Apr. 27th, 2011

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ARGENTINA: Free books in Public Places to Woo Readers

BUENOS AIRES, Apr 27, 2011 (IPS) - "This book has not been lost. It has no owner; it is part of the Argentine Free Book Movement, and it was left in this place so that you would find it."

This is the handwritten message on the fly-leaf inside a copy of "El paraíso de los ladrones", a Spanish translation of British author G. K. Chesterton's The Paradise of Thieves, left on a bench in a public square in Buenos Aires.

Anyone can take part in the movement simply by leaving a book in a park, a train station or on a bus seat, with a note asking whoever happens to find it to read it and then "release it" again for others to read.

This is the kind of idea that helped Buenos Aires win the title of World Book Capital 2011, awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The title was conferred Apr. 23, on World Book and Copyright Day, and the city will remain the World Book Capital until the same date in 2012, when the title will pass to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

In the meantime the Argentine capital will be expanding the numbers of new readers and potential writers. In addition it will become the proud possessor of a multilingual library containing 30,000 volumes, a treasure store that comes with World Book Capital recognition.MORE
Frankly, I'd give them the prize for this book store (Buenos Aires' El Ateneo bookshop) alone: (via angry black woman)

Read more... )
Don't you want to just LIVE there???
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Dialogues:Brazil Doesn’t Need Poisons to Maintain Food Production Fabíola Ortiz interviews MST leader JOÃO PEDRO STÉDILE*

For the last three consecutive years, Brazil, an agricultural giant, has occupied first place worldwide in the consumption of agricultural herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. It had risen to second place behind the United States in 2006, but took over the top spot in 2008 after a record soybean harvest.

A study by the German market research firm Kleffmann Group, commissioned by the National Association for Plant Protection, which represents agrochemical manufacturers, confirmed that Brazil is the world’s leading market for agrochemicals.

Over seven billion dollars were spent on these products in 2008, while the area of cultivated land decreased by two percent.

Nevertheless, the amount of chemical products used per farmer in Brazil is relatively small compared to other countries.
In 2007, an average of 87.8 dollars per hectare were spent on agrochemicals in Brazil, compared to 196.7 dollars in France and 851 dollars in Japan.

The five biggest transnationals in this sector - BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and Monsanto - all have manufacturing plants in Brazil.

This situation has led the MST to broaden its focus beyond its original purpose of pushing for the effective implementation of agrarian reform. The organisation currently represents some 20,000 members throughout Brazil, and works alongside 60,000 rural families in pressuring the government to distribute idle farmland and improve the conditions on those areas already settled by small family farmers.
Stédile spoke with Tierramérica about the movement’s current concerns.MORE

Brazil at Risk of Agrarian Counter Reform

RIO DE JANEIRO, Apr 27, 2011 (IPS) - A process of "agrarian counter-reform" is taking place in Brazil, according to activist João Pedro Stédile, a leader of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).

Stédile said Brazil's land reform efforts faltered in the last few years of the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), while land ownership became more concentrated.

In the final stretch of President Lula's second term, many legal expropriations of idle land on large estates were blocked in court.

In addition, the international financial crisis "had the opposite effect in Brazil, because in order to protect their funds, international capitalists ran to Brazil to invest in land and energy projects," the activist said.

That led to a "perverse logic" in agriculture, in which purchases of unproductive land by the government were disputed and ownership became more concentrated, as part of "an agrarian counter-reform process," he said.

The most recent official figures are from 2006. The Agricultural Census of that year, published in 2009 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), shows that the concentration of rural land has remained virtually unaltered in the last two decades.

In Brazil, one of the countries in the world with the most uneven distributions of land, around 3.5 percent of landowners hold 56 percent of the arable land while the poorest 40 percent own barely one percent.

According to the IBGE, properties larger than 1,000 hectares cover 46 percent of Brazil's farmland, while properties smaller than 10 hectares occupy barely 2.7 percent.

"The concentration is worse now than in 1920, when we were just getting over slavery (which was abolished in 1888)," Stédile told IPS. "We hope the government of Dilma (Rousseff) will change the agrarian policy, starting with INCRA," Brazil's National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform. MORE

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Sunshine and Shadow in Rwanda's Rural Housing Programme

KIGALI, Apr 27, 2011 (IPS) - The gleam of new corrugated iron sheets shimmers through the blue-green haze that veils Rwanda's rural valleys and hillsides. It is a visible sign of Rwanda’s metamorphosis from a nation devastated by genocide seventeen years ago to the fastest modernising state on the continent.

But are the shiny roofs the jewels on Africa’s emerging bride, or the bling worn by a bully?

Most of the new houses are the result of a hugely ambitious plan to bring rural families, at present scattered across the countryside, together into villages called imidugudu, enabling the government to more easily provide electricity, water, schooling and security. But it is a smaller programme, the replacement of grass-thatched houses with more modern structures, which caught the attention of aid agencies when complaints emerged last year that the homes of the minority Batwa, former pygmy forest dwellers, were being destroyed by the government.

The issue is complex, encapsulating many of the tensions haunting Rwanda as well as the strides it is making towards prosperity.

... MORE

Realising grand plans

In Rwanda's system of government, the job of local leaders is to mobilise and co-ordinate local and national resources to implement programmes.

In the case of Bye-Bye Nyakatsi, central government earmarked 10 million dollars. This is complemented by the mobilisation of the army to distribute roof sheets and building material. Public works programmes aimed at employing youths provide further labour.

Then Rwanda’s intense traditional communal-work system, called umuganda, kicks in to help build the new houses. Everybody pitches in to supply labour and materials - officially on the last Saturday of every month, but often whenever someone has time to help a neighbour. Scroll and look to the right in the yellow box for rest of this article
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Features: We export food to import food

Nebiyu Eyassu cuts through the supposed benefits of foreign agricultural investments - so-called land grabs - for a country like Ethiopia. Far from boosting employment and local food security, land grabs are likely to prop up a discredited government and increase hunger.

The price hike in global food has prompted certain countries to seek cheap and fertile farmland beyond their borders in order to guarantee food security for themselves. To achieve this goal such states are encouraging their domestic agro-businesses, tied to their national interests, to invest in countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Madagascar, Tanzania and Argentina, to name a few. Capital invested in far-away farms will produce food cheaply, which will then be exported back to the country where the original capital came from. In this way, the volatility of the international food market can be avoided and national food security achieved.

To accomplish this goal, a key step is to convince developing nations to give up their fertile land to foreign investors. One of the baits designed for the purpose of persuasion is the promise of infrastructure and the sharing of information and technology in agricultural science. The other promise made to host nations is of capital gained from food exports, which can then be reinvested in the country. For underdeveloped countries, who face serious food insecurity, and who are often unable to feed their population, this may sound too good to pass by, particularly if host nation governments are too naive, or are otherwise unconcerned.


Although this issue of land-grabbing by foreign interests is new to Ethiopia, it is no stranger to other parts of the developing world. The history of foreign agro-business intrusion in some Latin American and Caribbean countries is enlightening to say the least. In northeastern Brazil, the region was extensively farmed by foreign agricultural interests for centuries. Unfortunately this region has nothing to show for it now. Today the region is the poorest part of the country with the least food security and one of the highest malnutrition rates in Latin America.
Contrary to the promises made by companies that farmed Brazil’s fertile soil, the outcome has been very grim. In his famous book ‘Open Veins of Latin America’, Eduardo Galliano, commenting on Brazil’s northeast, says, ‘Naturally fitted to produce food, it became a place of hunger. Where everything had bloomed exuberantly, the destructive and all dominating plantation left sterile rock, washed out soil, and eroded lands.’ Are Ethiopia’s own fertile lands headed for the same fate? What makes the current foreign agricultural adventure in Ethiopia any different?MORE

here's an old post of mine that gives more information on the phenomenon of land grabs Food sovereignty part 1: rich vs Poor


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