Showing posts from 2012

Traditional Farming in Albania

In October 2011, I had the pleasure of visiting Albania for about five days with a good friend from Kosovo, Naim Shala. My purpose in going to Albania was to photograph, but I quite unexpectedly learned a lot about the traditional farming methods and organic agriculture that are widely practiced there today. Since I had not visited Albania since 2002, I was quite unprepared for the amazing changes that have taken place there over the intervening eight years! When I arrived at the Tirana International Airport in 2002, it was truly a "third world airport" - small, dirty, crowded, chaotic, and still looking very much the communist-era concrete block terminal it was when it was built by Enver Hoxha, the long-serving dictator of communist Albania. In 2011, though, it was totally different! This time, I stepped into a modern, light, airy, glass and steel structure that looked like it had been airlifted from Europe, replete with cafes, shops, baggage handlers, taxis, and all the

Soldiers and Plowshares, Farmers and Swords

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, a body of scripture held sacred by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, there are two verses that bring to mind the transition we are witnessing here today. Today’s transition really began on July 9, 2011, when South Sudan became the world’s newest independent country. However, there was an opposite transition some fifty years ago, before most of us here today were even born, when many South Sudanese began to take up arms to fight for liberation. Let us consider these two transitions and what they mean to us today. The first Bible verse reflects what many of your forefathers did in the face of oppression. In the words of the Prophet Joel, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears! Let the weakling say, “I am strong!” Many men and women across the south, including many of your fathers and grandfathers, set down their tools and left their farms to take up the struggle in the bush. We are all here today because of their sacr

Valuing Farmers as an Agricultural Development Priority

The challenge we are asked to address here today is the way forward in adding value when meeting future agricultural priorities. This challenge presents several issues that need to be addressed, many of which have already been addressed by our speakers yesterday and today. There is broad consensus that reducing global poverty and hunger requires accelerating growth in the agriculture sector. Recent studies suggest that every 1 percent increase in agricultural income per capita reduces the number of people living in extreme poverty by between 0.6 and 1.8 percent. There is no question that South Sudan has the potential to become food secure and raise incomes through a government-led program of agricultural development. That said, there is much space to improve coordination amongst the government, donors and private sector to ensure our efforts have maximum impact. We have heard President Kiir set the goal of food security by 2014. Now is the time for us all to come together and

The Hostess Sno-Ball and the Little Kentucky Boy

The Hostess brand declared bankruptcy a few days ago. This was, for me, a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, I cannot say I was unhappy that a manufacturer or unhealthy, industrial, artificial food chock full of chemicals and genetically-modified ingredients was going under - just another line of bad food taken out of the supply chain. However, I do feel for the 18,000+ workers who will lose their jobs, in part because their union could not or would not reach an agreement with the parent company that would stave off bankruptcy. Hopefully, they will get severance payments, their pensions will be secure, and they will otherwise weather the loss of jobs and move on to something else. Another part of me, though, has fond memories of the Hostess Sno-Ball, that delightfully round, creme-filled cupcake that was either white or pink and came two to a pack. As a boy in Bowling Green, Kentucky, going to kindergarten at the Jolly-Time Play School, my father would pick me up every day during

Organic Monks and Farmers in the Ethiopian Highlands

I am spending a week in Ethiopia to do two things: photograph the Ethiopian monasteries on Lake Tana in the north of the country, and get a close-up view of the traditional farming methods that have been employed in this country since before the time of Christ. The week is not yet over, but two very surprising things have already become apparent. First, the monks scattered through the islands of Lake Tana (and there are many hundreds of these monks!) are using the latest and best methods of organic and sustainable farming. Second, the farming practiced by these and countless other farmers across the highlands of Ethiopia, use organic, sustainable methods of farming that would make any organic farmer in America proud. And these people have been doing it this way for some three thousand years. All of which brings to mind Hiram King's classic work on Chinese farming, "Farmers of Forty Centuries," which is highly recommended for reading. Let's begin with the monks of

Oxen and the Future of Farming

In early August, after leaving Baghdad, I decided to unwind a bit by taking an “Oxen Basics Workshop” at Sanborn Mill Farm, near Concord, New Hampshire. Lasting three days, the workshop was not only a superb opportunity to learn about the basics of using oxen in farming and more about the whole approach to agriculture that draft animals require, but it was also an introduction to the “oxen users community,” a very diverse group of highly intelligent and dedicated agrarians who see the value in traditional methods for rescuing modern agriculture in the 21st century. As it turns out, that workshop also exposed me to a way of farming that may well prove to be the best approach to modern agriculture for the people of South Sudan. Oxen-powered farming today exists mostly in New England. The small farms, hilly terrain, and rocky land lend themselves to the use of oxen whereas in the rest of the country, most animal-powered agriculture is done with horses and mules. There is also a lon

Mayberry's Diversified Farming Community

Andy Griffith, known to many of us as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, passed away on July 3 at the age of 86.  As a boy growing up in Kentucky, every Monday night was a highlight of the week as that was when the “Andy Griffith Show” aired on TV. Starting October 3, 1960, shortly after I turned four years old, it continued to air until April 1, 1968, by which time I was almost twelve years old. Forty-four years later, I continue watch it whenever I can,whether in TV reruns, via the Internet, or by DVD.  I can honestly say that my childhood was in many ways defined by Sheriff Taylor and the good people of Mayberry, as I and my family gathered every Monday evening to watch the latest goings-on in a fellow southern community. Although I did not understand or appreciate it at the time, the values and lessons taught and lived in Mayberry strongly reinforced what my parents and Sunday School teachers tried to teach me. It is hard to say that today’s television programming does the same. W