Indians driving tractors in Chad

January 10th, 2009 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 10 (IANS) Sikh men with turbans can be seen driving around in Indian tractors on farms in the West African state of Chad, says Ravi Kumar, the honorary Consul-General for India in the country.Kumar was reacting Friday to a call from the audience during a discussion on Africa at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet for India to consider sending farmers to Africa to share their skills.

“We are finding increasing suicides amongst our farmers because they cannot make ends meet,” M.V. Sreenivas Reddy said during question time.

“Why does India not get African governments to buy up land that our farmers with their skills and experience can help develop agriculturally and then export these products to countries where there is demand? We would not only find (Indian) farmers being gainfully employed, but could also wipe out the endemic suicides.”

Kumar said the experimental contract cultivation project in Chad was aimed at producing cassava, rice and maize crops. There were also attempts to get a similar project going in neighbouring Cameroon.

The guest of honour at the session, South African Provincial Sports Minister Amichand Rajbansi, said the suggestion would have repercussion in countries where land restitution remained major obstacles to overcome.

Kumar also made a plea for Africa to be divided into segments by linguistic affiliation or level of development for ventures such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. “The time has come to consider dividing Africa into segments, because we must realise that Africa is very diverse, especially Francophone Africa in the west and central part of the continent.

“Some of these countries have limited populations, but have great potential and are being excluded at present.”

Others in the audience reminded the panel that southern African countries were mainly English speaking, with some Portuguese, and the North was largely Arab-speaking.

Another panelist, Mozambican businessman Jose Parayenken, supported the segmentation view. “We must categorise Africa into highly-indebted and less-developed countries, such as Mozambique.”

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