Sunday, August 11, 2013


On this planet both rich and the poor co-exist though the quality of life may vary widely because of the so called purchasing power of the people. Africa is considered the poor cousin of rich continents like Americas, Europe and Australia, probably because of centuries of colonial rule exploiting their resources mercilessly. Whether it is England or France, Italy or other colonial countries of the West, no thoughts seem to have crossed their mind to help their erstwhile colonies to improve the lots of those who were enslaved by them. Credit goes to the US for considering Africa as a continent that deserves sizable assistance to develop them through kind and cash and to day this country stands in the forefront in providing bulk of assistance to some of the poorest countries in the world. Recently this country is reported to have launched new development programs for improving the cereal production situation as well as evolving national policies for food security for millions of citizens in the continent. Having said this the million dollar question that begs for an answer is whether there can be an equal partnership between an aid giver and an aid recipient? For all the glib talk that goes in the name of equal partnership, there is still an element of  over lording when it comes to deciding how to go about to achieve an objective. Here is the gist of the report emanating from the US that claims setting up two "innovation labs" whatever that means.             

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah launched two new innovation labs to improve climate resilience in some of Africa's main cereal crops and increase private sector investment that can help smallholder farmers. Shah announced the new partnerships at the U.S. release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, USAID said in a news release the same day. "Today, as we celebrate Feed the Future's success over the last year, I am pleased to launch two new Feed the Future innovation labs with U.S. universities and their partners," Shah said. The new labs are the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum & Millet and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Drawing on the expertise of top universities around the United States, they represent a new model of development that uses science and technology to address challenges in agriculture and food security, USAID said. "The Feed the Future on Sorghum & Millet Innovation Lab reflects President Obama's and Feed the Future's strong focus on using science and technology to help smallholders meet the challenge of increasing cereal production even as climate change alters environmental conditions and reduces agricultural productivity," Shah said. "The Food Security Policy Innovation Lab builds directly on President Obama's leadership in launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition last year," he added. "It will help many more countries worldwide achieve major policy reforms, attract significant private sector investments and increase economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, other rural people and urban consumers."

Considering that most countries consume cereal like Sorghum and Maize any improvements in productivity, especially at the level of small farmers with tiny land holdings can be expected to improve the health standards of the local population to some extent. But how this can be achieved is an issue fraught with some serious implications. Americans are known to be the most vociferous champions of GMO foods with 80% of the daily diet in that country derived from GMO foods. As GM technology is still clouded under a controversy regarding the safety of foods produced through application of this unnatural process, the US must resist the temptation to unleash its GMO monopolistic seed companies on the unsuspecting African countries. Already there are reports about some US politicians propounding GMO technology as the ultimate solution to over come the hunger pangs of millions of people suffering from poverty, under nourishment, infectious diseases, infant mortality and short life span. Those countries receiving aid from the US must be aware of this possibility.    


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