Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning About Niger

Here is something a little different for this blog. Perhaps I am more affected by the beginning of school than I realize, but I find myself wanting to learn about a new subject: The countries of Africa.

Naturally, I will share what I learn with you. Today's post is an introduction to the country of Niger, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. It is located in western Africa, southeast of Algeria, and is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. It is desert land--over 80% is part of the Sahara--and is one of the hottest countries in the world, subject to recurring droughts. (Information from The CIA World Fact Book).

The following documentary is about a purported famine in Niger in 2005. According to its YouTube commentary: "The Famine Scam" [below] is a controversial documentary which has won several awards, and was awarded third prize in the Monte Carlo TV festival in June 2008.

The film, which is the work of a Norwegian research/photography team, discusses the media portrayal of crisis in an African country versus the reality as understood by those who live there. It brings up a number of complex issues regarding western perceptions of African culture, and the consequences of food aid from foreign countries. What happens if free food is distributed when it is time to sow the crops that will insure future food supplies? What happens to the local economy when there is a glut of free food on the market?

What does “food racism” mean?

A quote from a Niger agricultural worker in the film: “They come here without knowing us, without understanding our problems.”

Part 1 of the film begins here. At the end of each part you will be directed to the next section.

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