issue 173 - July 1987
No change policies
The general elections due in Australia and Aotearoa (NZ) this year and in Canada in 1988, as well as the US presidential poll, are unlikely to produce dramatic changes in development policies. A Democratic President in the White House would be unlikely to refocus US aid away from the Middle East. Canada may not change its aid policies: its right-wing Progressive Conservative Government already spends more on aid than the UK.
The UK's policy on development has been a disaster under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's right-wing government Aid has fallen by a third. The Conservatives have also supported International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity packages in Africa which hit the poor hardest. During the UK election campaign left-wing Labour and moderate Alliance opposition parties were promising to reach the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product (GNP) in their first Parliament. Both opposition groups were pressing for a rescheduling of Third World debt, supporting fair price agreements for commodities and wishing to fund development education in the UK.
As of 1985, the UK was the fifth largest aid donor in the West but devoted only 0.34 per cent of its GNP to overseas aid, way behind both Canada and Australia's 0.49 per cent of GNP. But Aotearoa (NZ) at 0.25 per cent, Ireland (0.24 per cent) and the US (0.24 per cent) have an even worse record on the proportion of their annual wealth devoted to aid.
Film festival optimism
The centre of Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, was transformed recently as the city played host to the tenth FESPACO, Africa's leading film festival. The city's hotels were packed with film makers and cultural workers who have come from all over the world to take part in this celebration of progressive cinema - film as a means of education and information, as well as a stimulus to artistic creativity.
Every suitable public venue had been turned into an impromptu cinema, giving the people of Ouagadougou the chance to join the international audience in viewing nearly 50 new films on the theme 'Cinema and People's Liberation'. Most films are made in French although greater efforts are being made this year to attract entries from non-French-speaking Africa. But perhaps even more significant than this are the growing number of film-makers using African languages, who now see the primary audience for their work as being within the continent rather than on the Western art-house circuit.
The festival's aim is to 'allow the masses to take control of the means of their development, giving them back the cultural initiative by drawing on the resources of a fully liberated popular creativity'. It sees African film-makers as 'creative artisans at the service of their people'.
It is entirely appropriate that Ouagadougou provides the setting for this exploration of a culture of resistance. Since the revolution of August 1983 the Government and people of Burkina Faso have been developing a progressive culture to support the reconstruction of a country impoverished by 80 years of colonial domination. Burkina Faso has recently embarked on an ambitious development plan, emphasizing self-reliance and the promotion of agriculture as the 'motor of development'. Much progress has been made in the past three years, especially in the areas of health and literacy.
Over the last few years Africa has been 'discovered' once again, this time by the Western media. It has emphasized the negative: famine, instability, corruption and incompetence and presented a one-dimensional view. Now, however, Africans are critically assessing their past and present and are preparing for the future. The new African cinema is one of the many tools for perpetuating and enriching a powerful cultural tradition.
Nepalese porters suffer
Tourism often perpetuates poverty in Nepal. Most travellers hire guides and many hire porters and sherpas, either directly or through the package tour arranged for them. These porters often work for very low rates of pay and in poor conditions.
The porter's rate of pay is poor, particularly when the amount paid to the travel agencies is calculated. Travel agencies often receive $32 per day, but the porters earn an average of two dollars. Some of the world's best-known adventure travel and trekking agencies pay porters badly. Check with the agency before booking, and ask them to give you a breakdown of their costs. The porters choose to work in preference to being idle. But if the alternative is no work and so no money, they do not have a real choice.
A number of porters are known to carry packs as heavy as 45 kilograms for up to 15 hours a day. Some of these are boys in their mid-teens. They cross snow-covered passes at high altitudes, and are frequently exposed to blizzards. Sherpas, the 'elite', may wear down-filled parkas. Porters often have to make do with thin cloth coats and old canvas shoes. There are many reports of them dying from hypothermia, and frostbite injuries are common.
The Small Farmer
Praising the simple life
It is the small farmer
Who is the loser in this world.
It is the small farmer
Who has fallen in all the wars.
The small farmer, wherever he lives in the world,
Whose land they have stolen and whose garden they have burned
On the way to their wars.
His sons they have taken,
Dressing them up in carnival attire, letting them die
For ideas of which he knew nothing, nor was at all concerned with,
Nor even wished to know.
It is the small farmer who is forced to leave his valley
To labour in collectives and in factories.
It was the small farmer's cows they took,
Along with his field, for yet another motorway.
He it is, now, who sleepless lies night after night,
With worries about repaying all he owes,
So that the banks can build their houses, huge like palaces.
He it is who has been driven to the cities
To fill great blocks of flats. ('He adjusts well enough.')
He it was who milked his cows
And laboured on his farmland to gather stones
Where now we reap and sow with ease.
It was the small farmer
Who knew how barley should be sown,
And how calves came to birth.
He knows all about the clouds, the wind, and winter,
And how hard it is.
The whinnying of horses he knew well.
Now he knows the tractor, and lending rates,
And when payment is due.
Yet still he leaves the door ajar, the small farmer.
Still he hears when grass is growing, and is aware
When soil gives birth anew.
He who has lost. Until now.
For soon perhaps we shall be asking him the way.
The way back from whence we came.
There, there is growth.
Translated from the Norwegian by Maisie Steven,
first printed in the Norwegian magazine, Folkevett.
Hunting the hunters
The Indians of the Ayoreo tribe, the last group in Paraguay living as hunter-gatherers, were tracked down recently, with disastrous consequences for the tribal group. For several years missionaries have used the traditional enmity of rival bands of Ayoreo to search for Indians reluctant to leave their forests. To carry out the latest hunt, the missionaries took 34 'Christian' (missionaries also call them 'tame') Indians to a point near the military post of Teniente Martinez.
As an advance party of the mission Indians approached the forest group they were attacked with spears and arrows. Five mission Indians were killed and a number of others injured. The previously uncontacted group reportedly feared an attack themselves. They had been ambushed several times in the past by armed parties from the mission, and had always resisted attempts to force them to give up their traditional way of life.
Some reports indicate that it was several days before the injured Indians were evacuated. Four members of the newly contacted group have now been taken to a hospital at Filadelfia. They are already suffering from the inevitable, and often deadly, effects of contact with outsiders - influenza. New diseases like this, to which uncontacted Indians have little natural resistance, often kill large numbers of Indians within a few weeks.
Survival International, a UK-based group that works to defend the rights of tribal peoples, does not believe that the missionaries are medically equipped to deal with the consequences of this encounter. The missionaries are the New Tribes Mission (NTM), an organization which has attracted repeated criticism. Based in the US state of Florida it has over 2,500 missionaries, a $12 million budget for 'tribal evangelism' and a worldwide network of outposts. The NTM describes itself as a 'fundamental missionary society, composed of born-again believers and dedicated to the evangelization of unreached tribal people'. In Latin America, the NTM has mission bases in Panama, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It also operates in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Senegal, Thailand and Japan.
The NTM started work among the Ayoreo in Paraguay in 1959, when the Paraguayan government enlisted its support to 'settle and civilize' the Indians. The Indians' desperate defence of their land was frustrating the search for oil and gas by several US companies.
Survival International, which has been calling for the missionaries to halt their people hunts for several years, is demanding a full investigation of the missionaries' work and their immediate expulsion from Paraguay.
Please write protest letters to: General German Martinez, Minister of Defence,
President, Institute Paraguayo del Indigena, Don Soeco 745, Asuncion, Paraguay.