Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ten Days Celebrating the Life of Nelson Mandela

It has indeed been a most memorable and moving ten days here in South Africa.

Memorial service in Soweto

To arrive here the day before Nelson Mandela’s death; to be here during the time of his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto (near Johannesburg) and his funeral service in Qunu, Eastern Cape Province (not far from the farmers in Cala who featured in my Growers’ Guide to Natural Farming), has been to share with South Africans of all colours and political stripes a time of mourning, but also of celebration of the life of one of the Great Ones of the past century.

Qunu, Eastern Cape

As you can imagine there has been 24/7 coverage on SABC TV (South African Broadcasting Corp), with every possible person – from fellow prisoners on Robben Island (Mac Maharaj, Ahmed Kathrada), to dignitaries from other African countries (Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia; Joyce Banda, President of Malawi), to his longtime personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, to little children – all interviewed for their stories or their remembrances of Madiba. Also there have been excerpts from bio documentaries and from programs on the history of "the Struggle" against apartheid, and its larger significance in the world.

Yes, I have been watching a lot of TV!

But I’ve had some memorable “in person” moments too...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tererai Trent: A Crusader for Education

Tererai Trent  is a humanitarian, scholar and motivational speaker, who became famous in 2011 after being chosen as Oprah Winfrey's favorite guest out of the 35,000 she'd had on her show over the years. She grew up in rural Zimbabwe, and her story was told on the Oprah show.   

Tererai is also my dear friend.  In 1994 I lived for ten months with Tererai and her children (then she had three) near Mutoko Centre in northeast Zimbabwe, while I conducted the field research for my  doctoral study on Agroforestry and Sustainable Development.  That year Tererai was working for the  Belgian non-governmental organization, COOPIBO, as the resident director of their Agricultural Development Project. We shared and discussed insights on our respective work with farmer groups.  When I returned to Zimbabwe in 1999, PhD completed, Tererai had just left to embark on her own university education in the United States. We did not see each other again for many years, but corresponded regularly by email.

Tererai Trent wrote a Special to CNN article this summer, 2013:  Child bride turned scholar: Education is the road out of poverty...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Adding Vitality to Detroit Values

The following is a 1974 article from the Detroit Free Press that came out shortly after the publication of Segregation and Integration: A Geography of People in Metropolitan Detroit:

Adding Vitality to Detroit Values

by John Askins, Free Press Staff Writer

Detroit Free Press, Monday, August 19, 1974 - Page 25

The geography of isolation is as follows: Detroiters, urban and suburban. are separated according to wealth, race and age like piles of materials in a factory yard.

That is, in Judy Humphrey's opinion, why both city and suburb lack diversity and therefore vitality. To her, Detroit is a prime example of what happens when the techniques of industrial man - such as standardization -  become the values of social man.

Other human values are suppressed. Life becomes lonelier, more predictable, safer but duller and less meaningful.

Ms. Humphrey herself does not lack vitality; she exudes it, like an athlete. When she talks about the sameness of Detroit areas, frustrated sociability bubbles in her eyes. Her written words are carefully professional, somewhat dispassionate at times, even. But the same spirit ultimately emerges.

"It is our thesis that much human tension on the urban scene is the result of adherence to economic goals set by the industrial system," she wrote in a 1972 geographic study called "Segregation and Integration."

"In human terms, bigness is anti-community, and specializing for efficiency means segregating people into homogenous regions where social involvement is minimal."

Judy Humphrey is a cheerful, rather intense woman of 33 who teaches at Wayne State University as an assistant professor of geography. She is in the process of getting divorced and she recently bought a home in Highland Park for herself and her children; she chose Highland Park because it is a racially  integrated city and small enough to be wrestled with. Ms. Humphrey believes geographers can also be agents of social change.

For many people, the word geography summons up dry memories of tracing maps of various countries and memorizing the commodities they were known for. But geography these days is rather broader than that. As Ms. Humphrey has said, anything that can be related to a particular location in physical space can be subject to the geographer's analysis.

In her 1972 federally financed study, Ms. Humphrey superimposed statistical data on maps of physical Detroit to show the geographic distribution of families with various income levels, ethnic cultures, races, income groups, ages, occupations, and various school achievement levels.

The results, although previously known, still have impact when they are presented so graphically: The old, the poor, the black, the under-employed and under-educated, as well as the broken homes and vacant buildings are concentrated in Detroit proper. Moreover, each is concentrated in its own special area, although some of these, of course, overlap.

On these maps the suburbs mostly show up as large white spaces, empty of the dots and slanted lines and cross-hatching that indicate conditions other than whiteness, middle-classness and ethnic anonymity.

Ms. Humphrey describes suburbia as "a comfortable but bland environment devoid of the need for social involvement and lacking in the sense of community that is produced by such involvement.

"Though (the) sense of 'something missing' may be nameless, it has repercussions in the tensions in the suburbs mentioned earlier: The need to protect the homogeneity of this dearly-bought environment from feared incursions by the poor and by blacks, and in the parent-child hostilities engendered by fears of the youth's counter-culture," she said.

She was born in England but grew up mostly in South Africa, where she developed a hatred of racial segregation. Her studies in geography, particularly urban geography, have given her a broader view of racial segregation as the most pernicious but not the only example of how 20th century Americans attempt to classify and order themselves like so many sizes of machine bolts.

Behind that attempt, though she does not delve into it, may lie a rather pathetic need to simplify things in a world grown increasingly complex and unmanageable. What we need more than anything else, it seems, are specific practical techniques for dealing with the facts about the modern world that make us so anxious. Such techniques Ms. Humphrey does not offer – but then, neither does anyone else.

She can only pose an ideal city, one where myriad cultures, life-styles, points of view bounce off each other like dodge-'em cars, to the general enjoyment of all. Toronto is, to her, that sort of city. Detroit is not. Nor is Highland Park.

But she has some hope that it can be changed. Her urban geography students have recently completed a survey study of the city aimed at discovering how residents, particularly teens, use the city and how they interact.

Preliminary findings seem to indicate a gulf between young and old. Ms. Humphrey would like to see them brought together to make a community where there is now little but mutual dislike. She plans, in fact, to take the survey findings to Highland Park block clubs and try to establish some sort of inter-generational dialogue on mutual problems.

Detroiters hardly talk about racial segregation publicly any more, and have never talked very much about the other kinds. Integration as an ideal has fallen from public favor. But Ms. Humphrey makes it clear that integration of all sorts is exactly what we need.

"What is missing for city and suburban dweller alike," she has written, "is a sense of wholeness ­– an identity beyond his immediate economic or domestic role that provides a sense of personal integrity. Also missing, at the interpersonal scale, are (the) essential social characteristics of community, engagement and dependence…

"It is obvious that while physical need is heavily concentrated in the inner city, psychological need is widespread throughout the urban area."


Segregation and Integration: A Geography of People in Metropolitan Detroit

Segregation and Integration: A Geography of People in Metropolitan Detroit 
by Judy Stamp Humphrey (Judith Stamp)
Publisher: Advancement Press of America
Date: 1972
47 pages

Click the following link for the full text of the book (PDF format, file size 12Mb):

Segregation and Integration: A Geography of People in Metropolitan Detroit

From the Introduction:

There is tension on the urban scene in America today and Detroit has its full share. It is not the productive tension of a cooperative struggle to reach common goals. Neither is it the creative tension of individuals reaching for self-fulfillment in an environment of equal opportunity. Rather it is a tension of fear and mistrust, resulting from a growing distance between two parts of the urban whole. The two parts are the white "haves" in the suburbs and the black "have-nots" in the central city.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Zimbabwe: Lessons from Land Reform

From Al Jazeera's new global talk show South2North, "hosted from South Africa's Johannesburg as presenter Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world." Here Redi speaks to Sam Moyo, professor and executive director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, as well as to Teresa Smart, author of Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, and to farmer Charlene Mathais.

Zimbabwe: Lessons from land reform (June 22, 2013)

"In the 1980s Zimbabwe became the poster-child for African independence. Twenty years later, violent land grabs pushed white farmers off their land, and the economic turmoil caused unprecedented hyperinflation, resulting in the ultimate crash of the Zimbabwean currency. Food production collapsed and one of the continent's strongest economies reduced to half its previous size. While the West was quick to dismiss Zimbabwe as another failed African state, new research shows that Zimbabwe is actually recovering, and that land reform is working. After years of economic collapse caused by violent land grabs, Zimbabwe is recovering, but who is reaping the benefits?"

For more on this story:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming

In February 2013, I travelled to Cala District, Eastern Cape, South Africa, in order to deliver the booklet A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming: Ten Steps to Success and Farmers who Lead the Way, to those very farmers.

Nomvuso Nopote and family 

The view from the Tyandelas' front door

Click on the link below to download a PDF of the booklet. (The file size is 5Mb, and you will need the free Adobe Reader or other PDF-viewing software to open it.):

A Grower's Guide to Natural Farming.pdf

You can also read or download several different file sizes (highest resolution to low resolution) of the PDF here:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reflections on a Return Visit to South Africa

Left to right: Nopindile Tyandela, Judith Stamp, Vuwane Tyandela

In the May 2013 issue of Place of Meeting, I shared some thoughts from my February 2013 visit to Cala District in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, to deliver the booklet A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming: Ten Steps to Success and Farmers who Lead the Way.

You can download a PDF of the article here:

Reflections on a Return Visit to South Africa

(Or read the whole May 2013 issue of Place of Meeting online:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agroforestry and Sustainable Development (PhD Thesis)

1994 research team members: Munei Chiganangana and Danai Nyakanyanga

In the 1990s I conducted field research for my PhD in Zimbabwe.

My first trip for the project was six weeks of research reconnaissance in 1993. The following year I spent ten months in Mutoko District, northeast Zimbabwe. There, together with a team of researchers, we collected data for my doctoral study on agroforestry - the way trees are used in the farming system.

In 1998 I completed the PhD and graduated from the Department of Geography, University of Toronto. The thesis title: Indigenous Agroforestry and Sustainable Development in Mutoko Communal District,  Zimbabwe

In 1999, I returned to Zimbabwe to thank research team members and agroforester friends, and to share the results...