Thursday, February 28, 2008
Here's an informative, long report on the "Kreydiyeen" or the "Kreydiyeh" tribe also known as "`Arab el Kreydiyyeh". According to the report, they are a `ashira (tribe) of Bedouins (Al `Arab) who live at the Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian border. I believe it is the same `ashira of "`Arab al Kderiyeh" mentioned in the classic reference book: "Tribus semi-nomades de la Palestine du nord" written by Tovia Ashkenazi and published in 1938. Ashkenazi describes them as a tribe of the region of Tabarayya (Lake Tiberias) and Huleh, but who moved freely to the plains of the Anti-Lebanon in summer. This means that they occupied the same area as the "Kreydiyeh", the triangle between Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and it would have really been confusing if they were not the same. The difference in the phonetics is either due to sloppy reporting by one of the 2 researchers, or to the phenomenon of "istibdal", common in Arabic, in which syllables replace each others in the same word: take for example the word for spoon, which should be pronounced "mal`aqa", but is often called "ma`laka" in spoken Lebanese (Beiruti accent). The difference is in the location of the throaty sound "`", before or after the "l". It is very likely that this is how Kreydiyeh became Kderiyeh or vice-versa.
Ashkenazi also indicates that the Kderiyeh kept goats and sheep, but that before WWI they showed a strong tendency to settle, which may explain why they refer to themselves in the Akhbar article as inhabiting the villages of Romthaniyyeh and Rozniyyeh in the Syrian Golan in 1880-1885. Another interesting piece of information from Ashkenazi is that they did not have a sheikh at the time of the study, and that they were generally among the "dispersed" tribes which would also explain why they dispersed in Lebanon after 1967.
Apparently, they were living in the villages of Ayn Arab, Wazzani, and Abbasiyyeh (all near the border) when the 1967 war caused a first wave of displacement, followed by a second one in 1977 when Israel invaded their lands. This time they left their villages and settled in a number of locations near Marjeyoun and Nabatiyyeh.
The article (in Arabic) describes their plight, which include lack of availability of state services. Services in the South are bad enough but the Kreydiyyeh appear to have suffered even more than their settled compatriots. In all their settlements, there is only one primary school, and they get second priority for places in public schools in the villages in which neighborhoods they have settled. They describe themselves as exemplary citizen, who do not follow any political party and are friendly with all (in other words, they are disempowered and cannot express opinions. This is the fate of the marginal and of those who lack political support). In the larger settlements, many have completed their education and are in self employment, but often in menial jobs below their expectations. In the smaller settlements, goat and sheep herding is still a major occupation.
Interesting piece, contains some basic socio-economic and social info, in addition to a rough census. I doubt there is any book written about the Bedouins of Lebanon. There are tens if not hundreds of books and articles about all the other groups, but I couldn't find anything on the Bedouins. And note that the histories of regions in Lebanon often means the history of the dominant sects in that region. The history of Jabal `Amel (South) for instance does not make much mention of anyone other than the Shi`a.
"The economy skidded to a near halt in the final quarter of last year, clobbered by dual slumps in housing and credit that caused people and businesses to spend and invest more sparingly.
There was a bright spot in the report, however. Sales of U.S. goods and services to other countries grew at a 4.8 percent pace in the fourth quarter, better than previously estimated. U.S. exports have been helped by the declining value of the U.S. dollar, which makes U.S. goods less expensive on foreign markets. The U.S dollar dipped to another record low on Thursday in Europe.
For all of 2007, the economy grew by 2.2 percent, the weakest showing in five years. That estimate also was not changed from an earlier reading."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
"Virgin Atlantic Airways, the British carrier controlled by Richard Branson, tested a jumbo jet on Sunday that was partly powered by a biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil, a first for a commercial aircraft.
The Boeing 747-400, which took off from London and landed in Amsterdam, had one unmodified engine running on a mix of about 25 percent biofuel with the rest coming from standard jet kerosene, Mr. Branson said at a news conference at Heathrow Airport." (Thanks D.)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
``Going into 2008, the supply-demand balance for agricultural products looks extremely tight,'' the brokerage said. ``Global grain and oilseed inventories sit at very low historical levels in terms of demand coverage, lending support to prices and pushing up volatility.''"
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
This was last Wednesday February 20. On the same day, there were a lot of interesting information. The front page of Al Akhbar was about Prime Minister Sanioura allowing, by special decree, smuggling of fuel oil and heating oil and diesel and foodstuffs and farm products from Syria. Weapons are still forbidden. This is a tremendous action, as for decades, Lebanese farmers have been asking for a control of smuggling of farm products from Syria. This is NOT protectionism, this is just the rule of law, now being broken by decree. Al Akhbar says the true reason is that Saad Hariri promised to relax smuggling laws so that the people of Akkar (to whom he promised $53 millions in "private" aid) could benefit from the smuggling which is an important part of their livelihood. Akkar is the main recruiting grounds for the Hariri Future movement's large demonstrations, and this came in the wake of the February 14 demonstration.
On the same day, Assafir ran a very interesting report on the status of the balance of trade in Lebanon. A few interesting facts:
- The trade deficit in 2007 was $ 9 billions, up $2 billions from 2006.
- We import (in order of importance): metallic products, electric goods, chemical products, transportation equipment, ordinary metal, and food ($756 millions, 6%).
- We export (in order of importance): ordinary metals and products, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones and precious metals, electrical equipment, food and foods industry products ($283 millions, 8%), and electric goods.
- We import from (in order of importance): the US ($1.14 billions), Italy ($1.06 billions), China, France, Germany and Egypt.
- We export to (in order...): Switzerland (this must be the gems. Or Ghandour chocolates), UAE, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Friday, February 22, 2008
"AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about sustainable biodiesel, the whole idea, the company that you founded with Annie Nelson, your wife?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Uncrowned Queen of Palestine," as Nablus is called by historians, was founded in 72 AD by the Roman Emperor Titus. It was named Neapolis, the "New City," which later became Nablus. The city was erected upon a fertile valley nestled between two mountains. Today Nablus is a principal industrial and commercial centre and is among the largest cities in the West Bank. The lively Old City is lined with shops selling Palestinian sweets such as knafeh, baklawa and burma. Nablus is most famous for its knafeh, a Palestinian culinary specialty consisting of white goat cheese, pastry, and syrup served in hot square slices.
Jenin, the ancient city of Ginaea is located north of Nablus, on the slopes of a hill nestled among the picturesque surrounds of fig and palm trees. Its fertile lands produce a variety of fruits and vegetables. Jenin is well-known for its delicious watermelons. Archaeological findings indicate that watermelons have been grown in Palestine since about 2000 BC. Watermelons were valued as a source of water during dry periods. They are likewise a source of refreshment during the hot Palestinian summers of today. " (Thanks Muna)
A beautiful article on the various food specialties of Palestine.
Lunch: The main meal of the day, lunch is typically taken around two in the afternoon. Many offices shut down so employees can eat at home with their families. The basic ingredients for many dishes include rice, lamb, chicken, fish and vegetables, and common spices include cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg and black pepper. Olive oil and samneh (clarified butter or ghee) are the most common cooking oils. Some broad categories of foods include yakhneh, meaning, generally, lamb stewed with a vegetable (green beans, spinach, various kinds of squash, etc.), and mahshi, meaning stuffed vegetables or meats. Grape, cabbage, and chard leaves are stuffed with either rice and meat or rice and vegetable, as are peppers, artichokes, turnips, a special kind of carrot, squashes, cucumbers and other vegetables. A widely eaten favorite is kousa mahshi (kousa is a local squash that resembles a plump and light-colored zucchini). Waraq 'ainab, or grape leaves, is also a favorite, often reserved for honored guests due to the amount of labor involved in preparing it. A third general category are dishes baked or roasted in a large round baking pan with a two-inch rim, called a saniyeh. Finely-ground lamb is mixed with parsely, onions and spices, formed into thin patties, and baked over potato and tomato slices. Kibbeh bi-saniyeh is pounded lamb meat mixed with onions, spices, and burghul (bulgur wheat), then baked in the oven." (Thanks Muna)
A very nice article on traditional Palestinian cuisine (similar to Lebanese cuisine).
The scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., are proposing a concept, which they have patriotically named Green Freedom, for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline.
The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.
There is, however, a major caveat that explains why no one has built a carbon-dioxide-to-gasoline factory: it requires a great deal of energy."
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
How did today’s prosperous nations create the embarrassment of riches that they now enjoy? No benign magician descended, à la Jeffrey Sachs, on London or Washington to shower its inhabitants with money. Instead, the rich nations developed laws and freedoms that enabled people to take their futures into their own hands. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has argued in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, the world’s poorest countries remain poor in part because they lack legal protections—property rights foremost among them—that enable people in the West to tap the potential of “dead” capital and invest it in wealth-generating enterprises." (Thanks D.)
A scathing critique of foreign aid ("paternalism") from an ultra capitalist perspective: wealth generation will cure the world, and Thatcher-Reagan were right. But extremely well written, hilarious at times, and soooo true in its description of "The Africrats". An enjoyable read.
Commentators in favour of a quick resolution believe that a trade deal would inject much-needed confidence into a troubled world economy -- a line being adopted all too readily by many quarters who seem intent on sacrificing agriculture in this round of the talks.
The Doha round of talks, launched in late 2001, has been deadlocked for years. Sealing this elusive global trade deal for the sake of Bush's vanity is ludicrous.
If Irish agriculture is to have any future, every effort must be made to block the current deal that's on the table." (Thanks Rania)
Monday, February 18, 2008
I blogged this for 2 reasons: one to lighten up a little bit, this blog has been gloomy of late (reflects my mood) and because I am fascinated with the description of the wine by the taster. Read this:
"2004 Massaya Gold Reserve Red ($25) Fifty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Mourvedre, 10 percent Syrah. Opens with a mix of dry wood notes, plus blackberry, licorice and the funk of saddlebags. Vanilla and hints of herb-rubbed meat are added to the mix, with a dark, anise-filled, slightly bitter palate. More angular than a Chateauneuf, less stoic than Bordeaux, it ends bright and long. It needs a good five years to age, but also distinctively world-class."
From an excellent article by Fred Schlomka a board member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Read the rest on this blog.
"A California meat company on Sunday issued the largest beef recall in history, 143 million pounds, some of which was used in school lunch programs, Department of Agriculture officials announced.
The recall by the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company, based in Chino, Calif., comes after a widening animal-abuse scandal that started after the Humane Society of the United States distributed an undercover video on Jan. 30 that showed workers kicking sick cows and using forklifts to force them to walk.
The video raised questions about the safety of the meat, because cows that cannot walk, called downer cows, pose an added risk of diseases including mad cow disease. The federal government has banned downer cows from the food supply."
The world is flat. Slaughterhouses are the same everywhere.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Just what we needed.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Argentina led developing countries with 47.2 million acres in biotech corn, soy and cotton. Brazil was second with just over 37 million acres of biotech cotton and soy.
India grew 15.3 million acres of genetically engineered cotton in 2007, its only biotech crop."
Press Release - La Via Campesina
A response to the Global Food Prices Crisis: Sustainable family farming can feed the world
(Rome, 14 February 2008) Consumers around the world have seen the prices of staple food dramatically increasing over the past months, creating extreme hardship especially for the poorest communities. Over a year, wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago
However, there is no crisis of production. Statistics show that cereals' production has never been as high as in 2007 (1).
Prices are increasing because part of production is now diverted into agrofuels, global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years due to the de-regulation of markets by the WTO, and extreme weather has effected crops in some exporting countries such as Australia. But prices also increase because financial companies speculate over people's food as they anticipate that agriculture prices will keep rising in the near future. Food production, processing and distribution falls increasingly under the grip of transnational companies monopolising the markets.
The tragedy of industrial agrofuels: they feed cars and not people
Agrofuels (fuels produced from plants, agriculture and forestry) are presented as an answer to the peak in production of oil and global warming alike. However, many scientists and institutions now recognise that their energy benefits will be very limited and that their environmental and social impact will be extremely negative. However, the whole business world is rushing into that new market that is directly competing with people food's needs. The Indian government is talking of planting 14 millions hectares of land with Jatropha, the Inter-American Development Bank says that Brazil has 120 million hectares that could be cultivated with agrofuel crops, and an agrofuel lobby is speaking of 379 million hectares being available in 15 African countries (2). Current demand for corn in order to produce ethanol already represents 10% of the world consumption, pushing up world prices.
Industrial agrofuels are an economic, social and environmental nonsense. Their development should be halted and agricultural production should focus on food as a priority.
All farmers do not benefit from higher prices
Record world food prices hit consumers, and contrary to what can be expected, they do not benefit all producers. Stock breeders are in a crisis due to the rise in feed prices, cereal producers are facing sharp rises in fertiliser's prices and landless farmers and agricultural workers cannot afford to buy food. Farmers sell their produce at an extremely low price compared to what consumers pay. The Spanish coordination of farmers and stock breeders (COAG) calculated that consumers in Spain pay up to 600% more than what the food producer gets for his/her production.
The first to benefit from higher agricultural prices are the agro-industry and large retailers because they increase food prices much more than they should. Will food prices decrease when agricultural prices go down again? Large companies are able to stock large quantities of food and release them when the markets prices are high.
Small farmers and consumers need fair and stable prices, not the current high volatility. Small farmers cannot produce if prices are too low, as has often been the case in the last decades. They therefore need market regulations, the opposite of the WTO policies.
Agriculture trade "liberalisation" leads to crisis
The current crisis reveals that agricultural trade "liberalisation" leads to hunger and poverty.
Countries have become extremely dependant on global markets. In 1992, Indonesian farmers produced enough soya to supply the domestic market. Soya-based tofu and 'tempeh' are an important part of the daily diet throughout the archipelago. Following the neo-liberal doctrine, the country opened its borders to food imports, allowing cheap US soya to flood the market. This destroyed national production. Today, 60% of the soya consumed in Indonesia is imported. Record prices for US soya last January led to a national crisis when the price of 'tempeh' and tofu (the <<>>) doubled in a few weeks. The same scenario applies to many countries, for example for corn production in Mexico.
Deregulation and privatisation of safeguard mechanisms are also contributing to the current crisis. National food reserves have been privatised and are now run like transnational companies. They act as speculators instead of protecting farmers and consumers. Likewise, guaranteed prize mechanisms are being dismantled all over the world as part of the neo-liberal policies package, exposing farmers and consumers to extreme price volatility.
Time for Food Sovereignty!
Due to the expected growth of world population until 2050 and the need to face climate change, the world will have to produce more food in the years to come. Farmers are able to meet that challenge as they have done in the past. Indeed, the world population doubled in the past 50 years but farmers have increased cereal production even faster.
Via Campesina believes that in order to protect livelihoods, jobs, people's health and the environment, food has to remain in the hands of small scale sustainable farmers and cannot be left under the control of large agribusiness companies or supermarket chains. GMOs and industrial agriculture will not provide healthy food and will further deteriorate the environment. For example, the new "Green Revolution" pushed by AGRA in Africa (new seeds, fertilizers and irrigation at large scale) will not solve the food crisis. It will deepen it. On the other hand, recent research shows that small organic farms are at least as productive as conventional farms, some estimates even suggest that global food production could even increase by as much as 50% with organic agriculture (3).
To avoid a major food crisis, governments and public institutions have to adopt specific policies aimed at protecting the production of the most important energy in the world: food!
Governments have to develop, promote and protect local production in order to be less dependent on world food prices. This implies the right for any country or union to control food imports and the duty to stop any form of food dumping.
They also have to set up (or to maintain) supply management mechanisms such as buffer stocks and guaranteed floor prices to create stable conditions for producers.
According to Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina and leader of the Indonesian Peasant's Union, << farmers need land to produce food for their own community and for their country. The time has come to implement genuine agrarian reforms to allow family farmers to feed the world. >>.
Ibrahim Coulibaly, president of the National Coordination of Peasant's organisation in Mali said: <Increasing food imports will only make us more dependent on the brutal fluctuations of the world market >>.
Via Campesina believes that the solution to the current food price crisis lies in food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right of their governments to define the food and agriculture policies of their countries, without damaging agriculture of other countries. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture and food production.
For more information and to interview world farmers leaders in Rome:Via Campesina delegation in Rome: +393487276117
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Les Chambres d'Agriculture - France: http://paris.apca.chambagri.fr/
(2) Grain: www.grain.org
(3) "Shattering Myths: Can sustainable agriculture feed the world?": www.foodfirst.org
International Operational Secretariat
La Via Campesina - International Secretariat:
Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV No. 5 Jakarta Selatan, Jakarta 12790 Indonesia
Phone : +62-21-7991890, Fax : +62-21-7993426
E-mail: email@example.com, Website: http://www.viacampesina.org
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Article by Robert Kaplan, a former US military officer. He thinks that the only thing poor people of Bangladesh have against the US is that it walked out of the Kyoto protocol. He also thinks that climate change (not Northern imperialism) is the key mover of Islamic fundamentalism. Read and learn.
There are a couple of good paragraphs though, where he talks about Bangladeshi NGOs.
Friday, February 15, 2008
By the way, the parenthesis are mine.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
So no blogging about food for today. I've lost my appetite.
From a study by the Ministry of Economy, published in Al Akhbar, the best newspaper around.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
"Soil scientist Daniel Richter at Duke University in Durham, N.C., would agree. In an announcement of his work last month, he explained that human-induced changes to the world's soils are enough in themselves to justify saying we have entered the "Anthropocene (or man-made) age." He notes, "With more than half of all soils on Earth now being cultivated for food crops, grazed, or logged for wood, how to sustain Earth's soils is becoming a major scientific and policy issue."
He adds, "If humanity is to succeed in the coming decades, we must interact much more positively with the great diversity of Earth's soils."
Dr. Richter cites Africa as an example of this challenge. There, widespread farming without nutrient recycling threatens continent-wide soil infertility. He adds that, globally, "expanding cities, industries, mining, and transportation systems all impact soil in ways that are far more permanent than cultivation." Richter is part of an international group that has set up the first global long-term soil research network. This will help develop the knowledge needed for worldwide soil management." (Thanks D.)
The study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that the calorie-free artificial sweetener appeared to break the physiological connection between sweet tastes and calories, driving the rats to overeat."
These events, unrelated though they seem, illustrate a common point: that despite all the recent fuss around local food, the globalized food system, far from losing strength, continues to gain traction. " (Thanks D.)
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"I can't export to Israel anymore because of their restrictions. We can't export to Gaza, because of the closure there. I can't export to Jordan because I don't have [an Israeli-issued] permit," he said, adding that he could only sell within the West Bank, but even there some markets were hard to reach due to checkpoints." (Thanks Marcy)
Probably the only place where agriculture is worse off than in Lebanon.
Classic Monbiot, a great read.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I have promised myself not to write about Lebanese politics on this blog unless the situation is so bad that it cannot be ignored, like during the Nahr el Bared crisis. These days, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a blog that's just about development and food politics. But tension is really high, with a mega demonstration in memory of Hariri the father being planned with enormous media investments for February 14. Everybody is hoping things will not slip out of hand and that the whole thing won't end in street battles. I personally do not think this will happen.
The celebratory shooting had, however, another result than the intended show of force and readiness by the Loyalist: it undermined the neutrality of the Lebanese army, and it may very possibly have given the Opposition another excuse not to trust Michel Sleiman, the current Army Chief, who is to be the next "consensually elected" president. The public in the areas dominated by the Opposition, as well as the parents of the young people who died during Black Sunday's demonstrations, are asking why did the army not arrest the thugs who were going around Beirut shooting in the air, and in one case, shooting at the Internal Security Forces guarding the house of the speaker of the parliament (these were arrested later), when this same army shot young men burning tires in the street. Since when, they say, is burning tires in the street a deadly offense, while shooting in the streets with machine guns is acceptable.
What do the loyalists get from the escalation? There are many theories circulating (after all this is Beirut), one of them is that armed confrontation will force Hizbullah to address the difficult reality that it is heavily armed and that it promised "never to turn its arms towards Lebanon". Already its public is pressing for revenge for all those who have been killed either by the army, by Internal Security or by thugs. And even if Hizbullah can control its members, the Opposition is not exclusively made out of members of Hizbullah, and they are armed, like most other Lebanese. It will be difficult, for instance, to control the Amal people if they lose of few members to sniping or skirmishes. It is thought that armed confrontation will induce an internationalization of the crisis, which will push the "International Community" led by the US to interfere and appoint a sympathetic regime. The Maronite patriarch has already indicated that if the crisis goes on for longer, the UN should appoint a governor for Lebanon (or something to that effect).
Where is the Opposition in all that? Clearly, they are trying to avoid armed confrontations, because they will be the main (political) losers. Look at the events: Since February 14, 2005, car bombs have killed many loyalist politicians (and scores of innocent people who are not less important than the politicians), but it is almost exclusively Opposition sympathizers who have been killed in shooting incidents. They were killed by other civilians (assumed to be Loyalist thugs), the army, or internal security. And the Opposition has been able to control public anger and to prevent slippage into open war. There is a reason for that: Hizbullah will lose whatever credibility it still has as a resistance movement the moment it turns its weapons towards other Lebanese, and it will become just another sectarian militia. For many it still holds today the "resistance" high moral ground.
So what will happen if a "High Commissioner" is appointed, or if the loyalists elect a president with a 50% parliamentary majority? Among the various theories circulating is that the opposition will let things happen and will not confront heads-on any attempt to take over the government by the loyalists, with or without the help of the "International Community". Their offer to the loyalists is clear: either we rule together with veto power for all concerned parties (the President being one of them), or you rule on your own and bear responsibility for what happens later on in terms of economic regression and security degradation. A Loyalist regime will not be able to come to an agreement with Hizbullah over its weapons and it would be faced with the difficult choice of sending the army to get them or doing nothing. The military option would certainly be disastrous in terms of human and economic costs, and the army is not a clearly favored winner here. The "doing nothing" option does not appear to be acceptable to the "International Community", especially the US, who backed the loyalists in order to implement UN resolution 1559 calling for the disarmament of Hizbullah.
These scenarios all look pretty dramatic. However, the real drama is the fact that even if tomorrow Loyalists and Opposition come to an agreement, it will not change the reality for the average Lebanese. What is going on is just another round of push-pull for a further division of the country between different parties, many of whom are previous militias having demonstrated their destructive and criminal abilities throughout the 1975-1990 period. As usual, the geopolitical dynamics are put to good use by sects, confessions and their militias, in order to readjust the balance of power in Lebanon. This of course happens at the expenses of the Lebanese people, who is unfortunately taking active part in this tragedy: when Loyalists or Opposition are able to gather millions of people in the streets, there are not many Lebanese left out.
Meanwhile, the livelihoods of the people of Lebanon continue to crash, in spite of the money offered by the various parties (Saad Hariri pledged yesterday in Tripoli $53 millions in "charity", and it is no secret that Hizbullah also has a strong social program for its supporters). However, this money cannot solve much: compared to the needs, this is just scratching the surface, and it can only provide a temporary relief. There are things that only a state can do.
Look for instance at the situation of sanitation in Lebanon: A recent UN report indicates that 1/3 of the Lebanese do not have access to sanitation (no sewer systems!). Read the Arabic summary article here. Those who do have sewers are in cities, while the rural people are left without. This contributes to the infiltration of sewage into the groundwater, and contaminates the drinking water springs. But do not rejoice too quickly o city dwellers: there is NO wastewater treatment in Lebanon to speak of. All that is collected in the city sewers is thrown directly into the sea, near the shores, and then we swim in it. Many many NGOs have tried their hand at sanitation: it does not work, we need a state structure for that, and for a million reasons: economy of scale, but also sustainable maintenance.
Look also at the eternal issue of agricultural production and protectionism: I'm tired of talking about him, but at least he is consistent: the minister of Economy and (Free) Trade, Sami Haddad, is refusing to engage into talks with his Arab counterpart to allow Lebanon to establish an agricultural calendar to protect some of its production. Of course this is a form of protectionism, but the farmers argue: we have no state while all the other Arab countries have one, and we have always been neglected and the government does not do its duties in research, extension, credit and legislations for land access. So, they say, we should ask for special favored treatment. Haddad, will however prevail, apparently and according to this article, he blackmails the government into accepting his ultra liberal policies by threatening to resign, which would have very bad consequences on a government that's already hanging by a thread.
As if it was only the government that is hanging by a thread.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
"El-Baz, the director of the US-based Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing, has been advising the Gulf states on science for over three decades, participating in nearly every science and research initiative in the region.
So far, those initiatives have largely failed to bear fruit. "The state of science in this region remains terrible," says El-Baz.
After several unsuccessful attempts in the 1970s to bring scientists into the kingdom, Saudi Arabia is experimenting with an unorthodox model.
The country is looking at supporting foreign researchers at their home institutions worldwide through the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a graduate-level university — and Saudi Arabia's first co-educational institution — due to open on the shores of the Red Sea in 2009. The catch is that the grants will only go, at least initially, to research areas of interest to Saudi Arabia."
And what a great catch it is...for the subcontracted universities in the North! This is the new face of Arab-Islamic Science: pay someone else to do it somewhere else. La science de l'absurde.
Full article here.
This Islamic-inspired agrarian movement reached its apogee in the twelfth century in the person of Ibn-el-Beithar of Malaga, also known as Ennabâty (the botanist).In the words of Stanley Lane-Poole in 1886: "The land deprived of skillful irrigation of the Moors, grew impoverished and neglected… and most of the populous cities which had filled every district in Andalusia, fell into ruinous decay; and beggars, friars, and bandits took the place of scholars, merchants and knights.""
Opinion piece on Muslim agriculture by Denis Murphy. I like these historical pieces, but only for their intellectual benefit, and NOT as a way of evading acknowledgment of the current technological torpor of the overwhelming majority of Arab/Muslim countries. Of course, Islam in the sense used in this piece does not refer to Arabs only, nor does it refer to Muslims only. Many of the great "Muslim" scientists where non-Muslims.
- "Fully 60 percent of global executives surveyed by The McKinsey Quarterly regard climate change as strategically important, and a majority consider it important to product development, investment planning, and brand management.
- Fewer companies, however, act on these opinions. More than one-third of executives say their companies seldom or never consider climate change when developing overall strategy.
- Nonetheless, executives express optimism about the business prospects of addressing climate change. Sixty-one percent expect the issues associated with climate change to boost profits—if managed well.
- Despite the uncertainties around regulation, a remarkable 82 percent of executives expect some form of climate change regulation in their companies’ home country within five years." (Thanks D.)
Saturday, February 9, 2008
"A Mississippi lawmaker proposed to ban restaurants from serving fat people. Bill text: 1) Restaurants "shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese." 2) "The State Department of Health shall monitor [compliance] and may revoke the permit of any food establishment that repeatedly violates" this rule. Rationales: 1) Mississippi has the nation's highest obesity rate. 2) "Mississippi's obesity rate cost Medicaid alone $221 million each year." Objections: 1) "The food police have gone too far." 2) "It's discriminatory." 3) The state should focus on promoting exercise instead. 4) "Some people are big and happy." 5) "I've seen a lot of crazy laws, but this one takes the cake. Literally." Sponsor's rebuttal: I'm just trying to highlight the problem. Human Nature's view: Banning people from restaurants based on appearance. In Mississippi. Great idea. (Related: The war on junk food; the war on trans fats; the war on soda; the war on salt.)
Fat people are less medically expensive than other people over a lifetime, according to a Dutch study. Findings: 1) Fat people cost more per year than smokers or nonfat nonsmokers do, but only up to age 56. 2) After that, smokers cost more. However, 3) fat people and smokers die earlier (by 4 and 7 years, respectively). Net result: "Lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers," with fat people in between. Conclusion: "Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures." Critiques: 1) The study didn't include non-medical costs, such as lost productivity. 2) If saving money is our overriding goal, let's promote quick killers such as lung cancer. Old argument for the war on fat: Fat costs everyone money. New argument for the war on fat: Fat's costs are "immeasurable." (Related: Financial penalties for fat employees; obesity and responsibility; the war on smoking.)"
I love this section in Slate (Thanks D. and I've kept your title it is just too good.)
The Washington mind-set also prefers military approaches to developmental ones. The U.S. has supported the Ethiopian army in a military incursion into Somalia. It has pushed for military forces to stop the violence in Darfur. It has armed the clans in the deserts of western Iraq and now proposes to arm pastoralist clans in Pakistan along the Afghan border." (Thanks D.)
Jeffrey Sachs in Scientific American on the dryland predicament.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Another article on the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris by Dina Hashmat in which she says: "Of course he loves Egypt, which country could have made him richer?" (he is number 62 in Forbes list of billionaires 2007). Worth reading if you are interested in token "good" gestures of cut-throat capital.
And then there is this Washington Post article on the Egyptian government appropriating farmer's land on the Island of Gold, a small island populated with farmers who feed much of Cairo with grain, dairy and vegetables. The purpose: urban development- investments that benefit a precious few. This is what the farmers think of it:
""We will die to protect this land," said Ashraf Kamal, a 46-year-old farmer.
"We will die, and they will die, too," said Um Khaled, 56, a woman with chapped, round cheeks sitting in a reed hut lit by bars of sunlight. "
And you know what the sad thing is? They probably will...
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Part of the reason for that slide from self-sufficiency was a rapidly growing population that outpaced production capabilities. Throughout the 1980s the Iraqi government heavily subsidized agricultural production. But by the mid-1990s economic problems related to international sanctions ended much of that support, and lack of resources such as fertilizer, farm machinery and pesticides meant production dropped. Also, water pumps and irrigation canals -- which are essential to most farming in the country and which must be cleaned and repaired each year -- were neglected, leading to problems with soil salinity.
Some U.S. and international organizations are working to help rehabilitate Iraq's agricultural infrastructure.
Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service has sent employees to Iraq to serve on Provincial Reconstruction Teams -- groups of civilians that work with military units on reconstruction projects. As of late January, 23 USDA agricultural advisers were working across Iraq." (thanks D.)
Don't you just love how they break everything and then make you pay for fixing it? What did Klein call it again? Disaster capitalism? And now they have "embedded professional development experts" with the army. I blogged about these earlier.
Read the article for the list of projects that are supposed to change the face of food sovereignty in Iraq. Example: A beekeeper association in a town. Those people have no imagination! This is exactly the same kind of projects they set up in Lebanon and elsewhere through over paid and overfed US NGOs and then claim it as a contribution to sustainable livelihoods. This is smaller than a pin prick. And rest assured that in the absence of a strong state that builds infrastructure (destroyed by the war) and supports the establishment of agricultural inputs factories (bombed by the US) and agrofood industries (destroyed by the war too), there can be no salvation. Not to sound conspiratory, but look how beautifully designed: Northern NGOs get multi millions contracts to teach the date growers how to grow dates, everybody celebrates the achievement of the token civil society group (this falls under the general label: "Democracy"), and the millions of Iraqis who have not yet been made refugees continue to consume the products imported from the North paying for it high prices from oil sales. Who said the the oil-for-food program has ended?
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I'm not a supporter of the classical food security idea, and some degree of trade is necessary and healthy, but to be that dependent on food imports is just plain stupid. With the increase in demand for grain-fed meat in China and the high demand for cereals in many Arab countries and considering the limited world food supplies, the poorer Arab countries will soon be competing with Chinese livestock for their staple. Way to go.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Dr. Lynfield hopes to find the cause. But she said: “I don’t know that we will have the definitive answer. I suspect we will be able to rule some things out, and will have a sense of whether it seems like it may be due to an autoimmune response. I think we’ll learn a lot, but it may take us a while. It’s a great detective story.”"
Workers getting sick from contact with pork brains in meat packing plants: what a great opportunity for a whodunit.
What is GranOS for?
The objective of GranOS is to describe and protect the genetic, morphological, and physiological characteristics of conservation plant varieties, along with their known food and non-food uses.
In this respect it resembles the aims of the CGIAR network, but with one important difference: the varieties are conserved “in vivo” and not “ex-situ” or even “in vitro”. By “ex-situ” conservation we mean conservation outside the exact place of origin in centers of the above network, with periodical sowing of seed material to prevent loss of terminability. With the GranOS project, seeds remain “in situ”, in farms, houses and fields, as well as in existing germplasm banks and collections of seed saver associations, who in recent decades have done fundamentally important, invaluable work. In addition to the other information about a seed which will be placed online, GranOS will also indicate where it can be obtained and who uses it to produce products based on it. In this way GranOS will not only be an instrument for conservation and cataloging, but also an instrument for promoting food products based on the seeds.
Such attitudes aren't just a thing of the past. In fact, Kaufman argues, the views of the organic food movement aren't much different from Mather's. He reports on a "subversive" group of New Yorkers who swear by unpasteurized milk, which is not only "totally forbidden" but just might give you tuberculosis. Such raw-food devotees, he writes, are "postmodern Puritans" intent on "banishing all traces of pollution from their digestive tracts and every last antibiotic from all the world's food supply." Kaufman, however, is suspicious: There's just too much danger lurking in all that so-called purity." (Thanks D.)
A review of Kaufman's book: "A Short History of the American Stomach". I haven't read the book, but there is more than puritanism in the food movement: some would call it fundamentalism.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Seven years ago, the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature started its campaigns for
"From the Besieged Farmer to the Besieged Family" Campaign -
- Preparing food baskets consisting of foodstuffs and produce bought from farmers and distributing them among needy families, which have lost their livelihoods due to invasions, closures and the resulting deaths and loss of jobs among family providers.
- The baskets contain locally produced cheese, palm dates, thyme, strawberry juice, tomato, cucumber, potato, cabbage, onion and cauliflower
- Required amount: $200,000 - $70 per basket (2,130 baskets for 2,130 families)
"They Uproot One Tree.We Plant Ten" Campaign - reclamation and planting of destroyed agricultural lands in
· Today, more than 80% of
· The project will contribute to planting more than 20,000 trees in the destroyed lands.
· Required amount for rehabilitation and planting: $100,000
The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature
Tele: 5673331, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: 5699777, P.O.Box 811815 Amman - 11181 Jordan
Bank Account for the trees planting campaign JD 0128/258383-6/500
Swift code: ARABJOAX128
Arab Bank, Gardens Branch/
This is a message I have received from Gaza.