Number 6: Sustainable Development Part 2
While the African continent faces many of the same problems which trouble its northern neighbours, these problems are compounded by African's closeness to their natural environment. Poverty, overcrowding, pollution, soil degradation, over- and under development;what sets these apart in Africa is the intensity with which they affect a continent already stretched to its survival limits. In Voices from Africa 5, African authors from a variety of backgrounds expressed their own visions of their continent's march towards sustainable development. This volume, the sixth in the series, takes a further look at the environmental state of Africa and the continent's attempts not to stray from sustainable development despite crushing constraints.
The book's first article explains how, to deal with managing the environment, Ghana has set up a framework, the National Environmental Policy. Mike Anane examines how his country is working to come to grips with its legacy of environmental destruction and its future of sustainable development. He looks at the birth of the environmental movement in Ghana, and the government's environmental role. Part of the problem, he says, is lack of environmental awareness.
In a case study from Zambia, Katongo Chisupa explains how the government environment body, the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ), is dealing with the specific environmental problem of dumping of toxic waste. While laws were passed and institutions set up after the 1992 Earth Summit, a lack of general environmental awareness in the country seriously hampers Zambian efforts to protect the environment and halt pollution.
Environmental awareness is a leitmotif which threads its way through discussions on the management of Africa's natural resources. A lack of adequate reporting on environmental issues is one factor holding back this awareness. As Sandie Mbanefo Obiago explains, journalists trying to cover the environment in Africa face an array of problems, including lack of money to visit environmental sites, little interest on the part of the editors in publishing environmental stories, and government restrictions on information or on reporting on unsustainable projects.
While governments and their representative bodies play key roles in Africa's sustainable development, they are not the only actors. Mamadou Lamine Thiam says NGOs have a crucial role, as they can be agents of social change by encouraging democracy. He argues that NGOs need to drop their apolitical stance and come to terms with the political nature of development. For any development policy to succeed, there has to be peace and stability, and these can only exist in democratic conditions, with equal rights for all.
A good example of specific NGO action in the field of sustainable development is provided by Massť Lo in his overview of RIOD, the network on desertification created around the convention on desertification. His article traces the way in which an institutional process has been harnessed by civil society in an effort to move closer to sustainable development.
Another example of NGO sustainable development work takes a different approach by looking at the role of culture in protecting nature. Zimbabweans have always had a strong link with their environment, but as Stephen Kasere writes, this tradition of caring was destroyed under colonialism. The Campfire programme to conserve wildlife through peoples's traditional beliefs and cultural systems makes Zimbabweans partners in their own sustainable development. The article develops the thesis that no development programme can succeed in rural or communal areas if it disregards the beliefs and attitudes held by the people it is intended to benefit.
In Mozambique, the Green Zones agricultural cooperatives near Maputo are an example of how things can be turned around when farmers take things into their own hands. The land was underutilized for many years, and farmers who took it over after the Portuguese left did not own it, nor did they have the knowledge to practice commercially viable agriculture. Ruth Ansah Ayisi explains how all this has changed: farmers--most of them women--now have legal tenure, and are members of agricultural cooperatives which give them a strong voice in the way things are run and which are key to the post-war reconstruction effort of the country.
Farming remains the basis of much of Africa's survival and food self-sufficiency. In Ethiopia, farmers developed landraces over centuries, making their country one of the world's most important centres of genetic crop diversity. This gene pool has suffered because of poor agricultural practices, such as growing a few genetically uniform varieties of crop, and also because of the famine in the last decade. Melaku Worede discusses the efforts of one NGO to provide food security by conserving and using crop genetic resources to their fullest, rather than relying on imported strains and external financial assistance with which to maintain them.
Sustainable development in Africa goes beyond local survival problems, and countries are participating fully in the international processes shaping environmental action. In Kenya, national and private institutions have been set up to deal with the problem of climate change. In his article, Jason S. Ogala talks about Kenya's role in the climate change debate and the measures taken by this industrialising country to deal with its implications.
Development, whatever its form, is not to the liking of everyone. The Masai pastoralists of East Africa have lost large tracts of land to game parks and reserves, depriving them of their livelihood. Ole Komuaro discusses the problems encountered in one specific type of development, ecotourism. He says because of this growing industry, indigenous people are either pushed onto marginal lands where survival is difficult, or maintained as cultural artifacts. He emphasizes the need to establish adequate infrastructures to review and reevaluate ecotourism and to educate tourists on its impact.
Africa remains to a large extent dependent on overseas assistance for its development, with technical cooperation playing a major role in the shift towards development that is sustainable. But it has its pitfalls. Recipient countries react to technical cooperation. According to Jean-Martin Tchaptchet, some recipient countries have adopted poor attitudes to aid, often believing it is owed to them by the North. He calls on these countries to change their attitudes if they want to compete in the new era of the post-Cold War world.
Today's Africa is often a mixture of the old and of the new. Traditions remain, and can be revived as modernity encroaches rapidly upon this vast and diverse continent. As in the rest of the world, Africa faces the problem of marrying yesterday's traditions to tomorrow's promises. The challenge of sustainable development is to make these promises come true with destroying Africa's environment and resource base in the process. Across the continent initiatives--sometimes small and sometimes wide-ranging- are carving out a uniquely African path towards sustainable development. Voices from Africa is one small effort to make sure these voices are heard.
We would like to express our appreciation to the contributors to this edition and to renew our thanks to the institutions that support this series.