There is a growing problem of the misunderstanding about what leads to conflict in Africa. Some people believe that Africans are bad people, and one day pick up a gun and form a militia. While this is true for the smallest grain of sand in the entire planet of beach that makes human beings, it is not a representative of humanity. So what does cause people to be engrossed in conflict?
Many basic things push people to desperate conflict: oppression, persecution, lack of food and water, land tenure, destruction of their homes or eviction, no income. As many people plan to visit away for the upcoming Christmas Holiday, we thought it might be a refreshing experience to let your vacation contribute to food security in Africa. We aren’t talking about your typical “Give me some money, and let the burden of your conscious wealth become bearable.” This is an entirely different approach to contributing to the solutions for the problem.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
The world needs solutions to the problem of food shortages and conflict resolution. Solutions shouldn’t require people to constantly be throwing money at politicians and militaries. Solutions take one positive economy and put it into benefitting another. Until that economy becomes circular and stands all on its own. Then the people themselves stand alone but together in a circle.
Theory of Change
When we create a theory of change, we start from where we want to be. Then, we work backwards: step by step until we have completed the steps to solve the problem to the situation we are facing now. With this type of plan, we give hope. We have hope. Hope changes the problems into solutions.
For our theory of change, we decided to start at the problem of hunger and conflict. We worked through poverty, unemployment, migration, land degradation, and international violent intervention. Then we worked forwards through food markets, land tenure, farming, education, and forestry. Phew that was a big load. It gave us an idea of mission: our hope for the 600 million people who live at risk of climate change, poverty, conflict, hunger, and thirst. In our theory of change, people in Sub-Sahara regions would use the tools they have, to create the life and economical partnerships that let them stand alone against climate change. We have our formula for food security. We have our formula to resolve the conflict.
But how would our small group of people who knew how to change the world, PAY for all that. Our faces fell a little. Grants? Ha. We aren’t Monsanto GMO testers or Bill Gates malaria drug inventors. Loans? Doubtful. We are POOR. Rich people give rich people loans. Economy? Okay now we are talking.
So what economies are we talking about?
Farming and Food markets: Ghana’s population relies mostly on farming, but there is little infrastructure in marketing, processing, or packaging to give food any value or prevent spoilage. There is a serious issue with transportation and roads, so onsite or near site processing points are crucial.
Land Tenure: It’s not easy oh. The British Empire and the Government gave all the land to a few people. We can farm it, but today his cousin might need a diamond ring and so it goes to real estate developers. No more farming for Sub-Sahara farmers.
Forestry: The Forestry Commission has laid all the rights to the trees of Ghana. There is no incentive for another tree to be planted in the entire country unless you have a concessions license for thirty years from now when the tree matures for you to cut it. People cut the trees, then sell the wood for lumber or charcoal. They actually start laughing when I talk about turning a desert into a forest. There is no plan for management partly because of the land tenure agreements with chiefs and government officials, and partly because no farmer will make any money from any native tree they plant or leave standing in the next five years.
Education: Ghana has a loan from the World Bank to build new schools, but mostly they rely on people to pay for their child’s education. I can illustrate this with an experience that occurred a few months back.
I was sitting in my fourth grade classroom, teaching as a volunteer, when I was called to the office. The Ghana Education Service was paying us a visit.
“How can I help you gentlemen?”
Two very nicely dressed men carrying a receipt book and a stack of forms sat across from my desk in the office.
The one not in charge began to speak: “We are here to register the school.”
“Oh,” I replied gullibly “Register it for what?”
The same man replied. “Oh a while back you might have seen it on the news that a child was hit by a car. He was going to a school that wasn’t registered, and when the media called us about the school, we hadn’t heard of it.”
“Oh would you have taken the child to school in a bus?”
“No, but it is better for us to know about where children are going to school, so when the media calls us: we know where they are going.”
“Oh so you would offer the family some kind of insurance or relief to pay for the funeral?”
Understanding that I don’t buy into propaganda about functions of government whose hands don’t touch outside their own pockets: as if to correct my illiteracy about what dues were owed to the GES, the one in charge now spoke. “No, if the school registers we offer one textbook to all the students. And if you refuse to register we will shutdown your school.”
“So what does a school have to do to register?”
“Well today we collect 200 cedi and every year after we collect 250 cedi. The school is required…”
He continued talking: listing seven things the school is required to do at our expense in order to register. I thought about the family on my way to school that had seven children and no windows in their cement block house, with a tarp for a roof. I wasn’t sure they were sending any of their children to school.
“So the Ghana constitution doesn’t guarantee a free education to all its students?”
“Yes it does.”
“Where is the nearest school that has openings? Because I have 75 students here, and they are all getting a free education. I am a volunteer. I will have to start charging my students because you are requiring us to pay fees to you. You haven’t offered us anything of value they haven’t been given in return.”
The man in charge snapped back “They can go to public school.”
“Does it have any openings?” I knew it didn’t have a single opening and was more than two miles with no bus service. No two year old child from my nursery class would be able to attend even if they had an opening. We were one of five Muslim schools in a two mile radius operating in private capacity while the government had allowed expansion of real estate developers without any provisions for Muslim Schools. We had two mosques, thirty food vendors, a sewing store, a copy store, several tailors, charcoal vendors, fast food joints, a pharmacy, a bank, and five private schools built in six years before they had paid us a visit this day.
“Well no, we don’t have room for your students at the school. They are paying feeding fees. You are operating for profit. We are here to collect the registration fee.”
“With all due respect, this is a charitable institution. All of our teachers including myself are volunteers. The children have to eat. You think we take their feeding fees and don’t feed them? No, everything you see here has been donated.”
What do we do in Africa when the government comes knocking? We pay the man. He will bring an officer to put a boot on the gate and guard the door with a gun to turn the children away from the school for not cooperating with the GES. That is exactly what he threatened to do.
We Have Hope
After all of that explanation of the problems with solving food security in Ghana, we have hope? Our hope is still in the economy. We create a circle of partnerships between forestry, farming, markets, education…and Tourism. People like yourself who are interested in seeing Africa, and want to help us solve the issue of food security that is making the rest of the world more insecure. We inform you about the problems from a comfortable on the ground view and you benefit us with your visit through the exchange of our experience and the accommodations of your visit.
You may be saying to yourself that you would like to blame Ghanaians or politicians or corruption or masked conspiracies of labeled gunmen…etc.etc.etc. But why blame anyone? We have the solutions to this problem. We have the sustainable solutions to this problem. It only takes people with the interest and a bit of free time on vacation.
And now you are saying to yourself.“Okay. Okay.” Or “Yeah. Right. Good-bye.” But please, give us a few minutes to explain. We aren’t talking about making you live in a “grass hut in a tropical storm under fasting in temperatures of over 100 degrees while you think about what time you will go out to fetch water for your corn patch.” This isn’t that type of experience. We wouldn’t want to harm anyone. That would defeat the purpose of our mission.
Let us show you how to prevent the armed conflicts that have been plaguing our planet for centuries. Help us bring sustainable peace to an entire continent by feeding the people, giving them the collective rights of land through ownership powers, show them how to build sustainable productive farms, process their food into marketable products, provide sustainable green energy, protect and preserve forests, and continue that tradition through the education of the future of their children. Come to Ghana. Come on one of our tours. It will be the best 7-9 days of your life you have ever spent.