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Food Security in Africa - "We Don't Need Your Money, But We Need Your Technology"

Friday, October 23, 2009

"We Don't Need Your Money, But We Need Your Technology". This was the response I got when I told an Ethiopian friend that TVNI didn't have any spare cash to hand out.  How refreshing this was coming from one of the world's poorer nations.  Of course they needed funds to help promote the technology, but for once the emphasis was on the technology and not the money.  Since then TVNI and Ethiopia have formed a useful partnership in the promotion of the Vetiver System.  The results are impressive,  Ethiopia is giving serious priority to accelerating the use of VS in its Food Security programs.  A recent story on our website reflects just how one of the many thousands farmers have benefitted.  "The Vetiver Man of Tulube" increased his maize yield by four fold in this year of drought through VS application and associated technologies.  Another farmer Hassan Ali has achieved similar results. VS was the key, allowing benefits from fertilizer and other practices to be optimized.

Until users, planners, developers and aid givers realize that unless one has a system that will greatly reduce rainfall runoff and at the same time keep fertile soil in place, significant and sustainable agricultural production increases that equate to long term food security will not be possible.  The Vetiver System will do this relatively efficiently, at low cost, and without the need for high tech and costly support.

Huge sums of money are being pumped into agricultural research from international development agencies and  large foundations, mostly with good intentions, but with slow outcomes, that are often not effective because the basic needs of tropical rainfed agriculture - soil moisture and fertility maintenance  - are absent. Tens of millions of dollars go to developing huge river basin and watershed plans, creating detailed maps and plans that never come to fruition or even get started; hiring armies of administrators, surveyors, engineers, etc who write detailed and exhaustive reports that mainly benefit the consulting companies that provide the input, and highly selected contractors.  In the mean time generations come and go and the basic poverty of Africa remains.  It is a disgrace. 

It is sad to see agencies like the World Bank and USAID turning their backs to small and relative simple investments (and the cost of supporting and promoting them) in favor of moving huge sums of loan and grant money that has little immediate impact on the farming communities of Africa.

I don't want to blow TVNI's horn too loudly, but what this small group of closely connected volunteers around the world has achieved through a technology transfer and support system that focuses on a simple and  "green" technology, that even the least educated can understand, is out of all proportion to the wide scale and significant results that have been achieved.

Africa needs more "technology" that itself can handle with confidence and achievement - this is what thousands of Ethiopian farmers and their support institutions have done over the past few years and what they continues to do with success.  They own the technology, they know it works, and there is an excitement in its use and the results that are achieved.  Many Ethiopians and others around the world are becoming passionate about the Vetiver System because it is so simple, it works, and they don't have to wait a lifetime for the benefits.  When there is passion then we know there must be something right and compelling in what is being done.

I take my hat off to "The Vetiver Man of Tulube" and to the many others like Hassan Ali - simple decent farmers who have led their families and communities to a better life.

Dick Grimshaw


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