Sunday, July 20, 2008

Food crisis hits women in Africa particularly hard


Perhaps not many people could identify Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in what was French West Africa in the 1950s. The capital has a name of onomatopoeia: Ougadougou. You can look this up in the World Fact Book at cia.gov and see it is about 400 miles wide and has poor prospects. It is directly west of Niger (not to be confused with Nigeria), and above the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo.

The front page of The Washington Post this morning has a major story by Kevin Sullivan, “Africa’s Last and Least: Cultural Expectations Ensure Women and Hit Hardest by Burgeoning Food Crisis.” The story discusses a particular woman, Fanta Lagini The story online is accompanied by a 2:30 video “A Day in Fanta Langini’s Life.” She is one of three wives of a retired civil servant. Apparently, polygamy is common in this part of Africa, possibly because of the loss of men to violence and AIDS. One of the wives is blind and does not work. Fanta works two mornings a week sweeping city streets and is expected to feed herself and children on what she earns. A year ago there was enough money to buy a healthful, balance diet for the family which has many children. With the run-up in food prices, now the diet consists of mostly rice and gruel, and after the kids are fed, she has only a few bites left for herself. Women are last in line to take care of themselves after taking care of the children, and it seems the men are not around; they are out doing what they want.

The link is here.

Food prices have risen because of global demand, and because of conversion of much land to growing biofuels, as well as because of increased trucking costs associated with higher oil prices.

On Saturday, CNN reported about a family (the Selwan family) in Atlanta that was selling its 1912 McMansion, and would take half the proceeds to start a food charity in Ghana, and take the children over for a year. But the house had not yet sold. The website is called Hannah's Lunchbox and has a Youtube video and short film of the same name directed by teen Joseph Selwan.

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