Monday, July 28th, 2008


Niger Delta oil pollution

Niger Delta oil pollution, photo by Ed Kashi

The African Loft has a two part interview with Wole Soyinka and Ed Kashi posted. Click over to the African Loft and watch Nigeria: Wole Soyinka and Ed Kashi on Niger Delta.
You can click on parts 1 and 2.

Kashi just published a book of photos taken in the Delta, Curse of the Black Gold. I ordered a copy and it is an extraordinary collection of photographs accompanied by lots of history and current information. Ed Kashi’s photos are also on display this summer in Rochester New York at the George Eastman House. One thing that struck me going through the book is that the Niger Delta should be one of the most beautiful regions of the world, lush and rich. It has been devastatingly polluted, neglected, and degraded by the oil business and the Nigerian government.

From Artdaily on Kashi’s book:

Even without Kashi’s powerful photographs, O’Neill’s words evoke images of despair: “Villages and towns cling to the banks, little more than heaps of mud-walled huts and rusty shacks. Groups of hungry, half-naked children and sullen, idle adults wander dirt paths. There is no electricity, no clean water, no medicine, no schools. Fishing nets hang dry; dugout canoes sit unused on muddy banks. Decades of oil spills, acid rain from gas flares, and the stripping away of mangroves for pipelines have killed off fish. Nigeria has been subverted by the very thing that gave it promise—oil.”

young corn in Ghana

young corn in Ghana

From  Food aid, a gigantic waste of money?, come the following figures:

It costs about $77 in fertilizers and hybrid seed for a smallholder African farmer to produce an extra ton of maize, based on our research at the Millennium Villages. To bring in the same ton of maize into Africa as U.S. food aid costs $670, based on a Government Accountability Office report. Both numbers are as of April 2007 … Since it may now cost an African smallholder farmer about $150 in inputs to produce an extra ton of maize, and she can sell it locally for $250 to $300, the farmer will generate income and begin the economic transformation from sub-subsistence into commercial entrepreneurs.

Based on this information, it seems fairly clear what the most effective way to finance food aid is.  Subsidize seeds and fertilizer for the people who are growing the food locally.  And make sure the seeds produce crops with seeds that can be harvested and regrown without paying tolls or tribute to some distant agribusiness imperial power.