"Words are not for free", a wise old man said to me a long time ago.
It is with deep concern that I have followed the discussions concerning the boycott of Tilapia from Zimbabwe. It is downright scary, when people like Dennis Benton comments on issues, which he, despite his organization's claim to care for Zimbabwe, obviously knows absolutely nothing about. It is about as scary as the situation in Zimbabwe. I wonder if any of the people, who comment in the Daily Mail article, have given any thoughts to the consequence of their actions? Except for Terence Ranger, who only briefly touches on some of the more relevant matters, and Dara Grogan, who seems to know them very well, there are unfortunately people in this world, who haven't understood that "words are not for free" and 15 minutes of fame in a British news paper, is what it is.
As an independent expert for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a published author and lecturer on Corporate Social Responsibility, I have been working with and auditing Lake Harvest for the past seven years - during which Zimbabwe has been in a severe crisis and on the brink of collapse. Plenty intelligent and clued-up people have been writing and informing the world about the situation in Zimbabwe, where things are so bad that I am unable to describe it to anyone, who hasn't been here and felt it themselves.
Most people, ignorant and informed, know that Zimbabwe is in dire straits. What they don't know and what no international newspaper writes about are the success stories of Africa even in Zimbabwe, there are some and Lake Harvest is one of them. Despite the government's attempts to destroy the private sector with 40% export tax, no power to run production plants, hyper inflation, lack of physical denominations, no fuel and the list goes on and on, there are actually companies that entirely because of exceptional competent management and committed and loyal employees, are still going not strong, in fact very weak these days but due to the support of loyal overseas clients, such as Waitrose, are still able to go.
Moreover, the rule in Zimbabwe nowadays is that one employed person, supports 15 people. It used to be around 5. Lake Harvest employees 450 people in an area with little or no other private sector (tourism used to be big in the area, but tourism died), which means Lake Harvest supports 6,750 people in the area around Kariba. During the past seven years, I have written and implemented CSR policies for Lake Harvest, primarily on HIV/AIDS, medical programmes, health and safety, job security schemes and much, much more. The plant is HACCP certified and of an impeccable standard. If you boycott Tilapia from Lake Harvest, you ruin that. And you ruin 6750 livelihoods of the already hard hit Zimbabwean people.
The fact that we Europeans are still overfishing the seas and therefore we need fish farms in the developing world, the fact that the carbon foot print in Zimbabwe is a fraction of the carbon foot print of a European fishing fleet, the fact that an export product anywhere in the developing world is normally not affordable to the local community (think clothes production in India) just adds to my argument. So let me remind you words, and action, I would like to add, are not for free. At least the Government of Zimbabwe know it is bad. Badly informed people, who think they are doing good by calling for a boycott, are almost worse.
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