Monday, December 17, 2007

State of despondence part 3 – How long before Zambia attains the age of enlightenment?


The lack of rationality in the manner Zambians continue to view both their constitution and national resources might evoke the question – how long before our nation attains the age of enlightenment?
How long before the correlation between the individual and the state is widely appreciated?

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the popular expression “insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results each time” than Zambia’s constitution review process. We have had the
i) Mvunga constitution review in 1991,
ii) Mwanakatwe constitution review in 1996,
iii) Late Lucy Sichone’s call for a constituent assembly,
iv) Mung’omba constitution review in 2003,
v) Levy Mwanawasa’s Indaba 2003
vi) And now National Constitution Conference.

I expect at this point, that an eminent citizen like John Mwanakatwe or Wila Mung’omba would spearhead an intellectual movement of the Enlightened and advocate reason as the primary basis of authority and straight talk to average Zambians to end this insanity!
We know what Zambians want and expect in their constitution, why should an authoritarian president continue to trample on the greater rights of common Zambians.

On the other hand, against the run of logic and rationality a matter deserving of at least one commission has received none and as a consequence theft, corruption and wanton exploitation of Zambia’s natural resources by foreign interests continues with average Zambians fighting over leftover crumbs.
A more telling example is this recent lament of
Former Zambia Privatization Agency (ZPA) director James Matale says the destruction of the public enterprises during the Chiluba regime that accounted for over 80 per cent of economic activity was an act of unprecedented vandalism."It surpassed even the destructiveness of the definitive Attila the Hun. Zambia lost economic investments and assets accumulated over a period of 100 years," he says."A large proportion of the famous K7 billion debt was attributable to investments in assets and operations of the public enterprises. For instance, with the destruction of Zambia Airways, Zambia lost the entire stock of civil aviation technology that she had acquired over 30 years at a great cost. I think that, in the fullness of time, when all the numbers are finally tallied up and the last statements recorded, the Zambian privatisation programme will rank as the biggest fraud in economic history."So what went wrong with Zambia's privatisation programme?Matale offers a rare insight into this monster of a programme whose benefits some Zambians have been questioning over the years.Matale explains that the programme faced resistance and opposition from several critical stakeholders.He also explains that there was a deliberate effort by powerful business interests in the government to treat enterprises and assets lined up for privatisation as goods fallen from the back of a delivery truck.The donors too had their own invisible hand on the process.” Extract from Maravi

Also troubling is capitulation of men like James Matale and others like John Mwanakatwe, Alex Chikwanda, Wila Mung’omba, and Prof Mvunga and many other distinguished, well read and educated Zambians.

How can there be, such a disconnect to the affairs of nation?


I admire the courage of Prof Clive Chirwa; and understand his indignation with the status quo. However, like many well educated Zambians before him, that have held positions where they could have at least helped influence rationality in the minds of Zambians- I wonder!
Might he not be a lone voice pushing a nation stuck in a cultural drag with roots stemming from it's past?

9 comments:

I.P.A. Manning said...

The Enlightenment which we all yearn for is delayed by the unwillingness of most of our intellectuals to come to grips with Zambia's historical and cultural reality: that Zambia is made up of a small corrupt western world of Government and business elite - both in bed with the donors, a recently constructed world afloat in a sea of traditional Zambia (95% of the land), which is itself undergoing a Neolithic revolution from hunter-gatherer to more settled agriculture, their only problem being that the changes being wrought by their own Government and the donors - walking fully into the Malthusian trap, is making their lives more difficult, not easier. And to blame foreign investors for an assault on natural resources is a travesty. The destruction of the Ila cattle and grazing lands, the illegal alienation of national parks and national forests, the imposition of a .6% royalty on mining companies, the failure to place very strict environmental controls on their mining operations, are just a few of the impacts of Government, donors and capitalism on true Zambians.

The genius of Zambia is being trampled on, because the elite - searching desperately for a plot and a Pajero, don't look where they are going.

Kashikulu said...

I couldn't agree more with your assessed view; a rush to prove self determination gave way to experimentation with unsustainable ideologies and a structure of Governance at variance with the social and cultural systems that have been in place for a longer timeframe.
After 40 years of independence, there appears to be little appreciation or clarity of mind among the majority of Zambians on what or whose needs and objectives the constitution should serve. In spite of the harsh impact on their daily lives, the policies of government cause, I imagine the majority of Zambians are not that desperate for devolution of power, reduced presidential authority or electoral reform. I understand the possibility of matters of immediate or basic survival getting in the way of a bigger issue such as the constitution; however Zambians must forego the temporary relief of political bribes ( campaign promises) in order to secure stable and meaningful development in the future.

MrK said...

I.P.A. Manning,

Malthus? Malthus was outdated even during his own lifetime. He never understood that improvements in technology increase the ability of land to support a population way beyond anything he could even conceive. Example. If you look at a country like Holland, at the turn of the previous century, 50% of the people were involved in agriculture. Today, only 4% of the population is involved in agriculture, and not only is no one starving, but a big part of agriculture has become the exportation of food and flowers. Another example. Through hydroponics, it is now possible to grow 350 pieces of cabbage per square meter, per year. Catapulting agriculture into the space age. Think of what this could do to help the food supply in major cities.

Malthus never saw that one coming - he didn't even see the mechanisation of agriculture coming, or understood it's impact on food production, in his own day.

On the other hand, environmentalists are always keen on the alarmist aspects of his theories.



Mwankole kumushi Kulishani,

Might he not be a lone voice pushing a nation stuck in a cultural drag with roots stemming from it's past?

And culture. I am beginning to think that talking about culture is a way of avoiding the hard issues. Like vested interests. Political obstinacy in the interest of protecting the status quo.

I think there should be some integration between traditional and modern/secular government structures. However, I don't really think this is the core issue at all.

Zambia would be much better off with a government that was not promoting elitist policies, but understood the need for a broadening of economic activity into ordinary households.

On culture.

If countries with cultures as diverse as America, Japan, Germany and Botswana can make it, so can Zambia. The real key is how much of the money that is made stays in the economy and the country. In other words, the mining companies pay most of their profits to the state, and spend most of their costs on local suppliers. Foreign companies are not exempt from paying taxes. And import tariffs protect Zambian manufacturers and agriculture, to avoid dumping artificially cheap goods on the Zambian market.

On the environment.

I think that Zambia should adopt organic agriculture as the only way forward, and that the best way that can happen, is having many tens of thousands of 100 hectare farms, where the farmer can pay a lot of attention to the quality of his crops, and grow a very diversified range of crops and livestock.

I think that is the best way of avoiding diseases such as occur in monocultures, of ensuring biological diversity, of making a wide range of agricultural products available, of democratizing agriculture and the economy at the same time, and stimulate all kinds of spinoff businesses.

One theory about the dying off of bees in the US, is that they are being fed a single diet of maize or grain. Bringing back biological diversity to agriculture might just safe the world.

Also, the creation or regeneration of large water catchment areas could not only improve the environment, but add more water to the land that people and agriculture would use. In other words, agricultural development might have a net positive influence on the land. If we put a lot of effort behind making sure we add more water to the land than we use, agriculture would truly become sustainable.

Happy New Year.

MrK said...

On space age agriculture, check out this Youtube piece on Omega Gardens in Vancouver:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=02Uz95UGhRg

Kashikulu said...

MrK

Indeed, the theories of Malthus may no longer be relevant to much of the developed world ( Netherlands included), however for the majority in vast parts of Africa for whom mechanization entails an ox drawn plough for cultivation or treadle pump for irrigation, it may still be relevant to bring up his name, in conversation at least.


Zambia population growth has increased significantly since independence and we’ve had food insecurity in the past, I hope these recent gains in food security will continue in regard to future population estimates.

In regard to organic farming,One study from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency found that, area-for-area, organic farms of potatoes, sugar beet and seed grass produce as little as half the output of conventional farming.

"And culture. I am beginning to think that talking about culture is a way of avoiding the hard issues. Like vested interests. Political obstinacy in the interest of protecting the status quo." Mrk

On the contrary, a people’s culture may actually explain the reason for their current circumstance. There is perhaps no better example of a people so authentic to the dictates of their culture as the nation of Botswana. The framework of their constitutional government lies on the bedrock of their traditional system of governance. Chiefs review draft bills before parliament steps in and Tswana’s in urban areas still go back to their villages every weekend to farm and look after their cows.
Whereas Botswana embraced their traditional leaders and the traditional way of life, Zambians (80% in urban areas) forsook their chiefs and the traditional way of life.
Zambia’s current economic and social troubles may stem from our pretence at being a nation of consumers without matching producers, of tradition and culture yet refusing our traditional ways and Chiefs the role nor the respect they deserve in our daily lives.

MrK said...

Kashikulu,

Indeed, the theories of Malthus may no longer be relevant to much of the developed world

They are no longer relevant anywhere in the world, including Zambia. Very little of potential arable land is under cultivation. That fact alone should point out that we shouldn't think in terms of 'overpopulation' and the like.

Even in his own day, there were many criticisms of his theories.

According to Malthus, if wages increased, birth rates would increase. Wrong.

It has been quite an afternoon. First I came across a positive mention of Malthus, now the old claim that organic agriculture's yields are lower. To an extent, that is true. However, costs are much lower too, as there are far fewer inputs, as well as no degradation of land in the long run. Also, considering the amount of land that is available, all that is needed to make up the difference is use a little more land. However, the real gain is in sustainability of land use, the quality of the soil, and the quality of organically grown food.

Maybe Zambia's problem is not culture, but outdated ideas. And not from the neolithic (see the post above), but from the 1950s. :)

On yields in organic farming:

Organic Agriculture Fights Back
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/OrganicAgriculture.php

This is also a good article on why organic farming is just the better way to go.

"Organic farming can compete effectively in growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and other grains, Pimentel said, but it might not be as favorable for growing such crops as grapes, apples, cherries and potatoes, which have greater pest problems."

Also, the fact that "soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent", could attract international support in the way of grants or 'carbon points'.

Here is to the organic revolution.

MrK said...

Kashikulu,

Indeed, the theories of Malthus may no longer be relevant to much of the developed world

They are no longer relevant anywhere in the world, including Zambia. Very little of potential arable land is under cultivation. That fact alone should point out that we shouldn't think in terms of 'overpopulation' and the like.

Even in his own day, there were many criticisms of his theories.

According to Malthus, if wages increased, birth rates would increase. Wrong.

It has been quite an afternoon. First I came across a positive mention of Malthus, now the old claim that organic agriculture's yields are lower. To an extent, that is true. However, costs are much lower too, as there are far fewer inputs, as well as no degradation of land in the long run. Also, considering the amount of land that is available, all that is needed to make up the difference is use a little more land. However, the real gain is in sustainability of land use, the quality of the soil, and the quality of organically grown food.

Maybe Zambia's problem is not culture, but outdated ideas. And not from the neolithic (see the post above), but from the 1950s. :)

On yields in organic farming:

Organic Agriculture Fights Back
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/OrganicAgriculture.php

This is also a good article on why organic farming is just the better way to go.

"Organic farming can compete effectively in growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and other grains, Pimentel said, but it might not be as favorable for growing such crops as grapes, apples, cherries and potatoes, which have greater pest problems."

Also, the fact that "soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent", could attract international support in the way of grants or 'carbon points'.

Here is to the organic revolution.

Kashikulu said...

Mrk -
Thank you for your deep insight and valuable perspective. There isn’t a great gulf between our perspectives; we are probably, just looking at the same elephant from different angles.
Am usually very hesitant in disavowing any man’s scholar or physical body of work; the validity of Malthus’s prediction that population increases geometrically while food production/supply growth is arithmetic may be challenged as indeed any scholar work is- And may not apply to much of the developed world; however the African continent accounted for 9% of the world’s population in 1950, despite AIDS, warfare, disease, drought and famine, Africa has grown to be 12% of the world’s population today. Food supply/ production in Africa has not grown more 1.5%, there continues to be endemic shortfalls in food production/supply especially in the horn of Africa (Google Africa’s food crisis for more).
This is the where I think, Thomas Malthus’ body of work still has relevance, can you imagine how big a problem, food supply would have been had Africa like much Europe or the Americas been spared disease, drought and warfare?
Organic food is expensive and rare because I think that is how Malthus thought we would continue farming. Forget the green revolution, hybrids and GMO; imagine the gravity of Africa’s food crisis with organic farming!
I think planning for population and adopting improvements such as GMO’s may hold solutions for Africa’s food crisis. It is a bioethical paradox, would you rather 7 million die not year from starvation and disease caused by food depravation or would you save at least two thirds with GMO food that might cause issues ( medical or environmental) 30 years down the line?

Merry Christmas and have a prosperous year!

MrK said...

Kashikulu,

Thanks for your kind words.

Organic food is expensive and rare because I think that is how Malthus thought we would continue farming. Forget the green revolution, hybrids and GMO; imagine the gravity of Africa’s food crisis with organic farming!

Now I get your point. Here is what I say to that. It isn't yield per hectare that is the problem, but the number of hectares that are under cultivation.

80% or arable land in Zambia is not under cultivation. With all it's rivers and lakes, 97% of agriculture is still rain fed.

Those are the growth factors we should be looking at. And organic agriculture simply ensures that the land that newly comes under cultivation, can remain so for an infinite number of generations to come, without depletion. As well of as of course feeding the people of Zambia with food that is free of chemicals.

And organic agriculture creates it's own little industries. The production of molassis as fertilizer. The growing of predator insects to keep pests down. Also, of the government legalized the growing of hemp, a huge number of products could be manufactured from that - rope, paper, biodegradable containers that can replace plastic containers, some of the most durable and high quality clothing in the world.

Also, the effect of more democratic land ownership on reversing urbanisation should not be glossed over. Making tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs available throughout the country would take a lot of pressure off the major urban centers.

Food supply/ production in Africa has not grown more 1.5%, there continues to be endemic shortfalls in food production/supply especially in the horn of Africa (Google Africa’s food crisis for more).

But how has landreform progressed? How much more land is under cultivation today, and to whose benefit?

If land was redistributed in a way that drew everyone into the economy, unlike the development for development's sake as we see today (i.e., handing over ownership and profits to foreign companies), it would have a huge impact on the economy.

I would like to see everyone who wants to farm, have access to 100 hectares of land and a tractor (either through personal or collective ownership). If that goal was met, much of the problems we see today would not exist. There would be enough and cheaper food, the profits would be shared throughout the economy, there would be all kinds of industries springing up to cater for agricultural surpluses, and niche agricultural markets. And everyone who can work (and their relatives) would have access to that.

This is the where I think, Thomas Malthus’ body of work still has relevance, can you imagine how big a problem, food supply would have been had Africa like much Europe or the Americas been spared disease, drought and warfare?

But Europe and America have not been spared warfare, at least. Both world wars were largely fought out in Europe.

In fact, how Europe and America recovered after WWII is an interesting study in itself.

Many countries instituted works projects, that employed tens of thousands of people, in order to recover Europe's devastated infrastructure.

In the United States, someone had the bright idea of giving a scholarship to every American who had worn the uniform. This led to the consumer boom and the prosperity we now identify with America today. The renewed prosperity led to the emergence of youth culture in the 1950s, and the high college enrollment and cultural renovation of the 1960s. To this day, 2/3 of the US economy is consumer driven. Add to that, that 80% of American commerce is Americans trading goods and services with other Americans (i.e., the money stays in the economy) and we have why America is such a rich country.

In the UK, the socialist government instituted all kinds of populist reforms, which allowed many of the poor to rise economically.

The problem is not really population pressure, but the attitude of government to the people and the economy.

African countries are rich in natural resources, land and fresh water, which should be the engine of their economies. It isn't, and that is the problem, not population pressure.

Let agriculture produce surpluses, so that those can kickstart the manufacturing industry. Let's start building entire industries around the country's mineral resources - jewellers, fashion designers and the like around the gemstone industry; let's export copper products, instead of just copper cathodes; let's export tables, chairs, paneling instead of timber. Let's see some vertical integration in all these industries, so the total impact on the economy can be maximised.

But first of all, let's use the profits from the mines to regenerate the country's infrastructure and agriculture.

If you have the time, please check out my Manifesto for Economic Transformation.

Happy holidays, and a prosperous new year.