Where is Africa….sadly not where it should be

Africa = 15% of world’s population + 20% of world’s land mass + diverse and substantial natural resources = the poorest people on the earth ?

Merrill Cook of Policymic.com has developed an interactive map that enables country to country comparison in seven key areas starting with health, economics and education. When using the map it is important to bear in mind that the numbers have gone through a series of averaging and scaling and that the data for conflict is based on the last 40 years. However the graphic does highlight the huge inequalities that exist, the chronic lack of basic services that people endure, poor government but on a more optimistic note the progress that some countries are making. Its not all war and famine but we know that much more could be done through reforming the structures of international trade and taxation.

Scoring Africa

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Working with nature

Techniques to bring life back to arid regions in Africa has real potential for the semi arid regions of north east Brazil.

tony_rinaudo_75Tony Rinaido, a permaculture specialist working in Africa, had spent years battling to bring life back to dry landscapes when he observed the tenacity of ‘weeds’ to keep reappearing from the parched land. Tony realised that the ‘weed’s were trees, that had been cut down years even decades ago, trying to re-emerge. He discovered underground forests, ¬†tree root systems still very much alive under the baked earth. With careful management the root systems were allowed to bring life back to the desert and this process is helping to transform agriculture across many parts of ¬†Africa.

Observing and working with nature rather than against it is proving to be very beneficial to the local human populations. I have often thought that there must be a better way to work with the bush land in N.E Brazil than the slash and burn approach taken at present. Tony has inspired me to re-think and re-visit this approach.

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The Monkey and the Fish

At a recent CAFOD event, Geoff O’Donoghue (CAFOD’s director of International Division) told a story that helps us to think critically about our role in development.

There was a beautiful valley through which flowed a river. Storm after storm raged over the valley and the waters rose flooding everything. A monkey sought safety in the canopy of the trees. The waters kept rising. As the waters reached the canopy the money became aware of a large fish that was struggling to swim against the force of the torrent. Moved by compassion the monkey reached into the waters and lifted the fish to ‘safety’ in the branches of the tree – where the fish died.

You can spend hours unpacking this story – it can teach us a great deal about our approach to development and aid. Do you have any reflections?

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What do we mean by development?

Many would argue that development in practice means becoming Western, developing western economic, political and social systems. Countries are often judged to be developed/undeveloped depending on how well they match up to the ‘advanced’ economies of the world. And yet it is the ‘advanced’ economies of the world that are having the greatest impact on the global climate!

Imagine if every country in the world were to ‘enjoy’ the consumption levels that are the norm in the advanced economies – the natural world simply could not stand the impact. So if to become developed is to become like us, then we are heading for disaster! The model of development that is being pursued across the world is leading us all into a global and ecological crisis. Development is sited as a way out of poverty and poverty is more often than not described in economic terms. But here is a definition of poverty from an indigenous community in Brazil.


Poverty is when: You are disconnected from the Spirit, disconnected from Community and when you don’t have enough to share.

I wonder what our models of development would look like if we adopted this approach to poverty?

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