Category Archives: development

CFP: Language and Development 2015

The biennial Language and Development Conference will next be held in New Delhi, India on 18-20 November 2015. The first page of the call for papers is displayed below – note 26 June deadline extended to July 12. For some discussion about the conference see post on Beyond Niamey.

One “deliberately provocative statement” by Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, founder and former director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, which is featured on page 2 of the CFP, deserves quoting:

In the developed world … two languages are considered a nuisance, three languages uneconomic and many languages absurd. In multilingual countries, many languages are facts of life; any restriction in the choice of language is a nuisance; and one language is not only uneconomic, it is absurd. – D.P. Pattanayak, 1984

file-page1

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

VOA features on Lost Crops

The Voice of America (VOA) is planning two sets of 5 features on the Lost Crops of Africa. The first, created by VOA correspondent Cole Mallard is scheduled to air in about 4 weeks, according to information from Bill Eagle, another VOA correspondent who is working on the second set of features.

The first set includes: an overview; one feature each on fruits, vegetables and grains; and consideration of the future of Lost Crops.

I hope to post additional information closer to the actual broadcasts.

In 2006, VOA special English had a feature on Lost Crops.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

International Decade of Languages?

As we draw to the end of 2008 – which is designated as, among other things, International Year of Languages (IYL) – I wanted to ask what’s next? And to propose the possibility of an International Decade of Languages to follow up on issues that the IYL dealt with as well as some others.

A year is a short time to do much more than raise awareness, achieve some limited project results, and begin to link and expand networks interested in such a vast topic as languages. Is it time to prepare the rationale and plans for a longer term campaign?

Issues that could be addressed by an International Decade of Languages might include:

  • What more can be done for endangered languages and their speakers, from documentation and preservation, to development and education
  • Highlight the situation of languages that are not on lists of endangered languages like the Red Book, but are contracting or not being developed for education and advancement of their first language speakers.
  • Explore how the languages of the least powerful regularly get less attention in education and development, than those of the more powerful, even when significant numbers of speakers are involved.
  • Related to the above, consider the importance of languages in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the objectives of the UN Literacy Decade, etc.
  • Discuss how to develop language policy and planning worldwide, on country, regional and global levels.
  • Consider the importance of language education for individuals and in regard to other goals of education and language development.
  • Develop an official International Declaration of Linguistic Rights for ratification by the UN and the world’s countries.
  • Explore how localization of ICT and application of human language technologies can impact language preservation, development, arts, and learning.
  • Consider whether, how and when to adopt an official international auxiliary language (or to just let English continue to evolve into this role de facto).
  • And others.

There is a little bit of time yet to consider such a concept before the end of the IYL – which was officially launched on the last International Mother Language Day (21 Feb. 2008) and will officially close on the next (21 Feb. 2009). Should proclamation of an International Decade of Languages be a recommendation to come out of the IYL experience?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

“Lost Crops of Africa”


Lost Crops of Africa: …

Read this FREE online!Full Book

The third and final volume of the Lost Crops of Africa series was recently published by the National Academies Press. Its topic is Fruits. I just received a copy, as well as a one of the second volume on Vegetables, which was published two years ago. Vol. 1 on Grains was published in 1996.

In that gap of time is a story, but the good news is that this project has finally been brought to a successful conclusion, the result of an incredible effort by Dr. Noel Vietmeyer and Mark Dafforn. The concept is that there are a lot of important cultivated and wild foods native to Africa that are neglected in research and planning, and so in effect “lost” beyond the local areas where they are well known.

Taken together the three volumes profile 11 cultivated and several wild grains, 18 vegetables, and 24 cultivated and wild fruits. I won’t list them here, but hope to take a few moments to highlight individual species and my comments on them in the future.

I had the privilege of contributing briefly to this project in the early stages, mainly as an intern in 1992 with an office of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council called BOSTID (Board on Science and Technology for Development). At the time the plan was for a six volume series covering grains, cultivated fruits, wild fruits, vegetables, legumes, and roots and tubers. As I was told, the idea grew out of an earlier successful project on Lost Crops of the Incas (1989), but that it very quickly it became apparent that in the case of Africa there were quite a lot of species of interest.

Unfortunately BOSTID, which had done a lot of quality (and interesting) publications since its establishment in 1970, disappeared into another office in a mid 1990s reorganization and the Lost Crops of Africa project was put on hold. Funding was found to publish Vol. 1 in 1996, but then the effort relied on Noel and Mark, and a decision was made to condense the rest of the series into two volumes. Mark led the project to ultimately complete editing and publication (sponsored by the Africa Bureau and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of USAID). Incredible, but altogether the effort spanned 20 years. Mark and Noel deserve a huge amount of credit for their perseverance on this project.

I haven’t found any reviews of volumes two and three, but from quick perusal these cover the quite a number of species in the same highly readable style of vol. 1 (which was summarized in the New York Times on April 23, 1996; see also a review in ODI’s Natural Resource Perspectives 23 [9/97], and a short critical perspective on H-Africa).

Altogether the contribution of this series is in bringing various edible plant species to broader attention in a world that focuses – at its risk – on a few cultivars of a few main crops. Having this information in book format is of obvious use (such volumes from the BOSTID are still referenced in the field and these post-BOSTID volumes will continue to be as well, no doubt). Much has changed since the first volume was published in terms of the technologies for disseminating information, and I’m given to think that a wiki format to complement the online versions of the books could facilitate updates and ongoing contributions by specialists in the field. That would assure the longer term impact of this important work as a living resource. Who would set it up and maintain it is another issue.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

International Year of the Potato

IYP logo, with permissionThe UN has given 2008 several designations, of which International Year of the Potato (IYP) is another one.* The reason for IYP is given as follows:

The celebration of the International Year of the Potato (IYP) will raise awareness of the importance of the potato – and of agriculture in general – in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment.

The origin of IYP was apparently a proposal by Peru within the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which eventually resulted in a UN General Assembly resolution.

The IYP website is a nicely organized with information in the 6 UN languages, including activities for children.

* I’ve previously commented on the International Year of Planet Earth, and for the International Year of languages, have commented briefly and devoted a section of this website.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail