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Date sent: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 From: Donald Zhang Osborn, Michigan State Univ. <firstname.lastname@example.org> Having worked on some of the *Lost Crops of Africa* series (on an internship basis in 1992), I'd like to reply briefly to some of the points raised by Gordon Thommason. The critical economic and structural issues in African agriculture are of course valid, but I don't think that diminishes the importance of a publication like *Lost Crops* which brings indigenous African crops to the attention of a (hopefully) wide audience. Thomasson wrote: When will we stop re-inventing the wheel? My article "Liberia's Seeds of Knowledge" in *Cultural Survival Quarterly: Intellectual Property Rights--The Politics of Ownership* 15(Summer 1991)3:23-28 is one of a wealth of published sources concerning Africa's indigenous agricultural resources and indigenous knowledge systems. We don't live in a "one wheel fits all" world. The idea of the *Lost Crops of Africa* series is to bring together info on a wide range of sometimes overlooked and often underresearched (agronomically) crops from throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Its intended audience includes many connected with development who may not access scholarly articles such as your own. Also, its pan-SSA approach contrasts with much of this literature which tends to focus on particular crops and/or specific regions. As such I think *Lost Crops* complements the wealth of literature you mention and may even prompt some who would not otherwise be likely to delve into it to do so (at least for the crops that interest them). Thomasson also wrote: The constraints on the development of the rich resources that are tradtional African agronomic systems (on village where I, and earlier John Gay worked in Liberia maintained 112+ varieties of rice for almost every imaginable soil/climate/terrain/etc.) are EXTERNAL. > As long as international financial institutions approach "development" as a problem to be "solved" by the banks loaning money that is to be repaid with interest through cash- cropping/export on the "free market" (which forces tropical producers to accept low prices in competition with each other), indigenous African crops will be not just neglected but forcibly displaced ... [deleted] And don't prattle on about "free market" producer choices--they don't exist where elites appropriate the best lands and where taxes COERCE production to subsidize international markets and payback World Bank loans at the expense of local nutrition. Agronomy is not the problem. Justice is! Both are--I don't see how this is an "either-or" issue. Justice is, I would agree, of primary importance in any sphere of human activity. Yet agronomy is also of undeniable importance in questions of food and agriculture. And in the area of indigenous crops, agronomy has not yet contributed as much as it might. By helping to raise awareness of a multitude of specific African grain, fruit, tuber, etc. crops, *Lost Crops* does a great service. Any increase in knowledge about indigenous crops at this stage would seem to be helpful. One of the benefits will hopefully be greater attention to structures such as you mention which discourage or displace indigenous crop production. How greater knowledge about these crops is used is of course another matter. I imagine there can eventually be a number of different combinations of benefits and costs to African farmers and the world for each specific crop or class of crops. Could today's "lost crop" in some cases become tomorrow's cash crop (for better or worse)? Part of the research needed, therefore goes beyond agronomy (and food science) to include the social & economic effects of improved crops and/or development of new uses/products from indigenous crops. An interesting possibility could be approaching work on indigenous crops in a participatory research framework, thereby enhancing the crop or its value in a way (hopefully) more consonant with the needs and hopes of local people. Beyond this, there is the possibility that some of these crops may find important uses in other areas of the world. *************** [1.] This series might even have some use in education about Africa. [2.] E.g., what would be the effects of increased commercialization of a wild fruit normally consumed by children or gathered by women for sale at market (say because of development of a local industry for manufacture of a preserve or juice or syrup product from that fruit) on forestry, tree tenure, child nutrition, women's income, off-farm employment, etc.