Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scouting in Sub-Saharan Africa

              On Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 Shawnee State University welcomed Mr. Euloge Ishimwe , as a visiting lecturer. Mr. Euloge Ishimwe is Regional Communications Manager with the World Scout Bureau.  Scouts International is the parent group to what we call in the United States as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.  Both the Boy and Girl Scouts of America are reputable organizations with proud traditions here in the United States.  They are both known for their fund raising in this country, the Girl Scouts for the cookies and Boy Scouts for the popcorn.  Many generations have participated in both these organizations, my father was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts and I participated in the organization when I was younger.

                When I first heard about the lecture I was excited to go hear it; when I found out it was about Scouts International my interest decreased; it was only because going in I was misinformed.  For whatever reason being I thought the lecture was to be about politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, not Scouts International in Sub-Saharan Africa.   Although I had a somewhat low expectation, I was very pleased with the lecture on Scouts International and what they are doing around the world.  One of the things that they do that I feel is very helpful is their initiative to teach their scouts how to farm, and not just cash crops but self sustaining crops. 

                Poverty and disease run ramped in some areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.  One of the many factors that affect the high poverty levels is that there are very few jobs.  By teaching these young scouts how to farm you are giving them the tools to provide for themselves and their families.  My personal belief is that the best way to better a society is to better the people in it through education; when the people of any given society are better educated and more informed; it betters the society they live in.
                The kind of farming also makes a big difference in the life style of the farmer.  There are two types of crops that are grown in this area of the world; those two types are cash crops and self sustaining crops.  These are very broad terms but most crops can be classified into one of these categories.  Cash crops are crops that are raised for the intent of selling them; self sustaining crops are raised with intention of using them by the farmer, and then selling the excess.  Some examples of cash crops are jute, coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, bananas, oranges, cotton, tobacco, poppies, and cannabis.  Examples of self sustaining crops are corn, wheat, cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, carrots, pumpkin, squash, lettuce, and onions.
In a purely capitalist utopian model, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cash crops but like in a lot of fields, some things may work in theory, but not in practical application.  When farmers in impoverished countries grow cash crops, they can turn around and sell said crops to the developed world for a profit.  The only problem with this system is that so many impoverished farmers do this the high supply of these foods on the market keep costs low which in turn leads to a low profit margin.  The low profit margin by default prevents the farmer from buying food for his family because of the minimal return.  Lack of food causes malnutrition, aids the spread of disease, and weakens society overall.  If farmers in this region grew self sustaining crops they wouldn’t have near the amount of capital but they would have food of their own so the less money wouldn’t be near a detrimental because food needs would be met; small amounts of cash crops could be grown as well to supplement some income.  In my opinion the best way to approach this situation would be to grow enough self sustaining crops to feed the farmer and his family and then grow cash crops with the remainder of the land so more capital can come in.  If every farmer did this it would also make growing cash crops more profitable and farming a profitable profession.
                Another reason that I agree with Scouts International’s view of teaching people of Africa self sustaining agriculture is that it is not a monetary hand out.  I’m not saying that monetary hand outs are bad but look at it from the example of a Haitian or any other population that receives aid.  Monetary hand outs are short term answers to long term problems, what is the recipient of the generosity to do when the money is gone and there is still no place for them to work?  The only thing they can do at that point is to ask for more monetary assistance.  If half the wealth distributed by NGO’s was invested in manufacturing and job creation, long term solutions could be found for long term problems; economic independence is a long term goal for any country.
                In conclusion, when analyzing an organization like this I think the question one needs to ask themselves is would they support this organization?  I can honestly say that I would support Scouting International, not soley for their work in Africa but for their work across the entire world.  Scouting makes a positive impact in a lot of children’s lives and it is good to know that the organization is working to fix very serious but fixable problems in Sub-Saharan Africa.     


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