A question to Fred Pearce: why do people in Africa need paid jobs and a Western way of life?

Mr Pearce,

I am a French reader of your last book, and I wished to ask you a question, but couldn’t find your email address. Therefore I am posting this on a blog I own.

On page 9 of your book, Land Grabbers, you write the following:

“The biggest prize is known to geographers as the Guinea Savannah Zone.[…] Yet, these lands are also the home of 600 million African peasant farmers and herders, approaching a tenth of the world’s population. They are among the world’s poorest people. They badly need economic development.”

I would question how poor they actually are, considering they have access to food and shelter for free, and have no need to work except through farming and herding. Why do they need economic development so much? It looks like they are doing fine before being taken off their lands. You quote one person as saying the lands are like their supermarkets and game reserve. It sounds like people define economic development as having a paid job and access to western style infrastructure. But surely, that isn’t the only way of life one can consider as acceptable.

Later in the book, you suggest that part of the region of Gambella could attract tourism. Again, that assumes Gambellan inhabitants need to make money off nature and get paid jobs, etc., etc. I would ask you why people can’t simply leave them alone?

Hope you have a good day.

Marcel Dubois

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