CORRECTED VERSION: Struggle for the Future of Food

Civil Society, Climate Change, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Global Governance, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 10 2021 (IPS) – Producers and consumers seem helpless as food all over the world comes under fast growing corporate control. Such changes have also been worsening environmental collapse, social dislocation and the human condition.


Longer term perspective
The recent joint report – by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and the ETC Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration – is ominous, to say the least.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

A Long Food Movement, principally authored by Pat Mooney with a team including IPES-Food Director Nick Jacobs, analyses how food systems are likely to evolve over the next quarter century with technological and other changes.

The report notes that ‘hi-tech’, data processing and asset management corporations have joined established agribusinesses in reshaping world food supply chains.

If current trends continue, the food system will be increasingly controlled by large transnational corporations (TNCs) at the expense of billions of farmers and consumers.

Big Ag weds Big Data
The Davos World Economic Forum’s (WEF) much touted ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (IR4.0), promoting digitisation, is transforming food systems, accelerating concentration in corporate hands.

New apps enable better tracking across supply chains, while ‘precision farming’ now includes using drones to spray pesticides on targeted crops, reducing inputs and, potentially, farming costs. Agriculture is now second only to the military in drone use.

Digital giants are working with other TNCs to extend enabling ‘cloud computing’ infrastructure. Spreading as quickly as the infrastructure allows, new ‘digital ag’ technologies have been displacing farm labour.

Meanwhile, food data have become more commercially valuable, e.g., to meet consumer demand, Big Ag profits have also grown by creating ‘new needs’. Big data are already being used to manipulate consumer preferences.

With the pandemic, e-retail and food delivery services have grown even faster. Thus, e-commerce platforms have quickly become the world’s top retailers.

New ‘digital ag’ technologies are also undermining diverse, ecologically more appropriate food agriculture in favour of unsustainable monocropping. The threat is great as family farms still feed more than two-thirds of the world’s population.

IR4.0 not benign
Meanwhile, hi-tech and asset management firms have acquired significant shareholdings in food giants. Powerful conglomerates are integrating different business lines, increasing concentration while invoking competition and ‘creative disruption’.

The IPES-ETC study highlights new threats to farming and food security as IR4.0 proponents exert increasing influence. The report warns that giving Big Ag the ‘keys of the food system’ worsens food insecurity and other existential threats.

Powerful corporations will increase control of most world food supplies. Big Ag controlled supply chains will also be more vulnerable as great power rivalry and competition continue to displace multilateral cooperation.

There is no alternative?
But the report also presents a more optimistic vision for the next quarter century. In this alternative scenario, collaborative efforts, from the grassroots to the global level, empower social movements and civil society to resist.

New technologies are part of this vision, from small-scale drones for field monitoring to consumer apps for food safety and nutrient verification. But they would be cooperatively owned, open access and well regulated.

The report includes pragmatic strategies to cut three quarters of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and shift US$4 trillion from Big Ag to agroecology and food sovereignty. These include “$720 billion in subsidies” and “$1.6 trillion in healthcare savings” due to malnutrition.

IPES-ETC also recommends taxing junk food, toxins, carbon emissions and TNC profits. It also urges criminal prosecution of those responsible for famine, malnutrition and environmental degradation.

Food security protocols are needed to supercede trade and intellectual property law, and not only for emergencies. But with food systems under growing stress, Big Ag solutions have proved attractive to worried policymakers who see no other way out.

Last chance to change course
Historically, natural resources were commonly or publicly shared. Water and land have long been sustainably used by farmers, fisherfolk and pastoralists. But market value has grown with ‘property rights’, especially with corporate acquisition.

Touted as the best means to achieve food security, corporate investments in recent decades have instead undermined remaining ‘traditional’ agrarian ecosystems.

Big Ag claims that the food, ecological and climate crises has to be addressed with its superior new technologies harnessing the finance, entrepreneurship and innovation only they can offer.

But in fact, they have failed, instead triggering more problems in their pursuit of profit. As the new food system and corporate trends consolidate, it will become increasingly difficult to change course. Very timely, A Long Food Movement is an urgent call to action for the long haul.

Food systems summit
According to Marchmont Communications, “writing on behalf of the UN Food Systems Summit secretariat”, the “Summit was originally announced on 16 October 2019 by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and was conceived following conversations with the joint leadership of the three Rome-based United Nations agencies…at the High-level Political Forum in July 2019”.

On 12 June 2019, ‘Inspiration Speaker’ David Nabarro announced to the annual EAT Stockholm conference that a World Food Systems Summit (WFSS) would be held in 2021. The following day, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Office of the UN Secretary-General.

It stirred up so much controversy that the MOU was later removed from the website of the WEF, hardly reputed for its modesty. Unsurprisingly, many believe that the WEF “pressed the Summit onto a reluctant UN Secretary-General”, and can be traced to its Food Systems Initiative.

Apparently, initial arrangements had bypassed the Rome-based UN food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Their heads were then consulted and brought on board in July 2019.

With so much at stake, representatives of food producers and consumers need to act urgently to prevent governments from allowing a UN sanctioned corporate takeover of global governance of food systems.

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A CONVERSATION WITH PROFESSOR PAUL ZELEZA, PART 4

 Education, Culture, and Philosophy 

PART A

THE INTERVIEW

 

(Unedited transcript)

 

What was your college education like?

 

I remember my college years with great fondness. This is not just the nostalgia of aging, or because my experiences were necessarily all positive, but because I grew up in so many ways personally, intellectually, creatively, and politically. To begin with, it was a great privilege to be selected for university. At that time the country had only the University of Malawi and in that year two classes were combined for university entry, those who sat the last Cambridge school leaving certificate and those who sat the first Malawi Certificate of Education. I was among the latter. Altogether, Chancellor College, the main campus of the university, admitted 120 students. The names of the selected students were announced on national radio and in the newspaper. So our families and even neighborhoods or villages and districts where the students came from celebrated. It was truly exhilarating.

College had its great fun moments. There were the parties, learning to drink alcohol, dating, and making friends some of which have lasted to this day. We felt and were made to feel special. In 1973, we moved from Blantyre to a brand new campus in Zomba. Everything was immaculate, the grounds well-manicured, the food in the cafeteria delicious and abundant. Visiting the campus in 2014 to give a keynote address marking 50 years of Malawi’s independence was shocking: the campus looked dilapidated from years of neglect. My son expressed disbelief that this is the campus I had talked about so fondly over the years. As one of my colleagues in Kenya put it at a conference on higher education in Nairobi several years ago, for our generation going to university was like going to a five-star hotel; for the current generation of students it’s like going to prison as far as their crowded and dilapidated accommodations are concerned.

Given the small composition of our class in which everyone was an A student, all through the next four years it was extremely competitive. At that time if you failed one course you were thrown out, “weeded” as it was called. Out of the 120 students only 65 of us graduated. The gender imbalance was highly pronounced. There were only 28 female students in our cohort. This of course negatively affected our dating opportunities on campus as young men!

Our classes were very small usually no more than a dozen students, which meant intense engagements with our lecturers and very high expectations. I remember in my English classes—I majored in English and History— for each class we were expected to read a novel a week. Our lecturers consisted of young Malawians who had recently received their PhDs abroad and an assortment of expatriate academics, especially from Britain and the United States, and some from Zimbabwe, South Africa, and even Russia and Canada.

The rigor was so high that those of us who proceeded to graduate school in Europe or North America found our graduate studies plain sailing. My generation of academics was well trained. Unfortunately, one can’t say the same for more recent graduates from many African Universities, some of which are no better than glorified high schools. My undergraduate experience informed my teaching philosophy in later years as a professor: I set very high expectations for my students as I believe students don’t rise to low expectations. Setting rigorous standards is not only an educational imperative, it is also an ethical imperative in so far as university education offers the only opportunity for students from poorer backgrounds to acquire the social capital essential for their personal and professional success and the opportunity to transform the lives of their families and communities.

At that time, lecturers were solid members of the burgeoning middle class, so as students we not only admired them as academics, but they showed us becoming an academic was not equivalent to making a vow of poverty as it became in the devastating years of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) in the 1980s and 1990s that wrecked African universities. From our second year, my closest friends and I started calling each other Doc, convinced we would follow the path of our lecturers by getting PhDs. And all of us did become Docs!

The early and mid-1970s was a period of great intellectual ferment for our newly decolonized nations. Universities were seen as custodians and creators of the national intelligentsia. They were producers of professionals for the Africanization or indigenization of the civil service, parastatals and the economy more generally. But the euphoria of independence was fading, and discontent with the failed promises of uhuru were rising. So as students we were increasingly drawn to radical literature informed by Marxist perspectives to explain the contradictions of our societies, between the proverbial richness of Africa’s natural resources and the grinding poverty of its peoples.

I remember the electrifying impact reading Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa published in 1972 had on our collective imaginations and radicalization against European imperialism and colonialism and their neo-colonial legacies. In my English classes we read Frantz Fanon’s trenchant treatise on the deforming psychological effects of colonialism in Black Skin, White Masks and his searing indictment of the African ruling elites in The Wretched of the Earth. We were exposed to great African, American and European literatures. For American literature, what left an indelible imprint were the novels of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin, as well as the autobiographies of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, among others.

My generation were undergraduates when the honeymoon between universities and the postcolonial state was waning. Student activism was strongly discouraged in Malawi under its authoritarian one-party state. You couldn’t trust anyone as the ruling party had eyes and ears everywhere even in our classrooms and dormitories. Things became so bad that several of our lecturers and even some students were arrested and put in political detention. Often, these arrests represented the politicization and externalization of internal professional and ethnic rivalries. They made students fearful and influenced the decisions of some of us to remain abroad after completing our graduate studies.

However, this climate of fear also taught some of us resilience and the need to undertake resistance in subtle and strategic ways by adopting a kind of intellectual guerrilla warfare. I turned my energies to creative writing. I stumbled into creative writing almost by accident in my first semester of my first year when one of our English lecturers, Dr. Felix Mnthali, gave us an assignment to write a short story. Not only did I get an A for the story, he invited me to have it read on the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation for a program that he runs called the Writers’ Corner. After that I became a regular on the program for the next four years of my undergraduate studies. For each program we were paid MK10, so in a month I would sometimes make up to MK40. This was a lot of money in those days considering that our monthly stipend as students from the government was MK6 and civil servants made about MK100. This taught me financial self-reliance and that if you do well in the work you love financial rewards will eventually come.

On campus we formed the Writers’ Workshop that met once a week in the evening at which budding short story writers, novelists, poets, and playwrights discussed each other’s work guided by our lecturers. In my second year, a few of us founded the Malawi Writers Series under the auspices of one of the country’s leading presses. The first book to be published in the series was my collection of short stories written in 1974 when I was 19 entitled, Night of Darkness and Other Stories. In my creative writing, like that of my colleagues, we learnt to use allegory and subtlety to critique the regime. When my collection of short stories was submitted to the Censorship Board for clearance, I was invited by the chairman of the Board, a thick and gruffly man, who demanded the removal of six of the stories unless I wanted to be accused of subversion and go to jail “like that subversive Nigerian, Wole Soyinka,” he said.

It took a lot of persuasion from my English lecturers to proceed with the publication of the book, which I felt was mutilated. They convinced me that it was important I begin my writing career by getting published, that I would have plenty of time to write what I wanted. They were right. A few years later, as a graduate student, I wrote my novel, Smoldering Charcoal, a bitter commentary on the aborted dreams of post-colonial Africa. This experience taught me that the cost of writing was not a bad critic’s review, but possibly your very life. It emboldened me, drove me into self-imposed exile, and reinforced my opposition to the pernicious tyrannies of the postcolonial state.

Why did you become an academic?

It’s quite simple, really. At the heart of it all is curiosity. I’ve always had this insatiable curiosity, this hunger to know, to discover why things became and are what they are, and how they can be changed for the better. Two people captured this abiding quest for understanding, for knowledge quite pithily for me. One was an African American artist who I met in Oman in 2009 while doing research for my global African diaspora project. As he showed me and my research facilitator his spacious and tastefully furnished house, we went to his bedroom and on the side tables by the bed several books were open. I remarked that he seemed to read a lot. He smiled and said, “Every day, I want to know what I did not know yesterday.” He was 94. He captured my condition, the continuous search for knowledge, the endless quest to know.

The other was a guru from India, Jaggi Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, who mesmerized a group of people who gathered at the home of the Chancellor of my university, Manu Chandaria, the renowned Kenyan industrialist and philanthropist, a few years ago. Sadhguru said he was driven by a deep sense of ignorance, which forced him to constantly strive for the enlightenment of knowledge. He noted that people who are aware about their ignorance are less certain, less rigid, and less judgmental of others, more humble, more respectful, and more accommodating of otherness. Intolerance, he said, and conflicts and wars are often fomented by those who don’t recognize their ignorance and fervently believe in their self-righteousness.

Thus, I became an academic because of my enduring craving to know arising out of a deep sense of ignorance. I was inspired by my teachers, lecturers and professors, who progressively turned me into a more informed citizen of my multiple worlds. I admired my academic mentors, their lives of the mind, their ability to produce and disseminate knowledges that enlightened students and society. What could be better than pursuing such a career, a vocation really, of constant discovery, contemplation, and public conversation, a life of teaching and learning, research and scholarship, public engagement and service, invention and innovation—the four missions of higher education? And to get paid for it, earn a decent living reading, writing, and talking!

You have been at many universities in different countries, what has that been like?

It’s been an amazing journey of opportunities for personal and professional growth. There have of course challenges as well. However, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the experiences of studying and working at a dozen universities in six countries on three continents and the Caribbean region. Every time I went to a new country and joined a new institution, I was challenged to get out of the familiarities of my comfort zone, which stretched my intellectual, emotional, and cultural bandwidth. It forced me to develop tolerance and resilience, as well as coping mechanisms tailored to each context. The result is that I’m often comfortable wherever I am; I fully inhabit and embrace each space and moment. Without sounding grandiose, these institutional and intellectual sojourns have made me a citizen of Africa, the diaspora, and the world, which has enriched my life immeasurably.

Moreover, having been at all sorts of universities, both public and private, large and small, research intensive and teaching intensive, old and new, secular and religious affiliated, national and provincial, international and local, and in developed and developing countries I have come to understand higher education in its dizzying complexities and contradictions, possibilities and pitfalls which has nourished both my scholarship and administrative leadership. I have carried the intellectual imprint of each spatial, temporal and institutional encounter into an ever-expanding repertoire of scholarly production and political engagements.

These rich and diverse multinational and multi-institutional encounters have progressively extended the disciplinary and interdisciplinary landscapes of my scholarship and activist passions. So, I write unapologetically about any subject, country, or world region I choose to focus on, about mundane local issues and pressing global challenges, and freely borrow insights from the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. In embracing the life of an anchored cosmopolitan intellectual, I have become free from many of the confines of academic systems and cultures, of narrow and national specializations.

In each country and institution, I have lived and worked in I have been struck by the differences, but more often than not by the similarities. I have encountered generous and mean people, bigots and liberals, internationalists, nationalists and nativists, and sexists, racists and fundamentalists, as well as feminists, non-racialists and ecumenicals. In the academy I have seen the insecure bullies, arrogant superstars, and institutional workhorses, conscientious and lazy academics, insufferable ideologues and inspiring intellectuals, authoritarian and tolerant administrators, and backward-looking reactionaries and forward focused progressives. I have come to a simple, almost banal conclusion: no country or institution has a monopoly on virtue or vice. I find this a reassuring testament to our common humanity.

PART B

INTERVIEW ANALYSIS AND REFLECTIONS

 BY TOYIN FALOLA

Seleza and family

Education, Culture, and Philosophy  

Having the opportunity to proceed to a tertiary level in the pursuit of academic excellence comes with varying degrees of celebration, especially when we consider the context where such experience happened. For Africans during the colonial and early postcolonial periods, it was beyond the acquisition of knowledge at an advanced level; it was also a marker of status in most countries. This is understandably logical when the circumstances that established the primacy of education are first factored in. The invading Europeans designed an educational system, popularly tagged “formal education,” away from the non-formal type available to Africans prior to the encounter. And because of this development, getting quality education was almost synonymous with being at par with the Europeans. As such, those who enrolled in schools were automatically seen as potential leaders and forerunners who would be saddled with the responsibility to oversee the affairs of the people and the country.

During the postcolonial time, it became redefined as showing why investment into an academic engagement was necessary and incumbent. Zeleza’s story shows the adrenaline feeling that comes with getting to the next level of education through admission into the tertiary institution.  As at the time Zeleza got admission into the higher institution of learning, there was only one university in the country, the University of Malawi. This further confirms the inviolability of education and its significance in constructing a new identity for the Malawians and Africans in general. Thus, it was inevitable that the values attached to scholarship and those involved in its pursuance increase self-worth and create in them a sense of pride. Zeleza recounts the happiness he felt when offered the opportunity to advance his career at the university level. It was a grand celebration rendered for the few individuals who had the opportunity to progress that far. Acquiring education at this level was inherently desirable because it showcased the students’ brilliance without them trumpeting it themselves.

However, the frenzy of going to school is only complemented by the personal dedication and abiding commitment of an individual to their educational course. While going to school automatically confers on an individual the privilege of being literate, it does not guarantee that they would be educated because being educated is not necessarily the same as being literate. Quite contrary, to be literate does not require much effort or dedication, just the ability to scribble down ideas sometimes in a coherent manner. To be educated, one needs more.

Educational brilliance is the aggregate of human intellectual culture displayed on the different phenomena and strange ideas. Experience has demonstrated that what we know as humans cannot be compared with what we do not know, as unraveling events show why we are still at the infancy of knowledge advancement. Therefore, as one great philosopher once asserted, learning continues from the day one draws their first breath to the day they draw the last.

Having a conversation with Zeleza would not only immediately fling open the depth of his educational culture but would also reveal his philosophical and ideological convictions about life in one swoop. Apart from being an incurably avid reader, Zeleza is insatiable in his pursuance of knowledge. Although his inelastic search for knowledge must have been understandably improved by his interaction with a well-established reader, Oman, an African-American man whom he met in 2009, Zeleza’s educational culture has been planted from the very days when he was introduced to the significance and importance of education, especially in transforming human lives and also in making the society a beautiful and better place. Reading has been conditioned to his lifestyle, and he has been able to travel to countries and cities without necessarily leaving his spatial setting. Zeleza has a working philosophy, and that is the understanding that each day provides a man with a fresh opportunity to learn those things they have not learned before. Moreover, because this requires increasing one’s inquisitive behavior generally, he cannot but be identified as an individual dedicated to exploring ideas at every given opportunity.

As an educated individual, Zeleza observed the emerging trends in Malawi’s educational system and identified the intergenerational gap in the management or envisioning of a better future. During the event to commemorate Malawi’s 50th independence anniversary, Zeleza gave a speech to express how traumatized he is by the obvious generational gap. He understands that something fundamental is wrong, and the dots are not difficult to connect. The generation who benefited immensely from the flowing advantages and promises associated with Africa’s political independence has shown a poor sense of management or an intellectual brainpower deficit, making it difficult to maintain the good academic culture they inherited. For example, the decline of infrastructural brilliance is attributed to the failure of contemporary leaders who cannot see the connection between the good and excellent management of the schools and the enhancement for productive youths. To illustrate, the system and culture that the generation managing these educational systems experienced gave them the necessary boost to make their lives better and improve themselves. Sadly, they cannot keep to the culture when they now occupy various leadership roles in the society.

Beyond the infrastructural dilapidation is the poor sense of human management displayed by the African government at different levels. Zeleza recalled that during his time as a student, the students’ population did not numerically explode the school’s capacity or overstretch their systems. The admission of students to ensure that the available materials were equitably managed was not because there were no individuals seeking to advance their educational pursuit beyond the high school, but because they prioritized the quality delivery of academic services than producing the number whose quality cannot be ensured. However, he was amazed by the disturbing numbers of students compacted in a classroom in the contemporary time, despite the exposure to more knowledge and information about the quality of education. The number of students in these classrooms makes it impossible for each of them to have a personal engagement with instructors as they would not only be unable to meet up with the numerical size of the students, they would also have been too exhausted in some cases when they intend to engage them. Meanwhile, there is a strong linkage between the production of quality graduates and their engagements with sound intellectuals in the form of their lecturers. Not admitting only the number that the school can adequately take care of overstretches the resources, and it comes with disheartening consequences for the people.

As an academic, this situation opens for Zeleza the opportunity to develop a worthwhile philosophical idea, and that is the imperative of increasing expectations and standards. Although the justification for the poor educational system in the contemporary time may be attached to dwindling economic prosperity and the simultaneous rise in numbers, what should be known, however, is that failure is always a willing companion of individuals who have failed to plan ahead. African leaders, it appears, are unconcerned about the transformation of the political and sociocultural conditions of the people but would pursue self-aggrandizement at whatever cost. Therefore, it is only logical that when the cacophony of greed submerges the voice of reason, the materials available for the advancement of the people’s collective development would be mismanaged. It was against joining the bandwagon that Zeleza developed the philosophy to increase the standards of his work and improve his work ethics. To do this, he placed a high demand on the students, as it was impossible that students who have been taken through the process would not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues from other socio-political backgrounds.

Undeniably, the decline of the country’s educational standards and systems came from the poor management of the people’s economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The previous generation had been groomed by educators who were self-sufficient financially, and their jobs as educators were their economic mainstay. They were models rather than riffraff, they were dream molders rather than dream killers, and because they were given strong socioeconomic positions in the society, they were able to groom and nurture individuals in ways that would benefit them and the society at large. The dwindling financial comfort of the post-independence time showed an accelerated reduction in the quality of the students in African universities in the contemporary time. Students were left to themselves, discouraged with no sign of their transformation or that of the society that educational institutions were meant to effect. Due to this abandonment, they failed to believe in the educational dream. Immediately Zeleza saw the shimmering connection, he was determined to imbibe a culture that would revolutionize the polity.

It appeared that the only instrument with which to engage this existential challenge is education, and Zeleza was ready. He became strong and focused, equipping himself with the knowledge of the environment and converting it to intellectually edible products that readers can masticate. Having been introduced to writing as an undergraduate, he created various ways of establishing himself in writing books. He networked his ways and writing career from the time in school, so that cross-fertilization of ideas became a given to him at that young age. Even when political representatives made governance seem bad and discouraging, he was determined to continue to make an impact through writing. He was undeterred by the pervasive political activities of leaders who prioritized their personal ambition above the collective interest of the people. He had no reason to bow to their pressure. Instead, he was motivated to revolutionize the polity by developing brilliant educational philosophy to confront the long-standing anomaly that had taken over the academic space. To positively affect the lives of others, one would need to demonstrate having sufficient qualities; therefore, for people like Zeleza, the best way to do this was to show that he was essentially gifted and would always make an

For Zeleza, being an academic developed from the overall examination of the significance of teachers in the shaping of identity for the society. Teachers occupy the cardinal position because without their expertise and constantly evolving knowledge, it would be difficult to project quality education into the younger ones on whose shoulders rest the responsibility of moving the world to a greater height. Academics are social scientists, and their laboratory of professional practice has always been the society. They study the cultural and political conditions of the society and give expert diagnoses, recommending the necessary and effective antidotes in areas where the people are seriously underperforming. To mentor people is an honorable profession that gives one the opportunity to see through the nakedness of people’s minds, the innocence of their ignorance, and the seriousness of their helplessness. When people have the mental fortitude and the intellectual capacity to arrive at this position, it means they have been equipped with the knowledge that would be useful for transforming human society. Education makes teachers learners because they improve their knowledge through the fluidity of knowledge and the unfixed nature of meanings. It is in the process of this self-discovery that individuals unlock the key to innovative ideas.

Education inspires an enduring quest for the accumulation of knowledge to better people’s lives and the environment. It automatically confers on individuals the prospect of becoming the intellectual brainpower of the society who engage in research for progressive scholarship. In the course of improving themselves academically, people begin to engage the society, and they are assured to arrive at the most important end by putting into practice the accumulated knowledge that they have gathered. This is why researchers are central to the attainment of excellence in human society. When they have undertaken quality research engagements, they turn to society to engage them with productive services. Even though the school is considered their primary catchment area, they use the larger society to test their knowledge and make notable contributions to its development. As a result, teaching is considered an outstanding career and a call from nature to serve the people and expand the horizon of human society. Teachers cannot be repaid sufficiently or remunerated in the proportion of the services they render to the society. It is impossible to have any aspect of human activity flourish without the impact of teachers. All these realizations informed Zeleza’s educational interest and developed an undefeated zeal in him.

Meanwhile the world itself is constantly evolving and expanding its terrains. Any people or civilization that wants to be in tune with the happenings of the modern time would have to also constantly improve their information generation capacity about their immediate environment and the distant places. This means that people’s success in contemporary times depends on their ability to expand their knowledge about themselves and the people who are culturally and politically different from them. This is necessary because the globalization agenda that has become part of the motivations and aspirations of the developed countries cannot be possible without having a good understanding of the world and their immediate environment.

In essence, it is demanded that for anyone to function maximally in the contemporary time, they would have to be multicultural in thinking, multidimensional in philosophy, diverse in political understanding, and also eclectic in human management approach. While it was an easy feat for people from the developed countries to understand the socioeconomic and sociopolitical trajectory of the world because of the efforts they have made in previous centuries to understand the world around them, Africans need an increased conscious effort in this regard. As such, many of us cannot but be involved in cross-country migrations to gain knowledge of the world and to help us shape the thinking of in-house Africans in our quest to build a competitive continent. Zeleza admits that this would particularly assist in human development needed so seriously to enhance Africa.

Seleza and Falola family at dinner in Nairobi, Kenya

Whereas the prospects of acquiring knowledge from different cultural backgrounds remain very glamorous, the sacrifice needed to enhance quality assurance is unarguably tough. While the people would be exposed to the market of ideas and philosophies used and practiced in the new environment, they would also have the challenges of cultural detachment from their indigenous culture and face other innumerable sociopolitical challenges. Getting an education in a diaspora environment is an added advantage for individuals from Africa, but the sacrifices are usually massive. The first challenge is how to develop a thick skin for the pervasive racial prejudices that would inundate them in the New World, and apart from this, they would need additional confidence to continue to showcase their African identity in a cultural environment where they are considered as the less privileged. Perhaps these are all the reasons the educational culture of Zeleza’s generation is notably different. Like him, many of them have been taken through the expanse of different cultures and have retained theirs regardless of the mounting pressure and predatory environment. In the process, several of them have to battle with identity crises because they could not delineate African sociopolitical identities from others. They were submerged by the pressure of host countries to modify their culture in the process of becoming.

However, for people like Zeleza, these various experiences have shaped his academic culture into an ever-expanding repertoire of knowledge production. These plural identities and diverse human experiences created a different version of him, informed his scholarly drive, and encouraged him to become the man he is, addressing biting issues and controversial topics that affect the continent and its people. It is impossible to have such an experience associated with Zeleza and not break these boundaries of intellectual limitations and academic confines that delimit the functionality of the human brain. He is eclectic and dives into local and international topics that have a bearing on the human development project so that issues that need utmost intellectual attention are not denied because of the narrow specializations that humans have formulated.

People are different culturally and religiously, as they are diverse politically. Therefore, it is important to celebrate these differences in Zeleza’s academic engagement, showing the beauty and fecundity of human diversity. However, beyond this diversity, he sees similarities. He notices that most people in the world face similar socioeconomic challenges that continue to frustrate their efforts towards self-actualization. Moreover, because this has been carefully imported into the culture of the people, individuals who are confronted with similar conditions or challenges, rather than speak in unique voices, are divided by racial, cultural, and, more insidiously, political identities. In summary, there is no group of people with the monopoly of anything.

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US EX-POLICE OFFICER CONVICTED OF FLOYD MURDER SEEKS NEW TRIAL

Derek Chauvin, the white ex-policeman convicted of murdering African-American man George Floyd, asked on Tuesday for a new trial on claims of jury and prosecution misconduct.


The 45-year-old – who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in Minneapolis – faces up to 40 years in prison after being found guilty last month in a case that prompted a national reckoning on racial injustice and police brutality.

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued that his client did not get a fair trial due to publicity around the case, court and prosecution errors, as well as “race-based pressure” on the jury.


He also alleges that jurors should have been isolated during the trial and that the case could only get a fair hearing in a different place.

“The publicity here was so pervasive and so prejudicial before and during this trial that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings,” Nelson wrote.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Floyd family, fiercely opposed the motion on Twitter: “No. No. No. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.”

The filing came as the impartiality of a juror in the case has been called into question after a photo surfaced of him at an anti-racism rally.

Legal experts had said Chauvin’s defence attorney could potentially use the photo of juror Brandon Mitchell as grounds to appeal the verdict, though the matter was not mentioned in Tuesday’s pleading.

HIGH BAR OF JURY MISCONDUCT

In the photo, Mitchell, a 31-year-old Black man, is wearing a T-shirt with a picture of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr on it, as well as the words “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” and the letters “BLM” for Black Lives Matter.

Mitchell is one of only two jurors who have publicly identified themselves since the high-profile trial.

In a questionnaire, potential jurors were asked if they had taken part in any of the protests against police brutality that followed Floyd’s May 25, 2020 death.

Mitchell said he had not and could serve impartially. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the photo was taken at a march he attended in Washington in August 2020 to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Jeffrey Frederick, a jury selection expert, said Mitchell’s answer may be “technically correct” since the Washington event was billed as a commemoration.

“It’ll be up to the judge to conduct questioning and to make a determination as to whether or not he felt that this juror was biased and, possibly, had lied during the course of voir dire or on the juror questionnaire,” Frederick told AFP.

The judge would then decide whether it “reaches a standard for affecting the outcome of the trial,” he said.

“The bar is high in terms of misconduct and the granting of a new trial,” he added. “Such determinations are rare.”

Steve Tuller, another jury selection expert, agreed.

“Judges do not want to declare mistrials, particularly in a case where there has been a verdict and given the special circumstances of this case,” Tuller said.

AFP

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Struggle for the Future of Food

Civil Society, Climate Change, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Global Governance, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Apr 27 2021 (IPS) – Producers and consumers seem helpless as food all over the world comes under fast growing corporate control. Such changes have also been worsening environmental collapse, social dislocation and the human condition.

Longer term perspective
The recent joint report – by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and the ETC Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration – is ominous, to say the least.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram

A Long Food Movement, principally authored by Pat Mooney with a team including IPES-Food Director Nick Jacobs, analyses how food systems are likely to evolve over the next quarter century with technological and other changes.

The report notes that ‘hi-tech’, data processing and asset management corporations have joined established agribusinesses in reshaping world food supply chains.

If current trends continue, the food system will be increasingly controlled by large transnational corporations (TNCs) at the expense of billions of farmers and consumers.

Big Ag weds Big Data
The Davos World Economic Forum’s (WEF) much touted ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (IR4.0), promoting digitisation, is transforming food systems, accelerating concentration in corporate hands.

New apps enable better tracking across supply chains, while ‘precision farming’ now includes using drones to spray pesticides on targeted crops, reducing inputs and, potentially, farming costs. Agriculture is now second only to the military in drone use.

Digital giants are working with other TNCs to extend enabling ‘cloud computing’ infrastructure. Spreading as quickly as the infrastructure allows, new ‘digital ag’ technologies have been displacing farm labour.

Meanwhile, food data have become more commercially valuable, e.g., to meet consumer demand, Big Ag profits have also grown by creating ‘new needs’. Big data are already being used to manipulate consumer preferences.

With the pandemic, e-retail and food delivery services have grown even faster. Thus, e-commerce platforms have quickly become the world’s top retailers.

New ‘digital ag’ technologies are also undermining diverse, ecologically more appropriate food agriculture in favour of unsustainable monocropping. The threat is great as family farms still feed more than two-thirds of the world’s population.

IR4.0 not benign
Meanwhile, hi-tech and asset management firms have acquired significant shareholdings in food giants. Powerful conglomerates are integrating different business lines, increasing concentration while invoking competition and ‘creative disruption’.

The IPES-ETC study highlights new threats to farming and food security as IR4.0 proponents exert increasing influence. The report warns that giving Big Ag the ‘keys of the food system’ worsens food insecurity and other existential threats.

Powerful corporations will increase control of most world food supplies. Big Ag controlled supply chains will also be more vulnerable as great power rivalry and competition continue to displace multilateral cooperation.

There is no alternative?
But the report also presents a more optimistic vision for the next quarter century. In this alternative scenario, collaborative efforts, from the grassroots to the global level, empower social movements and civil society to resist.

New technologies are part of this vision, from small-scale drones for field monitoring to consumer apps for food safety and nutrient verification. But they would be cooperatively owned, open access and well regulated.

The report includes pragmatic strategies to cut three quarters of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and shift US$4 trillion from Big Ag to agroecology and food sovereignty. These include “$720 billion in subsidies” and “$1.6 trillion in healthcare savings” due to malnutrition.

IPES-ETC also recommends taxing junk food, toxins, carbon emissions and TNC profits. It also urges criminal prosecution of those responsible for famine, malnutrition and environmental degradation.

Food security protocols are needed to supercede trade and intellectual property law, and not only for emergencies. But with food systems under growing stress, Big Ag solutions have proved attractive to worried policymakers who see no other way out.

Last chance to change course
Historically, natural resources were commonly or publicly shared. Water and land have long been sustainably used by farmers, fisherfolk and pastoralists. But market value has grown with ‘property rights’, especially with corporate acquisition.

Touted as the best means to achieve food security, corporate investments in recent decades have instead undermined remaining ‘traditional’ agrarian ecosystems.

Big Ag claims that the food, ecological and climate crises has to be addressed with its superior new technologies harnessing the finance, entrepreneurship and innovation only they can offer.

But in fact, they have failed, instead triggering more problems in their pursuit of profit. As the new food system and corporate trends consolidate, it will become increasingly difficult to change course.

Proposed by the WEF, the UN Secretary-General’s Food Systems Summit later this year clearly seeks to promote corporate ‘solutions’. Very timely, A Long Food Movement is an urgent call to action for the long haul.

With so much at stake, representatives of food producers and consumers need to act urgently to prevent governments from allowing a UN sanctioned corporate takeover of global governance of food systems.

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To Effectively Combat Climate Change, Listen and Act on Ideas from the Youth

Civil Society, Climate Change, Environment, Global, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Climate change, while affecting all of us, will be felt by the youth, who do not have an alternative planet. Credit: Miriet Abrego/IPS.

URBANA, Illinois, Apr 26 2021 (IPS) – Recently, I participated in Kids Climate Summit 2021, a virtual event that gave younger students an opportunity to take a stance on climate change, express their concerns, and learn about global climate and the actions we all can take to mitigate climate change. 


Among the other panelists were an elected Member of U.S. Congress, Rep Sean Casten, who serves on several House Committees including House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and House Science, Space, and Technology, an astrophysicist, Jeffrey Bennett, and a 19 year old climate justice activist, Jamie Margolin.

Listening to young people take a stance on climate change and hearing their well-articulated and very alarming concerns about the changing climate re-inspired my commitment to do my best and to keep calling on everyone to take action to ensure our younger generation inherits a livable planet

Over a month ago, I also participated in another webinar -broadening our horizons-organized by an Eighth grader who is passionate about educating communities on the climate crisis. Through her webinars, Nyla hopes to “amplify voices, to educate and inspire change.”

Listening to young people take a stance on climate change and hearing their well-articulated and very alarming concerns about the changing climate re-inspired my commitment to do my best and to keep calling on everyone to take action to ensure our younger generation inherits a livable planet.

Around the world, young people continue to speak up while demanding for actions by elected officials, Governments, Corporations and researchers like myself and everyday citizens. For example, last month, on March 19, the Fridays for Future climate activism movement, led by Greta Thunberg, organized a strike in 68 countries to call out World powers “empty promises” to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

Undoubtedly so, young people have a reason to be mad and to protest. Despite, countries setting goals, according to the United Nations Climate Change, recently published NDC Synthesis reportClimate Commitments are NOT on track to meet Paris Agreement Goals.

Governments, corporations and all stakeholders in climate change, must listen. Young voices ideas and demands must be acted upon.

To begin with, youth can be appointed as climate change youth envoys or in councils that can provide input to initiatives being rolled out to address climate change. The United Nations already has climate change youth envoys.

The White House under President Biden recently announced its environmental justice advisory 26 member’s council and among those appointed is an 18 year old, from New York, who has been engaged with climate crisis protests. He will have a seat at the table, helping give input to the American Government as it creates climate policies.  This should be the norm. As a matter of fact, all elected State Governors, Senators and corporations and other climate agencies that have advisory boards should include and appoint the youth. They deserve a seat at the table at all climate change.

Alternatively, governments and all stakeholders including corporations need to carve out spaces to bring youth and listen to their voices, ideas and demands. This is beginning to happen and it is commendable to see Presidents and Governments carving out spaces to include youth.

For example, recently the UK government, Italy and Singapore held a youth climate dialogue that was aimed at driving youth action and understanding their concerns on issues of sustainability and climate change. Moreover, the ideas brought forward need to be included in policy formulations. And if possible, youth should also be involved in disaster preparedness planning and response actions.

Importantly, institutions of higher learning and research centers where climate change research happens should do their best to ensure that the youth have recent information about the science and other developments in climate change.

Society at large would benefit from having youth that understand climate system and the initiatives governments are taking to mitigate it and know how to apply the most recent science in their engagement endeavors.

This calls for more scientists to not only do the research, but, communicate it in formats that are accessible. Doing so will ensure that young students and everyday citizens who want to be guided by science in taking climate action to have what they need.

It is encouraging to see professional societies where the scientists belong to actively rolling out science communication training workshops and events to ensure that scientists have numerous opportunities to learn how to communicate their science to the public.

Even better, scientific journals are beginning to cater for young students. For example, Frontiers for Young Minds is a journal publishing articles in format that are accessible to young students, because they are the ones who review the articles.

Climate change, while affecting all of us, will be felt by the youth, who do not have an alternative planet. Their voices must be heard, and their ideas incorporated in climate mitigation and adaptation policies. They must be involved at every level of taking action against climate change.

Dr. Esther Ngumbi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and a Senior Food Security Fellow with the Aspen Institute, New Voices.

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“Derek Chauvin’s Guilty Verdict Is A ‘Step Forward’ For Justice In America”, Joe Biden Says

The US President has welcomed a Minneapolis jury’s guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.


The former police officer was found guilty on all three charges and now faces up to 40 years behind bars.

Joe Biden said in a speech to the nation the trial has been tough for the Floyd family as well as black people all across the country.


The leader said the case unveiled the ‘the pain [and] the exhaustion that black Americans experience every single day’ and it also ‘ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism’.


Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Biden said: “Let’s also be clear, such a verdict is also much too rare.

“For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors, a brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a crowd that was traumatised, traumatised witnesses, a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for ultimately the whole world to see.

“Officers standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should be commended.

“A jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure.

“For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.

“No-one should be above the law and today’s verdict sends that message but it’s not enough. We can’t stop here.”

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Vice President Kamala Harris echoed those sentiments and hopes the verdict will set a precedent for the future.

“It is not just a black America problem or a people of colour problem. It is a problem for every American,” she said.

“It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all. It is holding our nation back from realising our full potential.

“We are all a part of George Floyd’s legacy and our job now is to honour it and to honour him.”

Chauvin had his bail revoked and has been remanded in custody until his sentencing hearing in eight weeks, which will determine how long he will stay behind bars.

The maximum sentence for second-degree unintentional murder is ‘imprisonment of not more than 40 years’, while the maximum sentence for third-degree murder is ‘imprisonment of not more than 25 years’.

The maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter, meanwhile, is 10 years and/or $20,000 (£14,000).The murder case against Chauvin drew to a close at Hennepin County Court this afternoon after going to jury.

Credit: PA

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