Category Archives: agronomy

Vandana Shiva vs. Gwynne Dyer on Democracy Now!

A Debate on Geoengineering: Vandana Shiva vs. Gwynne Dyer. Click to watch now. via Democracy Now! from July 8, 2010.

This is the Third World human-oriented liberation-minded eco-feminist versus the Western liberal dominion-of-technology man. They discuss the solutions of organic sustainable small-scale agriculture versus geo-engineering and pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere and what not as near-term mitigation for climate change. The honorable lady Vandana Shiva has been one of my premier heroines for quite some time now, and I will highlight her books and activism at some time in the near future. For now, watch. Obviously I side with the woman – because the man here is banking on the endurance of capitalism and centralized top-down solutions, while I bank on the inevitable collapse of land privatization, large-scale industrial monocultural agribusiness, and capitalism itself under the weight of global crisis and the rise of the organized masses to reclaim the planet sustainably and with longevity in mind.

Check it out and discuss – lots of food for thought and discussion in this brief clip from today’s Democracy Now.

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An Interview

The good folks over at La Terre d’abord or Earth First in France requested an e-mail interview with me the other day and sent over some good questions. Here are my responses, in case you won’t be able to understand it by the time it’s translated into French on their side. Please let me know what you think of these ideas – I’d really like some discussion and building out of this one.

—————————-

Comment allez vous?

Here is a response for our interview:

1.What is your website about?

“Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk” basically seeks to demonstrate that black vegans, including black raw vegans in particular, exist, are becoming visible, and are having relevant experiences and success as vegans across the African world, whether on the continent or in the diaspora. It also seeks to actualize and document the notion that being African and vegan is a critical and progressive part of our liberation struggle and the desire to humanize our existence while cherishing our singular and delicate planet.

2.How did you come about it?

I’ve been a vegan for eleven years now, and when I started this website in early 2008 I wanted to see more black vegan presence and commentary on the Internet, especially from the perspective of experienced, long-term, confident and determined vegans of color, not only blog diaries of 30-day trial vegans trying to lose weight, even though that is important as well. This blog represents an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacy, humanist, activist, radical environmentalist, Pan-Africanist, African-centered and third-world perspective that is hardcore, straight-edge and long on the scene. This is third-world veganism that is very engaged with society from the perspective that revolution is necessary and veganism is an empowering and liberating part of the human transformation necessary for the survival and progress of this primate species.

3.How do you see the culture that developped in Black Africa as connected to veganism?

I am not a practicing archaeologist or anthropologist in this matter, but much anecdotal and historical evidence presents some of the people of Kemet, also known as Ancient Egyptians, as vegetarians. In general, pre-colonial diets where of whole foods, whether or not meat was included, and pre-colonial lifestyles in many parts of black Africa were seen, by Western anthropologists of the time (mid-19th century), as among the healthiest in the world. Now our life-spans and quality of life are the shortest and most miserable, largely due to neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism and rule by criminal governments. We are aid-dependent, and land tenure in Africa is at a state of perpetual crisis, while cash-crops prioritize growing cacao, coffee, and flowers over food. We even sell immense hectares of land to foreign countries for them to grow food for their own populations! Animal pastoralism is another problem, destroying vegetation across vast swaths of land and accelerating desertification. If all that land grew fruits and vegetables, many of our dietary and food security problems could begin to find resolution. And all these tendencies greatly exacerbate gender inequality as women struggle to grow kitchen gardens to feed families and tend to the crucial but totally unpaid task of reproductive labor, while men tend to focus on cash-crops and preferentially receive implements and resources from governments, multinationals and some NGOs to grow them.

Overall, transitioning towards veganism in Africa will ease malnutrition, raise production levels, increase self-sufficiency and I think reduce tendencies towards conflict and needless aggression. In terms of food policy, we can grow so much of our own fresh fruits and vegetables, organically and sustainably, if we focus on that goal at the continental and grassroots levels. In terms of societal outcomes, I think veganism improves social tolerance, physical well-being, reduces stress, makes the brain work more efficiently, improves immunity and reduces illness, reduces cancer levels, and so on. People will be more cooperative and conscientious of proper land stewardship and societal responsibility and cohesion in a vegan society – at least. Veganism in Africa would probably be far more revolutionary than that.

4.In France, we have people of african origin, and they are in a way or another culturally connected to Africa. But if the elders have often a very wise point of view, a very critical one, which stress that justice will necessary prevail even if it will take time, young people are quite far away from veganism and from a cultural critical stance of what we may call Babylone. What do you think about that?

I have faith in the youth. I’m 26 years old. I’m still considered a youth. I would almost say I have more faith in youth than in the old generation, which in many ways have failed us, failing to realize the promises of Pan-Africanism or Civil Rights. It’s young people who are becoming vegans, who are becoming critical thinkers, who are questioning the old ways and rightfully disposing with useless traditions that have no value and make no sense. I don’t have an innate respect for tradition, personally. I say, choose reason over custom. Babylon includes not only white-supremacist and capitalist society, but also anti-human, divisive, anti-intellectual, reactionary, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic and stupid traditions and tendencies in Africa and the black world. Many black youth are lost, many youth are hopeless, due to the failings of society which lead them to go after what they need at the expense of each other. The self-hate, ignorance and poverty at the root of the lives of the youth lead to many poor outcomes, which are all too visible. Less visible are the visionary youth, the revolutionary youth, the organized youth building art, building armies of wisdom and change. But I think the visionary youth hold the reigns of the future and will courageously confront the immense challenges of the present and near future, mostly given us by our often greedy, stubborn and foolish parents and grandparents.

5.In France, when we think about revolutionary afrikan position in North America, we think about Move or Dead Prez. Nevertheless, we would have a criticism: it seems that a poisonless perspective was the central aspect, not really nature, the animals, the Earth. What would you say to that?

For Africans, there is little time to focus on animal liberation alone. It makes no sense, when humans are in so much misery. Someone like me could never get behind the white animal liberation scene, because they act like it is the central problem of injustice in the world, which from my perspective is absurd and laughable. Oppressed people start at the perspective of their own oppression. Of course, everything else is included when we consider the foul human trends that lead to all kinds of exploitation. Aggression, greed, ignorance, violence, dominion – these are applied to create hierarchies and exploitation amongst humans and between humans and animals. But someone like me and I think Dead Prez or the MOVE Organization sees an urgent need to focus on human problems, and cannot in good conscience focus on animal liberation alone. Only a very privileged person can afford to only focus on animal liberation, so for a lot of people of the revolutionary African position in North America, that sort of thing is very alien, and rightfully so in my opinion. We don’t have the luxury to focus on one single issue, especially one that is tangential to our own suffering and oppression as black human beings. It all must be included – human liberation, Earth liberation, non-human liberation.

6.You stress the importance of raw food. Can you tell us about it?

Raw vegan food to me is so healthy. It liberates a person from dealing with disease and worrying about health, in large part. I haven’t been even slightly sick in many many years. In the US, especially among African peoples, disease is practically the central concern of life, whether it be obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, impotence, stress, and so on. Raw veganism, particularly low-fat raw veganism that mainly consists of fresh fruits and greens, is practical, affordable and creative. And it requires discipline and consistency, tendencies that we need as peoples who consider ourselves revolutionary. Raw veganism is both extremely healthy, and also builds people to be more hardcore and serious about life and work. Raw veganism is about vigorous health and uncompromising mentality.

7.Africa is a continent waiting for revolution. Do you think veganism is the key for that?

Yes. Veganism is a potentially important part of revolution everywhere, and we need revolution all over the world. We need vegan warrior spirits that consider the whole picture in terms of how humans coexist in the world with all other beings, while correcting the social contradictions in human society. A more humane society will emerge with veganism in the picture, during and after the revolution. And also a much healthier, just and sustainable one.

ONA MOVE!

-The Precision Afrikan

Fresh Produce in the South Bronx by Ownership Societies (Not the Bush Kind)

This is Professor Dennis Derryck of the New School in NY, as profiled in this very good NY Times article from Tuesday (“For a Healthier South Bronx, a Farm of Their Own“). At the very least, it highlights the power, the empowering sense inherent to feeling ownership of the means of one’s life, whether that means the building one lives in, the land where one’s food is grown, or the means of production (as we build the global ubuntu step by step). When the people find opportunities to feel in true fundamental control of their livelihood, social space, the streets, and their economic structures, conditions inevitably improve where they live. The bourgeois class has a sense of stability where it dwells in comparison to us proletarians precisely due to the security of control. By control I don’t mean dominion and domination. By control I mean being able to act the agent who defines and arranges one’s means and chances of survival, for better or worse. To be impoverished and disempowered is to be deprived of this sense of control, which at the psycho-social level initiates destructive forms of desperation within environments that are materially, dietarily, educationally, and judicially impoverished.

It’s no accident that the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, Newark, Detroit, West and South Philly, and on and on are what they are, disparaged at leisure by the white supremacist establishmentarian mainstream zeitgeist. A friend of mine who used to live in the South Bronx constantly referred to it as a reservation, depressing to just live there amidst its oppressed ambiance. People are disfranchised and pushed into disowning any sense of fundamental ownership of their circumstances – as immigrants, as refugees, as oppressed peoples.

The human project at hand for we of the reservations and slums of the world is to claim our lives, claim our lands, our social spaces, our food sources, as our own. It may seem that the very notion of self-actualization is made foreign to us within the anti-human, anti-African, anti-Latino, anti-Indigenous, anti-freedom education system – corporate training camps and prison seeding centers. But this is why we must un-school into the mindset that, as Nas said, the world is yours.

The world is yours.

The world is yours.

Whose world is this?

A revolutionary assertion indeed. From another reservation called Queensbridge, Nas in the simplest terms told us to claim our world boldly. Claim the land, including every NYCHA project and every street and household and body deemed rejected and flotsam by the likes of the NY Times.

I’m often anxious when I read the NY Times and they talk about us. This past Saturday they ran a showcase of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the heart of Afro-Caribbean BK and where my heart lives. Whenever they do shit like that it’s like they’re claiming space to push out poor people and bring on the hipsters, bluppies and yuppies and their damn coffee shops. The Real Estate section is often a lens to the newest front-lines of gentrification. With critical eyes we must stare down attempts to get us to disown our lives, land and liberty further.

It’s war out here. While Prof. Dennis Derryck’s work is not pure non-monetized socialistic exchange, it is proper for the world we live in, and for the South Bronx. As a black man and homebody to the Harlem/ So. Bronx world, his practice is relevant, buying farmland collectively on behalf of his community, in partnership with farmers upstate, to bring the freshest food to this utterly neglected and poisoned community.

He is claiming the resources that we need on behalf of the people.

To me he is already winning on behalf of all of us.

We only begin to win when we claim ownership over our minds, bodies, lives, homes, communities, and planet, the type of ownership that places us in full responsibility to realize human potential as fully as possible. It is by owning the land for the people that the people may consume actual food in greater quantity and quality. See how this works?

Whose world is this?

The world is yours.

The world is yours, fool!

Let us join the battle.

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Blog written while listening to “Walk Alone” (and some other tracks) from How I Got Over by The Roots.

West Africa’s “slow-motion” famine

This is why Pan-Africanism or African Internationalism is the answer. And I don’t mean at the level of the institution of the nation state, as I’m an anti-fascist anarcho-syndicalist and ubuntuist (all useless labels). I’m talking about at the level of the grassroots in a situation where borders are erased and collective well-being is recognized as crucial for the prosperity of Africa. Africans in the regions of Niger or Chad don’t have to find themselves trapped inside those map boxes as food runs out in those countries over climatic and geological time and in the very near future and present. As climate changes, landlocked Sahel countries, whose existence was precarious to begin with, will only get drier, more arid and less agriculturally productive. It is all but inevitable, thanks to the profligate pollution of the stubborn West+China and their erstwhile refusal to arrive at a climate deal that would cap carbon levels in the atmosphere at 350 parts per billion, a threshold beyond which would essentially broil Africa in the long run. When, over the course of the coming months, years and decades, Sahel countries realize even more desperate climatic circumstances that are irreversible short of the construction of the great “Green Wall” of Africa which, given African corruption, will probably never happen, where will its people go if they are prevented from moving freely across borders? Will they be expected to starve into extinction due to the accident of their geographies of birth? That is why borders must be erased in Africa, borders imposed by imperialists at a conference in Germany 125 years ago at which not a single African was present.

Climate change is going to dry and fry the already delicate ecosystems of the Sahel especially, while rainfall may increase in other ecosystems. The same is true for dry savannah regions in other parts of the tropics/ third world such as parts of Mexico, Southwest Africa, India, the Middle East, and even some parts of the Mekong River delta in Southeast Asia which is reporting record drought and low river depth (to the point of unnavigability) this year. Each consecutive month this year since February has been the warmest on record.

Pastoralism is also a huge, HUGE part of the problem. I’m not a cultural relativist about this, in fact I’m not a cultural relativist about anything and I criticize everything that doesn’t work and is stupid, even if people have been doing it for centuries. It’s gotta go! Having animals browse the land and eat off every last speck of vegetation, only to slaughter and eat them, and then ask what happened to the arable land, is the mark of woefully uneducated and ignorant people. Education is the answer here, to demonstrate in no uncertain terms how destructive and unsustainable pastoralism is. This will prevent the inevitable and often violent conflicts that so frequently occur at the meeting of pastoralist nomad and settled agriculturalist (i.e. Darfur, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, etc.). So does this mean I am guilty of privileging the permanently settled farmer of vegetables, produce, fruits and so on? Hell yes! Especially when incorporating the best practices of sustainable, organic, high-yield agronomy and agroforestry. In the Americas, in countries like Brazil, we already know how rapidly we are losing the Amazon rain forest to giant cattle ranches that supply burgers to America and its fattening waistline. This is why veganism is part of the solution for humanity, considering how much more we can feed ourselves eating vegetables grown on the land instead of waiting for other non-human animals to eat them before slaughtering them mercilessly and consuming the most unhealthy products known to the human palate.

Will Africans use this opportunity, at the grassroots civil society level, to overturn centuries of top-down tyranny, capitalist division, unsustainable pastoralism, irrational meat prestige, and export-oriented cash-crop production to realize a borderless and human society of cooperation, collectivism, sustainability and food security first? Will the world? Humans have a lot of work to do on this planet, as we may be either its most inventive beings or its most destructive, selfish and irresponsible children.

The “Lost Crops of Africa”

In my last blog post extolling durian, I asked where all the Afrikan varieties of “superfoods” were at. In exploring the raw vegan/ fruitarian world, one hears much about “superfoods“/ “superfruits” from the tropics, but they mostly seem to emerge from South America and tropical Asia. I hardly found varieties indigenous to or widely propagated in Afrika discussed in the common literature on “superfoods” by the raw vegan popularizers and commercializers of these plants. But in searching for more info on potential “superfoods” growing in Afrika right now, I have discovered a series of books available online: Lost Crops of Africa. You can read it online for free!

The above link is to Volume III: Fruits. Click here for Volume I: Grains and here for Volume II: Vegetables. These as well can be read online for free.

This encyclopedic series of books is answering many of my questions and is shaping how I want to practice agroforestry (and what I’m gonna chew on) in Afrika when I return. Some of these varieties I now want to look into for local availability (in the NYC region). There are Afrikan markets in Newark (Brick City) and the Bronx I’ll definitely want to peak into now to see if they have any of these curious and promising varieties (I’m most interested in what I’m finding in Volume III, followed by Volume II).

So I’m passing on the knowledge. Hope you find this as useful as I do. We need to plant more trees in Afrika – trees like the ones they’re talking about in Lost Crops of Africa. We gotta get extremely serious about land and return as Afrikans living outside the continent. There is absolutely TOO MUCH OPPORTUNITY in all spheres, too much we need to do to revive Afrika, and too little time in our brief-ass human lives.

Let’s study the trees, take a deep breath of the fresh air, pause for the cause in the soaring Sun, and get to work in the soil of our motherland, folks! Where the black botanists and agronomists at?

Tropical agroforestry rocks!
Towards a sustainable Afrikan agricultural revolution and massive reforestation!
Towards the further greening and fruiting of Afrika!
Uhuru!

Food Security and the Last Billion

atakpame-1983Yesterday, Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Administration, complained that this year, due to the global food crisis, an additional 40 million humans are joining the ranks of the chronically food insecure around the world, and the total for the seriously at-risk is now at least about 963 million. About 1 billion around the world are now at dire imminent risk of starvation and debilitating malnutrition. Needless to say, Afrikan countries, most run by anti-Afrikan, indeed anti-human kleptocrats and neo-colonialists, serve up some of the highest numbers. Likewise for India, China, and elsewhere in the third world.

Perhaps in the wake of the urgency with which Mr. Diouf testified to the UN’s food agency, now may be a time to muse about the implications of our individual eating habits on global ecology and food security. In what I’ve learned of agronomy, it seems vegetarianism is the most ecologically sustainable diet that human populations can pursue. Even in rural settings, runaway grazing eats up land and depletes its moisture carrying capacity far more quickly than even conventional mono-crop rearing. Eating fruits and using herbs from the forest – minimally invasive in practice – seems like the total opposite of grazing, factory farming, and other practices that have led to extreme deforestation and desertification, including the misguided steps being taken in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere to convert old-growth broad-leaf rainforest into vast groves of palm oil for bio-fuel export.

I think the Afrikan that moves away from meat is making a profound move. Not only is it in pursuit of the primal health colored folks will need to fight imperialism and neo-colonialism and establish a united Afrika serving and enriching the lives of Afrikans, but it is also an engagement with the carrying capacity of the Earth, and an acknowledgment of the delicate balance needed for the planet to replenish itself. It suggests we are willing to share and allow what the Earth can bountifully give to us, so long as we don’t take in excess and destroy the ecosystem in the process. It is well documented how much more water, land, food and fuel inputs are needed for even modest styles of animal husbandry to feed one individual, compared to inputs needed to feed one person through plant-based means only. At one extreme is factory farming and agribusiness that rapes the Earth without recourse to the least iota of moral restraint, and on the other, I think, the Afrikan moving towards serious raw veganism.

It is a move for the zealots, most will probably conclude. So be it. It tastes good and at least we know we are on Earth’s side, custodians of ecological sustainability and food security, because of our dietary choices. Already there is enough food to feed the world’s population, just that it’s concentrated in granaries in the West, and its potential to be utilized sensibly in Afrika is thwarted by cash-crop export economies, political instability, pollution, war, runaway urbanization, land privatization and land misuse. How much more could the ability to feed the world be expanded if less of us opt for the most wasteful land-use patterns by going for the meat, especially the factory-farmed meat?

Not that the millennium development goals are worth a damn beyond their pretty letters on conscience-appeasing paper, but if we want to take Mr. Diouff’s grievances seriously and consider how we can contribute to food security, even if rather indirectly, perhaps more of us should consider putting the meat down. This is just a microscopic baby-step into being a bit more mindful of the planet and all its resources we usurp to feed us, given the choices we make, even in diet. We haven’t even begun to discuss the fundamental problem of parasitic capitalism and its imposition of hunger, ignorance, land theft, and wretchedness on the “developing” world.

Don’t you get tired of it being the 21st century and black folks (and Asians, Indigenous folk and Latin Americans too) are still starving, still part of the last billion?

To Be Agronomic…

This is actually the only real physical book I took back with me from the classes I took at University of Ghana and Ashesi University in the Spring semester of 2007. This book is Managing Agrodiversity the Traditional Way edited by Edwin A. Gyasi – the professor of the course I took with him, Sustainable Agriculture in the Developing World – and Gordana KranjacBerisavljevic, Essie T. Blay, and William Oduro. This course, a graduate-level class in the Geography department at Legon, was only attended by three students that whole semester – two of us from America (including a white woman from Northern California) and a young Ghanaian woman. It’s troubling, at best, that matters of agronomy, food security, and sustainable land management are not attended to by more students, particularly right in Afrika. But I consider it to have been a great honor to have studied the contemporary thought around sustainable development with Prof. Gyasi.

That is the man himself, during our field trip to Aburi Hills, where we visited Ebua Danso’s farm, the one I mention three posts down, where organic agroforestry impressed the hell out of me and blew my mind. And Ebua Danso wasn’t a master, world-renowned organic Afrikan farmer because of something he learned in a Western-oriented agronomy program somewhere. He was simply reproducing the beautiful and effective methods of traditional, local farmers in Ghana and elsewhere in West Afrika. I come back to all this subject matter and these past events in my life as I reflect on being a raw vegan/ fruitarian, an Afrikan, and a revolutionary concerned with food security, sustainable and plentiful food production and transport, and justice. Raw Vegans/ fruitarians like me eat a lot of tropical fruits and nuts. Bananas produced for the Bonita, Dole, and other big US corporations that maintain banana republics in Latin America – I eat them. I live in North Jersey, just outside NYC where I work and conduct all my business. And I enter the market and select all sorts of tropical fruits that were grown many thousands away, in the very tropics I am native to (and would probably rather be most of the time). If the Afrikan situation was correct, I would be there today with no looking back, doing work, being free, eating right off the land and most likely growing most of my own food. I know activists here in NYC that want to do something like establish organic herbal gardens in Cameroon which will grow medicinal herbs to be exported to the US. Yet the cost of such transport, and the relationship of cash-cropism – an economic practice I approach with some ire – might not be overturned in such an arrangement.

It is likely very impractical to imagine, at this point, a world which, in concern for the pollution and waste of intercontinental food trading – and realizing the injustice of cash-cropism imposed on the (tropical) third world by the (temperate) first world – moves to locovorism, where everyone is eating locally-grown whole foods. In New York state or New Jersey, what do we grow that I dig, apples? A lot of salad crops, yes? Many sorts of berries? Well, that is excellent and I eat the local varieties of those, and have visited apple farms in South Jersey, where I was impressed and felt my innate desire to be a rural, food-growing, simple-ass man, reinforced. But me, I eat a whole lot of tropical fruits. I eat citrus grown in Florida, avocados grown in California (as well as a lot of salad greens), pecans grown in Texas, as for this country. I eat avocados from Mexico, too, Ecuadorian bananas, Brazilian cashews, Chilean blueberries, Peruvian cacao beans, Canadian hemp-seed, Spanish unpasteurized almonds, even New Zealand Kiwis. And that’s certainly not all I eat. I feel concerned about being a non-locovore, a man eating from the global kitchen assembly line established long ago by European mercantilism and colonialism, the antecedents of contemporary cash-cropism. I don’t even eat fair-trade bananas (not even organic).

Does one like me just keep going this way? Agronomy is one of my many, many interests. I’m an urban-ass person, something I can’t apologize for because I was born into that, though I have friends who have moved on from that, and at least tried to dedicate more of their lives to agronomy and food security issues. In the meantime, I suppose we must be advocates for, aside from revolution, or in until its occurrence, clean-green-energy means of international shipping and sustainable locovorism to the extent that it is possible and practical. Surely those in cities and towns with land should say fuck a lawn, and grow food on their free land. Lawns are the invention of retards. Food security is undermined by lawns. Whenever I get a true place of my own, best believe I’ll be growing food on it like a hardcore farmer. But it could be the case, some day down the line, and within the context of repatriating, that I just move to the tropics, to Afrika, where everything grows, and grow durians, pineapples, avocados, mangos, oranges, cashews, cacao, and all that good shit, alongside other Afrikans, a beautiful sista, some little ones, sweating under the palms and sipping fresh juices by the sea (or in the valleys). Ah, to aspire to the good life…