Growing Little by Little

Many would argue it an impossible task; changing the farmer to consumer cycle in such a way that effectively feed the poor, create employment and reduce the impact on climate change. Yet from within Cape Town’s poorest areas, a farming revolution is underway. There is no one in sight except for older women hunched over well-maintained rows of healthy looking vegetable plants at the Siyazama Community Allotment Garden Association in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The protection afforded by the food tents, which cushion plants from the harsh elements, helps farmers to reduce the impact of inclement weather on their crops. They could, in the future, in other contexts across the region, help mitigate the effects of climate change and water shortages. Read more here.
Kwanele Sosibo

Idasa responds to Land Bank announcement

The Public Expenditure and Smallholder Agriculture Project in African democracy institute, Idasa, has welcomed the Land Bank’s commitment to spend 1 billion rands on emerging farmers in the next two years as a move to unlock the long-term potential growth of agriculture as one of the pillars of South Africa’s economic development. Please read attached press release for more information. Read more here.

The Professor Robert Shell Lunch Time Talk at IDASA

Today’s Lunchtime Soapbox talk at Idasa’s Democracy Centre, 6 Spin Street (across from Church Square) will be a special session with noted South African historian Robert Shell.

He will speak about the Old Slave Lodge in Cape Town, which housed up to 1000 slaves.Slave-lodgings, lunatic asylum, police station, prison and brothel: these were some of the functions which the building at the entrance to the Company’s Gardens at the top of Adderley Street (the old Heerengracht), unashamedly fulfilled. The Lodge fused the dramatic themes of thraldom, perpetual servitude, sex and insanity into a fortress of misery which could provide South African novelists with the raw material of a hundred novels. This complex building was a forgotten crucible of colonialism and apartheid that helped perpetuate facets of colonial life which are still recognisable in present-day South Africa.

Robert Shell is extraordinary Professor of Historical Demography in the Statistics Department at the University of the Western Cape. His research interests cover slavery, Islam and also HIV/AIDS.

Date: 7 July 2011
Time: 12:30 for 1:00pm.

Prof. Shell’s talk will start at 1pm and go through 2:30pm

This is a special presentation with an extended Question & Answer session.

As always for these talks, a delicious “brown bag” lunch for R35 is available from the restaurant, 6 Spin Street.

Small-scale agriculture should be seen as a business

Speaking in Cape Town, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), said impoverished rural people want opportunities to enter into economic activity. “What is gratifying for me is that a few years ago you would not hear people talking smallholder agriculture as a business. At the World Economic Forum on Africa, I heard over and over again where top government officials and the private sector have come to recognize that global food security cannot be achieved without the engagement of smallholder agriculture. I think that is the message: governments should invest in agriculture as a business and create the environment for smallholders to enter into economic activities that are profitable.” Read more here.
Staff Writer

African leaders told to increase food production

African leaders under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have been urged to increase investments in agriculture to boost food production. The call was made again by Dr Chris Muyunda, the executive director of the Alliance for Commodity Trade for Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) at the Africa Agricultural Markets Programme policy seminar held in Kigali. Despite the Maputo Declaration, only eight out of the 53 countries have met the target to increase investment in agriculture to 10% of their national budget. This is a serious impediment to the continent’s aim to boost economic development. Read more here.
Prossy Nandudu

Idasa challenges municipal election candidates to disclose their campaign funding

4 May 2011

For Immediate Release

Idasa challenges municipal election candidates to disclose their campaign funding South Africa will be holding countrywide municipal elections on Wednesday 18 May 2011. They will be held against a background of many years of mounting dissatisfaction with service delivery, manifested in increasingly widespread protests and rates boycotts. Continue reading

African citizens demand change, Idasa looks at implications for the continent

Now is the time for the African Union, regional African blocs and individual African leaders to stand beside Africa’s citizens in their call for greater democracy on our continent. African democracy institute Idasa sees in the waves of popular uprising in North Africa the opportunity for African leadership to support democratic consolidation; a consolidation that will allow for the advancement of the economic opportunities for Africa’s citizens and the amplifying of the voice of our people.

Despite differing circumstances and contexts, all the peoples in uprising share in common a demand — so long unheard — for human rights, reform and an end to the autocratic dispensations. This can’t be created just by determination on the part of citizens or secured by good intentions alone. Africa needs governments the world over to act promptly and decisively. Stable democracies, like that of South Africa, must come to the aid of those struggling with transition and offer whatever experience and practical support they can.

The Ivorian people are calling to have their vote upheld. Tunisia is now facing a power vacuum, after the Jasmine Revolution ousted authoritarian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, after 23 years. Its caretaker government is now facing nearly daily protests and a much weakened administration. Idasa adds its voice in support of recent UN action to halt the vicious attacks in Libya on citizens who are expressing their demand for an end to autocratic rule.

Idasa, as one of the leading democracy think-tanks on the continent, is inspired by this display of citizen action and calls for decisive leadership now to prevent further bloodshed, ensure civilian authorities are installed in government and support the change cried out for by citizens.

We urge the world to demand that democratic institutions be put in place, protected by entrenched constitutions, so that individuals cannot subvert them and they cannot be dispensed with by opposing elites.

South African former president Nelson Mandela’s decision to stand for only one term in office reminds us of the dangers posed when leaders — however iconical they may be — become entrenched in power over time.

Idasa reminds our continent’s leaders that democratic elections are the starting point of democracy, and the results of polls cannot simply be disregarded. Ignoring this universal and fundamental principle will have serious consequences for future generations of African citizens who have the right to live in peace and relative prosperity.

Is Ivory Coast to be the third country in which we as Africa allow an incumbent head of state to subvert election results and use violence to demand a continued presence in government? We are very concerned that a precedent is being set in place that will have serious long-term consequences for our continent.

Idasa believes that democracy extends beyond elections to active citizen participation, government accountability, and universal human rights. Disregarding these rights compromises our continent and undermines its history of resisting oppression and struggling for the rights of every man, woman and child.

At the same time as unrest envelops North Africa, we must not be distracted from the urgent need to support Southern Sudan’s efforts to build Africa’s next state and ensure it is a democratic, developmental one.

African countries in transition present opportunities for change; strong moral leadership now will translate into a chance for Africa to influence the shape of global politics and economics. While the former powerhouses of the past struggle with recession and stagnation, Africa has a chance to stand tall. However, we can only stand as tall as our smallest citizen and if we disregard the voices of our people, we sacrifice our ability to contribute to global change.

For further comment please contact Ivor Jenkins, Idasa’s Head of Portfolio and Project Development, on or 082 445 1193  or Paul Graham, Idasa’s Executive Director, on or 0825713887.  See more info here.

“No more dilly-dallying”

Speaking in Cape Town at the the quarterly meeting between the Minister and MECs for Agriculture from all nine provinces, Minister Tina Joemat Pettersson read the riot act to her officials and provincial MECs. According to the Minister, the major driver for the agriculture should be job creation. The focus of the government should be on a zero hunger campaign, with the aim of reducing or even eradicating poverty. Read more here.

We’re open!

Welcome to Idasa’s Cape Town Democracy Centre, an exciting new multi-functional space where Capetonians, South Africans and world citizens from all walks of life are encouraged to engage with each other in the spirit of our slogan: eat, drink, talk, read, think!

Trevor Manuel officially opened the Democracy Centre

The centre is housed in the beautifully restored ground floor of the historic Sir Herbert Baker building at 6 Spin Street in the heart of Cape Town and incorporates an independent book shop, Lobby Books, a restaurant, called 6 Spin Street, and a flexible events space that will be hosting a variety of events, from panel discussions and workshops to book launches and documentary screenings.

Lobby Books was opened with the official launch of Testing Democracy: Which Way is South Africa Going?

The proud editors: Judith February and Neeta Misra-Dexter

If you’re in the neighbourhood, come pop in for a look at what’s on offer and join our mailing list for regular email updates of upcoming events and more. If you ask us nicely, we might even take you on a guided tour of the old bank vaults and one of Cape Town’s original springs which are to be found in the basement of our building!

Click on the map for a larger version

6 Spin Street
Cape Town

Contact Details:

Idasa’s Cape Town Democracy Centre:
Tel.: 021 467 7625 / 021 467 7606

Lobby Books:
Tel.: 021 467 7606

6 Spin Street Restaurant:
Tel.: 021 461 0666