THE LEGACY OF MADHU?S CANTEEN

By?Ananta Yusuf in The Daily Star

Photo: Prabir Das

Photo: Prabir Das

Taking a stroll around Madhur Canteen, named after Madhu Sudan Dey, a visitor would come across various spots ? where students of Dhaka University sit in rows, chatting and possibly planning their future. It is a place where the streets widen to make room for creative minds and the walls are covered with political graffiti and posters. Chairman of Workers Party of Bangladesh, Rashed Khan Menon considered it as a parallel school of progressive thought, politics and rational debates, and till date he believes, ?its yard is filled with the leaders of?tomorrow.? Continue reading “THE LEGACY OF MADHU?S CANTEEN”

Fall Flower Bouquet: Vote for Bangladesh

Dilawez Durdana(Deepa) to shahidul
Please spare few minutes to check out the following link & vote for
entry# 8 Fall Flower Bouquet, the entry from Bangladesh!
Forward this to your friends & help the entry win! Please Retweet #Bangladeshwin
http://garnishfood.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-fall-carving-contest-stage-2-voting.html
Regards,
Durdana.

Fall Flower Bouquet, by Durdana, Bangladesh

What's the Difference Between Fox News and Oxford University Press?

Published on Thursday, April 5, 2012 by?Common Dreams

by?Frances Moore Lapp?

Eighteen months ago I read a book that changed my life. Yeah, yeah, I know… sounds corny. But it’s not what you think. This book changed my life not because of what it said but because of what it didn’t say.
On a nothing-special summer afternoon in 2010, I sat in the Cambridge Public Library preparing a speech on something I’d been studying for decades. I plugged “world hunger” into the library’s computer.?Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know?popped up.
Perfect, I thought. I knew I would have differences with the book because I’d just read a critique of the views of its author, Robert Paarlberg, by my daughter Anna Lapp? on the?Foreign Policy?website. But I’m always eager to know how those with whom I disagree make their case. Noticing that?Food Politics?was published by Oxford University Press, I felt confident I could count on it being a credibly argued and sourced counterpoint. Continue reading “What's the Difference Between Fox News and Oxford University Press?”

Control by seed

To the rest of the world, Abu Ghraib is associated with inhuman torture, incarceration without trial and arrogant US unilateralism. To the farmers of Iraq, Abu Ghraib was better known for the national seed gene bank, started in the early 70s. In fact, Iraq?s most well-known wheat variety is known as ?Abu Ghraib?. The country precious heritage is now all but lost.
Facing the same unsolicited adversary, Syria is under a similar threat. The Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) is situated there and still holds remaining samples of Iraq?s threatened seeds. It is worrying because the planned destruction of Iraq?s agriculture is not widely known. Modern Iraq is part of the ?fertile crescent? of Mesopotamia where man first domesticated wheat between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago, and home to several thousand varieties of local wheat. As soon as the US took over Iraq, it became clear its interests were not limited to oil. In 2004, Paul Bremer, the then military head of the Provisional Authority imposed as many as a hundred laws which made short work of Iraq?s sovereignty. Continue reading “Control by seed”

The Wind In The Wheat

The 25th March is a significant day in Bangladesh. It was this day, in 1971, when the Pakistani army began its genocide, causing the death of millions, but eventually also leading to the birth of the nation. The Pakistani army had been supported by the United States, who had sent the seventh fleet to the Bay of Bengal in a show of strength, pitting its might against India and its ally of that time, the Soviet Union. The United States also influenced Bangladesh in a very different way. Exactly 57 years earlier to the day, a man born in Iowa was to affect the destiny of Bangladeshis in a profound manner.
Considering that he was one of only few US citizens to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he was little known, even in his own nation. Amongst Nobel Prize winners, only? Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel have also won the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal. Norman Borlaug, the man who prevented a billion people from starving seems to have been easily forgotten. His death on the 12th September 2009, went largely unnoticed in Bangladesh.
Interestingly, the man who is said to be the father of the ?Green Revolution? is also blamed by some for having encouraged intensive farming, which some environmentalists feel have led to soil depletion and dependency of farmers. Certainly, a side effect of intensive cultivation is the dependence on both fertilizers and pesticides, effectively a dependence on petrochemical products. While the high yields produced by Borlaug?s techniques are undeniable and revolutionary, the increase in costs of fertilizers and pesticides has resulted in dependence on imports from foreign companies. The rate of increase in rice production in India, for instance, has been far outstripped by the rate of fertilizer intake per ton of rice. Borlaug himself had a simple response to this analysis. There was a need for food, and he provided a way to produce more. He has always said, the real answer was to curb population, but while there were mouths to feed, he made sure there was food to feed them. As a result nations that had been facing a potential famine, Bangladesh, India, Mexico and Pakistan became self sufficient in food. Mexico even became an exporter of wheat. Consequently, Borlaug is credited with having prevented over billion people from starvation.
India honoured him with the Padma Vibhushan, its second highest civilian honour. In Bangladesh he received the first honorary membership of the Bangladesh Association for the Advancement of Science. His success in Pakistan, might have been halted by the all to familiar bureaucratic systems we regularly encounter.? When seeds destined for Karachi, reached Los Angeles en-route, a Mexican bank refused to honour Pakistan treasury’s payment of US$100,000, because the check contained three misspelled words. But the seeds did eventually arrive, and eventually led to a doubling of wheat production for both India and Pakistan.
While the new technology has undoubtedly also led to increased profits for corporate agribusiness, Borlaug never patented any of his ?inventions? and neither became wealthy nor famous despite the phenomenal transformation he had engineered. Rather, he encouraged its free use, himself working in the fields, training farmers how to maximize their yields.
As the initiator of the Nobel Prize had discovered, what technology eventually got used for, depended largely upon who got to use them. Unlike Alfred Nobel, Borlaug, also of Norwegian descent, never accumulated the wealth to find ways to offset the negative effects of his discoveries, but he remained a dreamer till the end.
?When wheat is ripening properly, when the wind is blowing across the field, you can hear the beards of the wheat rubbing together. They sound like the pine needles in a forest. It is a sweet, whispering music that once you hear, you never forget.?

Politics is the price of rice…


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Rahnuma Ahmed

Bhat dey haramjada (Give rice, you bastard) — screamed the graffiti on a wall. It had stunned pedestrians in Dhaka. This was 1974.
In early March, six months before the famine had reached its peak, news of starvation deaths could be heard. Two to three months later, they had become common enough. Occassionally, dead bodies could be seen lying on the street. What had caused the famine of 1974? Amartya Sen, a Nobel Laureate, says that it was a reduction in the ability of people to command food through legal means available in society — in their entitlements to food — that led to the famine. Food crisis, says Sen, is caused not by food shortage but by the shortage of income and purchasing power. On a person’s ability to command commodities, particularly food, under entitlement relations. Starvation and famine are not only economic, says Sen. These are multi-dimensional subjects, they include social, political and legal issues. If groups of people lack purchasing power they can starve, even though markets are well stocked. Even though food prices are low.
What had caused the famine of 1974? For Devinder Sharma, it was the US government’s decision to withhold 2.2 million tons of food aid that was at fault. The US government had wanted to ensure that the Mujib regime `abandoned plans to try Pakistani war criminals’. When the Bangladesh Finance Minister had called upon the US Secretary of State, in August 1973, to appeal for food aid, the latter had advised the speedy settlement of disputes with Pakistan. Referring to Bangladesh government’s proposal of “war crimes” trials of the Pakistan army, he had said, it was ?not good to have such trials.? “Humanity” had never learned from war crimes trials, he said. Of course, the Americans had good reasons for saying so. The US ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s name had repeatedly come up. War objectors had demanded that he be tried for US massacres in Vietnam, for America’s role in Bangladesh’s liberation war. That humanity never learns is best exemplified by the US and its allies. Pakistan. Israel. Humanity never learns unless, of course, the criminals are Nazis or Serbians.
But that is not the end of `famine is a political weapon’ for the US story. Pressure on the Mujib government returned. In 1974, the US Ambassador said, no food aid would be given to Bangladesh if it exported jute to Cuba. The Mujib government gave in to US pressure. Jute exports to Cuba were stopped, but by the time food shipments reached, it was too late. Most famine victims had succumbed.
Were there other causes? Some researchers say, successive natural disasters, floods and droughts, had prefaced the food crisis. Others mention the Awami League government’s lack of foresight in importing foods. In directing subsidised food to the politically vocal urban population, at horrific costs to far-poorer, rural people. Others stress political and administrative corruption which had encouraged massive hoarding, and the smuggling of foodgrains. Many others say it was the gross mismanagement of the economy.
Why do I rehearse these instances from history? Because there are lessons to be learnt. Because it is not enough for either the Chief Adviser, his advisers, or the Army Chief to repeatedly say, there is no shortage of rice, the markets are well-stocked, more rice is being imported, it will reach soon. Simplistic reasoning, simplistic assertions are not enough. There have been too many famines, too many deaths. Each death was one too many. We must learn from history. That lessons are not being learnt is obvious from what is being said. From the little that is being done. The rice queues keep getting longer.
In 1974 too, world food prices had risen. But the situation is far more grave now. Hard-hit consumers across the globe are protesting. Mexicans rioted in December 2007. Tortilla prices had jumped up; in some parts of Mexico, it was four times higher. In Indonesia, people have protested against the rise in soybean prices. In Burkina Faso, protestors attacked government offices and shops. Demonstrations have also taken place in Guinea, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Yemen. Severe weather, rising population, rapid increases in demand for foodgrain (China, India), speculation in commodity markets, are listed as reasons. Also, a growing trend to turn food into fuel. Four hundred and fifty pounds of maize can be converted into enough ethanol to fill the 25 gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol at one time. Or it can be used to provide enough calories to feed one person for a year. The competition between food and fuel is encouraged by governmental subsidies given to biofuel in western countries. In non-western nations, that those hardest hit, should be provided with income support to help them purchase food is something all concerned agree upon. Simultaneously, it is agreed that governments should increase their investments in agriculture in order to improve agricultural productivity.
The situation in Bangladesh is made peculiar because of its rule by a caretaker government. Because of the fifteen month-long state of emergency. Recently, the Chief Adviser, in the light of accusations of poor food distribution said, shortages occur even in countries which have elected governments. Of course they do. That is not the point. The new system of corruption is individualistic, sector-oriented, and technocrat-elitist. It is not tied to constituencies and vote banks which have a nationwide spread, albeit with party lines of exclusion and inclusion. The new system is an introverted one. When it comes to food and other resources, the distribution is random. It is queue-oriented, linear. It does not encompass. Its reach is limited. Most are left out.

The army chief’s versatile kitchen

The army chief General Moeen U Ahmed had said on a visit to Chelopara in Bogra, Bangladeshis should increase the intake of potato in their daily diet. `We should not depend only on rice. Of course, we will eat rice but we must increase the intake of potato.’ That will reduce the food crisis, specially the pressure on rice. Potato yields this year have been very high.
A few days later, General Moeen invited the country’s leading editors to the army headquarters. The meeting was followed by a lunch where nine potato dishes were served with plain rice, fresh salad, fried ruhi fish. The potato-based dishes were: potato country curry, potato malai curry, potato noborotno curry, potato pudina curry, potato roller gravy, potato kofta curry, potato pulse curry, potato shak (spinach) curry. (Jaijaidin, 9 April 2008).
The list only proves that the Army Chief has versatile cooks, a versatile kitchen. But that was never in doubt. Just as his promotion, or his extension was never in doubt.

Street humour

The language of the streets is different from the language of those who rule the land. Emergency restrictions, and the intolerable food crisis has generated jokes that comprise a secret language of sorts between common people. Food jokes, queue jokes have been common elsewhere too. Such as this one. A man is queuing for food in Moscow. Finally he’s had enough. He turns round to his friend and says “That’s it. I’m going to kill that Gorbachev,” and marches off. Two hours later he comes back. “Well,” says the friend, “did you do it?” “No,” replies the other, “there was an even longer queue over there.”
A more recent one, overheard by a friend in Muktagaccha, between two rickshawallas:
So, shorkar says, we have to eat more potatos. What do you say?
Well, get those high-talking advisors over, have rice, chaff, flour, and potatos in charis (cattle troughs), let’s see what they eat. I’ll eat what they eat.
Nine types of any food would fill a rickshawalla’s stomach.
First published in New Age on 14th April 2008

What the World Eats

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As colleagues are out there trying to? provide relief to the people affected by cyclone Sidr. As I talk at my book launch of “Nature’s Fury” in Glasgow. The mail from Kenneth Van Toll reminding us on World Human Rights Day, of the disparity in people’s lives provides food for thought.

 

The people of Bangladesh have some of the lowest ecological footprint in the world, but they are the ones who will pay the price for the effects of? the world’s biggest consumers.

 

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Today, poverty prevails as the gravest human rights challenge in the world. Combating poverty, deprivation and exclusion is not a matter of charity, and it does not depend on how rich a country is.
By tackling poverty as a matter of human rights obligation, the world will have a better chance of abolishing this scourge in our lifetime…Poverty eradication is an achievable goal.

Louise Arbour
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
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What The World Eats

??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? Beth Hartford-DeRoos

 

Germany : The Melander family of Bargteheide

Food expenditure for one week : 375.39 Euro or $500.07
Favorite foods : fried potatoes with onions, bacon and herring, fried noodles with eggs and cheese,
pizza, vanilla pudding

United States : The Revis family of North Carolina

Food expenditure for one week : $341.98
Favorite foods : spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken

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Japan : The Ukita family of Kodaira City

Food expenditure for one week : 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods : sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

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Italy : The Manzo family of Sicily

Food expenditure for one week : 214.36 Euro or $260.11
Favorite foods : fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

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Great Britain : The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis

Food expenditure for one week : 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15
Favorite foods : avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail,
chocolate fudge cake with cream

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Kuwait : The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City

Food expenditure for one week : 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe : Chicken biryani with basmati rice

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Mexico : The Casales family of Cuernavaca

Food expenditure for one week : 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
Favorite foods : pizza, crab, pasta, chicken

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China : The Dong family of Beijing

Food expenditure for one week : 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

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Poland : The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna

Food expenditure for one week : 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27
Family recipe : Pig’s knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips

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United States : The Caven family of California

Food expenditure for one week : $159.18
Favorite foods : beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream

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Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo

Food expenditure for one week : 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Family recipe : Okra and mutton

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Mongolia : The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar

Food expenditure for one week : 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02
Family recipe : Mutton dumplings

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Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo

Food expenditure for one week : $31.55
Family recipe : Potato soup with cabbage

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Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village

Food expenditure for one week : 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

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Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp

Food expenditure for one week? : 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods : soup with fresh sheep meat

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