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African technology

7 October 2014
Inside science

At http://phys.org/print331792615.html … a post on a professor from Zimbabwe, Clapperton Chatanetsa Mavhunga (I like his Christian name, presumably from a missionary or somebody the family were aquainted with), who says that hunting technology in his part of the world was developed on the hoof and designed for the local and specific game animals of the region. In other words, it was novel to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. He has written a book about mobile hunting groups doing technology as they moved around – responding to situations – CC Mavhunga, 'Transient Workspaces: technologies of everyday innovation in Zimbabwe' (2014: MIT Press). He is calling for a rethink on the meaning, precedence and application of technology in Africa (which can actually apply to hunter gatherer technology elsewhere in the world). He goes on to say the Game Reserves established in the colonial period and still being set up in the post colonial period at a rapidly escalating rate, have forced indigenous people out of their native lands and the traditional hunting culture has become something to be looked down upon instead of appreciated as a clever response to environment by early human communities. People that continue to hunt are marginalised by society and bracketed with poachers. Local communities very often have no alternative but to hunt – as they are economically challenged.

This book, and the sentiments of the author, draws attention to something simmering out there in the background. The role of Green NGOs is increasingly becoming resented. They have too much power over the lives of poor people in Africa and the Third World in general. As coincidence would have it this subject has been in full swing on the blogosphere last week and can be regarded as a sort of backlash against well fed westerners dictating to hungry tribal peoples.

Bushmen and Pygmies are part of the world's earliest human groups and yet in this enlightened age they are being persecuted to an incredible degree and their imprint on the landscape is at the cusp of history – being erased before our enlightened eyes. Very often with our blessing – and the rattle of collection boxes. Bushmen and Pygmies are our link to the Palaeolithic – if they disappear a page of human history is closed. Survival International, an organisation formed to support tribal groups against the erosion of their traditional lands (such as logging activities in the Brazilian rainforest and palm oil plantations in Borneo etc) is at the forefront in giving oxygen to what has become something of a disaster. In recent years the problem has expanded to include carbon sequestration forests, an ignoble project where rich westerners are able to assuage their embarrassment at over indulging in co2 by NGOs buying up land in the Third World and planting trees (as an act of redemption) but expelling the local tribal people in the process – very often at the point of a gun barrel. See for instance www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/10/6/the-inhumanity-of-the-environmentalis…

The Baka pygmies of the Cameroon are also under threat, another relic culture of the past that has survived a multitude of abuses by their neighbours, marginalised and confined to a restricted section of rainforest for the last few centuries, occupying just a niche of their former estate – and now threatened by vested Green interests. The Green dream machine is clearly motivated by big money – exceptionally big monies that are floating around at the same time as the underprivileged in the West are being exhorted to tighten their belts. These control freaks, worshipping at the feet of Mother Gaia, are akin to the bureaucrats that ran the USSR, and purposely and zealously subverted the cultures of Mongolian and Siberian tribal peoples.

There is a book by Mark Dowie, 'Conservation Refugees'  – also published by MIT Press, that has been making waves. Dowie estimates there are up to ten million people displaced by the Green movement in the Third World. He may be exaggerating – he may not be. The truth is that academics, politicians and the media studiously ignore the abuse – fearful of going against the environmentalist movement. It might even be compared to the political correctness that witnessed vulnerable young girls being exploited by adults in the full knowledge of local politicians and the social services community – a situation that is probably even persisting in spite of the recent publicity. The same people have their heads in the ground – the media and politicos and  one has to wonder why people are afraid of pointing fingers and what are basically words rather than physical threats to life and limb.

The establishment of nature reserves and wilderness parks has led to some of the worst abuses in the Third World – tribal people such as the Sambura of Kenya being forcibly evicted by gangs of undesirables in the pay of the government and their agencies. NGOs are directly involved in the process and when you put money in a tin outside a supermarket in the West you are directly contributing to the misery of other humans.

There is another story of NGOs living high on the hog – this time in Cambodia (where the average wage is extremely low) – see www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2011/06/silence_of_t… .. Okay, Pol Pot has gone – but has Cambodia shaken hands with another devil? Are they any better off with a bunch of NGO offal swanning around and living to an excess the average local might only dream about, and enclosing the rainforest and restricting access.

Even in Indonesia there have been rumbles of discontent and claims of western NGOs behaving like thieves in the night. In this instance the aggrieved are not so innocent as they object to restrictions on the destruction of the forest and the establishment of palm oil plantations. Never the less, the writing is on the wall – Third World people are becoming restless. Perhaps it was all the negative propaganda about global warming and how poor people must subsidise the rich in foreign climes. They soon twigged on it was all a load of bull – much as ordinary folk in the West who have to pay higher fuel bills and taxes.

Another book has lifted the lid on Green dream disasters – this is 'Panda Leaks – the dark side of the WWF' which was written by a German journalist and shot to the top of the best seller list. Wilfried Huismann has now had an English version of his book published.

Over at http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/tell-me-why/ … the blog author is telling a similar story – but in a forceful manner. The theme seems to have caught the imagination of people after a long period of disinterest and a morbid fascination with a non-problem, the climate. I'm not sure that Pointman is entirely correct as when talking to a relative who spent a great deal of his working life in Africa working on the medical control of tropical diseases, he made the point that malaria did not necessarily kill people – and lots of people survived. In the case of other tropical diseases the death toll was much higher.

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