Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Catch up on Zimbabweland

If you missed out on Zimbabweland blog posts since the beginning of the year, you can catch up now (sorry, I am on holiday!). Here are the dozen most popular ones of those posted this year:
If you want to ensure you don't miss any, just sign up on the blog and each Monday a new post will be sent automatically to your inbox.
Also, in case you missed them, two blog series were posted in this period, focusing on updates of the Masvingo 'livelihoods after land reform' work, looking at changes in the last five years, and comparing new resettlements with nearby communal areas. You can find the first posts in the links below (they ran for the subsequent 4-5 weeks, so just click 'next').
Finally, the low cost book 'Debating Zimbabwe's Land Reform', a compilation of various blogs from 2011-2013, is now available in Kindle format for 77p! You can still buy the book via Amazon if you prefer a paper version for just over a fiver.
This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

Friday, 22 August 2014

A Day with Argentina's 'Street Engineers'

By Adrian Smith
They take pride in what they do at the Reciclando Sueños co-operative. Situated in the La Matanza district of greater Buenos Aires, the workers describe themselves as cartoneros profesionales (professional recyclers) and ingenieros callejeros (street engineers). Whilst some in the city see waste picking as a lowly activity, these workers consider themselves to be providing a public service vital for the future sustainability of the city. In embryonic form, they are nurturing an important urban infrastructure from below.

The co-operative gathers the plastic waste that blows through the vast grid of Buenos Aires’ seemingly never-ending streets. The cartoneros form one of many co-operatives that have developed in the city over the years. Reciclando Sueños specialises in plastic materials. Only some of these have market value, sometimes very limited. So they are trying to find ways of adding value by developing processing techniques, and by experimenting with ways to reclaim a wider range of materials. It is in this grassroots innovation sense that they call themselves street engineers.

By Adrian Smith
So they have developed heating techniques to help separate, clean up, and concentrate different plastics. This, and other methods such as milling, help bulk up the materials and add value. But they have also been experimenting with the conversion of beer bottle labels into bricks suitable for construction, and which have acoustic and thermal insulating potential. The National Institute for Industrial Technology (INTI – Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Industrial) are testing the bricks for certification, but it is taking time to generate the knowledge in officially approved form. It can be tricky working with the bureaucratic procedures of research institutes. Any progress through the system works due to helpful connections with committed individuals within these organisations.

When visiting the co-operative, accompanying a group from the network for Engineering, Social Justice and Peace, it felt to me like the ideas, experimentation and commitment to developing material processing infrastructure in La Matanza was very distant and disconnected from some important research and innovation infrastructures. I wondered what a more dedicated and localised research and innovation infrastructure might look like, and how it could facilitate the creativity evident at the co-op. Even further away is the whole investment and production infrastructure that generates this plastic and, potentially, re-uses it.

By Adrian Smith
The only connection the co-operative currently has with production and consumption infrastructures is through the prices it takes for the materials reclaimed. In trying to boost the price they can get for a wider range of materials, the co-operative is innovating techniques for plastics recovery and reuse. But the processing insights generated by these self-identified street engineers are poorly served by this price mechanism. Until other providers identify the workers as innovative, then existing infrastructures will provide insufficient resources and poor development spaces for co-ops like this to play a more informative role in new urban infrastructure.

By Adrian Smith

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Opportunities and challenges for the world’s first national mobile health initiative

Today, to coincide with National Woman’s Month, the South African National Department of Health launch MomConnect - a bold initiative and one of the first national, at scale, mobile health (mHealth) initiatives in the world. 
MomConnect is part of a project that seeks to register all pregnant women in the country for an SMS service that will provide information and advice on pregnancy. It’ll also act as a channel to notify the government about poor service.
While the academic and policy community continues to grapple with the many challenges of implementing mHealth initiatives in low and middle income countries, South Africa has taken the plunge and we commend the National Department of Health on its vision and commitment to address maternal and child mortality.

Potential benefits of MomConnect

There are a number of fantastic reasons to be excited about MomConnect:
  •  It will help South Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and child mortality. 
  • It offers a way of improving South Africa’s data systems by recording all pregnancies as early as possible.
  • It helps to promote healthy behavior, help mothers identify risk factors and improve mothers’ knowledge of, and uptake of, available health services.
  • It enables pregnant women and mothers to ask questions and seek clarity on maternal health issues. It offers the opportunity for women to  give feedback on the services that they have received from the clinics.  This addresses supply side challenges, particularly discrepancies in the kinds of services provided by health clinics. Health workers throughout the country have already received some training in relation to MomConnect and this feedback mechanism enhances the demand for and recognition of good performance.  SMS messaging will also be used to enrich health workers’ skills and augment their training.
  • Finally, all women can de-register at the time of their choosing. 

3 important areas that must not be neglected

The rollout of mHealth at national scale will be watched by South Africans and others around the world.  Can mHealth really be used to overcome health system challenges experienced in low and middle income countries?  Will the results from MomConnect finally provide evidence that mHealth initiatives can be successfully scaled up and can meet the health needs of poor and marginalised populations? 

But social science research calls attention to another dimension – how might MomConnect be experienced and used differently to policy makers’ expectations?  We predict three areas where MomConnect implementation may differ from the ideal and where early attention may ameliorate undesirable and unintended consequence: 

Unintended pregnancies
South Africa has a history of population control under the previous apartheid government.  Attempts to redress this have focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health rights and South Africa has very progressive policies on sexual and reproductive health.  Yet implementation is not always easy and this, coupled with strong cultural or religious commitments, may mean that MomConnect is seen as a means of committing women to motherhood.  How will adolescent girls with unintended pregnancies be treated in relation to their attendance at clinics and MomConnect?  Will they be informed of their right to access early safe abortion services and quality contraceptive options or will they be encouraged to register with MomConnect as pregnant women?  What incentives will encourage clinic and health workers to ensure that women receive information about safe abortion or other services appropriate to their needs rather than assuming motherhood is always desirable?

Negative feedback
Research in South Africa has frequently pointed to the structural problems associated with delivering health services to all South Africans, for example lack of infrastructure, equipment and drugs, poor staffing ratios, lack of alternative services etc.  This combined with the very personalized nature of the MomConnect service, may mean that pregnant women and mothers of young children do not use the feedback and complaint services for fear of retaliation or withdrawal of subsequent health services. What reassurance will they have that their complaints are anonymous?   Also, how will information be disaggregated to ensure that health workers who need better management and support are provided with this?

There is massive, and well-placed, optimism about the use of mHealth to address health system challenges such as maternal and child mortality.  Nonetheless, feminist and political economy researchers remind us to pay attention to power differentials in access to, and control of, electronic networks.  Extensive debates about gender and ICT technology point to the ways in which technology facilitates surveillance, commercialisation and privatisation.  Private companies are invested in the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and in accessing women through mobile phones.  The role of the private sector – in public private partnerships on health – requires more interrogation.  Who will have access to the data about which women are pregnant and how will this be used?  What mechanisms will ensure women’s privacy against commercial exploitation? 

South Africa, as a young democracy, has a legacy of pioneering health achievements aimed to redress the imbalances of the past and current challenges. We welcome this initiative and look forward to its success.  

Read more about our work on the Empowerment of Women and Girls in  in urban areas in low-income settings on our Interactions website

Find out more about our case study on the role of technology in sexual and reproductive health policy.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

China and Brazil in African Agriculture: news roundup

This news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project. For regular updates from the project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Brazilian development cooperation increases by 91%
Last week IPEA launched its report on Brazil’s international development cooperation spending in 2010. Brazilian investments in international development cooperation increased by 91% compared to the previous year, totalling R$ 1.6 billion.
(IPEA (pdf))

South Africa overtakes China to become Zimbabwe’s biggest tobacco buyer
South Africa has overtaken China as the biggest buyer of Zimbabwe’s tobacco as of last week. South Africa bought 10,432,871kg worth US$30,882,167,98,  whereas China was in fourth place (after Belgium and the UAE) having purchased 2,585,700kg. The statistics are from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB). However, China is said to account for 40% of the country’s tobacco output, and exports to the country are expected to peak as the year progresses.
(The Standard)

ProSavana meeting highlights policy objective differences
On 8 August, civil society groups and senior politicians met to discuss the ProSavana project. The National Director of Economy in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture gave a speech contradicting ProSavana’s master plan, leaked several weeks ago, saying that part of its aim was to support smallholder farmers. When challenged on this contradiction, he replied that the government had not been formally shown the master plan and that he was simply expressing the government’s policy on ProSavana. He also agreed with criticisms of the lack of the project’s transparency. The official master plan is due to be released in October. In the meantime, the debate over ProSavana’s attitude towards smallholder farmers is expected to continue
(Mozambique News Reports and Clippings (pdf))

China Special Envoy on Sino-African trade
China Representative on African Affairs, Zhong Jianghua, rejects Nigerian minister’s claims that China is responsible for de-industrialisation, but agrees that African states should see Chinese businesses as competitors. In this interview with the African Research Institute, he also speaks specifically on the importance of agriculture in China’s cooperation with Africa and draws on experiences from when he was Ambassador to South Africa to highlight the challenges involved.
(African Research Institute)

Chinese beef market soars
In response to growing beef consumption, Chinese agribusinesses are expanding overseas in partnerships with foreign beef suppliers. Chongqing Grain Group is one such state-owned business that is looking to invest in Australian cattle. At present, China consumes 5.6 million tons a year, which works out to about 4-5kg per person per year. This is around a fifth of the global average but is set to rise.

Brazil’s debt restructuring with Africa benefits trade with Brazilian businesses
Following Dilma Rousseff’s decision to restructure debts with many African partners a few weeks back, this article suggests that Brazilian businesses have already directly benefited from the move. Some countries pardoned, such as Senegal, have spent more on Brazilian products than the value of the debts cancelled.  Defending the controversial decision to pardon so much debt, many Brazilian diplomats were also said to have stressed that it was important to facilitate Brazilian investments in those countries, since they were already being courted by others, especially China.
(Folha de S.Paulo - in Portuguese)

Can Tanzania learn from China’s success story?
This article draws on a point from Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr. Lu Yongqing, that China was able leverage big companies into fighting poverty in China, and suggests that Tanzania should learn from them. The second part of the article looks at China’s engagements in Tanzania, and says it was there for Tanzania “at a time when richer ‘development partners’ refused to listen.” It looks at how much China is trading with the country but suggests China could do more in terms of helping Tanzania develop value added industries, potentially drawing on the agricultural sector.

The China-African Development Fund: a closer look
A new working paper from the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch explores the role of the China-African Development Fund (CADFund). Dr. Sven Grimm and Elizabeth Schickerling compare CADFund’s role as a sovereign wealth fund with that offered by Norway (Norfund), and propose that CADFund include African-owned businesses and do more public engagement to be of greater value.
(CCS (pdf))

By Henry Tugendhat

This news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project. For regular updates from the project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why STEPS is creating a new research hub in Latin America

I am in Buenos Aires for the ESOCITE/4S conference, which is bringing together Latin American scholars in Science & Technology Studies and visitors from the USA, Europe and other regions of the world.  

It is an exciting moment to convene in Argentina. The government is mired in controversy over payment of debts, vulture funds, nationalisations, and the future direction of development as the country's politicians jockey for position ahead of the presidential elections next year. In the region too, a decade or so of trying to make a neo-structural model of development more inclusive is leading into a period of reflection and debate about the experience.
That decidedly mixed experience has centred on attempts to build upon natural resource-based economies, and use them as a basis to leverage investment for developing a different productive matrix that is less dependent upon the vicissitudes of global markets in resources, and that can create jobs and other industrial sectors with high social inclusion. Reflections on how this has worked, or not, and where it has struggled, and why, must consider which groups, issues and agendas have been included, and which excluded, and the fruits of these attempts.
Debate appears to be opening up to a questioning of this model of development, and consideration of alternative models. Obviously, it is extremely difficult for visitors like me to get the full picture, especially without an appreciation of all the nuances and historical specificities required. And, arguably, it is also challenging for people in the region to look across the diverse communities and groups involved. Which is one reason why the creation of the Centro STEPS America Latina – our new research 'hub' in Latin America – is particularly exciting, since it is committed to exploring alternative pathways for sustainable developments in the region.

Building regional links

Right now, the nucleus of the Centro STEPS, which will become a hub for regional reflections, is a team at Fundación Cenit here in Buenos Aires. It consists of Valeria Arza, Anabel Marin, Patrick van Zwanenberg, Mariano Fressoli and Antonella Perini. They are already building upon existing links with other researchers in the region.
The Centro STEPS network provides a platform for critical reflection on the development models currently pursued in the region; a venue for debating alternatives; collaborations that gather evidence and analysis of concrete experiments on the ground; as well as a vehicle for engaging with different agencies and social and economic sectors across the region.
Centro STEPS is taking a particular interest in the roles that science and technology, as well as other forms of knowledge production and material creativity, can play in developments that seek social justice and environmental sustainability. The Centro already has considerable experience in deploying the analytical resources from Science & Technology Studies, Innovation Studies and Development Studies.
Past projects by Centro members also have a track record in drawing in contributions from the natural sciences, design and engineering, as well as social science disciplines including economics, sociology, political science and anthropology. An engaged and interdisciplinary approach is the hallmark of past projects by this team, and which forms the ethos for the network they are facilitating. The Centro also builds on roundtables organised in Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina as part of the STEPS Centre New Manifesto project for rethinking science and technology for development.
At the ESOCITE/4S conference the Centro have a stall and are hosting an evening reception on Friday 22nd August for scholars interested in contributing to this exciting initiative (organised, appropriately, as an alternative to formal conference business). At the reception, in a bar downtown (in the basement of 36 de billar, I hope!), there will be scope to discuss the issues of concern, methodologies, engagements, modes of activity for the network, and opportunities to join and contribute.

Getting going: debates, films, conferences

The Centro already has a cycle of debates, which began in April with agricultural biotechnology in Buenos Aires. It will be moving soon to other cities in the region (the Centro has funds for potential hosts to bid into). A working paper series is in preparation and a regular network newsletter. These and other items will be hosted on a network website (in development). Our activities, such as the seminar debate on intellectual property, are already reported regularly in the Argentine paper Pagina 12, and syndicated in the region through blogs and other media. There are plans for film documentaries and other media for exploring the issues. And at ESOCITE/4S, as at other academic fora, members of the Centro and network are convening special sessions.
For example, Mariano Fressoli and I have convened a two-part session at ESOCITE/4S around the question, What is innovation for social inclusion? We have a fantastic set of contributions in Spanish, Portuguese and English. I will also be contributing the following week to a Centro seminar debate dedicated to the topic of digital fabrication, most emblematically in 3D printing, and what this means for development. I'll be asking questions about grassroots experimentation in new socio-technical possibilities being explored in makerspaces, FabLabs, and hackerspaces.
All this is incredibly exciting. I think this initiative is not only important for the region, vital as that is, but also for people considering alternative developments in other regions of the world, whether in Europe like me, Asia, Africa, and North America. The STEPS Centre is collaborating with partners to establish network hubs in all these regions. We plan for these networks to intersect, and provide dynamic and diverse platforms for exchange of experiences and analysis.
We want to cultivate a reflexive attitude sensitive to the differences in histories, cultures, economies, societies, epistemologies and so forth, and which we believe can lead to deeper insights and stronger solidarities through appreciation of located and interconnected development alternatives. And hopefully the encounters involved, sparking criticism and argument as well as identifying common ground, will contribute creative insights for those already engaged in experimentation and building diverse pathways towards varied forms of social justice and environmental sustainability. The situation in Latin America now suggests Centro STEPS will provide an important component for that platform; a platform that can help more people become protagonists in the building of caminos (pathways) by asking questions.
By Adrian Smith


Monday, 18 August 2014

A1 permits: unleashing contradictions in the party state

On 2 July, President Mugabe launched the new permit system aimed at all A1 farms. Previously, Minister for Lands, Douglas Mombeshora, had announced that all previous ‘offer letters’ were null and void, and that everyone with land officially allocated in A1 resettlement schemes should apply for a new permit. These permits were aimed at regularising land tenure arrangements, and provide security of land holdings in perpetuity.

The permits, Mombeshora claimed, could be used as collateral to raise money from commercial banks. Both husband and wife would be named on the permit, and this would avoid any disputes around inheritance, offering women in particular security. The permits would come with conditions, however. They would not be issued to those who were not utilising the land, nor those who had been allocated land illegally outside the ‘fast-track’ allocations. A total of over 220,000 permits would be issued (although this seems high), and the first were handed over as part of a presidential ceremonial occasion at Chipfuri farm in Mhangura.

Some argued that the permits were illegal, however. Since compensation had not been paid for the land, the title deed is still notionally valid, and so no new land ownership arrangement can be applied. The ministry disputes this interpretation, but the issue of compensation certainly still remains very live, and must be a high priority.

On the face of it, the issuing of permits seemed to me like an excellent move. Indeed very much in line with arguments made on this blog before. Uncertainty about land tenure has plagued development in the new resettlements, and many had pointed to the limitations of the ‘offer letters’. A clearer, more transparent approach, with conditions and backed by an audit, would provide a firmer basis for planning and development efforts. Clear ownership arrangements would also offset attempts at ‘grabbing’ land by elites, or the growing practices of informal land allocation by a range of different authorities. The Ministry of Lands, backed hopefully by an improved land information system and greater clarity in land administration, would be doing its job.

However, rather than providing stability, normalisation and security, the announcement appears to have had the opposite effect in some places. A spate of land invasions has occurred again. These seem to have been in part prompted by the speech made by President Mugabe at the launch. Whether this was misreporting by the press or the president, as ever, was playing to the crowd, he was reported as saying that whites had no right to the land, and that ‘supping with whites’ through ‘fronting’ farms would not be countenanced. This has been interpreted variously as an affront to the Constitution, a racist attack and a spur for more land invasions, including of black farmers suspected of colluding with whites.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, had to defend the president’s speech in parliament, arguing that it had been misinterpreted, and of course the President is fully committed to upholding the Constitution. Equally, Minister Mombeshora has reiterated that the land reform is over, invasions should not be allowed, and those moving illegally, for example into forest areas, would be removed in a crack-down on illegal land deals. However, some others may have not been listening to the parliamentary record and ministers’ statements, and in the last few weeks a series of, sometimes violent, invasions have occurred.

One of the most disturbing occurred in Masvingo East near our study sites. Black farmers on a series of farms, many purchased long before the land reform, were accused by war veterans of providing cover for whites and underutilising their land. Repeating an invasion that resulted in evictions last year, the farms were invaded again by a group of youths recruited from nearby areas, and there was a stand-off. This escalated into a conflict in which Mr Mufaro Mukaro was seriously injured in an axe attack, and remains in hospital. The local lands department say that the invasions are illegal and the occupiers should go. The local MP and deputy agriculture minister, Davis Maripira, condemned the attack. But the situation remains tense, although the lead war veteran was arrested.

Other invasions have occurred in Mazwi nature reserve near Bulawayo; in Goromonzi associated with an ownership wrangle with local big wigs, and disputes over periurban housing offered as part of election sweeteners last year; as well as in forest estates in the Eastern Highlands. A violent attack in Guruve earlier in the year also occurred, leaving Malcom Francis and his daughter Catherine both dead, signalling increasing insecurity for remaining white farmers. William Stander of Benjani ranch in Mwenezi also recently lost a Constitutional court contest to retain his farm. The most recent invasion, garnerning substantial publicity through activist Ben Freeth, was the attempt by deputy presidential secretary, Dr Ray Ndhlukula to take over Figtree farm in Matabeleland South, despite a High Court ruling against this.

Just as we thought that a sensible, ordered reform of land tenure and ownership was to happen, backed by a long-called for audit, then confusion and uncertainty emerges again. The recent period is a telling sign that Zimbabwe has a long way to go before a formal, effective and accountable bureaucratic state is allowed to operate. The Ministry of Lands under Mombeshora has been trying to move in this direction, recognising the urgent need to move on from the land reform to rebuild agriculture and spur rural development. Yet political factions within the party state, including perhaps inadvertently the president, but also senior members of his own office, are resisting this move to a normalised situation. Political and personal benefit can be gained from instability just as it has been over 14 or more years.

Others resisting are those disappointed with the way the state is moving to regularise things, and so exclude some from potential future spoils. And there are those too who are disillusioned with the party, including core supporters inside the war veteran movement, seeing it as selling out in its attempts to become ‘acceptable’ to the international community in the post July 31 2013 era. Jabulani Sibanda, the notorious war veteran leader, commented recently: “This is a struggle; this is war against multiple black farm owners. Some of them have farms registered under the names of their children who are not even in the country. We will take such farms and redistribute them. We are against land hoarders and people who have too much land; excess land to be precise,”

As discussed last week, the complex manoeuvres, the competing factions, and the layers of commercial and political interests at the heart of the ZANU-PF state can result in all sorts of contradictory and conflicting results. So within one month, we had a move to regularise and formalise land tenure, along the lines that many had long been calling for, and yet a reaction that resulted in more violent land invasions.

Those stuck in the middle, including many ministers, civil servants, but particularly people on the ground, including frontline government officials, find it difficult to navigate a way forward. They urgently want a clear, transparent system to prevail in line with the Constitution; and with whites involved in the new agrarian system, contributing in multiple ways. It is no wonder, as discussed last week, that things are stuck, and reforms and the economy are not moving forward as fast as many, including many within ZANU-PF, hoped.

By Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

Are we really tackling the challenge of improving livelihoods for poor farmers?

Agricultural research for development, including the consortium of research centres CGIAR, is regularly assessed to ensure money is being wisely spent on effective measures to promote better lives for rural communities. 2014 is the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the 10th Year of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, CAADP, which is also being reviewed for its success in improving food and nutrition security.

On 15th July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture & Food for Development debated the impact of CAADP and how to ensure a sustainable future for African agriculture. The event, held at the UK Houses of Parliament, was chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington and brought together a panel of experts including Dr Yvonne Pinto (Director, Agricultural Learning and Impacts Network (ALINe) and Colin Poulton (SOAS Centre for Development, Environment and Policy), co-authors of ‘African Agriculture: Drivers for Success for CAADP implementation’.

This is an excerpt from a post by William D. Dar of ICRISAT for Food Tank. Read the full post on the FoodTank blog.

by Nathan Oxley, Communications Officer, KNOTS

Engaging parliamentarians on large scale land investments in Africa

Africa needs agricultural investments that facilitate inclusive and broad-based growth.  The investments must be transparent and fair in order to respect and protect the land rights of the rural communities and women.

These issues were highlighted by the Pan African Parliamentarians (PAP) and Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) Parliamentarians Forum in a workshop co-organized by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, African Land Policy Initiative, International Land  Coalition, the Land Policy Initiative of the African Union, European Parliamentarians with Africa, Oxfam, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Future Agricultures Consortium, Africa Forum  and NEPAD. The Conference was held in Johannesburg from 11-12 August 2014.

The conference was the fourth and final one in a process that has taken place in the four sub regional parliaments of West, East, Southern and Central Africa African parliaments respectively.

The Pan African Parliamentarians were appraised of the achievements by the Pan African parliament since it launched a campaign to raise awareness against of Large Scale Land investments in 2010 by the researchers, community members and policy making institutions. Parliamentarians were provided with evidence based stories of ongoing research on the phenomenon through academic papers, policy briefs, video evidence and testimonies from affected women and civil society organizations that work with these communities. The video recorded by the Zambian Land Alliance highlighted tangible experiences of the affected communities to the Pan African Parliamentarians.

The presentations echoed the lack of transparency in contract negotiations; disproportionate livelihood loss, unsustainable business models and consistent weak governance and poor oversight and lack of readiness on the part of the African continent to negotiate effective contracts.  The few positive cases were still experimental, few and far between.  Legislators were challenged to reflect on the current investment models and provoked through the presentation of alternatives and different ways of thinking about large scale land based investments.  Although the campaign to engage regional parliamentarians in the debate on large scale land investments was a success, the PAP proposed measures have not yet implemented at the national levels.

Parliamentarians’ response showed their increased appreciation of the dynamic of large scale land based investments in their countries.  They also singularly and collectively decried their weak oversight ascribed to, among other clauses in the investment contracts which prohibited public disclosure of contracts. The turnover of parliamentarians linked to their five year term of office was also cited as another factor that undermines their capacity to exercise their mandate and sustain the momentum.  The Pan African Parliament has 10 committees and yet member countries second five parliamentarians to PAP. The result is that some countries are not represented on five committees. This further undermines the reach and effectiveness of the Pan Africa Parliament and its resolutions. The Pan African Parliament lacks resources to invest in the knowledge production for parliamentarians. This was attributed to the failure to pay subscriptions by member states.  The legislators also cited limited resources, lack of information and the failure by their member states to ratify and uphold regional and international instruments that they ratify.

Parliamentarians also cited their limited powers to enforce regulations and resolutions on national governments as another challenge. It was also clear that parliamentarians do not share a common understanding of the issues raised and challenges posed by large scale land based investments. This was evidenced by the type of clarifications that they MPs seek from the participating experts. The lack of a common language also posed some barriers in debates and sharing and dissemination of information among members of the PAP.

Here are suggestions to improve the effectiveness of Pan African Parliamentarians’ role in improving the governance of large scale land transactions in Africa:

  • Continuous supply of evidence based knowledge on the large scale land based investment and their impacts in Africa
  • Technical secretariats to support committees with skills, knowledge and continuity of debates throughout the parliamentary cycles. The same secretariat would also monitor and evaluate progress on land based investments
  • Sub regional engagement on the subject through regional and national parliaments
  • Parliamentarians need to demonstrate and motivate political will at the highest levels of the government to address the staggering public investments in agriculture.

By Gaynor Paradza and Emmanuel Sulle

Africa, an emerging ‘green revolution’?

This news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

Lidia Cabral is consulted in this article on agricultural development programmes in Africa. She traces some of the key projects that have emerged over the past few years, and introduces some of the research she has been conducting on the ProSavana programme in Mozambique.
(Publico – in Portuguese)

China in Africa: How Sam Pa became the middle man

This op-ed in the Financial Times seeks to unravel a large network of business ventures and connections around a successful Chinese businessman in Africa called Sam Pa (???). The article looks at some of his dealings with government officials and international business colleagues, including his role in a deal he made between Sinopec and Angola’s state oil company Sonangol. It gives an interesting perspective on a high profile Chinese migrant to Africa and the role that brokers may play between the different state and business actors.
(Financial Times)

Brazil to support coffee and soybean projects in Angola

The Brazilian ambassador to Angola has committed Brazilian support to increased agricultural cooperation between the two countries. Embrapa already provides support in Angola’s agronomic and veterinary research institutes, and their mention in this article seems to suggest they would be part of further agricultural cooperation programmes.
(Macau Hub)

6th China-IFAD South-South Cooperation Conference

August 4: the Vice-Chairman of China’s Ministry of Finance took part in the 6th China-IFAD South-South Cooperation Conference in Maputo. It involved the participation of Mozambique, Burundi, Ethiopia, Egypt and 13 other African countries, along with representatives from over 70 organisations. The conference revolved around a “sharing of experience and deepening cooperation”, which looked at the construction of agricultural infrastructure, technology extension and rural reforms. 5-day conference finished with a visit to Mozambique’s ATDC and Wanbao farm.

Rice joint-venture in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christopher Mutsvangwa, has signed a deal with Chinese hybrid rice company, Yuan Longping Hi-Tech to start a pilot hybrid rice production project. If the tests are successful, both sides have agreed to form a joint venture company to implement large scale hybrid rice production. This also aims to enhance food security and develop Zimbabwe’s domestic rice sector as it has become a staple food for many. Mutsvangwa “signed an MOU on behalf of his firm, Moncris Private Limited while Prof Longpin signed for the National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center, under a deal which was approved by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made.”

US-Africa Summit

The US has announced $17bil in investment pledges in the conclusion of its US-Africa summit involving 50 African states. This summit appeared to bring the discussion more towards trade and investment, and away from the language of aid and donors. In a strong critique, Zainab Usman looks at the conference in the context of other regions’ recent engagements with Africa, in particular those of China. In this context she asks if the recent US summit was merely “too little, too late”.
Overview (Reuters)
Critique by Zainab Usman (Al Jazeera)

Will China be buying African Rice?

In this blog post, Deborah Brautigam disputes the idea that China has started importing African rice. She cites work from Adama Wade’s recent study on Chinese rice projects in Senegal.
(International Policy Digest)

This news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

by Henry Tugendhat, Research Officer, KNOTS

The challenges of agriculture: attitudes of Senegalese young people from the Afrobarometer Round 5 Survey

Senegalese schoolgirl
Photo: Kaymor, Senegalese schoolgirl
by angela7 on Flickr (cc-by-nc-sa)

In February and March 2013, the Senegalese Afrobarometer team conducted a nationwide Survey on a sample of 1200 young Senegalese people aged 18 and above. The sample is representative of the 18+ population and takes into account the distribution by district, sex and place of residence.

As in previous surveys, the Senegalese team inserted some country-specific questions into the standard questionnaire of the African network. These included a question on the extent to which respondents agreed with the following statements:
  1. Q80A_SEN. Promote economic growth by: support to farmers/rural areas versus prioritize industry/urban areas
  2. Q80B_SEN. Promote economic growth by: technology and agricultural inputs versus access to markets
  3. Q80C_SEN. Promote economic growth by: focus on producing cash crops versus food crops
  4. Q80D_SEN. No foreigners to buy land versus foreigners can purchase land
  5. Q80E_SEN. Work in agriculture; produce for consumption or sale.
For the four first questions, regarded as categorical variables, the 7 possible answers were as following:
  • -1 Missing
  • 1 Agree very strongly with 1
  • 2 Agree with 1
  • 3 Agree with 2
  • 4 Agree very strongly with 2
  • 5 Agree with neither
  • 9 Don’t know.
We attempted to see if the perceptions of young people about these agricultural issues differed from that of other age groups. Then, among the young people, we tried to control by sex and place of residence.

For purposes of analysis, the age variable that was continuous was re-coded as a categorical variable. The latter was assigned two modalities: youth (under 36 years old) and adults/old people (more than 36 years old).

Variables Q80A_SEN, Q80B_SEN Q80C_SEN and Q80D_SEN (see above) were re-coded again and each of them were assigned 3 modalities: Agree with 1, Agree with 2 et Agree with neither.

When we crossed the 4 variables with age, only one relationship was statistically significant: it is the relationship between Q80B_SEN (promote economic growth by "technology and agricultural inputs versus access to markets") and the "age group" variable.

Modernize agriculture first, then open markets

Depending on their age, people give priority either to new technologies and improved inputs such as machinery, fertilizer, and seed quality or to improve access to markets with better infrastructure and communication pathways.

As we examined the conditional distributions, it appears that:
  • 79% of young people argue that economic growth should be pursued through modernization of agriculture (new technologies, inputs, improved seeds and machines), while 20% argue that the investment must be focused on improving market access with better infrastructure and communication channels and one person is indecisive;
  • Among adults and the elderly, 83% favour economic growth through modernization of agriculture (new technologies, inputs, improved seeds and machinery); 13% argue that the investment must be focused on improving access to markets, with better infrastructure and communication channels; and 4 people remain undecided.
These distributions show first of all that, whatever their age, the majority of respondents believe that economic growth must be achieved by modernizing agriculture. In fact, 4 out of 5 people agree with this proposition. The idea of working with traditional farming methods is seen as a serious obstacle to the agricultural sector's contribution to economic growth and development. However, compared to adults and the elderly, young people are more likely to attach importance to agricultural markets and everything that facilitates the storage and disposal of products (infrastructure and communication channels).
In sum, it appears that the perception of young people in agriculture is holistic as it incorporates all the modernization of the sector, from production to conditions surrounding the sale of products.

Young people perceptions about land grabbing, agriculture modernization and support to rural farmers: do gender and residence area matter?

There is a dependent relationship between gender and attitude as far as the land grabbing is concerned (p-value <5%). Girls and young women are less favorable than young men to the granting of land to foreigners: 75% of women (3 out of 4 women) would be hostile to the fact of granting of land to foreigners. Among young men, the proportion is 64%.

The difference in attitude is explained by several factors. Women are at the heart of household economies that would be more weakened by a decline in agricultural production resulting from land grabbing. In addition, given their lower level of qualifications, they are at a disadvantage compared to men in terms of employment offered by the new operators. Another reason is related to the fact that men are more likely to benefit financially from land transactions with foreigners. Finally, women are less affected by migration than young men, but they are more affected by the alienation of local resources.

Similarly, there is a dependent relationship between place of residence and attitude to land grabbing (p-value <5%). Rural residents are more likely than urban residents to be opposed to the sale of land to foreigners: 76% of rural respondents do not want land to be sold to foreigners, compared to 68% in urban areas. The most obvious hostility towards rural land sales is explained by the fact that these lands are located in rural areas.

Compared to young men, girls and young women are more favourably disposed to agricultural investment in rural areas and agricultural modernization. Bivariate analysis between these variables and gender are all significant at the 5% level.

90% of girls and women interviewed favour the promotion of economic growth through support to farmers and the rural area of residence, while 10 say that support should be given to industrialization and urban areas. In comparison, 84% of men are in favour of supporting farmers and rural areas against 16% who believe that priority should be focused on industrialization and urban areas. So girls and young women appear to be more interested than young men in investment in rural and agricultural modernization.

The reasons we have previously advanced to explain these differences in attitude and perception are valid here. They are more attached to rural areas (because less affected by migration), and they are heavily dependent on agriculture and the benefits they can get from it (for instance, economic gains and empowerment).

In conclusion, these results show the importance of identifying the perceptions of young people in agriculture and strategies aiming to promote it. Beyond this, clear differences appear in these attitudes, depending on the respondents’ gender, place of residence, educational level, marital status, and other factors.

By Mohamadou Sall

Related: Three reasons why Senegal needs to rethink youth, farming and development

Picturing gender, ethics and health systems: a competition for photographers

The aim of this competition, organised by Research in Gender and Ethics (RinGs), a new cross-RPC partnership between Future Health Systems, ReBUILD and RESYST, is to capture the everyday stories of the ways that gender plays out within health systems around the world. The winning entry will be exhibited at the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, and be used to illustrate our website, and in other published materials with full credit to the photographer.

Gender-sensitive health policy is a feature of international commitments and consensus documents and national-level normative statements and implementation guidance in many countries. However, there are gaps in our knowledge about how gender and ethics interface with health systems. Our project shines a light on some of the ways that gender and health systems come together in a variety of settings. We are looking for photographers who can help us communicate this area of work visually. We welcome images of people of all genders from all areas of the health system, all around the world - be creative!

The deadline for entries is the 1 September 2014.

The judging

Photographs will be judged by a panel of gender specialists and a representative from the creative industry. They will be marked according to:
  1. Their content, i.e. their relevance to subject.
  2. Their ability to tell the story of gender and health systems, i.e. the message they contain, their creativity. We are looking for original and authentic visual representations of health systems in action.
  3. The technical merit of the photo, i.e. exposure, focus, colour, lighting etc.
We are looking for images which challenge stereotypes, encourage the viewer to learn more and act differently, and which respect the integrity of any people who may be photographed. There is a rich discussion on the ethics of photography in international development which should help guide entrants. Further information can be found here and here.

Who can enter and how to submit?

Those who have an experience of, or interest in, gender and health systems are very welcome to send images.

Send up to a maximum of three photos by email to RinGs.RPC@gmail.com

Submission requirements
  1. Size: At least 1MB
  2. Print resolution: 300 dpi
  3. Format: JPEG or tiff only
  4. Landscape and portrait images are acceptable
  5. Although some digital enhancement is acceptable we cannot accept images that have been digitally altered to change what is portrayed.
Send each photo separately and include in your message the following information:
  • Name of photographer:
  • Photographer email:
  • Photographer phone:
  • Title of photograph:
  • Location (country and city/town/village where the photograph was taken):
  • The date (if unknown, please provide the year) each photograph was taken:
  • The level of consent provided from any people pictured in the photo (see informed consent guidelines for more information):

Submit your entry

All images should be emailed to RinGs.RPC@gmail.com by the 1 September. We look forward to receiving your entries.

For more details please download the entry requirements and terms. Information about informed consent and a sample consent form are also available.

Friday, 15 August 2014

India’s risks: forging a new multidisciplinary debate

Photo : Petr Pavlicek / IAEA.
Source: iaea_imagebank / Flickr / cc-by-sa
A prospective superpower, India is grappling with a host of risks that threaten to hamper its progress towards becoming a more economically successful, egalitarian, safe and harmonious society. India's population routinely deals with the risks from HIV/AIDS, earthquakes, floods, industrial accidents and environmental disasters, and more recently the risks and uncertainties brought about by rapid advances in science and technology, such as BT Brinjal (GM Aubergine) and nuclear power.

Social movements in India have long voiced concerns around the processes for deciding whether a risk is 'safe' or 'acceptable' and who is taking these decisions. They have pointed to a noticeable imbalance in the type of knowledge and expertise which has been shaping key policies, legislations and institutions. They have also fought for communities' perceptions of risk and local knowledge to be included in these processes. Uncertainty over where the line should lie between science and politics during the assessment of risks, and how to reconcile divergent risk perceptions, has triggered a large number of protests over the years.

Whilst psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, political theorists, philosophers and scientists in the West have vigorously debated these various issues around risk over the last 50 years, this multidisciplinary field of academic research on risk has been relatively unexplored in India. Little research and resources have been invested in exploring these issues and Western scholars have also, for the most part, been reluctant to engage with these issues in India. The Journal of Risk Research, for example, has relatively few articles examining risks in developing countries.

In an effort to address this gap in the field, the STEPS Centre and the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore initiated a project entitled 'Risk, uncertainty and technology in India', funded by the UK India Education Research Initiative. An international conference was organized at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore in February 2011 which brought together Indian and Western scholars and practitioners across the fields of psychology, anthropology, law, politics, sociology, public health, philosophy, science and architecture. Together they offered insights on the theory of risk, lessons from the West, and the realities of risk in India. These conference papers have now been revised and updated and included in the recently published volume India's Risks: Democratizing the Management of Threats to Environment, Health and Values, edited by Raphaelle Moor and M.V. Rajeev Gowda (OUP India, 2014).

This volume analyses different but profoundly interdependent risks such as nuclear power, Bt Brinjal, environmental decision-making, maternal mortality, H1N1, HIV/AIDS and post disaster reconstruction through the same analytical framework. It delves into the meaning of risk in India, asking what it signifies for policymakers and different factions of society.

It also probes the political, social, and economic dynamics that have shaped the very different constructions of risk in India. In particularly, we ask how India's aspirations to become the next leading superpower have framed policymakers' assessments of scientific and technological risks? What knowledge and expertise do policymakers tend to consider relevant to include in their risk assessments? And are those risks that they have identified and chosen to address consonant with those constructed by the community?

Examples abound of the recurring mismatches between the government's and communities' construction of risks. This has resulted in ineffective policies, socially destructive conflicts, and the erosion of trust and stability. India's Risks makes the case for urgently forging a new multidisciplinary field in India in order to explore these questions in greater depth. Whether the Western frameworks and models presented will be relevant to the challenges of the Indian context remains to be seen but this wealth of examples and resources provide a useful platform to begin constructively negotiating a new path towards governing risks in India.

by Raphaelle Moor

Raphaelle Moor is a co-editor of the book India's Risks: Democratizing the Management of Threats to Environment, Health, and Values (OUP India 2014). She is a consultant in the area of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, based in London. Raphaelle managed the UKIERI’s (UK-India Education and Research Initiative) ‘India at Risk’ project at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore for over two-and-a-half years.

Find out more

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Recordando el Plan de Lucas: que nos puede decir el movimiento para producción social útil sobre la innovación inclusiva hoy?

This post is a translated and edited version of an article first published in English on the Guardian's Political Science blog

Foto: Workers at Lucas Industries, Shaftmoor Lane branch, Birmingham, 1970. Lucas Memories website, lucasmemories.co.uk

En enero de 1976 los trabajadores de Lucas Aerospace publicaron un plan alternativo para el futuro de su empresa manufacturera. Fue una respuesta novedosa a los anuncios que miles de despidos porrazones de reestructuración industrial, la competencia internacional y el cambio tecnológico (especialmente la automatización).

En lugar de elegir el paro, los trabajadores argumentaron su derecho a la producción socialmente útil.
Alrededor de la mitad de la producción de Lucas era financiada por contratos militares. Dado que este dependía de los fondos públicos, al igual que muchos de las inversiones de reestructuración civil también recibían fondos públicos, los trabajadores argumentaron que era mejor utilizar el gasto estatal con el fin de desarrollar productos socialmente más útiles.

El Plan fue rechazado por la administración y el gobierno. Sin embargo, sus ideas catalizaron un movimiento para la democratización del desarrollo tecnológico en la sociedad. En la promoción de sus argumentos, los sindicalistas en Lucas enrolaron el interés de trabajadores de otros sectores, militantes sociales y para paz, científicos radicales, los ambientalistas y la izquierda. El Plan se convirtió en el símbolo de un movimiento comprometido con la innovación con fines sociales por sobre el beneficio privado.

La elaboración del Plan incluyó una perspectiva participativa en la cual los sindicalistas consultaron a sus propios miembros. En el transcurso de un año construyeron su plan sobre la base de los conocimientos, las habilidades, la experiencia y necesidades de los trabajadores y las comunidades en las que vivían. Como resultado recolectaron los diseños y prototipos de más de 150 productos alternativos. El Plan incluyó un análisis de mercado y argumento económicos; propuestas para mejoras en la formación de los empleados y ampliación de las competencias. Asimismo, el Plan sugirió que el trabajo se reorganiza en base a equipos menos jerárquicos y con menos barreras entre el conocimiento tácito del taller y el conocimiento teórico de los ingenieros y la oficina de diseño.
El diario conservador inglés, The Financial Times describió el Plan de Lucas como “uno de los planes alternativos más radicales jamás elaborados por los trabajadores para su empresa ‘(Financial Times, 23 de enero de 1976). El Plan fue nominado para el Premio Nobel de la Paz en 1979.La revista El New Statesman afirmó que ‘Las implicaciones … del plan ahora se están discutiendo unas veinte y cinco veces a la semana en promedio en los medios internacionales “.

A pesar de esta atención, los delegados sindicales sospecharon (correctamente) que de forma aislada el Plan no convencería a la administración ni al gobierno. Al mismo tiempo, los líderes nacionales de los sindicatos también se mostraron reacios a aceptar esta iniciativa de base; estaban preocupados por que asentara un precedente que podría haber desafiado su lugar de privilegio en la jerarquía de poder.

Mientras tanto, y como palanca para ejercer presión, los delegados sindicales se embarcaron en una campaña política más amplia para el derecho a la producción útil socialmente. Mike Cooley, uno de los líderes, dijo que quería “, inflamar la imaginación de los demás” y “demostrar de una manera muy práctica y directa el poder creativo de la gente común”.

Los trabajadores de Lucas organizaron road-shows, demostraciones didácticas, y crearon un Centro de Industria y Sistemas Tecnológicos Alternativos (CAITS) en Londres. Diseños y prototipos fueron exhibidos en eventos públicos en todo el país.Se realizaron documentales televisivos sobre el Plan. El Centro ayudó a los trabajadores de otros sectores a desarrollar sus propios planes. Los activistas se vincularon con movimientos afines en Escandinavia y Alemania.

Este movimiento social, cuestionabala perspectiva establecida que decía que la tecnología se desarrolla de manera autónoma de la sociedad, y que la gente debía adaptarse a las herramientas ofrecidas por la ciencia y el capital.

Los activistas argumentaron que el conocimiento y la tecnología eran construidos por elecciones sociales durante su desarrollo; y que esas decisiones debían ser más democráticas. Los activistas cultivaron espacios para el diseño participativo; promovieron la tecnología centrada en lo humano; y buscaron más control para los trabajadores, las comunidades y los usuarios en los procesos de innovación y producción.

Cuando los londinenses votaron a la izquierda en las elecciones municipales en 1981, surgieron posibilidades concretas de apoyo. El gobierno local de izquierda introdujó una estrategia industrial comprometida con la producción socialmente útil.

Mike Cooley, que fue despedido de Lucas por su activismo, fue nombrado Director de Tecnología de la ciudad. Se crearon una serie de Redes de Tecnología. Anticipando a los FabLabs de hoy, estos talleres se basaron ​​en el trabajo comunitario, compartieron máquinas, herramientas, acceso aapoyo técnico, y servicios de creación de prototipos. Estaban abiertos para que cualquier persona pueda desarrollar prototipos de utilidad social.

Estas redes tenían como objetivo combinar la “habilidad, la creatividad y el entusiasmo en las comunidades locales" con el”reservorio de conocimientos científicos y de la innovación" de los institutos politécnicas de Londres.

Cientos de diseños y prototipos fueron desarrollados, incluyendo las bicicletas eléctricas, turbinas de viento de pequeña escala, dispositivos de ahorro y conservación de energía, dispositivos para atender la discapacidad, reciclaje, juegos para niños, y redes informáticas para la comunidad. Los diseños fueron registrados en un banco de productos de acceso abierto. Existieron fondos para ayudar a las cooperativas y las empresas sociales a desarrollar estos prototipos en negocios.

Recordando el movimiento ahora, lo que más nos llama la atención es la importancia que los activistas daban a las prácticas tecnológicas como parte de su activismo político. El movimiento enfatizó el desarrollo del conocimiento tácito, la habilidad artesanal, y el aprendizaje práctico a través de la colaboración cara a cara en proyectos concretos.

Esta actividad práctica fue elegida como estrategia para la movilización de alianzas y el debate. De esta manera, durante la muestra de prototipos, los activistas trataron de atraer la más variada participación en los debates. Prototipos sociales permitían formas de debate más amplias, más prácticos que la expresión significativa a diferentes públicos, comparados a los discursos y textos y otros materiales normalmente asociado con debates políticos.

Del mismo modo hoy, Hackerspaces y FabLabs, involucran a personas que trabajan materialmente en proyectos tecnológicos compartidos. Plataformas de medios sociales en el web se abre estos procesos de maneras más distribuidos e interconectados. Plataformas de diseño y las tecnologías de fabricación digital se permiten a compartir diseños de hardware abierto y contribuyen a un patrimonio común del conocimiento.

Hay algunos que hacen reclamados excitados por la democratización de la fabricación. La fabricación digital de base social reaviva ideas acerca de la participación directa en el desarrollo y uso de la tecnología: Es necesario comparar, por ejemplo, el ambicioso plan actual de la ciudad de Barcelona para convertirse en una FabCity con las Redes Tecnologicas de Londres de la década del ochenta.

Sin embargo, al recordar el Plan de Lucas debemos hacer una pausa y considerar dos cuestiones.
En primer lugar, la importancia atribuida a los conocimientos y habilidades tácitos. Los medios nuevos de comunicación social en el web pueden ayudar a la formación de capacidades descentralizadas y democráticas, pero no van a sustituir completamente actividad cara a cara, mano-a-mano.

En segundo lugar, para la generación anterior de activistas tecnológicos, los talleres y proyectos de colaboración también tenían que ver con la elaboración de las solidaridades y no solamente prototipos. La discusión y las actividades centradas en el proyecto estaban relacionadas con el debate y la movilización en torno a cuestiones sociales más amplias. Querían construir una economía política alternativa.

En retrospectiva, el movimiento estaba nadando contra la corriente política y económica. El gobierno de Thatcher finalmente abolió la autonomía municipal de Londres en 1986. Las industrias y los trabajadores sindicalizados disminuyeron por la reestructuración económica que tuvo uno de sus epicentros en Inglaterra y se desplegó a nivel mundial; y el poder de los sindicatos se redujo a través de la legislación y flexibilización laboral.

El thatcherismo recortó intencionalmente los recursos y espacios para promover políticas alternativas. Al hacerlo, disminuyó la diversidad que resultaba importante para la innovación. Desaparecieron las alianzas que hicieron posible el movimiento de producción socialmente útil, así como también se desvanecieron muchos de los espacios y las iniciativas generadas. La configuración social de la tecnología quedó nuevamente en manos exclusivas del mercado.

Sin embargo, a pesar de que el activismo se disipó, sus ideas no desaparecieron. Algunas prácticas tuvieron influencia más amplia, como en el diseño participativo, aunque en formas apropiadas a las necesidades del capital en lugar de a los intereses previstos de los obreros.

Por tanto, esta reflexión histórica pretende formular una tercera cuestión: esta es la pregunta por la relevancia de las relaciones de poder y la necesidad de abordar dicha problemática en el desarrollo de tecnologías democráticas. Al hacer accesible las herramientas para fabricar prototipos, la gente puede ejercer un poder para crear innovaciones. Pero este todavía ejercicio todavía debe luchar para ejercer presión sobre las agendas de desarrollo tecnológico de las elites, sobre temas como qué innovaciones atraen la inversión para la producción y comercialización, y bajo qué criterios sociales se produce el cambio social y tecnológico.

Como otros antes y después, los trabajadores de Lucas insistieron en el desarrollo democrático de la tecnología. Sus iniciativas prácticas concretas momentáneamente ampliaron la variedad de ideas, debates y posibilidades – algunos de los cuales persisten hoy. Tal vez estas ideas sean el mejor legado que nos ha dejado el movimiento de producción socialmente útil…

•Leer más sobre el projecto Grassroots innovation: Historical and comparative perspectives
•Documento de trabajo: Socially Useful Production (STEPS Working Paper 58)

By Adrian Smith, STEPS Centre