out below;

A huge vertical farm—where crops are planted, grown, and harvested all with neither sun nor soil—is being built in New Jersey. When it’s finished, it will be the largest one in the world.

You can see one of the (smaller) existing factories from AeroFarm, on which the new one will be modeled, above in this video from Seeker Stories. Nothing they are doing or planning is really new—people have been growing vegetables indoors under LED lights, minus the soil, for a very long time now. Even the factory spin is nothing new. Japan’s Mirai factory has been doing something similar on a slightly smaller scale for years now. What is interesting here, though, is just how big this place is.

AeroFarm is now constructing a 70,000-square-foot farm in an old steel mill. When it’s finished, AeroFarm claims the farm will yield 2 million pounds of lettuce and other greens yearly.

But despite occasional proclamations from fans that vertical farming is the future of food, it’s so far remained pretty niche. For vertical farming to really take off, we’ll need to see several of these kinds of successful, large-scale operations able to turn out what they promise—and we’ll need to see them keep doing it on a regular basis. Until then, we’re nowhere near ready to take the fields out of farming.


mdrxa-vertical-farming-nst-malaysia-asia


 

‘White Philosophers to be Dropped from Curriculum’


News | UK | Home News

SOAS students call for ‘white philosophers to be dropped from curriculum’

Lucy Pasha-Robinson | @lucypasha | 9th January 2017

Students at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are calling for white philosophers to be largely removed from the curriculum to better represent the university’s focus on Asia and Africa.

As part of the student union’s “educational priorities” for 2017, students outlined ways to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university” as part of an initiative that aims to “decolonise” SOAS.

One suggestion was to ensure the majority of philosophers taught on university courses come from the Global South or its diaspora.

The students also said if white philosophers were required, their work should be taught from a “critical standpoint”, to acknowledge the colonial context in which many of their works were written.

Dr Deborah Gabriel, founder of Black British Academics, said the students were clearly seeking to engage in a more culturally diverse discussion that was reflective of the university’s focus, and interrogate the links to colonisation held by the institution.

“A culturally democratic curriculum is something that all scholars, regardless of their ethnic background, should be teaching, given global and national priorities in the 21st century,” she told The Independent.

“Teaching is often based on very narrow criteria and often tends to be eurocentric. These students are calling on scholars to meet the criteria of their role to teach from different cultural contexts, it’s something we all should be doing more of.”

University of Liverpool Law professor explains why Leave campaign lied ‘on an industrial scale’

However, she also said decolonising doesn’t necessarily equate to removing the problematic.

“I don’t believe that necessitates removing white scholars because not all white scholars espouse ideas that are narrow in context, a lot of them do engage in anti-racist teaching. Academia often draws on series that are decades old, which is what people often find problematic,” she said.

“If you remove that kind of content from the curriculum, how are you going to critique it? That is what changes attitudes and thinking by looking at past theories and how they have evolved, and looking at what is considered progressive and acceptable now.”

The SOAS “educational priorities” came amid growing calls from students across the UK to rid British universities of associations with colonialism.

Last year, Oxford University refused to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College over his links with Britain’s colonial past, despite a high-profile student-led campaign.

Cambridge University’s Jesus College took down a bronze cockerel statue, which had been looted during a British colonial expedition to Nigeria in the 19th century, after students asked for it to be repatriated.

SOAS is the largest European centre for the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

SOAS spokesperson Dr Deborah Johnston, pro-director learning and teaching told The Independent: “One of the great strengths of SOAS is that we have always looked at world issues from the perspective of the regions we study – Asia, Africa & Middle East. Informed and critical debate and discussion about the curriculum we teach is a healthy and proper part of the academic enterprise.”


The Independent has approached SOAS’s student union for comment.


Rhodes Must Fall


News | World | Africa

Controversial Rhodes Must Fall founder defends lashing out at white student with ‘protest stick’

Adam Withnall Africa Correspondent  | @adamwithnall | Thursday 22 September 2016

‘I wish I had actually not been a good law abiding citizen, and whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b******’


A former Oxford student and co-founder of the university’s Rhodes Must Fall campaign has reportedly been caught on camera lashing out at a white student during protests against higher education fees in South Africa.

Ntokozo Qwabe, who last made headlines when he refused to tip a white waitress until “you return the land”, did not deny using what he called his “protest stick” in the video, but said he only wished he had “whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b******”.

Video posted to social media appeared to show Mr Qwabe standing on a table in the law faculty of the University of Cape Town, one of a number of institutions across the country hit by protests in recent weeks.

According to the Times Live, Mr Qwabe said he was involved in a “shut down” of the “arrogant” faculty when a white student started filming the protesters on his mobile phone.

The footage shows an argument over the filming, before it ends abruptly when Mr Qwabe appears to lunge towards the camera with a stick.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Qwabe said it was “not true I assaulted or whipped with a stick a white student”.

qwabe.jpg
(Ntokozo Qwabe/Facebook)

He said the only acted to knock the phone out of the student’s hand. “He picked it up and continued to video‚ at which point I came closer to him and told him to switch it the f*** off,” Mr Qwabe said, at which point the student “then kindly put it back into his pocket”.

“Although I wish I’d actually not been a good law abiding citizen & whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the b****** – who continued to video record us without our consent – this is not what happened as the media is reporting.”

Mr Qwabe rose to prominence in the UK when he helped start the movement calling for Oxford University to remove its statue of the colonialist leader Cecil Rhodes.

A Rhodes scholar himself, he said forcing black students to walk past the statue outside Oriel College was a form of “violence”.

In June, he caused outrage after saying on social media he had made Cape Town waitress Ashleigh Schultz cry “typical white tears” after he wrote on a cafe bill: “We will tip when you return the land”.


 

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