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Benny Dembitzer

Benny Dembitzer is an international development economist specializing in the economics and management of small-scale enterprises. He was taught by Amartya Sen, one of the outstanding economists of the present era, who identified access to enough food as the key issue in liberation of people from starvation.

 

Benny (not alone in the world), has become more and more convinced that the poverty and hunger in most of sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world in which he has worked, studied, and travelled over the last half a century, are due to physical changes, including global warming that is inevitably affecting the tropics more than the Northern parts of the world, decreasing availability of water, soil erosion, and deforestation.

 

But all attempts at overturning the rapidly diminishing food security across most of the continent is due to outside forces. 

They include the misguided applications of inappropriate agricultural strategies pushed by the North, land grab by outside interests, including foreign countries that are investing to produce for re-export to their own countries, the need to repay huge debts to international banks, including the World Bank that forces African countries to export more and more of their own unprocessed commodities at the cost of local food production, and the marketing tactics of International chemical companies.The latter come from the North as well as China. Above all, there are too many donors which all cut across one another and do not reach those who really need the help, elderly women farmers. All the aid given to sub-Saharan Africa is being consumed in the process of delivery.  We all should fight for food sovereignty in different countries and regions of the continent.

He has worked for 51 years across 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and also in Pakistan and Indonesia. Most of his work has been for International agencies, including the UNDP, the World Bank, UNIDO, ILO, ITC and for international NGOs, including OXFAM, CARE International, War on Want, Skillshare Africa, VSO. He started GRASSROOTS AFRICA in 2010, and has been involved with small-scale agricultural projects in Malawi ever since.

 

Mr. Dembitzer was a Rockefeller fellow in 2019, is currently Hon Fellow of University College, London, and was a member of the team that was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Please contact Benny here.

 

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BOOKS by Benny Dembitzer
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THE FAMINE NEXT DOOR

Benny Dembitzer's book challenges many assumptions about poverty in Africa  and calls for fresh thinking to understand and tackle the causes and the complex issues that combine to drive the mass migration of people from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. Read more about the book below the reviews.

"The Famine Next Door is a learned and passionate understanding of issues that ‘experts’ make more complex than they are."

 - Dr Susan Cotts Watkins, Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

"Benny Dembitzer in his book “THE FAMINE NEXT DOOR” graphically captures the state of our suffering and neglected world, the millions of populations, dying children, escaping young men and women from the Global South, mainly from Africa, victims of natural and avoidable man-made disasters. He writes as a passionate “knowing voice” of the poor, neglected and marginalised, caught in a medley of dysfunctional governments and competing multinational aid organisations."

 - Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, former President of IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)

 

"His analysis is spot on."

- Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University

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ABOUT THE BOOK

 

The author, Benny Dembitzer, argues that “The push factor forcing people to escape is greater than the pull of Europe. People cannot survive in their own countries. Population growth is exponential. Climate change has dried their lands. Cities have become huge slums. There is no food. There is no water. They have to escape to survive.”

If we look at the issues solely from the fear of being “swamped by aliens”, the fear factor being used by the increasingly right-of-centre governments in Europe and the US, we are unable to face up to reality. We need to help prevent the mass migration at its roots. The alternative is ever greater migration to Europe and further fragmentation of our own societies. We need to address the increasing causes of poverty and despair in the Global South and increasing threat of catastrophic famines.

The author has seen at first hand the enormous dangers that are faced by the millions of people forced to flee conflict, climate change and famine in Africa. Over the last 50 years he has worked in 35 countries across the continent – working with organisations from OXFAM and CARE, from the World Bank to DFID. He believes that drastic changes are needed before international aid and development initiatives can make any real difference. His book states that understanding the issues is a matter for basic survival for us all.

A radical new approach is required. The author argues that governments in the North need to strengthen the capacity of governments across sub-Saharan Africa to improve their ability to govern. That not only requires less centralisations of decision-making but tackling corruption at all levels and encouraging transparency. International non-governmental agencies, from Oxfam to Christian Aid and World Vision to the International Red Cross need to reach people at the grassroots. That can only happen if they support the poorest – smallholder farmers, women, refugees, slum dwellers, the handicapped, nomadic people – and tackle the issues that affect them. At present most of these agencies are creating a large number of people who are loyal to their own paymasters, but are undermining the long-term ability of those countries to co-op the ablest people into public service.

Benny Dembitzer was a member of the team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Over the last 50 years he has specialised in the economics of developing countries, particularly in Africa.

He is the author of two previous books; ‘The Attack on World Poverty: Going Back to Basics’ (2009) and ‘Sleepwalking into Global Famine’ (2012). He has taught at Cambridge, Cranfield, Southbank and Greenwich Universities; and has worked in more than 35 countries with a number of statutory and voluntary agencies.

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