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new internationalist
issue 163 - September 1986



Four-footed efficiency
India's successful carts

There are 15 million bullock carts in India, and they are used for 50 per cent of farming and rural transport.
Photo: Claude Sauvageot

Though India is optimistic about attaining self-sufficiency in oil production before this decade runs out - with oil wells being struck in quick succession in various parts of the country - there is no slackening of efforts towards upgrading animal energy. The Indian planning authority is vigorously projecting animal energy as a pre-eminent example of intermediate technology appropriate to India's level of development and the skills of its villagers.

A first step in this direction has been the setting up of a National Animal Energy Board which has now taken up a field study aimed at the rational use of animal resources and the redesign of the bullock cart. 'Until the whole structure of land-holding in the country is changed,' says Professor Menon, a member of the Indian Planning Commission, 'animal power will continue to be the prime source of energy for agriculture and transportation'.

Bullock carts in India haul around 2,250 million tonnes of freight as against a mere 200 million tonnes that are hauled by railways. They have many advantages over mechanised forms of transport. The running of mechanised transport devices over the rough and unknown rural roads is fraught with many risks. Each tonne hauled by train requires an investment of $2,500, yet the bullock cart can carry the same amount with an investment of $200. The cost of carrying one tonne of freight by bullock cart is less than $1.50, whereas trucks and tractors require around $3.50 for hauling the same quantity of freight

Radhakrishna Rao


The fruit of prejudice
Third World experts ignored

An incident in a Canadian supermarket showed me how I, and other Third World people, are often treated by Westerners as if we know nothing. I was out shopping when I saw a sign for guavas: my favorite fruit. But I could find no guavas in the shop. There were eggplants, papayas, avocados and christophenes, but no guavas. There were leaflets about guavas but they were in a bin with christophenes. Someone who was not familiar with tropical fruit had made a mistake. I squared my shoulders. I spent significant amounts of my life under guava trees and christophene vines.

Here was my chance. I had been the recipient of expertise from foreigners who knew everything. Now I was a foreigner who knew something. Supremely confident, christophene in hand, I walked over to the man arranging the fruit and vegetables. 'Excuse me', I began. I used my most patient manner. 'This is not a guava. It is a christophene.' I spoke slowly and deliberately, then paused for effect. He looked up. 'Oh. That's what they told us. The people in Vancouver.' In less than thirty seconds he was back to sorting his lettuce.

This incident gave me much to think about I could see parallels in the relationships between donor and recipient countries in many, if not most, that I am female and have skin colour visibly different from that of most Canadians made the analogy more compelling.

Knowledge is valued only when it is possessed by an 'expert'. A lifetime in the Third World working on solutions to the problems of living is, to use Biblical language, as nothing. Witness the fact that there are large numbers of people from Third World countries now living in Canada. How many of them are ever asked to work in an advisory - or any other - capacity with Government or private agencies on overseas aid programmes?

Not that I wished the man who did not know a guava from a christophene to be blamed for these injustices. All I wanted him to do was believe me.

Vilma Dubé


Filipino ferment
Sugar price slump

VIOLENCE in the Philippines is erupting as poverty increases due, largely, to the collapse of the sugar industry. After the revolution Corazon Aquino asked for '100 days of patience' to implement her reforms, but since that time ended doubts are growing about her government's ability to meet the needs of the poor.

Sugar is being sold on the world market for as little as three cents per pound. As it costs around 12 cents per pound to produce, the instability of the price means that nearly half a million sugar workers will probably lose their jobs.

Sugar producing areas like Negros are facing the worst conditions. Few Filipino peasants in Negros own land. Most of them are dependent on the money raised by work in the sugar industry. Many families are estimated to have lost one or more children through starvation in the last year. 'The capital city of Negros resembles a ghost town, says John Cunnington from War on Want. 'It's been very prosperous in the past but hotels and businesses are collapsing because they are dependent on the sugar industry, and sugar workers don't have any capacity to spend.'

Because of this economic crisis the New People's Army has increased its membership from 16,500 to 22,500 full-time regulars, and is increasing its action against the Government. Corazon Aquino has appealed to the Communist party and the New People's Army to surrender, but to little effect.

The land reforms demanded by the Peasant Union and promised by Aquino in her election campaign are slowly being implemented. But more urgent reform is needed if further starvation amongst the 70 per cent of Filipinos who live in the often sugar-producing rural areas is to be avoided.

Sue Shaw


Sanctions bust
Arms reach Botha

[image, unknown]
Unofficial UN figures suggest that arms form 55 percent of S. A. imports. The Johannesburg Sunday Times puts the figure at 15 per cent.

'GAPING holes are appearing in the skimpy sanctions net that surrounds South African arms imports' says the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid. Despite the UN's compulsory arms embargo, agreed in 1977, spare parts, strategic equipment and weapons know-how are still getting through to the apartheid regime. Predictably the United States and Britain, which between them have $32 billion of investments in South Africa, have created the largest loopholes for continuing trade with the Republic.

In 1984 $86 million worth of exports was licensed by the Reagan administration to South Africa from the so-called 'Munitions List', compared with none at all in the last year of the Carter Presidency. The US is also supplying hundreds of Stinger missiles to rebel UNITA forces in Angola, which have the close backing of South Africa Britain allowed the export of radar equipment to South Africa because it would be used by civilian as well as military aircraft.

Other countries take Security Council Resolution 418, which banned arms sales 'and related material of all types', more seriously. Canada prohibits sophisticated equipment destined for military use of for use against civilians in South Africa. Canadians shipping arms to South Africa via another country, can be prosecuted.

The loopholes in the arms embargo can only be closed if 'dual purpose' items of civilian and military use are specifically prohibited, says the United Nations Committee. Such related materials would include electronic equipment, aircraft and marine appliances, telecommunications systems and nuclear energy technology.

John Tanner


Free for all
Cuban community health

WHEN the Castro government took power 26 years ago, Cuba had very poor health care facilities. Now, through a series of new schemes, it intends to have the world's best medical services by the year 2,000. Before the revolution, Cuba had 6,000 doctors for a population of five million. Half of them left with the first year of Castro's government. All medical facilities were private and were concentrated in Havana. The vast majority of Cubans made do with folk remedies and gave birth with the help of folk-trained midwives. Life expectancy was 55 years; 60 out of each 1,000 Cuban babies died before they reached one year.

The lack of medical facilities led the Revolutionary government to make health care a high priority. Their measures have been largely successful. Life expectancy in Cuba is now 73 years, and only 15 out of each 1,000 babies die in their first year. But there is room for improvement 'We want to bring doctors to the people instead of expecting the people to go to the doctor', explains Dr Nestor Rodreguez of the Cuban Ministry of Health. 'Socialist medicine must be preventative. We want to put doctors in every block, school, factory and merchant ship that sails.'

At present most Cuban doctors work in polyclinics (health centres), but many Cubans feel that these health-centres are too centralized and distant from the community. It was also noticed that many people were suffering from ailments which they could have avoided had preventative health care been available.

To answer the call for community health care Cuba started a Family Doctor Scheme which houses many doctors above small purpose-built surgeries. Eight to ten doctor-nurse teams will work in each of the present polyclinic districts, getting to know the people in their neighbourhood. They will be able to identify and confront many health problems before they develop and keep an eye on high-risk sectors of the population: children under four, the elderly, asthmatics, people with high blood pressure and diabetics. Under the Family Doctor Plan the Cubans hope to 'hospitalize' people at home for conditions like convalescence after a heart attack or hepatitis. It is felt that people will recover more quickly at home in familiar surroundings and surrounded by their loved ones. With a doctor and nurse team so near, the patient could be visited at home two or three times a day.

Michael Ann Mullen


Sporting chance
Africans' self-help

SPORT AID raised both money and awareness in order to aid African development, but at the same time a group of Africans met to ask for independence. They requested that they - the African peoples involved - control their own futures, not the governments or 'experts' of the rich world.

During a UN special session on Africa, 30 independent agencies met in New York. They asked that external equipment or expertise should only be used when local resources are inadequate. These groups also proposed that any future development should involve a whole society, not just parts of it.

Several African agencies have launched and nurtured projects that work to these ends, independently of government structures. They sponsor peasant organizations that give food producers more decision-making power. Six S in Burkina Faso, for instance, has 'been extremely effective in organizing farmers on the local level for agricultural development' says Tony Koslowski, executive director of the International Council for Voluntary Agencies. ORAP in Zimbabwe and Solidarité Paysant in Zaire are two other African NGOs that have helped individual farmers: encouraging them to form local federations in order to share production, credit and other services.

What is needed now, says Koslowski, is for the international donor community not just to give aid for projects run by African agencies, but also to fund education and training that can make these groups become more effective.

These African organizations made it clear that their insistence on a primary role was not a grudge match with outsiders, but a recognition that, as their statement says, 'the resolution of this crisis is the sole responsibility and mandate of the African people themselves'.

Mary Kay Magistad

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New Internationalist issue 163 magazine cover This article is from the September 1986 issue of New Internationalist.
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