A blueprint for African survival as presented in The Christian Science Monitor series ending today:
Recognize that to fight famine in the long term, African earth, water, trees, and livestock need urgent help to survive. Help to lower population growth rates, the highest in the world, with sustained cooperation between aid donors and local governments, stressing positive benefits rather than negative fears.
Help primarily the small African farmer by: 1. Refocusing aid away from huge, showcase projects originated by urban planners largely to benefit urban populations, and into local, specific ideas to boost subsistence crops. 2. Involving African women much more in aid planning and projects at all levels. Women perform up to 80 percent of all tasks connected with food production. No longer can plans be laid by males for males on the assumption that males grow the food Africans eat.
Aid local farmers not in high-tech but in low-tech ways.
Provide more money for intensified research into the higher-yielding, hardier, drought-resistant crops that are eaten in tropical and arid climates (millet, sorghum, maize (corn), cassava, yams, cowpeas, and more).
Finance much more drilling for underground water across the Sahel region, in Ethiopia, Sudan, and northern Kenya, as well as more catchments, mini-ponds, terracing, and no-till farming techniques to conserve the rain that does fall.
Vastly expand farm extension work, especially to spread the word that ``slash and burn'' shifting cultivation no longer works, because populations are growing too fast to allow land to lie fallow for the long periods it takes to recover.
Adopt plans drawn up by a UNESCO unit in Kenya to limit the number of livestock carried on semiarid lands. Nomadic pastoralists who settle around grain-distribution points must send out herders to keep moving their camels from pasture to pasture rather than keeping them near the home base.
Balance the competing needs of livestock and wild game where drought hits hard.
Persuade the United States and Europe to concentrate much more on diplomacy aimed at easing Africa's ruinous civil wars, which divert resources, block distribution, and keep too many eyes focused on the short term rather than on the future.