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The South has a Good Story to Tell

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The fast-changing modern world is raising the living standards of billions in the South – China alone has lifted 400 million people out of poverty since the 1980s – but it is also risking the loss of many rich cultural traditions. One of them is storytelling.

Oral storytelling is a critical tool for passing on history, while teaching morals and ethics, especially in societies with low rates of literacy and little formal education. But with the rise of modern media and advertising, few traditional storytellers – many of whom are old – stand a chance. Populations are on the move like never before. As more and more people end up in sprawling cities, many are becoming disconnected from their roots.

Yet across the South, people are finding ways to re-invent story telling — and also to make money, preserve cultural pride and feed the appetite for novelty in hungry, modern media and business.

In 1997, storytelling was acknowledged by UNESCO, which pledged to back humanity’s oral and immaterial heritage, and to protect a vast number of oral and musical traditions, crafts and knowledge – plus the “living human treasures” who possess them. It backed this up in 2003 with the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It supports storytelling through its International Programme for the Development of Communication.

But what about the young – the most important generation for storytelling to have a future? In Bogota, Colombia, students have started a movement of urban storytellers. Aged between 17 and 35, they draw on the things they have learned in university. They eschew linear narration and instead adopt the popular language of films and advertising. Inspired by one television commercial, a story revolves around a drop of tomato sauce falling from a high-rise building, sparking a gun battle. The staccato narrative takes inspiration from post-modern authors like Italo Calvino. It is also the perfect narrative to capture modern, urban audiences who live in a world saturated with media.

By blending together ancestral and post-modern tales, these student storytellers are luring Latin Americans back to listening to stories. Live storytelling, when done well, has an ability to connect with other people like no other medium. This new generation also is helping make Colombia a gathering place for storytellers in Latin America, expressed in events like the Hay Festival Cartegena, a literary event that draws authors from around the world.

But is there any money in storytelling? Tale-spinners like Argentinian Juan Moreno say yes. Moreno quit teaching 17 years ago to tell stories for money in theatres, bars, universities and libraries, tapping into a contemporary marketplace for storytelling.

In fact, it is better paid than acting in the theatre, he claims, and if you are good, it comes with lots of travel. There is a global round of congresses, festivals and seminars to keep storytellers connected, inspired – and paid.

Moreno now makes money teaching many professions how to use stories to be more powerful communicators. He told the UNESCO Courier, “the value of the spoken word, words that heal and restore, that can give life but also take it away,” are key to many fields, like law and social work.

The world centres of storytelling are very much focused on the South. The International Congress of Oral Storytelling, part of the Buenos Aires Book Fair, has been running every year since 1995. At the Congress, tips are exchanged over the subtle tricks of timing and voice, gestures and facial expressions. Other Southern cities with storytelling events, include Bucaramanga, Colombia, Monterrey, Mexico and Agüimes, in the Canary Islands.

While young people are breathing new life into storytelling, Morocco’s legendary storytellers have been facing a common dilemma seen across the developing and developed world: how can they compete with flashier and more distracting pastimes like computer games and TV?

Illiteracy in Morocco affects 40 per cent of the population, so telling stories is an excellent way to reach this non-reading group. Stories and parables have long been seen as a great way to convey ideas, values and philosophies.

But Morocco’s storytelling sages, or halakis, are using their heads and turning to computers to get their stories told, and prevent their thousand-year tradition from dying out. With the help of UNESCO, the halakis have created a digital archive of their stories in audio and video.

Based in Marrakesh’s famous main square, Jemaa al-Fna, they compete in a hury burly of street entertainers and aromatic foods; it is a place where men with monkeys vie with snake charmers for your attention. Morocco’s storytellers would set up in the public squares of the cities of Fes, Meknes and Marrakesh to entertain crowds and educate about morality. These would include the ethical values of kindness, honour and chivalry. But Marrakesh is now the only place where a half dozen old men (there used to be 20 in Marrakesh) still practice this ancient art form.

UNESCO declared the square in 2001 part of the world’s “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” Video recorders have been documenting the storytellers and chronicling them on the internet.

Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, who spends part of his year in Marrakesh, has championed the halakis in his book, Marrakesh Tales, and in bringing UNESCO in to help them. He has defended their corner against the plans of city planners and developers.

Seventy-one-year-old Moulay Mohammed is blunt about the current state of storytelling: “Young Moroccans would rather watch TV soap operas than listen to a storyteller, much less become one themselves,” he told the BBC. Mohammed’s stock-in-trade is the Old Testament and all of A Thousand and One Nights: both tales of sultans, thieves, wise men and fools, mystics, genies, viziers and belly dancers. And he has been telling these tales for 45 years.

In South Africa, digital technology is also breathing new life into storytelling – and infusing the stories with urgent, contemporary issues like HIV, and domestic and sexual violence. South African women are using digital technology to preserve traditional storytelling: A collection of 15 digital stories – called “I Have Listened, I Have Heard” – made in 2006 are being distributed along with books. They assembled the stories using audio recorders and made movies of the readings with digital cameras. It was funded by the Foundation for Human Rights and made at the Women’s Net Computer Training Centre in Johannesburg.

The storytellers worked together on each script, taking a day. They would tell the group a story focusing on particular experiences or meaningful moments in their lives. The group would comment and draw out the best bits of the story. The whole process helps the story teller to flesh out the story with metaphors, narrative techniques and milestones.

Resources

  • The basics of story telling are answered in this webpage: www.timsheppard.co.uk
  • Singapore International Story Telling Festival 2008: This year’s festival also includes a new addition: Asian Digital Storytelling Festival
  • International Congress of Oral Storytelling: Held from 2-4 May 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Website: www.el-libro.org.ar
  • Folk Tales: Online project where Pakistani students and their teachers share folklore and fables with students around the world. Website: www.edutopia.org
  • Thirsty-Fish: Story and Strategy: A consultancy that helps businesses build their brands based on age-old practices of storytelling. Website: www.thirsty-fish.com

“I think you [David South] and the designer [Solveig Rolfsdottir] do great work and I enjoy Southern Innovator very much!” Ines Tofalo, Programme Specialist, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

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MOST READ! Southern Innovator Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1

Southern Innovator Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86451057/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-2

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In their own words: Selected writings by journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999: http://www.scribd.com/doc/24832935/In-their-own-words-Selected-writings-by-journalists-on-Mongolia-1997-1999

Mongolian Rock and Pop Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23917535/Mongolian-Rock-and-Pop-Book

Mongolian Green Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20889227/Mongolian-Green-Book

Mongolia Update 1998 Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20864541/Mongolia-Update-1998-Book

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20793173/Human-Development-Report-Mongolia-1997

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Global South’s Rising Economies Gain Investor Spotlight

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A new book is arguing that the world’s attention should switch away from BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and take another look at nations and regions elsewhere across the global South. It argues many are lodestones of future growth and prosperity in the making and will see dramatic changes over the next decade.

The story of the BRIC and BRICS countries is an impressive one. In just eight years from 2000 to 2008, the BRIC countries’ combined share of total world economic output rose from 16 to 22 per cent. This led to a 30 per cent increase in global output during the period, showing how key these countries were to global prosperity in the 2000s. BRIC countries make up nearly half the world’s population and are regional leaders. Taken together, their gross domestic products (GDPs) are not far behind the United States.

Ruchir Sharma’s Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles (http://www.amazon.com/Breakout-Nations-Pursuit-Economic-Miracles/dp/0393080269) argues that the BRICS are now entering a more stable growth path and thus will not see the rapid-fire expansion and quick profits investors have become used to in the past decade.

“The BRICs,” Sharma told Forbes magazine, “were last decade’s team.”

The BRIC acronym (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRIC) was coined in 2001 by Goldman Sachs managing director Jim O’Neill, in a 2001 paper titled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” (http://www.goldmansachs.com/ourthinking/brics/building-better.html). O’Neill predicted that this handful of countries would dominate the growth and economic development story for the years 2000 to 2010. This was because they all shared a similar stage of advanced economic development.

The BRIC states first began meeting together in 2006. South Africa was added in 2010 to form the BRICS acronym.

The buzz surrounding the BRICS countries over the past decade has been justified by their impressive growth rates, declining poverty levels,modernizing economies and societies and growing middle class populations.

China alone had seen its gross domestic product grow by US $5 trillion between 2001 and 2011.

Now, Sharma argues, it is someone else’s turn.

Sharma is head of emerging markets with Morgan Stanley Investment Management in New York, and Breakout Nations looks at where the next economic surprise stories will take place.

“A breakout nation is a nation that will grow above expectations, and will grow more than nations with similar per capita income,” Sharma told Forbes. “You can’t bunch all of the emerging markets together anymore. The last decade saw these countries behaving the same economically, but I think that is behind us now. Investors today will really have to pick their spots.”

He points out that Indonesia was the best performing emerging market in 2011 and has an economy that will surpass a trillion dollars in the coming years.

He also believes Sri Lanka and Nigeria are economies to watch.

Sharma says funds flowing into emerging market stocks grew by 478 per cent from 2005 to 2010, a massive jump compared to 2000 to 2005, when they grew by 92 per cent.

As he sees it, China has now reached middle-income status and its growth rates will not be as high as they have been for the past two decades. In his research, he found that countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all slowed down once their per capita income went past US $5,000.

Investors who watch the emerging markets predict the hot growth areas for the next decade will be around energy, technology, and agricultural resources.

Sharma picks out Indonesia, Turkey, the Philippines, Poland and the Czech Republic for future investment interest, but urges caution with thinking all emerging economies are on course to boom.

“You’ve got to pick your spots, rather than just assume that because you put a tag of emerging on a particular nation, it’s going to boom,” Sharma told The Globe and Mail newspaper.

To make sense of the complexity of fast-emerging economies, a flurry of new investor acronyms has popped up. One of the country clusters is called the CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIVETS).

The MINTS (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) are also set for great growth in the next decade, many investors believe.

Then there is the N-11 or Next 11. This is the MINTS plus Bangladesh, Egypt,Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam.

And after that there is VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Argentina). While clearly the creative juices are flowing at investment houses as they come up with ever-catchier acronyms, a more serious point is being made: many countries in the global South, for the first time in history, are no longer solely dependent on the Western economic system for demand.

These countries, investors note, now have an unprecedented range of options uncoupled from the political, financial and economic legacy of Western developed nations. They say that many nations in the global South are set for a runaway investment boom because they are making changes and modernizing their economies faster than many expect.

As the BRICS economies mature and slow down and take on different priorities based around improving the quality of life of their citizens, those seeking faster profits will look elsewhere. This trend is even happening within the BRICS, as Chinese and Brazilian companies offshore work to Vietnam and Colombia.

There are many new centres of economic activity and rising prosperity across the emerging markets that often fail to gain wider attention. Few would probably know that the Northeast Asian nation of Mongolia – mired in the 1990s in the worst peacetime economic collapse in half a century (http://www.scribd.com/doc/20864541/Mongolia-Update-1998-Book) – is now the world’s fastest-growing economy (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/02/28/what-behind-mongoliaeconomic-boom) and one of the top places for mobile phone usage and penetration (http://www.businessmongolia.com/mongolia/2012/03/19/mongolia-ringing-the-changes/).

Then there is Myanmar (formerly Burma), where many are hoping recent moves toward democracy and improvements in diplomatic relations will lead to an economic boon for the region. Investors are also targeting Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

Reflecting these changing realities, Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank, has been documenting the rising role played by the Chinese currency in international trade. A recent report forecast US $100 billion (R768 billion) in Sino-African trade would be settled in the Chinese currency, the renminbi, by 2015. This would be double the trade between China and Africa in 2010. It also found 70,000 Chinese companies are using the renminbi in international trade transactions.

Resources 

1) Beyondbrics blog: A blog by the Financial Times calling itself “The Ft’s emerging markets hub”. Website: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/

2) BRICS Summit: The Fourth BRICS Summit was hosted in New Delhi on 29 March 2012 under the overarching theme of “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity.” The Summit has imparted further momentum to the BRICS process. Website: bricsindia.in

3) Market Oracle: A good source for updates on investor sentiment about the emerging market economies. Website: marketoracle.co.uk

4) Monocle magazine: “A briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design” often featuring trends in the emerging market countries. Website:

monocle.com

5) BRICS Information Centre, University of Toronto. Website: brics.utoronto.ca

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Insects Can Help in Food Crisis

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

For many years it was a given that the world’s problem was not a lack of food, but that it was unfairly shared. But as the switch to biofuels gathers pace, farmland is being diverted away from growing food for people, to food for fuel. On top of this, growing prosperity in many countries in the South has boosted demand for better quality food, including grain-devouring meat diets – it takes 10 kilograms of grain to get one kilogram of meat from a cow. The crisis has deeply alarmed the UN’s World Food Programme and the World Bank. In the economic battle for food, the poor are the most vulnerable.

So-called agflation (agricultural inflation) has seen spiraling food prices, which in turn are causing food shortages, hunger and malnutrition around the world. For example, rice in Thailand has jumped from US $400 per 100 kilograms in January, to US $760. World grain stocks are at their lowest level in four decades.

But where can new sources of food be found? And what would be a more efficient use of the world’s resources to feed the growing population? One answer, surprisingly, is insects.

In February this year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization held a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand to devour the dietary value of insects as food and discuss how to harvest more of them. The working group of three dozen scientists from 15 countries probed the role of edible forest insects in food security. They explored insect protein as a contributor to better nutrition, the economics of collecting edible forest insects, methods of harvesting, processing and marketing edible forest insects, and ways of promoting insect eating with snacks, dishes, condiments — even recipes.

The range of insects that can be tapped for food is huge: beetles, ants, bees, crickets, silk worms, moths, termites, larvae, spiders, tarantulas and scorpions. More than 1,400 insect species are eaten in 90 countries in the South. Known as entomophagy, insect eating is a growing industry. Entrepreneurs in the South are making insects both palatable and marketable – and in turn profitable. These innovations are adding another income source for farmers and the poor, and supplying another weapon to the battle for global food security.

Insects have one big advantage as a food source: they are efficient converters of food into protein. Based on the weight of the food required to feed them, crickets are twice as efficient as pigs and broiler chicks, four times more efficient than sheep and six times more efficient than cows. They breed at a far faster rate, and they contain essential amino acids. They are seen as an ecologically friendly alternative to traditional animal rearing.

There are downsides to insects, however. In areas where there is heavy pesticide spraying on crops, insects can retain the pesticides in their bodies. Another key issue is sustainability: insect harvesting in some places has driven species to extinction. Then there is revulsion for some: in Western diets, there is an aversion to entomophagy, although most Westerners are happy to eat honey.

Revulsion at eating of insects is misguided. Most grains and preserved food products contain large quantities of insects or insect fragments mixed in. For example, rice usually contains rice weevil larvae – and they can be an important source of vitamins.

In Africa, 250 edible insects are eaten, from termites to grasshoppers, and have helped people through many food emergencies on the continent.

In South Africa — where edible insects are a multimillion dollar industry — Botswana and Zimbabwe, the local taste for mopane worms is being harvested for profits and nutrition. The worms, which inhabit mopane tress, require only three kilograms of feed (mopane leaves) to produce one kilogram of worms. At a rural factory in Limpopo province, South Africa, the community of Giyani is working to launch a wide range of products made from mopane worms – sustainably harvesting this larvae of the mopane emperor moth, gonimbrasia belina.

The Greater Giyani Natural Resources Development Programme in partnership with scientists at the University of Pretoria, is developing mopane worm products, including essential oils. The worms are usually par-boiled and then sun dried by locals. But at the Dzumeri Mopane Manufacturing Centre, the worms are processed and made ready for market. The local people are being trained in how to harvest the worms hygienically, and how to sort and grade the worms. The products will include deep-fried snacks and seasoning spices. It is critical the worms are harvested in a sustainable way, because in some parts of southern Africa, they have been driven to extinction.

Johnathon Mndawe, the programme manager, is organizing women and youth into co-ops to make viable commercial enterprises. “We expect the product to hit supermarket shelves in 2009,” said Morewane Mampuru, coordinator for the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, another partner.

One of the women, mother of four Mthavini Khosa, is excited: “For many years, we have been harvesting worms for food. We are excited because we will soon be doing it to make money.”

In Thailand, insect harvesting is a well-established business. Thais eat more than 150 insects, including crickets, silk worms and dung beetles. Canned crickets are regularly sold in supermarkets. Bugs are easily bought in the markets of Bangkok.

Online vendor Thailand Unique, based in Udon Thani, sells and markets a wide range of edible insects. They include edible scorpions, preserved giant water bugs, roasted grasshoppers, edible big crickets, bamboo worms, crushed giant bug paste, and introducing this year, Bug Snackz and Scorpion Thai Green Curry. There is even a ‘Bug Sample Pack’, containing a mix of seven edible insects and arachnids, all slow roasted for easy snacking.

Another important centre for insect harvesting is Latin America. In Venezuala, the Pemon Indians eat fire ants during the rainy season.

In Colombia, so-called “fatass ant” or “hormiga culona” is eaten like popcorn in movie theatres. Some believe it is a defence against cancer, or a natural aphrodisiac. Eating the ants or culona, has been happening right back to the ancient Guane Indians.

In Santander province, farmers are exporting the ants for sale, some being dipped in Belgian chocolate and sold as a luxury food in London’s Harrods and Fortnum and Mason department stores. The abundant ant population brings in US $11 a pound (kilogram conversion) for the farmers, a doubling in price since 2000.

Farmers in the artist colony of Barichara harvest the ants – though concerns have been raised that they have been over-harvesting the population. Restaurants in the area offer ant-based spreads for bread and an ant-flavored lamb sauce.

“It’s an age-old dilemma for the farmer — should I kill it or eat it?” said Andres Santamaria to CBS News, who was given a $40,000 grant from Santander’s government to develop an environmentally sustainable, export-oriented programme for breeding the ants.

In Tijuana, Mexico, ancient Aztec, pre-Colombian insect meals are on offer at this restaurant, joining a global trend. Cien Anios (“100 Years”), specialises in pre-Colombian, Aztec insect recipes. It is proof there is money in preparing insects for food. Typical dishes include garlicky ant eggs and cactus worms in butter.

Resources

  • A network for insect collectors: Website: www.insect.net
  • Sunrise Land Shrimp: A do-it-yourself guide to raising and harvesting insects for food, with important information on health and hygiene: Website: www.slshrimp.com
  • Edible Unique: An online supermarket of gourmet insect food products. Website: www.edibleunique.com

Published: April 2008

Tijuana‘s Cien Años was the original inspiration for this story. As one of the first stories to draw attention to the insects-for-food market, it contributed to a growing awareness of this exciting food source. I had a delicious all-insect meal there in 2002.
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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022