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Will Northern Environmentalism Stop Africa Growing?

Time (GMT +00) 13:00 14:00


Dr Phillip Bradley, University of Hull
Akin Fayomi,representing the views of HE Dr Christopher Kolade, High Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Hugh Bayley, MP

1. The seventh session in the series was held on Thursday the 25th of November. The meeting was chaired by Hugh Bayley. The two speakers were Phillip Bradley and Akin Fayomi

2. Dr Phillip Bradley began with five introductory points:

i) Firstly, he noted that Africa is very large, homogenous and has varying climactic and environmental issues and thus generic solutions were not appropriate
ii) Secondly, most development initiatives almost always originated in the North
iii) Thirdly he noted that Africa was a predominantly rural continent with more than 63% of sub-Sahara's population living in villages or small towns and are closely linked to agriculture or naturalism
iv) Fourthly, he argued that African farmers tend to prioritise local issues and household food security issues over national or international concerns
v) The main concern for rural households in Africa was access to natural resources and especially land.

3. Dr Bradley then went on to examine three case examples from his experience in Kenya (Deforestation, Biodiversity Loss and Climate change) to illustrate how global environmental concerns were not always transferable to Africa.

4. Dr Bradley used the example of the Kenyan Woodfuel Development Programme that ran between 1985 and 1995. This project was premised on the assumption that the most densely populated areas in Kenya would be the most fuel short which would result in rapid deforestation to meet the demand. He explained however that this analysis was based on false assumptions and in actual fact, the greatest pressure on the Kagamega Forest came from industry and not from households.

5. In terms of concerns over biodiversity and conservation of agricultural rangelands, Dr Bradely used the example of eco-tourism in national parks in Kenya. He explained that until recently, conservationists had cast the Masaai as destructive to the environment through overgrazing and the resultant desertification. The response had been to remove the Maasai from key areas, restrict their herd sizes, and in the case of Kenya, privatise their land through group holdings. This however restricted their nomadic way of life and resulted in the destruction of many Masaai communities.

6. In his final case study Dr Bradley examined the case of rural energy and photo panels. Dr Bradley noted that, while conventional wisdom argued that while electricity powered development, experience showed that providing electricity grids to remote rural areas was not cost effective. Solar power however, exploited one of Africa's most abundant resources - the sun. His experience in Kenya illustrated however that solar energy did not prove to be a suitable alternative energy source owing to the fact that the small size of the panels meant that the electricity generated was only sufficient to power small appliances such as televisions and radios. Furthermore, he noted that the widespread adoption of the panels was confined to the middle class and did not therefore have a real poverty reduction impact.

7. Akin Fayomi then presented the views of Dr Kolade who concentrated on the contribution of northern environmentalists from the Nigerian perspective.

8. Dr Kolade noted that while environmental issues were of much concern to Africans, the politics of the environment had become increasingly intertwined with issues of globalisation, social justice and development. In this context, he felt that Northern environmentalists could be seen as natural allies through their attempts to reign in and control the excesses and negative environmental impacts of the public and private sectors.

9. Dr Kolade felt that the strength of Northern environmentalists was enhanced through efforts to collaborate with their Southern counterparts. However, he felt that public and private sector environmentalists in Africa lacked the capacity to put environmental issues onto the agendas of their countries, and therefore had to rely on support, resources and expertise from their colleagues in the North. He felt that Northern environmentalists were especially important in helping Nigeria to identify and address environmental threats, such as oil spills, and dumping, both of toxic materials and e-waste (disused electrical equipment). He used the example of toxic waste that was dumped in Nigeria in the mid to late 1980s to illustrate how Northern environmental groups were instrumental in helping Nigeria to address the issue.

10. Dr Kolade did not feel that Northern environmentalism stopped Africa growing, especially as environmental hazards were globalised and affected all parts of the world.

11. Dr Kolade also noted that the WWF had also been instrumental in helping Nigeria to repatriate illegally removed fauna and to rehabilitate Nigeria's rainforest and wetland regions. Northern environmentalists were also vitally important in campaigning against other transnational environmental hazards such as climate change and nuclear waste.

12. In the discussion that followed, the issue of sustainability arose. It was agreed that it was vitally important that environmental issues were owned, and the agenda set, by the South otherwise they would not be sustainable.

13. The issue of GM crops was also debated using the case example of the Southern Africa food crisis in 2001-2003. During this crisis some Northern environmentalists advised Zambia not to accept GM food aid which caused serious delays in distributing food aid, some of which may have been fatal.

Nambusi Kyegombe
November 2004


This event looked at how climate and environmental concerns could affect African growth.

Boothroyd Room