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VP Kamala Harris’ Africa Visit: Rethinking US-Africa Relations

9 min read.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent visit to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia is a welcome step in the right direction in the US’s reengagement with Africa. However, the “more aid syndrome” is a disconcerting reminder of how the West has historically engaged with the continent.



VP Kamala Harris’ Africa Visit: Rethinking US-Africa Relations

Africa has recently been in the global news for the right reasons when the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, embarked on a week-long trip to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in late March 2023. Accompanied by her husband, Douglas Craig Emhoff, also known as the Second Gentleman of the US, Harris undertook a trip that was not only significant to Africa but also to the US, considering China’s growing influence on the continent in the last few decades. While visits by government officials to friendly or not too friendly nations are typical of the practice of diplomacy, VP Harris’ visit, as some have argued, is strategic and part of President Joe Biden’s commitment to his “all-in on Africa” strategy that he announced during the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in December 2022.

The visit is part of the series of visits by top officials of the Biden administration’s new engagement with Africa. From Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Ethiopia and Niger in March 2023 to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa, and to First Lady Jill Biden’s visit to Namibia and Kenya in February 2023. It is clear that these vital visits fall within the “strategic reframes” of Africa’s importance to US national interests as captured in a White House document titled “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa”. Secretary Blinken notes, as captured in the strategic document, that “Africa will shape the future—and not just the future of the African people but of the world.” The document also underscores the importance of African agency and voices on consequential global conversations. The emphasis on African agency sounds interesting, but the question worth asking is whether or not Africa has received the recognition it deserves on the so-called consequential global conversations.

This question raises further questions about the timing of the recent visits by senior US government officials, including the visit by VP Harris to Africa. For some, US engagement with Africa in the past decades has been fluid, unduly security-driven, and generally, for the most part, inconsistent, while China has effectively demonstrated laser-sharp consistency regarding the development of trade relations. For instance, it has historically, sponsored massive infrastructure projects such as the 1976 Tan-Zam railway that runs from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri-Mposhi in Zambia, and more recently—even more ambitiously—China has been engaged in grand road-railway projects and other digital infrastructure projects on the continent. Although the Biden administration is unwilling to admit that its active re-engagement with Africa has to do with countering China’s rising influence on the continent, the evidence suggests otherwise. To understand the historical context of US-Africa relations vis-à-vis China’s rising and assertive influence in Africa, the next section discusses US-Africa relations and the apparent pre-eminence of Sino-Africa diplomatic and trade relations.

Overview of US-Africa relations and Sino-Africa engagement

Historical relations aside, for most of the 20th century, US-Africa relations were dictated—and calibrated—by Cold War considerations that were not always advantageous for African nations. For the past two decades, especially in the post-9/11 era, geopolitical strategic calculations have shaped, and continue to shape, US-Africa relations. Following the 9/11 attacks, under the presidency of George W. Bush the US was at the forefront of an international coalition against global terrorism, and specifically fighting two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its extended version to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in 2014.

Based on its strategic commitment to fight the so-called global war on terrorism, US-Africa relations have been largely confined to, and defined by, America’s national security priorities, which include making budgetary provisions to bolster security in various regions of Africa with manifestations of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), IS, and loose affiliates such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, and other militant Islamist groups in Mali and Burkina Faso. One of the geostrategic culminations of this national security-driven foreign policy or engagement in Africa was the establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007. With the increasing “Cold War-like rivalry” between the US and China, how likely are we to see this Euro-American military presence in Africa morph into something more than just the containment of radical Islamic movements but also checkmating China on the continent?

While the US was rolling out its global security edge and presence around the globe, and in Africa in particular, the People’s Republic of China was reading from a different “global commercial presence rule book”. And so, during this same period, China has been playing a long-term game plan, namely the global strategic acquisition of vital resources such as minerals, metals, crude oil, and agricultural products. With this global strategic resources “game-plan” in mind, China quietly formed the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that, as of 2022, featured the membership of all African nations, except Eswatini. President Hu Jintao treated the world to a rare spectacle when he hosted, in 2006, the first FOCAC Summit that brought a historic thirty-five heads of states and governments to Beijing, marking the entering of the high-water mark of multilateral and bilateral commercial relations and underpinning a new era of China-Africa relations.

One of the geostrategic culminations of this national security-driven foreign policy or engagement in Africa was the establishment of the United States Africa Command in 2007.

Later, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao would propose an accelerated trade program increasing China-Africa trade from its US$10 billion 2000 threshold to US$100 billion by 2010. To underscore the importance of Africa to China, and the latter’s role on the continent, President Jintao announced a US$20 billion pledge in credit at the Beijing-Africa Summit held in 2012 that was attended by 50 African leaders. With China’s increasingly aggressive role, and commercial manouevres across the continent, it comes as no surprise that the Africa-China trade volume reached an all-time high of US$254 billion in 2021, 35 per cent up from the previous year. Yet, all this represents only 4 per cent of China’s global trade. At this rate, therefore, the Africa-China trade volume can only be expected to grow in leaps and bounds. While the US has been upping its game and flexing its diplomatic commerce muscles by “following” China’s example of hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit since 2014 under former President Barack Obama’s administration, the last one having been hosted between 13 and 15 December 2022, its exports to Africa in 2022 stood at US$30.7 billion compared to only China’s top five African export markets worth US$177 billion, including Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya, to mention but those.

Moreover, nothing announces China’s behemothic looming commercial shadow in Africa more than the literally landmark East African component of its global Belt and Road Initiative, and its equally notable West African equivalent. In light of all this, the US needs to take a long and hard look at the “prosper Africa deal room” and recalibrate or rethink its national security-informed approach to its Africa policy. The US needs to retool by designing its African policy priorities with greater emphasis on “commercial diplomacy”—assiduously and aggressively fostering and growing deeper and wider business, trade and investment ties between Africa and the United States— if it is going to go toe to toe with China on the continent. This is where the US-Africa Leaders Summit, and the U.S.-Africa Business Forum need to be strengthened.

Indeed, the US cannot afford the kind of ice-cold neglect of the usually warm and special ties between itself and Africa as witnessed during the tenure of the immediate former president before Biden’s administration—evinced by the regrettable wholesale dismissal of the continent, and Haiti, as “shithole countries”. This idiosyncratic whim of a sitting American president created a gaping wedge of mistrust between the US and Africa.  The US can and should be seen to be doing much better in regard to nurturing mutually beneficial ties, and the enhancement of strategic commercial relations—and it has done so remarkably in the past, notably by initiating the historic US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that planned to set aside US$30 billion inside five years after its inauguration for a cause that is as relevant now as it was 20 years ago. It is quite remarkable that since its inception in 2003 PEPFAR—“the largest-ever global health initiative dedicated to a single disease”—has spent a staggering US$100 billion in the global HIV/AIDS response, saving over 25 million lives.  Other equally impressive US foreign policy commitments to Africa include the President’s Malaria Initiative and the recent global health security partnership to save lives and combat COVID19. In this respect, it is critical to reflect on the first Black woman US Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent visit to Africa.

Reflections on Vice President Harris’ Visit to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia 

VP Harris’ arrival in Accra, Ghana on 27 March 2023 was not only impressive from a historical and cultural standpoint, but it was also strategic for Ghana’s political image as one of Africa’s advancing democracies, and the new efforts by the US to re-engage with the continent. From a historical and cultural vantage point, VP Harris’ visit was especially significant as the first Black and South Asian woman VP of the United States to visit Ghana, one of the ancestral homelands of Africans in the diaspora. Speaking at Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, a hub for the Atlantic slave trade in the 1600s, the emotional and tearful Harris spoke about the heinous crimes of the slave trade, the pains suffered by their ancestors in the dungeons, and at the “Door of No Return.” The horror of what happened during the slave trade, noted VP Harris, must always be remembered and taught in schools. This instructive history, she said, must be learned, and humanity must be guided by those who survived in the Americas, in the Caribbean, and in the rest of the African diaspora.

This idiosyncratic whim of a sitting American president created a gaping wedge of mistrust between the US and Africa.

From a political perspective, VP Harris’ speeches and the official bilateral meeting she held with Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, fit well with the “traditional U.S. policy priorities—democracy and governance, peace and security, trade and investment, and development—as pathways to bolster the region’s ability to solve global problems alongside the United States”. While praising Ghana for its role as a beacon of democracy in Africa and its efforts at regional/global peace and security, VP Harris also announced an aid package of US$100 million to help address security threats facing the region. She noted that the Biden administration is also requesting about US$139 million from Congress for economic and cultural development in Ghana and another US$1 billion to promote women’s economic empowerment in Africa.

Like her visit to Ghana in West Africa, Harris’ stop in Tanzania in East Africa was equally historic, especially for Black women. In a joint press conference held in Dar Es Salaam on 30 March 2023, the VP Harris met with Tanzania’s president Samia Suluhu Hassan, currently the only female head of state in Africa. The important political roles of both distinguished leaders send a powerful signal about the importance of women empowerment and political leadership. For some experts, the efforts by the US to foster stronger relations with Tanzania, a country of over 60 million people and the fifth largest country in Africa, will serve the best interests of both the US and East Africa. VP Harris praised President Hassan’s commitment to democratic values and announced that the US will provide about US$560 million in bilateral assistance to Tanzania in the next fiscal year. She also noted that the US-Tanzania commercial engagement will be extended while cooperation in areas of democratic development, women’s empowerment, and health projects will also be expanded.

The important political roles of both distinguished leaders send a powerful signal about the importance of women empowerment and political leadership.

After Tanzania, VP Harris landed in Lusaka, Zambia, on 31 March 2023 for the final leg of her weeklong African trip. As with Ghana and Tanzania, it is clear that her visit falls within the so-called “strategic reframes” or the renewed US engagement with Africa. President Hakainde Hichilema did not only welcome VP Harris to Zambia, but he also appealed to the US to help restructure the country’s national debt of about US$15 billion. Vice President Harris also announced a US$7 billion US commitment to support Zambia in climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. Harris’ visit also had a personal touch, as she recalled how she visited Zambia as a young girl when her grandfather was stationed there.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent visit to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia is not only a welcome step in the right direction in terms of efforts by the US to reengage with the continent after “losing momentum” for a few years, but it also came at a critical time when China’s influence in Africa continues to grow from strength to strength. Her visit, and those of other senior Biden-Harris administration officials, to the continent is a clear and strong demonstration of Biden’s “all-in on Africa” strategy”. At the same time, it is important to recognize that the “game is in Africa and the US knows it” well especially in the light of China’s long-term game plan, and its concomitant assertive influence on the continent. A common element of the Vice President’s trip also reveals the usual expected pledges of more donor aid as opposed to any radical pronouncement of mutually beneficial and expansive trade relations.

The trend of the “more aid syndrome” rather than more trade, is a disconcerting reminder of what others have noted on how the West has historically engaged with Africa through the prism of fixing Africa’s problems, while China is focused on trade and huge infrastructure projects across the continent. For others, President Biden’s expected visit to the continent later this year will be refreshing for US-Africa ties. For now, we can only wait and watch how future relations will look like. In the meantime, experts worry that Africa might once again become the battleground of great power politics in the next few decades. Yet other experts who study the continent, including the authors of this article, remain hopeful that Africa’s role as the largest group of the UN membership and its quest for permanent seats on the UN Security Council, when secured, might help position the continent very well in asserting its agency and voice in balancing the US and China in its backyard.

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Dr Felix Kumah-Abiwu is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for African Studies at Kent State University in the United States. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow (Governance & Democracy) at Nkafu Policy Institute (Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation). Dr N. Kariūki wa Gīthuku is an Associate Professor of African History at the City University of New York, York College, NYC, and the author of Mau Crucible of War: Statehood, National Identity, and the Politics of Postcolonial Kenya (2016).


Sudan’s Unfinished Democracy

Examining the recent and brutal attempts to suppress the Sudanese revolution, Magdi el Gizouli looks at the efforts by the regime and its various factions to seize the initiative from the streets. In recent months the ruthless figure of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (aka Himeidti), the leader of the infamous Rapid Support Forces, has moved into the centre of Sudanese politics. However, will the ‘neighbourhood committees’ be able to translate their revolutionary zeal into mass political action that can unite rural and urban discontent and challenge the regimes hold on power?



Sudan’s Unfinished Democracy

The last ten days of Ramadan, Islam’s fasting month, are supposed to be a period of spiritual transcendence. By this time, the discipline of fasting and nightly prayer is expected to have smoothed over the ugly creases of the believer’s soul in preparation for a new beginning. Likewise, it is the year’s peak shopping season, as families prepare for the Eid festivities and the associated cycles of gift exchanges. Not this year in Khartoum. Instead the remarkably peaceful city had on appointment with a ‘katla’, vernacular Sudanese for mass and senseless killing.

In the early hours of 29 Ramadan, 3 June, joint troops of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), stormed the site of the massive sit-in surrounding the headquarters of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) with the aim of crushing the protest movement that had for almost six continuous months captured Sudan’s politics. The attackers did not spare bullets, within hours around 130 unarmed protesters were killed, some clinging to the concrete blocks and bricks of the barricades they had anxiously guarded throughout the months of the sit-in. Many corpses were pulled out of the Nile tied to rocks.

The tent city which constituted the geography of an alternative Sudan in the minds of its inhabitants was soon in flames. Throughout the months of the protest sit-in, the tent city was a Woodstock of sorts on the Nile, a site where urban Sudan struggled to reinvent itself in a fervour of festive creativity and solidarity. The protesters reimagined their world and in exercising their imagination forged new relations that transgressed the boundaries of patriarchal authority and the established social order. The bubbling democracy of the qiada – Arabic shorthand for the [army] headquarters – became a cultural attraction. A middle class Khartoumian would go to work in the morning, drive home in the late afternoon to pick up the kids and stroll through the qiada tent city in the evening in the company of family and friends.

As an organisational form for protest the qiada sit-in was wildly successful, probably far beyond the expectation of the parties involved. While it lasted, it was a place where mostly young women and men could live out their claim to identity as real citizens . Cash transactions were the exception in the qiada sit-in as the protestors fashioned an economy of their own devised around the socialist instinct of ‘from each according to her ability and to each according to her need’. Food, medical care, public health services, security and transport were organised on a voluntary basis and proved remarkably resilient. A minor flu epidemic, known as the ‘qiada cold’ troubled the protesters but otherwise the massive sit in registered no other public health crisis thanks to robust and efficient public health measures. From afar, expatriate Sudanese, contributed funds and information technology hardware as well an explosion of sympathetic protests in Western capitals.

The attackers of 3 June were not satisfied with destruction of the human and physical structure of protest. Their aim was to extinguish the drive that had propelled the thousands upon thousands of young Sudanese into political action during a winter of revolutionary crisis, so they raped men and women. By the evening, residents of the smaller towns down the Nile from Khartoum were fishing corpses out of the river. In their hurry to clear the protest site, the valiant butchers of the RSF and the NISS ordered their troops to dispose of the young bodies in the river clumsily tied to concrete blocks in an effort to keep them down in the deep, silent for ever, but even as hapless corpses the protesters seemed to be challenging the will of Sudan’s security lords, floating up and out into open sight. The sacrilege was not intended to hide the obvious crime but was primarily a demonstration of brutality and immunity from accountability.

The massive sit-in around the army headquarters in Khartoum was the culmination of five months of popular protests. The scale and tenacity of the sit-in forced the hand of the military-security establishment to do away with President Bashir and declare a new dispensation. For some time already a liability, President Bashir was politically eliminated by his very generals. His deputy, Lieutenant General Awad ibn Ouf declared on state television on 11 April that a transitional military council headed by himself would take over authority. Outside military headquarters, thousands of jubilant protesters were not convinced and demanded the transfer of power to a civilian government. Soldiers and junior officers at the army headquarters were equally unsatisfied with Ibn Ouf. Within less than 48 hours Ibn Ouf appeared again on state television, this time to announce that he was stepping down as head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC), the official title of the ruling junta. Ibn Ouf named Abd al-Fattah al-Burhan as his successor, another army general with no known record of association with the Islamic Movement. Significantly, al-Burhan was the liaison officer of the Sudanese military’s deployment in the Saudi-Emirati-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In his first address to the nation, al-Burhan made remarkable overtures to the protest movement. He announced that no attempt will be made to break up the massive sit-in around the army headquarters and declared that the former president and leading figures of his party, the National Congress Party (NCP), will be arrested and eventually face justice. An announcement of the composition of the TMC followed. Unlike Sudan’s previous juntas, the TMC is not exclusively a ‘military’ organ in the strict sense of the word. The officers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) who had long enjoyed political dominance were now forced to share their authority with separate armed formations, the NISS and the RSF, both creatures of the Bashir era. However, the TMC is by all means a re-creation of president Bashir’s own ‘security committee’, a central organ under his chairmanship that joins military, security, police and militia bosses and is replicated at the various level of administration as a grid of oppression.

The emergence of a strongman

Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (aka ‘Himeidti’), the leader of the infamous RSF emerged as the deputy chairman of the TMC and the critical agent of ‘change’ at the top. Himeidti, the name is a motherly diminutive form for ‘my little Mohamed’, was born in a family of agro-pastoralists north of Kutum. His people, the Mahariyya , a subsection of the wider Rizeigat, are predominantly pastoralists whose subsistence existence was convulsed by the penetration of commodification and the cash economy in twentieth century Sudan. The inadequacies of the Mahariyya ’s pastoral livelihood were laid bare in the 1984-1986 famine that struck Kordofan and Darfur as part of the wider Sahelian drought. Mohamed Hamdan the boy and his kin were displaced by the famine to Nyala, Darfur’s largest city and trade hub connecting regional trade networks that stretch through Chad, the Central African Republic and beyond, and into Libya and Egypt. Many Mahariyya  became settled millet farmers around Mellit, others remained camel herders. Whether settled or on the move most had to supplant their livelihoods with alternative strategies connected to the cash economy including labour migration, trade, and petty commodity production.

Many Mahariyya  men, including Mohamed Hamdan, flocked to Libya as migrant labourers or traders. In one study carried out in Mellit, four out of every ten Mahariyya  households had a male family member working in Libya. Mohamed Hamdan, the youngster, began his career as a merchant procuring goods from Nyala to Mellit. By the mid-1990s he was engaged in cross-border trade between Darfur, Chad and Libya. When the Darfur insurgency erupted in 2003, he was a livestock merchant with a base in Mellit and operations mainly in Libya . The war encircled Mellit. Both farming and livestock migration were severely curtailed while the closure of the Sudanese-Libyan border and widespread looting endangered trade routes and restricted the movement of labour. Mahariyya  traders including Mohamed Hamdan Daglo were under the impression that they were specifically targeted by the Darfuri insurgents. For many, Mellit became a place of siege. Two of Mohamed Hamdan’s brothers were killed in an incident on their way to Libya when insurgents attacked their trade caravan and looted their camels close to Karb al-Toum.

The racialisation of the conflict in Darfur was the background from which Mohamed Hamdan Daglo emerged as militia leader of his angry Mahariyya and Rizeigat kin. He joined the Sudanese army’s Border Guards, a militia formation fighting on the side of the government against the Darfur insurgents in 2003 and began a recruitment campaign in Nyala amongst his own ‘nas’ (Arabic for people) starting with a squad of 200 kinsmen. The brutal efficiency of Himeidti’s forces soon attracted the attention of Khartoum’s rulers. At the time, General Ibn Ouf was head of military intelligence. Himeidti demanded the formalisation of his militia and their inclusion in the wage-system of the SAF.

Three years later, Himeidti was granted court with President Bashir. Khartoum had signed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) granting southern Sudan the right of self-determination as well as the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement with the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) faction led by Minni Minawi granting the rebel group regional authority over Darfur. In response, the still active Darfur rebel groups led by the then powerful Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) formed the umbrella National Redemption Front (NRF). The JEM under the leadership of its late founder, Khalil Ibrahim, was beginning to break the racial barrier in Darfur and actively winning supporters among Darfuri pastoralist Arabs including Himeidti’s own Mahariyya . Himeidti was in a position to negotiate. He asked for a share of power akin to the southern Sudanese militia leaders who had fought alongside the government in southern Sudan. The government was reluctant to accept his demands. In response, he camped outside Nyala with his troops in protest leaving the demoralised SAF units to their fate in Darfur’s harsh war-fields.

Soon, the Mahariyya merchant turned militia leader was in a position to punch even higher. He proved his worth in the bitter battles that followed the 2008 JEM attack on the capital Khartoum. In Darfur, JEM’s forces encircled al-Fasher and Himeidti came to the rescue after pleas from the garrison commander at the time, the SAF officer Imad al-Din Adawi.

As a reward, President Bashir summoned the war hero to Khartoum for decoration. Himeidti was granted the medal of courage and the authority and funding to expand recruitment under the umbrella of the ‘Rapid Support Forces’, for all practical purposes a private militia outside the formal chain of command of the SAF. President Bashir and his officers effectively outsourced their entire counterinsurgency operations to the RSF. Himeidti’s shock troops were in deployment across Sudan’s war zones, in Darfur, in South Kordofan and in the Blue Nile. When a wave of riots erupted in Khartoum in September 2013 against the government’s decision to slash fuel and bread subsidies in the aftermath of the independence of South Sudan it was the RSF’s teenage fighters who did the shooting in the capital. Hundreds of protesters lost their lives in the confrontation.

Thanks to Himeidti, herdsmen from northern Darfur had tapped into a new livelihood resource, war on commission. Geopolitics created ample opportunities for a mobile and capable fighting force on rent in a volatile region. Himeidti troops functioned as an extension of the European Union’s borders against intruding migrants deep in the African Sahara and as a long arm for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their battle against Houthi militants in Yemen. At the command of a loyal fighting force spread across the country and backed by powerful and rich patrons in the region, Himeidti was ready to displace the ageing resident of the palace on the Blue Nile. When coup officers confronted Bashir in the early hours of 11 April, he shouted that this is a Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian plot carried out by RSF commander Himeidti and the NISS boss Salah Gosh, or so claim Khartoum’s loud whisperers.

Himeidti’s rise from camel merchant in the Darfur wilderness to militiaman to ruler in the heart of the Nile Valley is a remarkable feat of historical cunning. The most recent example of such a transformation in power dates back to 1885 when Abdullahi son of Mohamed Taur Shein (arabic for vicious bull), a Baggara faki (holy man) from Darfur and Mohamed Ahmed al-Mahdi’s earliest disciple, succeeded the charismatic mystic and revolutionary from Dongola to become the Khalifa, ruler of the nascent Mahdist state. Abdullahi the Khalifa was significantly challenged by the Mahdi’s powerful kin, the country’s pre-modern coup plotters. Thanks to a massive standing army recruited predominantly from Baqqara herdsmen, the Khalifa persevered, defeated the putschists and was only dislodged from power sixteen years later by British Maxim guns, the first recoil operated machine-gun.

As a child in Omdurman, al-Khalifa’s capital west of the Nile, I went on school trips to the fields of Karari to the north of the town where over twenty thousand Mahdist fighters were massacred in the early hours of 2 September 1898. Every rainy season, some of those brave bones glittered dazzling white in the blazing sun against the reddish-brown soil of the Karari plain.

It is then not much of a surprise that Himeidti’s emergence at the top of the chaotic crowd of Bashir’s last years was perceived as an opportunity in many quarters. As a foreigner to the Khartoum establishment, Himeidti was generously interpreted by some as a hero of the downtrodden who could rework power relations in favour of Sudan’s marginalised peoples and finally win authority from the elite of the riverine heartland. From this perspective, his major achievement is perceived to be the subversion of the SAF, since Sudan’s independence the guarantor of the hegemony of the riverine elite. Accordingly, he became the betting horse of a Darfuri merchant class of predominantly Rizeigat and Zaghawa composition and the politicians and intellectuals in their orbit.

Uniting rural and urban politics

Bashir had managed subnational interests through a system of ethnic politics that involved a division and redivision of state and locality boundaries to match and create ethnic majorities with a dominant position in state and local government under the mantle of the ruling NCP. Hence, power conflicts often took the form of intra-NCP competition and manipulation of competing blocs was a constant preoccupation of the NCP high command. Likewise, ministerial positions at the central level were apportioned according to a complex calculus of political party and ethnic power division and sub-division. In this apportionment of posts and since the eruption of the Darfur insurgency and the secession of south the third position in the formal hierarchy of power, the office of vice president, was the preserve of Darfuri figures as successors to ethnic South Sudanese who had traditionally occupied the post before the independence of South Sudan. As a result, Bashir’s cabinets were more a warehouse of clients and far less so an effective executive. In his late years, he attempted to bypass this dysfunctional state of affairs born out of political convenience by further centralising power into his own hands. He created a series of councils that dealt with critical aspects of government business – defence, economic policy, investment and foreign relations amongst others – under his direct chairmanship that were superior to the individual ministries.

As a countermeasure to Bashir’s rationale of government, the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) demand the formation of a government of ‘meritocrats’ solely drawn from their ranks to rule over a transitional period and pave the way towards free and fair elections. While on first consideration a reasonable demand, government by merit is interpreted by the Rizeigat and Zaghawa nationalists and their allies as a refashioning of the narrow effendiyya nationalism of the riverine heartland at the root of rural grievances and a replay of the exclusionary ‘Sudanisation’ of independence. In a bid to groom a counterforce to the urbanite neo-effendiyya of the FFC, Himeidti and his allies were quick to seek the support of tribal notables from Sudan’s vast and largely impoverished rural worlds with the promise of ethnic representation as a reward. In many ways, Himeidti’s political operation seems to recreate Bashir’s very sultanic politics absent the organisational framework of the big tent NCP.

While the bare-knuckle negotiations between the TMC and the FFC revolve around one character of government, military or civilian, an underlying contradiction remains the rural-urban divide that has long bedevilled Sudan’s politics. Protesters in Sudan’s urban centres crystallised their demands into the singular slogan of ‘civilian’ government while the rustic rural support base of the TMC and its champion Himeidti shout for continuation of ‘military’ rule. The FFC, unfortunately, are yet to imagine a political formula that can provide a bridgehead into rural Sudan. I would argue that the notion of a government of ‘meritocrats’ drawn from Sudan’s best educated cosmopolitans misses the target. Meanwhile, Himeidti was savvy enough to engage the leaders of the Darfur insurgencies he had almost obliterated on the battlefield securing friendly hand-shaking photoshoots and an embryonic alliance.

The brutality of the RSF and the ineloquence of their leader and his many gaffes, he once referred to the minister of higher education as the minister of ‘giraya’, colloquial Sudanese Arabic for learning, were identified by Khartoum’s cosmopolitans as markers of a violent pastoral essence. He was ridiculed as a backward herdsman and as a rogue general in contradistinction to the ‘true’ military college generals of the SAF. In anguish, Khartoum’s political class rummaged the officer corps in search for a ‘enlightened’ soldier who could save the day, crush the RSF with a bold strike of military advantage and rescue the honour of the SAF corps. This political wish acquired the form of myth in popular imagination, the myth of the Atbara armoured battalion expected at any moment in Khartoum. Himeidti and the RSF are as much an expression of the rural crisis as they are of the chaotic war-driven urbanisation of Sudan. In a way, Himeidti is today the political name of Nyala, the trading capital of Darfur that has long displaced Wad Medani in the Gezira heartland as Sudan’s second largest urban centre and possibly the country’s most important commercial hub trading in narcotics and cross-border smuggling of livestock.

The revolutionary challenge from below

Now, in the face of these trials Sudan’s revolutionary surge remains a formidable challenge to Himeidti and his powerful allies and patrons. At the core of revolutionary action is a radical component drawn from urban subalterns who are neither subsumed under the FFC meritocratic model nor liable to co-optation by Himeidti’s pledge of ethnic representation under sultanic authority. The most successful organisational form of this precariat spread across Sudan’s urban landscape is so far the neighbourhood-level ‘resistance committee’. These neighbourhood committees are accessible to precariously employed and unemployed labour and dominated by groups of militants whose political orientations are drawn from confrontation with the abusive and extractive state and the relations of power that sustain it. It is these militant elements, with no recognised place in the social order and with little to gain from its racial hierarchy and ethic building blocs, who have faced the greatest wrath of the military security establishment.

Ahead of the 29 Ramadan massacre state media launched a vicious smear campaign against the protesters of ‘Columbia’, the name the subalterns of the qiada sit-in chose for their favoured spot on the bank of the Nile, for their disregard of middle-class norms. Columbia, state media claimed, had become a site of flagrant moral corruption rife with debauchery, drugs, crime and unnameable social ills. The Sudan Professionals Association (SPA), hitherto the trusted guardian of the revolution, dithered and issued a statement distancing itself from Columbia and its inhabitants. In government speak the 29 Ramadan massacre was hatched as an operation to sweep Columbia ‘clean’ but ran out of control and in the words of the spokesman of the TMC ‘what happened happened!’. Significantly, it was in Columbia where fraternisation between subaltern protesters and their fellow SAF and RSF soldiers was most marked, at times threatening military command and discipline.

The TMC generals, al-Burhan and Himeidti, attempted to reach out to the stricken masses in an effort to soothe the revolutionary anger fuelling the daring protest movement. Himeidti addressed a rally in Mayo and al-Burhan another in Um Badda, both sprawling impoverished and heavily populated neighbourhoods in the outer circle of Khartoum and Omdurman respectively. Himeidti promised the allocation of residential plots to squatters and al-Burhan reproduced the discourse of marginalisation promising a new beginning of social equality with some success but the masses were not satisfied. Both men were incessantly interrupted by cries of ‘madaniyya’ – Arabic for civilian – the catchphrase of the protest movement.

As al-Burhan spoke on 30 June, the anniversary of the 1989 putsch that brought President Bashir to power, demonstrators filled the streets of Khartoum and almost all of Sudan’s major towns in their tens of thousands in a remarkable show of popular will to bring down the rule of the junta and install the pursued ‘madaniyya’. The response of the military-security establishment to this enduring determination was a series of extrajudicial killings targeting militants of the ‘resistance committees’. A policeman who inspected the corpses shot at close range to the head identified one of the slain militants as his own son.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations between the TMC and the FFC, now mediated by the African Union (AU) and the Ethiopian government as well as a cohort of Western diplomats including newly reappointed US envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, the course of the Sudanese revolution is for the now in the hands of the ‘resistance committees’. Some have claimed local authority in their neighbourhoods toppling the petty autocrats of the Bashir-era ‘popular committees’ and are refashioning micro-authority to fit an emancipatory zeal. The question remains, will they be able to translate this zeal  into mass political action that can take on the brutal machinations of the Sudanese state?

This article was first published by ROAPE.

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Raw Macadamia Nut Exports: Kenya Executes an About-Turn

The government has decided to lift the ban on exports of raw nuts but what the country’s macadamia nut sector sorely needs is policy support from the national and county governments.



Raw Macadamia Nut Exports: Kenya Executes an About-Turn

The government has backtracked on a directive that was, ironically, issued by President William Ruto when he was Kenya’s agriculture minister. In 2009, Ruto banned the export of unprocessed macadamia nuts to allow local processors access to larger quantities of the raw material which in turn would create jobs in this labour-intensive sector.

In recent years, macadamia farming has gained traction in even non-traditional growing areas beyond Mt Kenya such as the Rift Valley and western regions. However, both the county and national governments have consistently failed to put in place all the measures necessary to support the macadamia sector and this has significantly affected farm gate prices today, leading to huge losses for farmers.

A number of factors have contributed to the poor farm gate prices, which the government wrongly assumes will improve once competition is introduced by bringing in more exporters of raw macadamia.

Following the export ban, both the national government and county governments in macadamia catchment areas failed to provide the policy support necessary to promote a sector where four years ago the farm gate price for a kilo of raw nuts was Ksh180 due to the increased number of processors. Fears have emerged in recent years that Kenya is losing its grip on the niche international market due to the low quality of the nuts produced, which makes the KSh180 per kilo price unsustainable.

At the time Kenya instituted the ban on exports of raw macadamia nuts in 2009, there were only three other macadamia nut-producing countries in the world—Australia, South Africa, and Hawaii in the United States, with Kenya supplying about 20 per cent of the total global demand.

Between 90 and 95 per cent of Kenya’s macadamia is produced for export. Key export destinations for Kenyan macadamia are the US, the European Union, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Canada. In 2020, the demand for Kenya’s macadamia globally declined by 40 per cent, a drop the processors attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New entrants who now threaten Kenya’s global market include China, Guatemala, Malawi, Vietnam, Colombia, New Zealand, Mozambique, Brazil, Paraguay and Swaziland. In total, 15 countries in the world have joined the macadamia producing club in the last decade.

The Chinese government established the International Macadamia Research and Development Center in Lincang in 2018 and the country’s market potential for macadamia is now the largest on the planet, recording an 11-fold increase in macadamia consumption between 2012 and 2018.

In an earlier interview, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK),  Mr Charles  Muigai, said that the biggest challenge to Kenya’s market competitiveness in the global arena is the low quality of nuts produced by Kenyan farmers due to the insufficient support the sector receives from the government and other actors.

A report by the Netherlands Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries titled Value Chain Analysis for Macadamia Nuts from Kenya 2020 cited climate change, the impact of pests and diseases, poor agricultural practices, lack of access to inputs, use of unsuitable or old macadamia varieties and immature harvesting as Kenya’s main challenges.

At a critical point of transition following the ban, there was no functioning formal association of macadamia farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture did initiate the creation of the Macadamia Growers Association of Kenya in 2009, but it remains underfunded and without offices.

Unlike the tea and coffee sectors, the macadamia sector has evolved without any regulation or policy support from the government, the only major interventions being the 2009 ban and its anchoring in law in 2018.

The production of macadamia nuts in Kenya traces its history to 1944 when a European settler named Bob Harries introduced the crop from Australia in his estate near Thika town for ornamental and household consumption purposes.

The government would years later facilitate the creation of a joint venture between Japanese investors led by Yoshiyuki Sato and a Kenyan, Pius Ngugi, to set up the Kenya Nut Company (KNC), which to this day still runs the factory in Thika.

Initially, the company built a modern processing plant and established its own macadamia plantations on about 400ha and also set up a nursery for the propagation of adapted and grafted seedlings to supply out-growers.

The production of macadamia nuts in Kenya traces its history to 1944 when a European settler named Bob Harries introduced the crop from Australia.

By 1975, the company was processing nuts from its own estate as well as from out-growers. It enjoyed a monopoly purchase right for in-shell nuts, sourcing 90 per cent of the raw nuts from 140 smallholder coffee cooperative societies, as well as from another 47 buying centres.

Like the cashew nut sector, the macadamia sector was affected by the liberalisation of the economy. Being a private company, KNC could not be privatized, which shielded it from the decay that ensued in the cashew nut sector.

However, liberalisation accelerated domestic competition. In 1994, Equity Bank founder Peter Munga  opened a macadamia processing factory called Farm Nut Co. in Maragua in then Murang’a District.

With the entry of Farm Nut, the role of middlemen became predominant, due to the logistics challenges faced by the company in sourcing nuts from farmers. Brokers would buy nuts directly from the farmers, offering better prices than the cooperatives had, and immediate payment. Consequently, this significantly reduced farmers’ costs of transporting nuts to collection centres and collecting payments from banks.

Moreover, reduced volumes from the cooperatives increased processors’ transactional costs.  It became more convenient for them to deal with middlemen, and by the early 2000s, the role of the cooperatives in the macadamia supply chain had diminished.

A dramatic shift in the industry came in the early 2000s when China became a mass consumer of the nuts. The emergence of a growing middle class in China with an appetite for in-shell nuts, and the increasing number of container ships docking in Mombasa demanding cargo for the return journey, tempted Chinese traders to venture into the export of raw macadamia nuts from the country.

Local processors would buy nuts mainly from Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, and Nyeri, where Kikuyu processors had established processing units and created networks with local communities that they hired for factory jobs. This helped to lock the Chinese out of these regions.

Estimates by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service indicate that nearly 60 per cent of macadamia had been exported in-shell in 2008, implying that exporters had been able to purchase most of the crop from Embu and Meru. This posed a huge threat, bringing processors together to push the government to ban the export of raw nuts that was finally instituted on 16 June 2009.

A dramatic shift in the industry came in the early 2000s when China became a mass consumer of the nuts.

With the exit of the Chinese and the creation of processors’ and farmers’ associations, there was hope that the industry would get organised and receive the necessary support.

This did not happen. Both the farmers and processors would soon be left to their own devices, competing with each other to fight the Chinese who were still smuggling nuts out of Kenya. However, the competition and the need to create more volume saw processors increase production five-fold in the last decade, reaching close to 50,000 metric tonnes by 2020. They also grew in number from 5 to over 30, a move that saw farmers get an unprecedented Sh200 a kilo despite complaints that the quality did not justify the price.

In Meru and Embu the belief remained that things would be different were the Chinese buyers still available, and this may have prompted the recent lifting of the ban. The processors blamed the poor prices on brokers and the resultant high percentage of immature nuts. A narrative was also pushed that if farmers started selling the nuts to processors directly—rather than via brokers—good prices would return.

According to the report of the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing countries, the main opportunity for yield improvement lies with supporting extension service providers, such as the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organisation (KALRO) and the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), to increase farmers’ capacities and to multiply and disseminate high-yielding macadamia seedlings that are suited to the different macadamia growing regions of Kenya.

There are two main areas of intervention for quality improvement. The first involves supporting processors who wish to obtain loans to buy crops in advance, thereby addressing farmers’ need for quick cash. The second is the implementation of region-relevant harvesting moratoria.

Upstream traceability of Kenyan macadamia is severely challenged by the large number of smallholder farmers and independent buying agents. Small plantations typify Kenya’s production system as opposed to producers like China, South Africa and Australia, which have large plantations. Around 200,000 small farms in Kenya currently produce an estimated 42,500 tons of in-shell nuts.

Upstream traceability of Kenyan macadamia is severely challenged by the large number of smallholder farmers and independent buying agents.

Moreover, support should go to the creation of a registry of farmers, including data such as landholding size, age and number of macadamia trees and macadamia varieties and traders. This registry should be governed and accessed by members of the sector’s associations and by the AFA.

Communication and dialogue among macadamia stakeholders is lacking, with conflicting interests among actors often leading to rivalry.

To address this, sector associations should establish, adopt and enforce codes of conduct to regulate sector players. Dialogue and transparency should be the ruling principles of this code of conduct. Moreover, all actors should discuss a multi-stakeholder strategy to address the challenges facing the macadamia sector.

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Local Knowledge is Crucial for Crisis Preparedness

Over the last 20 years, the accuracy of early warning information has improved, at least for short-term predictions, but the main challenge has been reaching local communities.



Local Knowledge is Crucial for Crisis Preparedness

Eastern Africa has been grappling with multiple humanitarian crises exacerbated by climate-induced drought emergencies, disease outbreaks, floods and social instability due to civil conflict and the prolonged effect of 2019 locust plagues and the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2017 and 2023, the population needing humanitarian assistance in parts of Eastern Africa rose from 22.5 million to 68 million and, as reported in the financial tracking systems of the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair- UN-OCHA, the cost of humanitarian assistance doubled from US$4.1 billion to US$9.4 billion.

Of the crises besetting the region, severe drought is the most significant humanitarian emergency, especially for rural communities, as livelihoods primarily depend on animal husbandry and farming. Over the past 40 years, the region has experienced severe droughts: in 1976-1978, 1985-1988, 2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2022. Due to these crises, there has been significant interest in early warning systems and anticipatory planning in development and humanitarian contexts.

In particular, following the 1985 famine that resulted from severe drought and production failure, huge investments in early warning, preparedness and response were made. For example, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) created FEWSNET—Famine Early Warning System Network—an agency for evidence-based early warning information. FEWSNET’s primary focus is to provide scientific information on acute food insecurity, agro-climatic conditions and drought early warning to governments, international relief agencies, scientists, and NGOs, among others, for actionable response in preventing drought and famine emergencies. Equally, Eastern African states established ICPAC, initially known as the IGAD Drought Monitoring Centre in Nairobi (IDMC-N). ICPAC is the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) regional climate centre of excellence. These agencies, together with others, work closely with government meteorological departments at the regional, national and local level to provide timely early warning information for preparedness, contingency planning and early action.

Over the last 20 years, the accuracy of  early warning information has improved, at least for short-term predictions, but the main challenge has been reaching local communities—what some call the “last mile”. The result is that early warning information often does not reach where it is most needed. Despite all the talk of early warning, disaster risk reduction, shock-responsive systems, contingency planning and anticipatory action, the end results are mixed to say the least. We need to ask, how can these big investments in early warning be linked to local approaches to prediction and response?

Predicting droughts and communicating the predictions through risk reports and early warning bulletins is now standard practice. In Kenya, the impressive National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), a government outfit based in 23 Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) counties, was established in 2011 with significant donor support. It produces monthly bulletins stacked with information derived from earth observations by satellites as well as surveys of key vulnerability indicators (household food consumption, market prices for livestock, food, water, livestock body condition, vegetation, status etc.) collected across each region. These bulletins are shared with the county government, the array of NGOs working in each area, and local communities.

Despite the deluge of high-quality information, the gap between early warning (which is increasingly accurate, at least for the short-term) and action on the ground is enormous. This has been a perennial problem. There are issues of trust (why should I believe the government?), inertia (surely if I wait a bit, then things will get better) and communication styles (a dozen pages in English rather than vernacular and visual versions, although this is apparently going to change). Moreover, those working on the ground know that there’s a drought right now (livestock is dying in numbers, there is no grass and water), so they don’t need information that the situation is dire. As one frustrated NDMA officer observed, “With early warnings you are telling them what they already see. We are ambassadors for what they already know!”

Deliberating on uncertainties: the need for local debate

The big problem with such information systems is that they are usually one-way: we have the information, you should listen and act. There is no space for dialogue, deliberation and debate. There are always uncertainties: Does this really apply here? Why wasn’t the drought predicted correctly last time? Is this information relevant to me right now? The assumption of specialised expertise filling a “deficit” in local knowledge and understanding has long prevailed in debates about science-policy interactions; it applies as much to early warning and drought alert information in pastoral drylands.

Despite the deluge of high-quality information, the gap between early warning and action on the ground is enormous.

This gap was recognised by a number of agencies that came together to design the Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) approach, based on a participatory diagnosis of problems and joint construction of solutions. While the CMDRR committees are aimed at producing development and contingency plans that can then articulate with funding programmes from the government and NGOs, the most essential part of these committees is the process.

Meeting monthly and composed of a group of locally selected “experts”, they draw on local experience and knowledge and discuss impending or unfolding crises. This may be drought, but also conflict, animal disease or other challenges facing them, right there in their own context. This deliberation is crucial as diverse views are shared, dispute and contestation are possible, and in this way, uncertainties (for they are always there) are addressed.

For example, in one village some way off the main road near Moyale, we met the chair of the local committee who explained its functioning. There are 23 members, 15 men and 8 women. The roles are voluntary although they have been supported—now over nine years—by a local NGO. The membership includes elders with long, historical experience of past crises and how these were addressed, and several people with specialist expertise.

The assumption of specialised expertise filling a “deficit” in local knowledge and understanding has long prevailed in debates about science-policy interactions.

Among these local experts is a man who is an expert in treating sick and injured animals (specialised in local techniques for bone-setting). His knowledge is sought by community members when animals become sick in “normal” times, but when a particular disease spreads dramatically, he is a crucial point of contact. With veterinary officers few and far between, he must link with those selling drugs, but also those with knowledge (as he has) of traditional herbs and treatments. The local “disease reporters” pass information upwards to their superiors, but their local knowledge is also crucial in understanding disease at a local level. Connecting these networks is crucial in responding to a crisis, as described for North Horr, also in Marsabit county. The CMDRR is thus a vital platform for integrating and sharing this knowledge.

Local early warning: the role of community-based prediction and response

In addition to those with expertise in particular facets of crisis response, there are others who act as the local early warning system; they claim that they never make use of the NDMA bulletins but have their own system. This is perhaps not surprising: there is no phone network in the village, and they are not provided with data bundles to download the documents with all their graphs and tables. Instead, they make use of locals who are experts in predicting droughts and other crises.

Two such experts are members of the committee. One woman recently inherited the role of Uchu from her mother, expert reader of animals’ intestines. Her mother was renowned throughout the area as someone who could accurately predict what will happen by inspecting the intestines of a recently slaughtered goat, cow or bull. They must be animals that have been born and raised in the area and ideally are young calves or kids. Usually, the intestines of animals slaughtered for weddings, funerals or naming ceremonies are used by such experts. If the signs are unclear, the process is repeated with a newly slaughtered animal of the right type. Those who read the signs are offered a fried portion of the liver. Once eaten the predictions are made, and people discuss. Sometimes there are conflicting versions from different people, and further deliberations have to be made. Even in the indigenous science of making predictions using animal intestines, there are uncertainties.

Although intestine readers can divine the future across a range of hazards, others may be referred to. Some throw shoes to see what the future might bring, while others gaze at the stars. These indigenous astronomers are especially well regarded. In the same village where we conducted our interviews, an interpreter of the patterns of the stars was also present. People view the local astronomer as especially good at predicting future climate events, usually over a more extended period than those who read from the intestines of slaughtered animals.

Even in the indigenous science of making predictions using animal intestines, there are uncertainties.

Of course, predictions only happen at a certain point in time, and in relation to a certain set of questions that community members pose. But droughts, conflicts, disease outbreaks and so on unfold over time in uncertain ways. This is why predictions must be repeated, and adaptations and responses to these must be continuous, part of a process. Combining multiple knowledge is essential, along with discussions around uncertainties, if a humanitarian crisis is to be contained based on early warning information.

Closing the early warning gap 

The problem with the centralised early warning systems, and the whole paraphernalia of reporting that follows, is that they too often do not reach the “last mile”—the affected communities. This is where the early warning’s “missing  link” has long been identified. Often distrusted and perceived as alien to local contextual knowledge, recommendations are frequently rejected.

This is why the NDMA in Moyale has, with the encouragement of a local NGO, started to work with local early warning specialists in workshops where external, “scientific” information is shared at the local level and debated alongside the local interpretations and predictions. In Moyale sub-county the NDMA has invited traditional forecasters from across the region, including different ethnic groups. At a workshop, they slaughter a goat, and each individual inspects the intestines. After completing their inspections, they share the results and compare them with the ICPAC and Meteorological Department forecasts.

Often distrusted and perceived as alien to local contextual knowledge, recommendations are frequently rejected.

As the local NDMA officer explained, despite debate about the specifics, there was remarkable convergence between the different views. Building trust with local communities through using local knowledge in tandem with external, “scientific” sources is seen as an important route to communication, with community radio programmes planned where the results can be discussed.

And yet, the huge investments in early warning systems using the very best satellite technologies and highly sophisticated interpretation techniques often assume a linear transformation of information, from those who know and those who don’t. But this ignores the fact that local pastoralists are well practised in predicting and responding to drought. In the end, the fancy technological solutions are no match for the local deliberations on the ground about uncertain futures using multiple sources of knowledge.

No-one expects these predictions to be correct all of the time—whether local or external—but it’s the deliberation around uncertainties that ensues following a prediction that is important in shaping local responses. Effective responses always have to be embedded in local contexts, drawing on local knowledge and social relations, and this is why too often external interventions around “resilience” fail and why alternatives are needed.

This is article is adapted from the second of a series of three blogs written as part of a scoping study and supported by ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research). 


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