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Technology and Knowledge

February 2007

Dena Hoff of the National Family Farm Coalition continues her report from Mali:

Good morning from Mali.

Yesterday we finished our work in the thematic groups and reported the synthesis to the plenary. My thematic group is technology and knowledge, where we discussed which technologies are appropriate and beneficial in service to communities, and which are designed to make us dependent on them while enriching a few people.

Last night the women debated the Declaration of the Women from the Nyeleni Forum. It was read by flashlight, and every phrase and concept was held up to the scrutiny of women from around the world. An enlarged group was enlisted to put all the thoughts into yet another draft which will be approved by consensus today.

Every person who helps draft a document expects many changes from the original, and doesn’t take criticism personally. Everyone here has their own point of view on how each concept should be expressed; but we all have a common agenda for a better, safer, more just world and we manage consensus.

While in fancy, air conditioned boardrooms around the world, decisions are made everyday which affects us all in ways we can’t anticipate, always with an eye on the financial bottom line, the debate and decisions here begin and end with social and moral costs on the balance sheet. Our ‘boardrooms’ have thatched roofs, open sides and dirt floors. The conclusions we reach are dirt floor diplomacy – democracy at its finest, and I am privileged to be apart of it.

Last night hut mate Margaret’s phone rang at 3:30 am with a lively reggae tune. Her daughter was watching TV and didn’t realize the time change. Soon after, the donkeys began to bray, the dogs to bark, the rooster crowed, and the call to prayer came. Time to take a cold shower, get some breakfast, and begin another exhausting day of critical thought, debate, diplomacy, and cooperation. Incredible energy here!

Soon it will be hot, dusty and sticky; but aah—the knowledge, the experiences, the conversations—priceless!

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